Bible Society of South Africa

The only real hero – 31 August 2021

By Xanthe Hancox

Bible text(s)

God our Father

1As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses round us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right-hand side of God's throne.

Hebrews 12:1-2GNBOpen in Bible reader

Our month of heroes brings us back to Hebrews 11. There’s a range of people listed, from Gideon and Barak (who had reluctant/fearful faith) to Samson and Jephthah (who had ignorant/shallow faith). And there are others we’ve looked at this month like Ehud and Othniel who don’t get a mention at all.

If the ultimate purpose of the Bible is to reveal God, then the point is that we should not focus on any of the “heroes” of chapter 11, but rather, we should focus on Jesus. The selected stories of faith in Hebrews 11 should be viewed as catalysts that point us to God. Whereas the human characters are incidental, God is the only “hero” in the biblical drama: He is ultimately the one who is revealed and the one who must be imitated.

In Hebrews 11 we have not so much the “Hall of Faith” but rather the “Hall of Feeble Faith.” The only real “hero” in this passage is Jesus himself (Hebrews 12:2-3). The point in Scripture is never that we should be like Abraham or Moses, or—God forbid!—Jephthah or Samson. While all these characters may have exhibited some measure of faith, the purpose is to point us to God so that we can be formed into his likeness (see Ephesians 5:1-2).

So let’s not put Bible characters on pedestals or make them into role models. Snapshots from the lives of these imperfect characters are recorded to direct us God-ward by showing us who he is based on what he has done in the past.

The truth is that all of us are works-in-progress (see Romans 3:4). This is what makes “role modelling” so precarious. The proper way to imitate a faithful saint is explained by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” In other words, we should only be like Paul insofar as he is being like Jesus.

Prayer: God, forgive us for our doubts. In the midst of all our troubles and difficulties, help us to focus on you, to remember that you are always in control and that you always care. In Jesus name, Amen.

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