The World Was Not Worthy of Them
“They were stoned, they were tried, . . . and the world was not worthy of them.”—HEBREWS 11:37, 38.
1, 2. Under what circumstances did Jehovah’s witnesses of ancient times maintain integrity, and how do their acts affect God’s servants today?
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES of ancient times maintained integrity to God despite many tests brought upon them by unrighteous human society. For instance, God’s servants were stoned and slaughtered with the sword. They suffered ill-treatment and tribulation. Yet they did not waver in faith. Surely, then, as the apostle Paul said: “The world was not worthy of them.”—Hebrews 11:37, 38.
2 The faith-inspiring acts of godly antediluvians, patriarchs, and Moses prompt Jehovah’s modern-day witnesses to serve God in faith. But what about others mentioned in Hebrews chapters 11 and 12? How can we benefit from considering the facets of their faith?
Faith of Judges, Kings, and Prophets
3. How do incidents involving Jericho and Rahab show that faith must be proved by works?
3 Faith is not mere belief; it must be proved by works or actions. (Read Hebrews 11:30, 31.) After Moses’ death, faith brought the Israelites one victory after another in Canaan, but this called for effort on their part. For instance, by the faith of Joshua and others “the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.” But “by faith Rahab the harlot did not perish with those [faithless residents of Jericho] who acted disobediently.” Why? “Because she received the [Israelite] spies in a peaceable way,” proving her faith by hiding them from the Canaanites. Rahab’s faith had a solid basis in reports that “Jehovah dried up the waters of the Red Sea” from before the Israelites and granted them victory over Amorite kings Sihon and Og. Rahab made proper moral changes and was blessed for her active faith by being preserved along with her household when Jericho fell and by becoming an ancestress of Jesus Christ.—Joshua 2:1-11; 6:20-23; Matthew 1:1, 5; James 2:24-26.
4. What do the experiences of Gideon and Barak emphasize as to showing faith in the face of danger?
4 Faith is shown by complete reliance upon Jehovah in the face of danger. (Read Hebrews 11:32.) Paul admitted that time would fail him if he went on to tell about “Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David as well as Samuel and the other prophets,” whose exploits gave abundant evidence of faith and reliance upon God in perilous situations. Thus, by faith and with a band of only 300 men, Judge Gideon was empowered by God to crush the military might of the oppressive Midianites. (Judges 7:1-25) Encouraged by the prophetess Deborah, Judge Barak and an infantry force of 10,000 poorly equipped men triumphed over King Jabin’s far greater forces having 900 armored war chariots commanded by Sisera.—Judges 4:1–5:31.
5. In what ways did Samson and Jephthah display faith that gave evidence of complete reliance upon Jehovah?
5 Another example of faith from the days of Israel’s judges was Samson, mighty enemy of the Philistines. True, he eventually became their blinded captive. But Samson brought death to many of them when he pulled down the pillars of the house in which they were presenting a great sacrifice to their false god Dagon. Yes, Samson died with those Philistines but not as a despairing suicide. In faith he relied upon Jehovah and prayed to him for the strength needed to wreak vengeance upon those foes of God and His people. (Judges 16:18-30) Jephthah, to whom Jehovah granted victory over the Ammonites, also displayed faith that gave evidence of his complete reliance upon Jehovah. Only with such faith could he have fulfilled his vow to God by devoting his daughter to Jehovah’s service as a perpetual virgin.—Judges 11:29-40.
6. How did David show his faith?
6 Also notable for his faith was David. He was only a young man when he fought the Philistine giant Goliath. ‘You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin,’ said David, ‘but I come to you with the name of Jehovah of armies.’ Yes, David relied upon God, killed the towering Philistine, and went on to become a valiant warrior-king fighting in the interests of God’s people. And because of David’s faith, he was a man agreeable to Jehovah’s heart. (1 Samuel 17:4, 45-51; Acts 13:22) Throughout life, Samuel and other prophets also displayed great faith and full dependence upon God. (1 Samuel 1:19-28; 7:15-17) What fine examples for Jehovah’s present-day servants, young and old!
7. (a) Who “through faith defeated kingdoms in conflict”? (b) Who “effected righteousness” through faith?
7 By faith we can successfully meet every test of integrity and can accomplish anything harmonizing with the divine will. (Read Hebrews 11:33, 34.) In citing further acts of faith, apparently Paul had in mind Hebrew judges, kings, and prophets, for he had just named such men. “Through faith” such judges as Gideon and Jephthah “defeated kingdoms in conflict.” So did King David, who subdued the Philistines, Moabites, Syrians, Edomites, and others. (2 Samuel 8:1-14) Also through faith, upright judges “effected righteousness,” and the righteous counsel of Samuel and other prophets moved at least some to avoid or abandon wrongdoing.—1 Samuel 12:20-25; Isaiah 1:10-20.
