THE LIVING WORD TRANSCRIPT
Program Air Date – 7-22-12
LESSON TITLE: “SO GREAT A CLOUD OF WITNESSES.”
Daniel once prayed to God and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments,” Truly what a great and awesome God we serve!
Let me welcome you this morning and say thanks for joining us for the Living Word Program. It is always a privilege to have you with us for this time of offering to God. We welcome you to this service for our Creator.
Today, we have the opportunity together to worship and praise our God. This morning we will glorify our Lord through songs of praise and through the study of His perfect Word. Won’t you do your part to make this time together acceptable in His sight. Now, let’s approach our Father’s throne in prayer.
It’s time to start our praise through song. Won’t you join in the first song of the morning, as we sing together, “My Jesus I Love Thee!”
(SONG # 1)
Throughout the Old Testament, we see that writers found there, continually acknowledged the wonder and magnificence of our God. How encouraging it is to see their faith, through the things which they proclaimed to the people of their time.
In Deuteronomy 3:24, Moses said the following to Israel, “O Lord GOD, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your mighty hand, for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do anything like Your works and Your mighty deeds?” What wondrous words were said here, confirming the great power and glory of our God in Heaven.
Also, read with me from 1 Samuel 2:1-2, there Hannah prayed, “My heart rejoices in the LORD; My horn is exalted in the LORD. I smile at my enemies, Because I rejoice in Your salvation. No one is holy like the LORD, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.” This follower of God confirms here that God is our rock and can be counted on in every facet of life.
However, the most wonderful part of these expressions of faith in God is the fact that these individuals understood that true salvation was only found in God. I love the way Jonah put it in Jonah 2:9, there he said, “But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.” You see these servants of God were willing to clearly proclaim who there God was, as well as give Him the glory for the salvation which He offered to those who followed His Will!
So, what about today, don’t we have an even better covenant through Jesus Christ? That’s what the Hebrew writer said in chapter 7, and verse 22 of that book! There we read, “By so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant.” How blessed we are to know that Jesus has secured our salvation, by making a new covenant and sealing it with His own blood, Hebrews 9:14-15.
Finally, we read the words of Peter in Acts 4:14, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Sound familiar? We also have salvation in God, through His own Son - Jesus Christ. Have you done what is necessary to receive this blessing from God?
Our topic today will again focus on our series concerning “Faith!” Our specific study this morning is entitled, “So Great A Cloud Of Witnesses!” So stay with us and in a few minutes I will return and lead us in our thoughts of the Day. Now it’s time to join in our second hymn of the morning, the name of the song, “Nothing But The Blood.”
(SONG # 2)
BY RAY SULLINS
So glad that you continued with us this morning and now before I enter into my lesson I would like to remind you that on August 5, that’s only about two weeks away, we will be having our taping of songs for this program. And so any of you who have helped us in the past or any brethren around the area that would like to be involved in that please be at the Kansas Expressway Church of Christ building there at two o’clock. It is located on 2540 N. Kansas Expressway and that again will be on August 5 at 2 o’clock. We hope you are able to be a part of that and then you’ll not only be able to help us in singing, and worshiping, and fellowshipping together, but also being able to see yourself on the television program on a weekly basis when you are certainly on the song production of the program.
We now go back to the word of God in relationship to our discussion on faith and we have been having I believe a great discussion together concerning these different heroes, we might say, of faith as those who really stand out in Hebrews 11. In Hebrews 11 we now have seen from the very beginning it first mentions those who are the elders by faith the elders certainly have believed and had proper witness. We also see there in verse 3, the concept of the worlds and how the world certainly is something that we believe was created by God and so by faith we believe that the worlds were created as the Hebrew writer also says he and those with him believe. Then we see also specific individuals brought up such as Abel first and then Enoch, and after Enoch we also see Noah. After Noah we find the great faith of Abraham as well as his wife Sarah, then their son Isaac. Isaac then having Jacob, the faith of Jacob, and then even we see Joseph his son there who went to Egypt and became as we know like a Pharaoh. Then last week together we looked at Moses and so all of these great Patriarchs that we are discussing there up to this point certainly proved that by faith they were justified in God. Not because of their greatness but because of God’s greatness and then their willingness to by faith believe it.
