TODAY’S READING: Hebrews 11–13
The Bible repeatedly asks two great faith resolutions from us: first, that we will trust Jesus to save us through His grace and not by our works, and second, that we will trust Jesus to save men and women from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation in the very same way that He saved us. The story of the Bible and the witness of those gone before us are that God can be trusted on both accounts—personal and global. God is a missionary God precisely because He is worthy of our faith in these two monumental promises. He is able to save us to the uttermost and He is able to save from the uttermost parts of the earth. In this faith brave men and women—of whom the world was not worthy—were tortured, mocked, scourged, chained, imprisoned, sawed in two, slain, and wandered around destitute, afflicted, and tormented.
The writer of Hebrews, like all of his/her fellow human writers of Scripture, cannot get away from the centrality of Abraham. By faith Abraham (from present day Iraq) obeyed to go out to Syria, Palestine, and Egypt—all places he would not inherit in this life. By faith Abraham, when he was tested, gave up his only begotten son, his only earthly hope. In Abraham God recognized the same missionary obedience and spirit as was in the eternal heart of the Trinity. Jesus, trusting the Father, left home for no immediate temporal inheritance. The Father gave up His only begotten Son. The missionary spirit sourced in God and exemplified in Abraham is yet needed in our world today. God is still looking for those who will look like Him by leaving home with no temporal guarantees of success and who will bear the agony of separation from children or aging parents. The price the great cloud of witnesses paid was worth it because they saw by faith the promises of God; they believed God could grant them eternal life and they saw dimly but firmly the eternal life that is on offer for all.
Hebrews is not written in a biblical vacuum. A redeemed Jew writing to redeemed Jews understood the metanarrative. We live holy lives so God will live among us and bless us to bless all nations. The “therefore” of Hebrews 12:1 is connected to the great theme of history. Because God promised to live among us and through us to bless all peoples of earth, and because those who have gone ahead of us had such faith this would happen one day, they endured unimaginable things. Therefore, let us throw aside every weight and run with perseverance our leg of the race, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (see vv. 1–2). The “our” of the faith includes representatives of all God’s created peoples as does the joy set before Jesus. Does it not make Jesus glad that His death on the cross made a way for all peoples to be saved?
We are running a relay race united to the body of Christ across time and space by God’s missionary heart, and we must run our leg well.