My husband is a history buff. He could be perfectly happy to spend all day watching documentaries and reading about every kind of historical event imaginable. If you sit down and discuss periods of history with him, you are sure to get an ear full of facts. I have never been able to fathom how a person’s mind could retain so much detail. While I am doing good to remember a person’s birthday and last name, Michael can rattle of specific dates and historical figures like he was there and knew the people personally. He’s an electrician, but I often think he missed his calling as historian.
While my husband claims that the Madrids date back to 1603 in Spain, one branch of my family dates back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth of England in the 1500s. A very distant relative, the knight Sir Richard Lowther, held Queen Mary of Scotland in custody when she claimed England belonged to Scotland. There is a castle in England under renovation that bears his last name. Perhaps I’ll one day be able to visit Lowther Castle and imagine myself during the reign of noble kings and queens.
Though history dating back into to the era of lords, knights, and noblemen is interesting and inspiring, our heritage as Christians goes back even further. As we read Hebrews 11, we have reason to stand in awe of our lineage of faith. These patriarchs did not fight simply for the freedom of their homeland, but for a greater cause – the cause of Christ.
Over and over again, we see examples of people who obeyed God, even when they could not see the end result with their physical eyes. Abel, despite his brother’s rebellion, gave his best sacrifice. Known for pleasing a God he could not see, Enoch was taken from this earth without dying. Noah built and ark having never seen rain before. Wealthy Abraham packed his bags and moved his household without knowing where he was going.
The list goes on to include many familiar characters. Hebrews 11:33 – 34 says they did mighty acts and miracles as God was with them. Some include defeating kingdoms, stopping mouths of lions, quenching fire, and raising people from the dead.
But then as you read through verse 38, we see another set of people whom God honored. These people, faced with persecution for their faith, did not accept deliverance because they wanted to “obtain a greater resurrection.” (v. 35) They went through everything from verbal mocking to being sawn in half for what they believed. They wandered in the wilderness, poor and destitute, living in caves and dens.
If this isn’t inspiring enough, verse 39 says that they “did not receive the promise.” What? How could they, after going through such hardship, not receive the full reward of what God had promised? The answer is in verse 40: “God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”
This is what true faith looks like – standing for something that we cannot see. These heroes of the faith had their sights set on the promise of God, a redemption that they would not see in their lifetime. Jesus would not die on the cross until thousands of years later, yet they believed in His righteous cause. And though they did not receive redemption through the blood of Jesus, that new covenant will be enjoyed by us from now on.
In a culture filled with freedoms and conveniences, it’s often easy to forget where we came from. We forget about our forefathers and what they did to give us what we have now. But beyond our national heritage, we even forget about our spiritual forefathers and mothers who set such an honorable example of endurance and patience, faith and dedication – at all costs. Greater than a knight in a queen’s court, or a European countryman fighting for his freedom, we have a lineage based on the eternal. Like castle ruins, what we see around us will soon decay and disappear. But our spiritual patriarchs and all they believed in will last forever. It should be enough to inspire us to rise up and be like them. We may never have to go to war, face the fierce jaw of a lion, or feel the heat of a fiery furnace; but we can continue that eternal lineage by giving all we have for our King.
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12:1, 2