The Great Cloud of Witnesses to the Faithfulness of God’s Promises

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses-bWitnesses are an eternal timestamp to the faithfulness of God. They are the timeless motivators that God can be trusted, that his promises never fail and that God still does wonders for his people. Every word of God is God-breathed and has a divine purpose in Scripture. There is no filler material or meaningless plots or persons in the Bible meant just to fill some space. There is a divine lesson in every record in the Bible that is meant to instruct and teach us in the ways of godliness. Every person mentioned in Hebrews 11 has an important and vital lesson to teach us about faith and trusting in God. Every person mentioned in Hebrews 11 has a truth to teach us about the character and nature of our God. The Bible calls them a great cloud of witnesses meaning the testimony of their life has great importance for us to see and follow. God desires we have this type of unshakeable faith as exhibited in these great cloud of witnesses. God wants us to trust Him with a relentless and fierce conviction without one shred of doubt, fear or unbelief. God wants our thoughts and focus to imitate these great witnesses who refused to allow the world, culture, circumstances, people, relationships or fear dictate or trump their faith. Nothing could shake their faith in God and the promises of His word. Nothing. These witnesses were confident in the promises of God no matter how outrageous, impossible or far-fetched they made have seemed to the human eye or the human mind. God Almighty cannot lie. God Almighty does not deceive. God Almighty does not make false statements. God’s promise are 100 per cent reliable. God promises never fail; never falter; never fade away; never lose power and never disappoint. These great cloud of witnesses each had numerous promises of God and they had an important choice. These promises came right from the mouth of God as God was speaking His promises to them in daunting circumstances as they face what seemed like insurmountable obstacles in their lives. God had spoken and they could choose to believe His words or reject them in unbelief. They chose the path of faith and became eternal examples of how to LIVE by faith.

Listen to the heart of David, one of the great witnesses, concerning God’s faithfulness and how his heart of faith trusts the Lord always.

Psalm 26:7: For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds.

For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. (Psalm 33:4-6, 8-11, 20,21 ESV)

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you. Just open your eyes, and see how the wicked are punished. If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet! The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.” (Psalms 91:1-16 NLT)

This I know, that God is for me.10 In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? Psalm 56:9b-11

Hebrews 10 gives us some insight into the mind-set of these heroes of the faith.

Hebrews 10:35-39: Do not, therefore, fling away your fearless confidence, for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward.36 For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and carry away and enjoy to the full what is promised.37 For still a little while (a very little while), and the Coming One will come and He will not delay. 38 But the just shall live by faith [My righteous servant shall live by his conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, and holy fervor born of faith and conjoined with it]; and if he draws back and shrinks in fear, My soul has no delight or pleasure in him.39 But our way is not that of those who draw back to eternal misery (perdition) and are utterly destroyed, but we are of those who believe, who cleave to and trust in and rely on God through Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and by faith preserve the soul.

These great cloud of witnesses did not throw away their fearless confidence in God for they were focused on eternity and saw the great reward that faith in the promises of God brings both now and for all eternity. Their confidence in God and His promises was unshakeable. They were not deceived by their five senses. Their confidence was not in what they could see, taste, touch, hear or smell. They did not listen to the voice of the world. Their confidence was not in the latest news report or in the popular “enlightened” in the reasoning of the age. They did not rely on the rationalizations of the human mind. Their confidence rested only in God and what He had spoken. They also had steadfast patience and endurance to wait for the promise to come to pass in God’s timing not their own. They did not get frustrated if they did not see the promise come to pass immediately for they knew that God is faithful to what He promises and it would come to pass in His time not theirs. God’s promise always come to pass without exception. We live in the instant generation wanting everything right now and that is why most Christians have a hard time waiting on God. We give up on our faith, we easily lose confidence in God and we began to doubt His promises because we become impatient with His timetable. We must learn to see with the eyes of faith for we know the flawless character of our God. His faithfulness is beyond human comprehension. His trustworthiness is beyond approach. His timing is always perfect. He is Yahweh, the Coming One, and when the time for the fulfillment of the promise arrives, He comes without delay. We walk by faith not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) as faith is the opposite of sight. Faith is the demonstration of what we do not see. Seeing is not believing. This is a fallacy of the human race. Noah believed the truth of things not yet seen (Hebrews 11:7).

