By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. 31 By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.
32 And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: 33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again.
Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
I love seeing more evidence that the incredible events of the Old Testament are rooted in faith. In the story of Jericho, we don’t see faith mentioned specifically. In the time of the Judges, faith is not always spoken of clearly. And just observe the long list of feats in verses 33-35, all accomplished by faith. The act of believing God produced incredible results.
But it wasn’t joy and victory for everyone. The remainder of the chapter details some of the worst circumstances that men and women of faith experienced. Verse 35 says something important. It says that while undergoing these terrible persecutions, they did not accept deliverance. They could have chosen the comforts of this world over faith in God. But they looked to a “better resurrection.” I’m not sure I’ve imagined the bravery that such sacrifice required. But through these testimonies, I’m assured of something important – we are not alone in our faith in the God of the Bible. Throughout history, men and women have laid down their lives in horrible ways based on a confidence that God is and that there is a very real reward attached to faith in Him. Remember how we started this chapter in verse six? “Those who come to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Verse 38 tells us that the world was not worthy of these faith giants who gave up everything and died terrible deaths. As I marvel at the faith of those who came before, I’m struck that it seems unjust. Verse 39 says that “these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise.” We saw on day 23 that they were looking down through history, living and dying with the knowledge that the promise would not be manifest for generations. Yet they stayed the course. Why would God do this?
Because we would have been left out. Jesus came at exactly the right time. Galatians 4:4-5 says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law that we might receive the adoption as sons.” If perfection could have come under the law, where would we be? We would be left with an awful burden of trying to measure up with the vast majority of all humanity failing miserably.
Instead, He had a New Covenant already prepared, a covenant in which He carries the burden of making us righteous and in which He chooses to shower us with undeserved favor because of the finished work of His Son. And despite the incredible faith of those who came before, He refused to leave us behind. Verse 40 – “God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”
Even in the time of law, when Jesus in the flesh was a speck on the future horizon, saints were braving grace. They were holding on to promises that were far distant, all so our Heavenly Father could adopt us into His family. He loved them and desired to perfect them, but not apart from us.
We hope that the power of this truth helps to bring clarity to the message of grace. When such immeasurable love permeates our lives, we don’t need laws to direct us. We simply respond in love and through this response, we do more right accidentally than we ever could on purpose. Grace truly is amazing.