If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.
14 December. Hebrews chapters 11-13
These last chapters of Hebrews turn from a consideration of Jesus and what he has achieved, to a list of the great figures of the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament) and what they achieved through faith. Much of what is written here is not found directly in the scriptures, and is probably based on rabbinical teaching, but let’s take it as it stands.
The main thrust of the author’s argument is that having faith is not about immediate gain. The “prosperity gospel” (“if you believe in God and pray hard enough he will make you rich”) is totally alien to this Christian doctrine. Rather, the riches that the great heroes of the past sought were spiritual ones – the reward of finding God’s blessing in this life, or of preparing others for a life of faith.
The examples given include Abraham, who was promised a vast number of descendants through his son Isaac although he was also called by God to sacrifice Isaac, before the mission was abandoned at he last minute; also Moses, who led an entire nation to safety before his life ended within sight of the promised land; and many unnamed saints who endured physical torment for the sake of the eternal life that was their hope.
The point being made is that we should look not to be rewarded ourselves in our own lifetime, but to “store up treasures in heaven” as Jesus put it, by selflessly working for the benefit of others. This is so counter-cultural that it needs to be repeated often. To quote Jesus again, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single grain”. In other words, you have to put yourself out for the sake of others, before God can use you to grow his kingdom.
This Christmas, when we respond to charity appeals at the same time as feeding and giving presents to our families, let us remember that we celebrate the one who laid down his life that we might have fulness of life.