Heroes of The Faith

Written by Joel on August 26th, 2010

Aug 15, 2010
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Hebrews 11:29 – 12:2

Audio is unavailable because I lost my voice recorder.


In brief: This sermon is a re-telling of the Old Testament stories of Enoch (who walked with God), Rahab the prostitute (a faithful enemy!), Gideon (though he tested God), and Jephthah (though he made an idiotic, uncalled for oath).

Enoch (11:5)

Found in Ecclesiasticus, 1 Enoch, Genesis Apocryphon, Jubilees. Also (briefly) found in Genesis 5:18-24 In the genealogy following Adam. The genealogy states a patriarch, the age at which a son was born and the number of years he lived following this son. The genealogy is not explicit if these are first sons, and it is clear that there are other sons and daughters. Enoch is the great, great, great, great (x4) grandson of Adam. And the great grandfather of Noah. For Adam the years are recorded by the phrase “The days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were…” (NRSV). For all the others it is “______ lived after the birth of _______ x years.” EXCEPT for Enoch. Here, and only here, the phrase changes to “Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methuselah 300 years.” There is also a unique additional statement about Enoch “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him.” The only other extra info or description given for one of the people in this genealogy is for Noah; and this may serve to introduce him as the subject of the next few chapters.

“Walked with God.” Noah walked with God (Gen 6:9). In conjunction with that phrase it says he was a righteous man, and blameless in his generation (NRSV). LXX translate it as εὐαρεστέω – to do something or act in a manner that is pleasing This word is only used in the NT in Hebrews (quoting LXX) and later in chapter 13. What beautiful language. It was not remembered that he did some great feat, but walked with God for 300 years. He didn’t waste time he steadily walked with God throughout that (relatively short) life of his. And I think that walking implies some intimacy with God – walking talking, spending time. As opposed to the others in this list who only “lived” Enoch walked with God – a hero of the faith. From The Anchor Bible Dictionary vol. 2 page 508: “As the seventh in the line from Adam (Sasson 1978), Enoch’s life of piety is a contrast with the seventh in the line of Cain, whose life is one of bloodshed (Gen 4:23–24).”

Rahab the prostitute (11:31)

Found in Joshua chapters 2 & 6. Recognize God in the enemy, the other (though a sinner). Jericho – just on the other side of the Jordan river, the promised land. The Israelites were preparing to invade so they sent spies to see Jericho. “The Lord your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below.” (Josh 2:11) Certainly not a Jew, much less a believer or worshipper of God – and yet she is a hero of the faith! She then became part of the community. “Her family has lived in Israel ever since” (josh 6:25). She is also found the genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1:5)

Gideon (11:32)

Found in Judges 6-8. Israelites did evil before God and were placed under the oppression of the Midianites. God commissioned him to bring the Israelites out of the Midianite oppression, first by tearing down the altars to Baal. He was so afraid to do this that he did so under the cover of darkness. But he also puts God to the test, thrice. With the sacrificial meal which is burned up. And the double fleece test. And he was afraid too. To calm his fear God led him down to the Midianite camp to over hear the dreams that they had which showed they were already afraid. He selects the army to defeat the Midianties – actually by making it smaller. God did not want Israel to take credit for the victory. Beginning with 32,000 troops. Those who are afraid go home; 10,000 remain. Those who lapped water like a dog; 300 remain. The Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the east lay along the valley as thick as locusts; and their camels were without number, countless as the sand on the seashore. (judges 7:12) And with 300 Gideon defeated the Midianites.

Barak (11:32) – omitted from the sermon because it was similar to Gideon, and for time consideration.

Found in Judges 4. While Israel was under oppression by the Canaanites. A warrior, military commander. Name means “lightning.” Fought against the Sisera, conquered kingdoms.

Jephthah (11:32)

Found in Judges 10:6-12:7. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. The “legitimate” sons of his father drove him out of the family, because they didn’t want Jephthah to have the inheritance. But later, when Israel was being attacked by the Ammonites they ran out to Jephthah and asked for his help.

Foolish vow. And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” He fought and won. When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. Quote from Judges 11:35ff (NIV)

35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break.” 36 “My father,” she replied, “you have given your word to the Lord. Do to me just as you promised, now that the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. 37 But grant me this one request,” she said. “Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.” 38 “You may go,” he said. And he let her go for two months. She and the girls went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. 39 After the two months, she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin. From this comes the Israelite custom 40 that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.

Did I just inadvertently condone human sacrifice by preaching Jephthah as a hero of the faith? Uh oh. Jephthah was a man of great faith but of poor theology.


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