Hear O Heavens, Give ear O earth. Yahweh hath spoken (Isaiah 1:1). Do we believe what He has said? Faith hears and faith believes. This is the one abiding question of faith. He has given us exceeding great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4). Do we believe Him? No matter the problem; no matter what the circumstance; no matter the mountain, these witnesses illustrate that the just shall LIVE by faith. They do not draw back in fear. They do not shrink back in doubt. God has no delight or pleasure in us when we draw back and shrink in fear from His promises. The word “shrink back” is the Greek word hupostole from hupostello and means “to draw aside or back, to withdraw, to retreat, and to hold back. Strictly speaking it refers to “lowering of sails, hence lack of steadfastness, shrinking back, and giving up.” Hupostole figuratively describes a withdrawing or turning back, a timidity, a ceasing to do something, in some instances (as in the present passage), because of adverse circumstances and/or fear of reprisal. We do not allow our faith in God to withdraw or turn back. Our faith does not retreat in the day of adversity. We do not hold our faith back because we do not fully trust God to come through. We don’t lower our sails and give up when it comes to the promises of God. We do not approach our faith with timidity but with boldness because we judge Him faithful who has promised. These witnesses never shrank back in fear or timidity but with great confidence trust God knowing He always comes through. The witnesses faced insurmountable odds; giant challenges, and huge obstacles in their way. They never faltered in their faith in the Word of God. They knew that the Word of God cannot be broken and it always comes to pass when mixed with faith. We must cleave to God, draw near to God, trust in God, lean on God and rely on God like these Great Witnesses. God placed them in His Word as polestars of faith to inspire and motivate us to trust in Him. Faith in God is to be demonstrated, therefore because of the successful examples of faith in action in Hebrews 11, we are not just to walk by faith, but to run by faith, demonstrating our faith to the skeptical watching world. One of the best ways to develop endurance and encouragement is to get to know the godly men and women of the Old Testament who ran the race and won. The author had alluded to these godly examples in Hebrews 6 writing: And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, that you may not be sluggish, but imitators (mimetes) of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” The great cloud of witnesses exemplify this great truth that we inherit the promises by faith and patience. There is no other way.

Hebrews 11:6: But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. We cannot please God without faith in His promises. We must come to God and believe that HE IS! His word tell us just who God is.

