Devotional: July 4, 2020
By an act of faith, Israel walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. The Egyptians tried it and drowned.
By faith, the Israelites marched around the walls of Jericho for seven days, and the walls fell flat.
By an act of faith, Rahab, the Jericho harlot, welcomed the spies and escaped the destruction that came on those who refused to trust God.
I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more—Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets. . . . Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn’t deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.
Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.
Hebrews 11: 29-40
The entire 11th chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews is known as the “Hall of Faith.” Here, the author of Hebrews talks about the heroes of our faith. Their names are listed, along with a summary from scripture of the great things they accomplished “by an act of faith.”
Although they all dedicated their lives to the Lord, many did not receive earthly rewards for their faith. In fact, some were even martyred for their faith. Yet the good news is that today they are in heaven, and praising God for His mercy and His faithful love.
Those mentioned in this chapter include Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. It is a veritable “Who’s who” of significant figures in our faith history!
These days, the place of heroes of the past is hotly debated. Statues of some are being removed, either forcibly, or by decisions of governmental bodies. I can appreciate some of the angry emotions shown by some individuals, but I am discouraged at the process. We can learn from history, so we do not repeat all of the mistakes of the past. However, we cannot change history.
We celebrate heroes not for what they did wrong, but for what they did right. Moses murdered a man, but he also brought the Israelites out of slavery in the land of Egypt. God knew what Moses did, yet He still used Moses as His tool to free the Israelites.
On our nation’s birthday, July 4th, many of us celebrate our nation’s heroes, and its founders. Like the figures mentioned in scripture, none of them are perfect, but their accomplishments are many. We live in the land of the free because of them. We are grateful for the positive aspects of the history of our country, and for those who sacrificed their lives for us.
Perhaps our faith can help us as we view figures of the past. Scripture tells us that all have sinned, and have fallen short of the glory of God. Other than Christ, there is not a single perfect hero! Yet by placing their faith in God, rather than themselves, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab and so many others accomplished what few thought possible. So, let us celebrate and honor those who were faithful to our Lord, and to our country.
May you all have a safe and happy fourth of July!
We are thankful for the inspiration found in the giants and heroes of our faith, both men and women. When we struggle with our present challenges, remind us to place our faith in You. When we lean upon You for strength, there are no limits to what we might accomplish. We celebrate the truth that although we are not perfect, You are! Thank you for Your perfect grace, forgiveness, power, and love.
We pray this prayer in the name of Your son, and our Lord.