Our lesson then today will really take the last eleven verses of chapter 11 and it really will help us to hopefully tie all of these things together to an extent but to do that we are actually going to move all the way into chapter 12 and then back track. There in chapter 12 guess what it starts out by saying, right after chapter 10 and also chapter 11 have dealt with those great individuals of faith, the fact that we are justified by faith and the reality that by faith these individuals did and said things that proved their obedience to God. Well, chapter 12:1 begins by saying, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…” What? Do you mean that cloud of witnesses? What cloud? Well, think about a cloud maybe, maybe you have gone up into the hills or maybe in a really foggy morning. I know sometimes when I have been out in Colorado you go up into the mountains and there might be clouds that are actually down in the mountains and you are actually surrounded on all sides, every direction by what? That cloud. And he says here we are surrounded by so great a cloud of what? Witnesses, what kind of witnesses? God’s witnesses. And in fact the entire last chapter, chapter 11, has been doing what? Proving to us those who were willing to be witnesses by faith of God and the fact that they were faithful to God is how they were proven to be those necessary witnesses. How do we know that? Well, if you will back up with me there for instance verse 39 of chapter 11, he actually says there, “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith…” How did they obtain a good testimony? Well, by faith. What kind of faith? An active faith.
We have discussed now for two months the active faith of these individuals and it says that’s how they obtained a good testimony. Those are those witnesses as well as certainly any other faithful that would be described of from the word of God or even those who would be faithful in our day and time. You might also back up to chapter 11 and verse 6, do you remember there when it says that without faith it is impossible to please God? It emphasizes the fact that we must be believers of Him, that he is also a rewarder, but then the end of that verse says this, “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” How do we diligently seek God? How do we please God, does this chapter tell us? By having faith and that by without faith we are unable to please him and it was then through faith, there verse 39 also verse 6, that we are then able to diligently seek God and therefore be seen as those who have good testimony according to also what we find that great cloud of witnesses, that proves to us the very same thing. I might also remind you that the verses and the chapters were not there in the original writings in the original letter and so when you would have ended there, in chapter 11: 40, you would have gone right into chapter 12:1, as a continuous thought. And so right after he has spoken there about the fact of that good testimony that they have and the fact that we have been made perfect as they, in a sense have been made perfect, he then says therefore we also since we have this great cloud of witnesses. And so what a great blessing, what a great and wonderful encouragement these things should be to us as we now go to these last eleven verses there in Hebrews 11.
Now that we have began to back up and understand the necessity once again of faith and that it was all of these that we have discussed so far that have faith, I now want you to look with me at verse 33. Verse 33, and following up to about verse 38, tells us not only of things that we have already learned but things that we are aware of in the New Testament in the New Covenant as well as throughout all of the Bible that others of great faith were able to demonstrate to God how much they loved him. For instance, verse 33 says, “Who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions…” Sound familiar there? Daniel. “…quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle…” How many won battles because of the power of God? “…turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women also received their dead raised to life again.” Don’t we know of some in the New Testament as well as in the Old Testament who children were brought back from the dead because of the power of God. “…Others were tortured not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mocking and scourging, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.” Again throughout the Old Testament think of all those who were thrown into prison Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. In the New Testament what about great men like Paul and others who were thrown into prison for what, their faith. Who were beaten because of there faith. They also verse 37, were stoned. I think of Stephen and others there in the book of Acts. “…they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with a sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented – Of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and cases of the earth.” And so, although most likely these individuals in this text are talking about those under the old covenant before Christ time and the time of Christ they still certainly not only remind us to reflect on those good stories that were given for our learning of a Biblical example in the Old Covenant, the Old Testament, but they also then help us to think about the cloud of witnesses even in the New Covenant.
The reason I say that he is really focusing more on the Old Covenant at that point is because again verse 39, speaks of those who have obtained faith and by faith it says a good testimony but then verse 40, says, “God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” You see he is talking about those who before Christ were made perfect by faith but yet they did not have the same perfection we have, having known that Jesus came and died on the cross. Now they share in the blood of Jesus like we share in the blood of Jesus but they were looking for something as chapter 11 keeps talking about, something that was coming, something that they were willing to do even though they had not received the promise as is spoken here. There in verse 39, they had not received that promise, they were still willing to do what? Have faith. Now you and I are able to look back and to find confidence in the promise fulfilled and there by faith we also believe. So two different perspectives here in chapter 11 all of those beautiful, beautiful ideas of Old Testament men of faith and women of faith prove to us what we also should do this day.
Now that we understand then not only all that we have discussed for a few months but also now verses 33-38, all the other individuals throughout the Old Testament who proved by faith. Notice that all of these things that were proved by faith were sorts of actions or things they were willing to do and say or they were willing to endure even persecution and affliction, faith again an action. But now I want you to back up with me to verse 29, because now notice with me some specific individuals that the text begins to speak of that really show us we are also willing to have faith at least at one time or another. For instance we begin to see there in verse 29, where is says right after Moses leading Israel and having faith to tell them to keep the Passover, it says there verse 29, “By faith they passed through the Red Sea on dry land.” Moses isn’t the only one that went across on dry land there at the Red sea, all of Israel did. They by faith did it and so what do we learn here? Even Israel had faith.