From my new book: The Heart the Key to Everything in the Christian Life: We must never forget that God is Yahweh Avinu, the Lord our Father, who loves, teaches, nurtures, guides and protects us as His beloved children; who runs to meet us, who dances over us with singing, who treasures us and who wants to walk and talk to us daily in the deepest bonds of affection; and who is the Giver of everything we will need in life to love and worship Him. We must never forget that God is Yahweh Jireh, the Lord who sees all our needs to the minutest detail and abundantly provides for each one of them. His supply is endless and He is never late in His wonderful care of our every need. He is our provision, our sufficiency and our satisfaction. He is the bread that nourishes us and the water than quenches our thirst. We must never forget that He is Yahweh Raphe, the Lord who heals every wound, every sickness, every disease, every hurt and every malady of the heart. He is the Great Physician and Supernatural Healer of our bodies, emotions, minds and hearts. He is the God that gives perfect wholeness and soundness of body, soul and spirit. He is our cure, our remedy, our repairer and our healer. We must never forget He is Yahweh Shalom, the Lord our peace, who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ, giving us inner tranquility, rest, and quiet assurance that cannot be shaken by the fears, anxieties and worries of this age. He is the peace that reigns in our hearts giving us complete unity and harmony with Him where we are never disturbed, agitated, stressed or troubled by the raging waters of life. We must never forget He is Yahweh Nissi, the Lord our banner of victory, our canopy of protection and our place of refuge He is our rallying point when all else has failed, who gives us His strength and power in battle and stands right beside us interceding in every crisis as our shield of victory. We must never forget He is Yahweh Roi, the Lord my personal and loving shepherd, my special friend and companion, who tenderly cares for me, guiding, feeding and watching over me as His treasured possession; who leads me through the deepest valleys and through the darkest night into the safety of His pasture and the warmth of His dwelling place. We must never forget He is Yahweh Zidkenu, the Lord our righteousness, who has paid the price for our redemption through the gift of His Son and brought us into a right relationship with Him, justified us from all our sins, freed us from the penalty and bondage of all the consequences of sin and enabled us to boldly come before the throne of His grace and enjoy His sweet presence. We must never forget He is Yahweh Osenu, the Lord our Maker, who has intricately woven every detail of our entire being in our mothers’ womb with the touch of His loving hand; who made us for Himself so we can enjoy each other in the deepest type of relationship, and who has designed a mighty purpose and plan for our lives that will bring glory to His name. We must never forget He is Yahweh Mekaddishkhme, the Lord our sanctifier, who set us apart from the corruption of this world and seated us in the heavenlies with Christ, having made us His holy, beloved children, His very own possession, His royal priesthood, and His purified saints so that we may shine as the lights of this world and show forth in brilliant splendor the immeasurable and incomparable greatness of our God. We must never forget He is Yahweh Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts, the Captain of the Lord’s Armies, The General of the Heavenly Battalions, who bears His mighty arm for His people, fighting every battle for us and defeating every foe; He is our courageous defender, our valiant protector and our fearless warrior who charges into the battlefield on our behalf crushing the enemy in victorious triumph. He is our Lord and Commander who is unstoppable, immoveable and undefeatable as He counts it His highest honor to guard and protect us from the onslaughts of the enemy. We must never forget He is Yahweh Ezer, the Lord our Help, who carries our burdens upon His shoulders; who is our support, our deliverer and our refuge; who succors us and tenderly nurses our wounds and shields us from every destructive attack upon our hearts, who tenderly holds us by the right hand in the midst of life’s fiercest storms, who is ever present to help us even in our most darkest hour, and who rides the heavens and hears the cry of His beloved children and swiftly comes to their rescue. We must never forget He is Yahweh Tsur, the Lord my rock, my firm foundation, my mighty fortress of strength, my tower of refuge, and my powerful defense so I will be not be moved. He is our Rock of Ages who is a safe haven, a wall of protection, and an abiding place of shelter and comfort. He is our solid Rock where we stand immovably secure in the midst of the descending rains, roaring floods and treacherous quicksand of life. He is the pillar of our confidence, the solid surety of our path and the rock of our salvation. We must never forget He is Yahweh Shammah, the Lord is there, always present in all His glory, power and strength; He will never leave us alone or forsake us but holds us tightly to His breast, never releasing His tender hold of us. He is our promise of forever living in His presence for all eternity in His kingdom. We are His dwelling place, His Holy of Holies, and His permanent home where He lives and the fire of His holy presence purifies our hearts and burns away the chaff of everything that holds us back from loving Him with all our heart. He is closer to us then our breath; He is our heartbeat, the essence of our life and we grow into full union with Him in every aspect of our being. O my heart never forget the glories of His name! O my heart I brand these truths upon you with the fires of truth so I will always remember everything my God is. I will never let anything crowd out the name of Yahweh from my heart! Psalm 9:10 declares “And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O Lord have not forsaken those who seek You.” When I know your name, my heart will trust in you at all times. When I know your name, I will have no doubt that you will never forsake me or turn your back on me. When I know your name, faith will be the mighty bulwark of my heart and unbelief will have no place, no root and no room in my heart. May my heart never take your name in vain by emptying it of its weight and significance by my forgetfulness.

We do not have time in this teaching to explore every great witness of faith in Hebrews 11. But let us look at four of the witnesses to help inspire our faith.

