Verse of the Day Devotion. Hebrews 12:1
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” – Hebrews 12:1
Because of the word ‘therefore’ that begins this paragraph, this is referring back to a previous chapter, namely chapter 11. To start, both the Greeks and Latins used the term ‘cloud’ to speak of a great number of persons or things. Therefore, what is referred to here is a great number of people who have witnessed something. This does not necessarily mean they are witnessing something that is happening now. Here, this probably refers to what they have seen back in their time. And what did thy witness? True unadulterated faith in the one who was coming: the Messiah. And this was faith in something they never saw. “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:39-40. They may not have seen the coming Messiah, but they believed the promises of God delivered to them. One definition of witness is ‘knowledge’ from what you already experienced.
So, what did they witness? Here are a few of what is meant. With Moses we see, “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the first-born might not touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.” Hebrews 11:24-29.
Then with others, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace. And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mocking and scourging’s, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.” Hebrews 11:30-38. And as stated above, they did not receive what was promised, for what was promised was still in the future. In faith, they persevered because they had witnessed the power of God, if not the culmination of their faith.
In a courtroom, a witness may not necessarily be one who saw a particular action, but has seen an equivalent action before, and knows the inevitable outcome. This is what is meant here by witnesses. These men lived by faith in God, not wavering, and ultimately witnessing the faithfulness of God. And this is what we are to do. Knowing that God is faithful in whatever He says, we can be sure we have an incredible future ahead of us, if we remain strong. Many Christians are looked down upon, and many times hated because the life we live is counter to the life they live. And in some countries, the penalty for their belief is torture and death. And there is no evidence to say this will not happen here as well. Therefore, as the writer of Hebrews wrote regarding what we are to do, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1b-2. And if we do all we can to accomplish this, we will join our Savior in heaven and spend eternity in our glorious new Home with Him.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.