The Israelites at times had a faith that proves to us the type of faith that we should have. Does that mean that they are perfect? No. It doesn’t mean Moses was perfect, and it doesn’t mean as we back up to men like Jacob were perfect, it doesn’t mean that Abraham’s perfect. No one other than Jesus Christ lived a completely perfect life as a man. And so therefore we know that they weren’t perfect but yet by faith they were willing to give God there very best. They were willing to stay committed to those things that he had commanded at least at this point. I might also ask you then to look at verse 30 because it again ties in a similar concept, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell.” Who marched around Jericho? Who marched around it doing what God says that the walls might fall? Well, by faith the Israelites did and because they encircled it for seven days verse 30 says they by faith were again proven to be of God.
Then one of my favorite perhaps in the entire book here of Hebrew’s 11, is that concept of Rehab the Harlot and I always have thought that it is so exciting to think about Rehab the Harlot from the standpoint that she was someone who was there, as we well know back from Joshua 2, who was there in a place who was against God. A nation that had rejected God and there when she heard of them coming what was she willing to do? She was willing by faith to believe even though she was not amongst the Israelites and even though most in that place including those around her maybe except for a few family members did not believe in the God of Israel and they really were not afraid to the extent that she was. I would like you to notice with me in Joshua 2, what it is that she says to them in verse 9. She tells the spies, “’I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites…” and it speaks about the Jordan, and those great kingdoms there such as the kingdom of Og and Sihon. Then in verse 11, she says, “And as soon as we heard these things our hearts melted neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, of the Lord your God, He is God in Heaven above and on earth beneath.” What did they believe? They believed that he was God. Who? Rehab the Harlot. What reason did she have to believe? She had faith. Then what I love is over in the book of James 2, I wish you would turn there sometime and read verse 25, because guess who says was justified by faithfulness, by her action of faith by her works, it says Rehab the Harlot. So again we find Rehab a great example of one who took in the spies willing to jeopardize her life and the life of her family to act by faith on her belief that the God of Israel was able to destroy that kingdom of Jericho and because of her faith she was spared and she was taken out when the destruction took place.
We also find verse 32, and verse 32 does a great job of just mentioning several other very familiar Bible characters and we will just make mention of them very briefly and where they are found in the Bible. First of all you might notice it says, “And what more shall I say? For the time would not really allow me or fail me.” And that’s kind of where we are dealing with this morning, failing us in being able to really deal with these in detail. We all remember the story of Gideon how there were three hundred men in the book of Judges 7, he was able to do what? Accomplish a great thing as the fifth judge of the people of Israel. We also see here someone referred to as Barak, Barak was one who assisted Deborah who was the fourth judge of Israel and she was one who fought against Sisera and the Canaanites there in Judges 4. We have heard of the story of Sampson who is mentioned next, the thirteenth judge amongst God’s people. He was a mighty warrior there and in Judges 15:16 we learn great stories of his power and might and also the story of his weakness such as Delilah and so on and so forth. We even see mentioned here someone referred to as Jepthah, and Jeptha is found there in Judges 11. He was a leader of the men of Gilead who went against the Amorites, and their successful because of God. David the King that we well know of certainly David is mentioned here, he is one that throughout the books of the Kings as well as Samuel, we learn so much about because of his great faith in God and his willingness to have a heart like God. Samuel is mentioned here, perhaps one of the greatest of all prophets as well as a judge many believe and there in 1Samuel 8, he is one who led the people and also tried to discourage them from having a king. Then finally there in verse 32, it mentions there “…and the prophets.” What other prophets? Jeremiah, Isaiah? How many other do we have to mention, great and minor prophets that certainly prove to us all of this cloud of witnesses of those who are willing to do whatever God said. To speak whatever he proclaimed, to stand, and to endure whatever the persecution or trial in order to show and to prove their faith in God.
So my question for us today is what will we do with this great cloud of witnesses? Will we stand strong and will we imitate their great faith? Will we do whatever it takes to stand with God, knowing that we will also receive the great reward in the end? Will we be faithful to our God until Heaven?
(SONG # 3 - “Peace Perfect Peace!”)
Let me thank you again for choosing to be with us today for the Living Word program. I hope and trust, that together we have all benefited from this service to our Lord. Let me also invite you to join us every Lord’s Day morning at 7:30 as we give this time to our Creator.
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As we look to the great examples of faith throughout God’s Word, may we implement in our lives those things which are of God. Knowing that those who prove their faith in God will have everlasting life! Where does your faith stand before God?