ABEL: Hebrews 11:4: By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. Have you ever wondered why Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain? Have you ever thought that Cain made an offering to God and wondered why God rejected it? The Scripture says BY FAITH Abel offered his sacrifice and Romans 10:17 says “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Abel had to hear something in order to have faith. Abel and Cain must both have heard from God otherwise Abel’s sacrifice would have been by fancy and not by faith. The 4th chapter of Genesis sets forth the way back to God. God must have spoken to Cain and Abel concerning the manner he could be approached and the acceptable means of sacrifice. The simple truth is Abel believed what he had heard from God and Cain did not believe what he heard from God. Cain was religious, but he did not have faith. He invented what he thought was a better or more excellent way to God. He reasoned a different way and path than what He had heard from God. God’s way back which he spoke to both Cain and Abel heard was by sacrifice, the death of a substitute, the blood of atonement. Cain’s way back was not by blood, but a way he had devised in his own heart. Cain did not believe what God had spoken and invented a new way of his own. Cain’s heart was full of unbelief in the words and promises of God. The Bible refers to this as “the way of Cain” The way of Cain labors on behalf of man and for man’s improvement without God. It is ready with many ideas of what man must do be “saved” but it is not of God. The way of Cain never trusts God, never relies on God and does not need God. Cain’s works were evil because they were his own and not of faith. God told Him what the way was to be and Cain thought he had a better way than God. Cain did not hearken to the voice of God but brought an offering out of the imagination of his own evil heart from something that God had cursed. Walking in his mother’s footsteps he failed to obey God. This is the fundamental witness of faith: God’s way is better than your way; God’s truth is better than your truth, God’s promises are better than your promises, God’s Word is better than your ideas. Faith declares God’s word must be heard and obeyed. Cain is the father of all religion, as he epitomizes the attempt to do something, to make something, to reason something, to accomplish something and to produce something instead of simply trusting the Word of God and following His way. From the great scientific religion of the theory of evolution, to Islam, to humanism, communism, Buddhism and New age religions are ideas devised in wicked hearts of people because the God of the Bible is not heard or believed. There is only one way, one voice and one God that faith listens too. Abel’s witness still speaks to us today and encourages us to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. Abel’s witness encourages us to hear the Word of God and believe it. We can never please God without faith. This is the lesson of Abel. Believe God is big enough, faithful enough, caring enough, true enough and powerful enough to accomplish His Word and handle your problems. The Word of God cannot be broken. Every jot and tittle of it shall be fulfilled. The Word of God cannot be outshined by the mind of man. The Word of God cannot fail, it cannot be overcome, it cannot be outsmarted, and it cannot be out reasoned. We are believers and believers are known for one thing: THEY BELIEVE! We must believe He can do what He says He can do and believe we can do what He says we can do. We must believe He is who He says He is and Believe We are who He says we are. The world and the strategies of the Devil are aimed directly at our believing. Our faith in God and His Word is the target. We have the shield of faith because we will need it to quench every fiery dart of the wicked one. Without faith we are completely susceptible to the lies of the enemy. His lies are cunningly crafted to deceive us as the book of Revelation tells us He has deceived the whole world. We hold fast to the promise by faith in the midst of the mocking and arrogant culture of this world. Every eternal reward has its basis in our faith. There can be no rewards without faith (Hebrews 11:6) as God is a rewarder of faith and the hallmark of faith is that it diligently seeks God above all else. Faith sees God and nothing else. Faith does not look at circumstances. Faith does not look at problems. Faith does not focus on the impossible. Faith focuses on God alone. God wants us to have our eyes opened according to Ephesians 1:17 to the exceeding greatness of His power that is unleashed when we believe. More than enough to break the yoke of any bondage. God wields incomparable power for those who chose to believe. God applies the same power to our need that He exerted when He raised Jesus from the dead. Faith can even now remove mountains. Help us God to overcome our unbelief.

NOAH: Hebrews 11:7: By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. How amazing is the faith of Noah. What a witness for all generations. By Noah’s time nearly all people are drugged on the fumes of their egos. Wickedness has become the number one, all-consuming human addiction. This the background of the faith of Noah. Genesis 6:6,7: The Eternal One saw that wickedness was rampaging throughout the earth and that evil had become the first thought on every mind, the constant purpose of every person. 6-7 At that point God’s heart broke, and He regretted having ever made man in the first place. In the midst of this world-wide sin frenzy, God found one man who stood out among billions. The last righteous man on earth. His faith stood in the midst of a culture consumed with wickedness and ungodliness. Genesis 6:8,9: But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. 9 These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.

