A Reflection on Hebrews 11
The “Hall of Faith” passage in the book of Hebrews is a wonderful text. Pillars of faith to be emulated. Leaders who sought God in the midst of difficult circumstances. Flawed individuals who proved to be faithful in spite of their brokenness.
Basically, Hebrews 11 is the Bible’s Mount Rushmore.
Ah, Mount Rushmore. It’s a stunning sight. Four of the nation’s greatest leaders chiseled in stone for all to see and be inspired.
This week, I had some time to reflect on the passage in Hebrews 11, and it was a beautiful sight to see women listed among the Old Testament’s faithful. As I’ve blogged about before, considering the extreme marginalization that women in Bible times endured, the mention of even a few women in Hebrews 11 is noteworthy.
Of course I have read Hebrews 11 before, many times. But if you had asked me to recall the names on the list, I would really only have been able to produce names like Noah, Abraham, Moses and David. Like I said, Mount Rushmore.
So, to set the record straight, let me introduce you to the women of Hebrews 11 (sounds like a Jeopardy category, right?!?). There are three of them.
First, there’s Sarah, a woman who ultimately demonstrated a steadfast faith in God’s miraculous promise to deliver an heir from her barren womb. And of course her faith was rewarded, as eventually Sarah become the mother of many nations.
The next woman in the narrative is Moses’ unnamed mother, who together with Moses’ father, gets praised for being unafraid to disobey the king’s command. By being faithful in not killing their son, they partner with God in raising up a leader for the Israelite people, one who will go on to lead them out of bondage to the promised land.
Finally, we have Rahab, the prostitute. Yep, a prostitute makes the Hebrews 11 list of people whose faith we should emulate. Specifically, Rahab gets praised for giving a friendly welcome to the Jericho spies. As a result of her faith, she, along with the spies, survived the city’s demise.
I love how the passage ends, actually with the first verses of Hebrews 12:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Friends, when the chips are down, and when sin threatens to hold us back, the writer of Hebrews instructs us–commands us–to run toward Jesus. But the beautiful news of this text is that we needn’t run in a vacuum. Because there is this cloud of witnesses spurring us on, spiritual mentors that God has given us, models of faithful living to cling to when our faith runs out, a Mount Rushmore of faith to look to and be strengthened.
And unlike the American Mount Rushmore, the Bible’s version includes sisters as well as brothers.