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God’s Word for You

Hebrews 11:32-34

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, December 30, 2014

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised;

Hebrews is a sermon, not an epistle. So it’s not at all surprising to hear our preacher say, “I do not have time to tell about….” With the list here he runs our memories through the book of Judges. Gideon was from the tribe of Benjamin, and led Israel when they were oppressed by Midianites and Amalakites (Judges 6:11-8:32). Barak together with Deborah won a victory against the Canaanites of Hazor in a battle near Mount Tabor (Judges 4:6-5:31).

Samson from the tribe of Dan won victory after victory against the Philistines, but kept falling for Philistine women. The first was the beauty from Timnah. He wanted to marry her, but while he was collecting the bride price she was given away to another man—for which he took revenge with burning foxtails still attached to their original owners (Judges 14:1-15:19). The second girl was a prostitute, and when his life was threated because of their affair he tore up the gate of the Gaza and carried it to the top of a nearby hill (Judges 16:1-3). My carpenter friend John Apitz calculated the weight of that gate to be between 850 and 1150 pounds (St. Paul’s Sunday School Notes: Dec 2014–Jan 2015, p. 3). Samson’s third Philistine flirtation was with Delilah from the Valley of Sorek. Her greed and treachery caused Samson to break his vow, to lose his freedom, and to lose his life (Judges 16:4-22). But his faith in God permitted him to win a last victory for the Lord (Judges 16:23-31).

Jephthah is listed out of order (Judges 11:1-12:7), perhaps because the author wants to show that God protected his people south (Gideon), north (Barak), west (Samson) and east (Jephthah); this runs opposite the usual late Old Testament order of “east, west, north and south,” 1 Chronicles 9:24; Psalm 107:3; Zechariah 14:4; Luke 13:29). Jephthah’s victory over the Ammonites in Gilead was overshadowed by the terrible result of his rash vow (Judges 11:38-40), but his victory was nevertheless a victory of faith.

David and Samuel hardly need comment; their leadership brought both spiritual and military blessings to the land. David’s fierce obedience to the Fourth Commandment despite King Saul’s murderous hatred should be a lesson to everyone who grumbles against their government or parents and drive them to repentance.

…who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.

Lion’s mouths were shut (or ripped apart) by Samson, shut by David’s sling, but especially shut by the Lord’s own hand when faithful Daniel was threatened (Daniel 6:22). The fury of flames is probably a reference to Daniel’s friends in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:1-30). Many prophets and others “escaped the edge of the sword” such as Obadiah (1 Kings 18:4), Elijah (1 Kings 19:2-8), and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 39:18). The weakness turning to strength surely refers to many Old Testament personalities, but it might also be a reference to Mary, whose song the Magnificat describes God’s “mighty deeds with his arm” to “lift up the humble” (Luke 1:51,52).

As the list moves on to the end of verse 34, we know that chronologically as well as in the order of the books of the Old Testament that we have moved into the days of the Kings. These were times when there were many who by the grace of God were “powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.” But we cannot be too quick to make a list, because too few of Judah’s monarchs were men or women of faith—and none of the Israel’s northern kings were men of faith. Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Hezekiah and Josiah is our pitiful list of eight names out of forty (20%) who were judged by God to be righteous. Asa won a victory over the Cushites (2 Chronicles 14:12-13); Jehoshaphat won a victory over Ramoth-Gilead (1 Kings 22), and the list goes on. Those victories, important as they were at the time, were only a small part of God’s blessings for his faithful people. Faith in Christ, faith that trusts and faith that wants to live by God’s will, faith that repents and embraces the promises of forgiveness—this is the saving faith we thank God for, along with every other blessing he gives.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

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