Noah walked with God in uncontaminated faith, but his faith would soon be challenged. God gave Him a promise and word that seemed incredible. The future of the human race and the preservation of the Christ-line would hang upon his faith in the Word of God. He charges Noah to do something that had never been done before and so out of the ordinary that Noah was sure to become the laughingstock of his generation. God’s blueprint reveals to him to build a gigantic ship to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. God’s global judgment will kill everything that breathes. There is a lot of work to be done. This dramatic revelation was compounded with the fact that it had never rained on earth before. Never a drop. Considering the nature of this task, the context in which it was given, and the amount of time it would realistically take to accomplish it, Noah’s acceptance of this mission proved one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt. This man had faith. He would become the odd-ball of his generation, the religious kook of his age. This was not a weekend project, or something he worked on in his spare time or in the evenings, There were no crews of laborers, no power tools, no chainsaws, no logging trucks, no sawmills, no cranes, no Home Depot and no lumberjacks. It took 120 YEARS to build. In the 50th, 60th, 70th year his faith did not falter. He did not become discouraged. He did not give up. He did not throw in the towel. His faith was rock-solid and steadfast. HOW LONG WOULD OUR FAITH HAVE LASTED? We probably would be complaining by the third day and done after the first week. Noah believed God’s warning above all the wisdom of the world and lived and moved in reverent awe, respect and love for God. The mocking was constant. He was considered a fool for his obedience. His generation would label him an idiot who is wasting his life; living in a dream world, building a useless wooden box for an imaginary god. They would think he was arrogant to think he knew what was going to happen to the world or to predict the future. They would say who was he to condemn others, claiming his God was the only way to salvation. Noah was unpopular and despised in his generation yet he preserved in faith. Noah was also a preacher as 2 Peter 2:5 says he was a “preacher of righteousness.” For 120 years, or 43,200 days he preached about God’s righteousness, about the just and right standard of God for living in this world. To a culture that every thought and imagination of the mind of people was evil continually, he heralded the message to repent and turn back to God and get right with your Creator. How successful was his ministry? By today’s churches he would be considered a failure as a big fat zero number of people heard and believed and repented after his message. He would be told that maybe an evangelist is not his gifting and he should consider another way to serve God. Yet God put him in the great cloud of witness, the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. This generation heard the Word of God, but refused to believe. God gave them one more chance but they ignored it. What a preacher he was to preach for 120 years with no visible results. He just day after day after day held forth the Word of God as a shining light in his generation. He did not get discourage and stop preaching. He did not look at the results but simply obeyed God. Noah was fully persuaded concerning the reality of something he couldn’t see. And that is exactly what faith does. It enables those who believe to see the unseen. To charge ahead in confident obedience no matter how outlandish, ludicrous or counter cultural it makes them appear. God honors those who choose His ridiculous ways over the conventional wisdom of man. One man or woman with faith can stand against an army of antagonists. Noah’s gainsayers outnumber him one billion to one yet his faith prevailed. How strong would our faith be if everyone in the world was against us? If everyone with a heartbeat thought you were a fool? Noah did what God asked him to do even down to the smallest detail and that is what faith does. It obeys. There is nothing glamorous about it, just glorious. Noah is a shining example of faith. Ours is a generation of quick fixes, no waits and instant communication. We impatiently tap our fingers waiting for a 30 second microwave dish. We want what we want and want it now. We want immediate deliverance from our problems and grow spiritually weak when they linger on. We want quick fixes and seek shortcuts to Bible knowledge and maturity. Pastors want growth and maturity in their churches, but fail to make the huge investment of time required to make disciples. In our personal growth we expect too much spiritual muscles without spiritual exercise. We can’t get maturity and discipleship at a drive-in window. We get out of breath when asked to run long distances of faith. We are weak in faith and out of shape spiritually. It doesn’t take much suffering to bury the average Christian under a pile of defeat and depression. How much real persecution would it take to crust the Western church? Probably very little. Often Christians have become practical atheists, acknowledging God with our lips but living like He does not exist and ultimately not believing He is faithful to His promises ALWAYS. Noah did not have room for causal commitment. He had to be “all in.” God and everyone around him would eventually know if Noah’s faith was the real thing. No shortcuts. No alternative routes. It was all or nothing. We need to develop or faith muscles so our faith is strong in life’s trials and storms. But strong faith (the kind that keeps you from imploding or self-destructing during the difficult and stressful seasons of life) isn’t handed out by God like free cookies at a bake sale. Instead, it’s matured, strengthened and refined over much time and through thousands of small, daily choices to trust Him. Noah’s faith was about a daily walk to the forest to fell another tree. It was all about the “dailies”. Strong faith is forged through walking with God through the routine highs and lows of life. It is acquired by depending on Him in the seemly insignificant issues we encounter every day. It’s nurtured and grown through incremental risks take for Him. Big faith recognizes this world is not our home. Noah’s faith preserved for 120 years and with every hammer blow, a call to repentance echoed throughout the land. What an inspiring example of a faith that believes the impossible and never gives up on God.

ABRAHAM: Hebrews 11:8-10: By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. Abraham is referred to as the father of faith. His eye were always focused on the promise of God and He looked toward the eternal instead of the temporal things of this world. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. Abraham never lost heart because his focus was firmly fixed on the promise of God and God’s faithfulness to bring it to pass. The essence of the faith of Abraham and the cloud of witness is recorded in Romans. Romans 4:17-21: That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.18 Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” 19 And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb.20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise and he was convinced beyond any shadow of a doubt that God is able and willing to do whatever He promises. This is cloud of witness faith and the promises of God are just as faithful, just as powerful, just as reliable and just as true as they were in the days of Abraham. Are we fully convinced of the faithfulness of the promises of God for our lives?

MOSES: Hebrews 11:24-27: By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. Moses must have had the opportunity and the offer to become a member of the Egyptian Royal Family and He must have heard from God not to accept this high privilege. What an invitation to become an heir to the throne of the most powerful nation in the world. All the privilege of the Egyptian Empire was his. He had the treasures of Egypt within his grasp and the fleeing pleasures of every sin imaginable available to him. Yet he chose to be identified as a slave with the people of Israel. He heard the promise from God of greater things and threw away all the glamor and riches of the world. Would our faith stand this test? Moses saw the eternal rewards from God and the coming of the Christ as far greater than anything Egypt could offer. He did this by faith in the unseen. As with Abraham and Moses of old, the decisions we make today will determine the rewards tomorrow. More than this, our decisions should be motivated by the expectation of receiving rewards. The emphasis in the Epistle to the Hebrews is: ‘Don’t live for what the world will promise you today! Live for what God has promised you in the future!” Moses led about 2 ½ million people out of Egypt after confronting the Pharaoh with the power of God which was one of the most dramatic demonstrations of faith in this history of the world. He had heard his commission from a burning bush and fully believed the words of God. He had faith that God would bring to pass each plague as He pronounced. He had faith when God declared for Him to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord when God pared the Red Sea. There’s not one chance in five that God won’t keep His word. There’s not even one chance in a thousand. We can be absolutely sure that what He’s promised will come true. That’s why it makes so much sense to be like Moses and believe God. He was willing to trust in the reliable word of the Lord rather than take his chances with the temporary excitement of sin (Heb. 11:24, 25, 26). He believed that God was 100-percent trustworthy. Do you?

Hebrews 12:1-3: 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,2 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. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
God has given us records in His Word of these great cloud of witnesses to inspire us to throw off everything that hinders our faith and our walk with God. The great cloud of witnesses motivates us to throw off every entanglement of sin and run with patient endurance the race that is set before us. Jesus is the ultimate witness, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith and we focus our eyes on Him so we do not grow weary and lose heart. “Look, you must come to Christ. Get in the race. The Christian life is a race and you’ve got to be in it. You’ve got to be on the track, participating, come on! Get in the race.” The book of Hebrews was written to a church that was getting old and was settling into the world and losing its wartime mentality and starting to drift through life without focus, without vigilance, and without energy. Their hands were growing weak, their knees were feeble. It was just easier to meander in the crowd of life than to run the marathon. We have seen this over and over along the trail through this book. For example, in Hebrews 2:1 and 3, the writer says that “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” So into the church has crept the disease of drifting and neglecting. People are growing careless and spiritually lazy and negligent. Then in Hebrews 3:12-13 he warns again, “Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” He has heard that some are no longer “taking care.” They have begun to have a kind of lazy sense of security. A false notion that nothing really huge is at stake in their small group meetings or whether they meditate on the Bible or take time alone to pray or fight sin. They assume all will be well. Hebrews is written to teach them otherwise. In Hebrews 5:12 the writer says, “Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” They made a profession of faith and went into a passive, coasting mode. This is utterly wrong. God means every saint to be moving forward to new gains of strength and wisdom and holiness and courage and joy. This is the point of the whole book. Endure, persevere, run, fight, be alert, be strengthened, don’t drift, don’t neglect, don’t be sluggish, and don’t take your eternal life for granted. Fight the fight of faith on the basis of Christ’s spectacular death and resurrection. And show your faith the way the saints of Hebrews 11 did – not by coasting through life, but by counting reproach for Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt (11:26).So the main point of this text is the one imperative: RUN! (12:1). Run the race set before you! Don’t stroll, don’t meander, and don’t wander about aimlessly. Run as in a race with a finish line and with everything hanging on it. The Greek word for “witness” is not used here in the sense of merely a spectator. The witnesses of Hebrews 12:1 have run the race before us, and through the testimony of their lives say, “By faith I finished, you can too!… This is the way all the witnesses of Hebrews 11 are helping us. The witness of their lives say: “Go for it! You can do it. By faith you can finish. You can lay the weights down and the sins. By faith, by the assurance of better things hoped for, you can do it. I did it. And I know it can be done. Run. RUN!”

A W Pink – The principal thoughts suggested by the figure of the “race” are rigorous self-denial and discipline, vigorous exertion, persevering endurance. The Christian life is not a thing of passive luxuriation, but of active “fighting the good fight of faith!” The Christian is not called to lie down on flowery beds of ease, but to run a race, and athletics are strenuous, demanding self-sacrifice, hard training, the putting forth of every ounce of energy possessed. I am afraid that in this work-hating and pleasure-loving age, we do not keep this aspect of the truth sufficiently before us: we take things too placidly and lazily. Encumbrances are “Inordinate care for the present life, and fondness for it, is a dead weight for the soul, that pulls it down when it should ascend upwards and pulls it back when it should press forwards” . The racer must be as lightly clad as possible if he is to run swiftly: all that would cumber and impede him must be relinquished. Undue concern over temporal affairs, inordinate affection for the things of this life, the intemperate use of any material blessings, undue familiarity with the ungodly, are “weights” which prevent progress in godliness.

John Piper: the race of the Christian life is not fought well or run well by asking, “what’s wrong with this or that?” but by asking, “is it in the way of greater faith and greater love and greater purity and greater courage and greater humility and greater patience and greater self-control? Does it help me run! Or is it in the way? Don’t ask about your music, your movies, your parties, your habits: What’s wrong with it? Ask: Does it help me RUN the race!? Does it help me RUN – for Jesus?” Hebrews 12:1is a command (to run) to look at your life, think hard about what you are doing, and get ruthless about what stays and what goes….Note the seemingly innocent weights and encumbrances that are not condemned explicitly in the Bible, but which you know are holding you back in the race for faith and love and strength and holiness and courage and freedom. Note the ways you subtly make provision for these hindrances (Romans 13:14: the computer games, the hidden alcohol, the television, the videos, the magazines, the novels. In addition, note the people that weaken you. Note the times that are wasted, thrown away. When you have made all these notations, pray your way through to a resolve and a pattern of dismantling these encumbrances, and resisting these sins, and breaking old, old habits. Hebrews is a call to look at your life, think hard about what you are doing, and get ruthless about what stays and what goes. Pick a day and get away by yourself – away from the house, the phone, the beeper, the TV, the radio and all other people. Take a Bible and a pad of paper and plan your fall run with Jesus. On that pad of paper note the entangling sins. And don’t rise up against the Bible at this point and say, “I can’t change.” It is an assault on God if you read Hebrews 12:1 and go away saying: “It can’t happen. Hindrances can’t be removed. Sins can’t be laid aside.” God has not spoken this command for nothing. So go back and read the book and ask God to take all the glorious truth that is here (about the superiority of Christ, and the power of his death and resurrection, and the effectiveness of his intercession for you) and make this truth explosive with life-changing power.

Hebrews 12:32-40: I could speak more of faith; I could talk until time itself ran out. If I continued, I could speak of the examples of Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah, of David and Samuel and all the prophets. 33 I could give accounts of people alive with faith who conquered kingdoms, brought justice, obtained promises, and closed the mouths of hungry lions. 34 I could tell you how people of faith doused raging fires, escaped the edge of the sword, made the weak strong, and—stoking great valor among the champions of God—sent opposing armies into panicked flight. 35 I could speak of faith bringing women their loved ones back from death and how the faithful accepted torture instead of earthly deliverance because they believed they would obtain a better life in the resurrection. 36 Others suffered mockery and whippings; they were placed in chains and in prisons. 37 The faithful were stoned, sawn in two, killed by the sword, clothed only in sheepskins and goatskins; they were penniless, afflicted, and tormented. 38 The world was not worthy of these saints. They wandered across deserts, crossed mountains, and lived in the caves, cracks, and crevasses of the earth. 39 These, though commended by God for their great faith, did not receive what was promised. 40 That promise has awaited us, who receive the better thing that God has provided in these last days, so that with us, our forebears might finally see the promise completed.

In the new birth we have been given more than any of these great cloud of witnesses. Shouldn’t our faith rise higher, our trust be stronger and our race be run harder. The world is not worthy of our faith and we have received what God has promised and planned for before the foundation of the world. Let us join the cloud of witnesses and testify to the faithfulness and greatness of our God.

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2 Responses to The Great Cloud of Witnesses to the Faithfulness of God’s Promises

  1. Theresa says:

    Is the Heb 12:1,2 picture copyright free for use on a church bulletin cover?

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