8. What promise did David obtain, and to what did it lead?
8 David was one who through faith “obtained promises.” Jehovah promised him: “Your very throne will become one firmly established to time indefinite.” (2 Samuel 7:11-16) And God kept that promise by establishing the Messianic Kingdom in 1914.—Isaiah 9:6, 7; Daniel 7:13, 14.
9. Under what circumstances were ‘the mouths of lions stopped through faith’?
9 The prophet Daniel successfully met a test of integrity when he continued to pray to God according to his daily custom despite a royal interdict. With the faith of an integrity keeper, Daniel thus “stopped the mouths of lions” in that Jehovah preserved him alive in the lions’ pit into which he was cast.—Daniel 6:4-23.
10. Who “stayed the force of fire” through faith, and what will comparable faith enable us to do?
10 Daniel’s integrity-keeping Hebrew associates Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in effect “stayed the force of fire.” When threatened with death in a superheated furnace, they told King Nebuchadnezzar that, whether their God rescued them or not, they would not serve the Babylonian monarch’s gods or worship the image he had set up. Jehovah did not put out the fire in that furnace, but he made sure that it did the three Hebrews no harm. (Daniel 3:1-30) Comparable faith enables us to maintain integrity to God to the point of possible death at enemy hands.—Revelation 2:10.
11. (a) Through faith, who “escaped the edge of the sword”? (b) Who were “made powerful” through faith? (c) Who “became valiant in war” and “routed the armies of foreigners”?
11 David “escaped the edge of the sword” of King Saul’s men. (1 Samuel 19:9-17) The prophets Elijah and Elisha also escaped death by the sword. (1 Kings 19:1-3; 2 Kings 6:11-23) But who ‘from a weak state were made powerful through faith’? Well, Gideon considered himself and his men too weak to save Israel from the Midianites. But he was “made powerful” by God, who gave him the victory—and that with only 300 men! (Judges 6:14-16; 7:2-7, 22) “From a weak state” when his hair was shorn, Samson was “made powerful” by Jehovah and brought death to many Philistines. (Judges 16:19-21, 28-30; compare Judges 15:13-19.) Paul may also have thought of King Hezekiah as one “made powerful” from a weak state militarily and even physically. (Isaiah 37:1–38:22) Among God’s servants who “became valiant in war” were Judge Jephthah and King David. (Judges 11:32, 33; 2 Samuel 22:1, 2, 30-38) And those who “routed the armies of foreigners” included Judge Barak. (Judges 4:14-16) All these exploits should convince us that by faith we can successfully meet every test of our integrity and can accomplish anything that is in accord with Jehovah’s will.
Others of Exemplary Faith
12. (a) What “women received their dead by resurrection”? (b) In what way will the resurrection of certain men of faith be “better”?
12 Faith includes belief in the resurrection, a hope that helps us to maintain integrity to God. (Read Hebrews 11:35.) Because of faith, “women received their dead by resurrection.” By faith and God’s power, Elijah resurrected a widow’s son at Zarephath and Elisha raised to life the boy of a Shunammite woman. (1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:17-37) “But other men were tortured [literally, “beaten with sticks”] because they would not accept release by some ransom, in order that they might attain a better resurrection.” Apparently these Scripturally unidentified witnesses of Jehovah were beaten to death, refusing to accept deliverance requiring that they compromise their faith. Their resurrection will be “better” because it will be without the unavoidable need to die again (as did those raised by Elijah and Elisha) and will occur under Kingdom rule by Jesus Christ, the “Eternal Father” whose ransom provides an opportunity for endless life on earth.—Isaiah 9:6; John 5:28, 29.
13. (a) “Mockings and scourgings” were suffered by whom? (b) Who experienced “bonds and prisons”?
13 If we have faith, we will be able to endure persecution. (Read Hebrews 11:36-38.) When we are persecuted, it is helpful to remember the resurrection hope and to realize that God can sustain us as he did “others [who] received their trial [or, test of faith] by mockings and scourgings, indeed, more than that, by bonds and prisons.” The Israelites “were continually . . . mocking at his prophets, until the rage of Jehovah came up against his people.” (2 Chronicles 36:15, 16) By faith, Micaiah, Elisha, and other servants of God endured “mockings.” (1 Kings 22:24; 2 Kings 2:23, 24; Psalm 42:3) “Scourgings” were known in the days of Israel’s kings and prophets, and opponents “struck” Jeremiah, not merely slapping him as an insult. “Bonds and prisons” may remind us of his experiences as well as those of the prophets Micaiah and Hanani. (Jeremiah 20:1, 2; 37:15; 1 Kings 12:11; 22:26, 27; 2 Chronicles 16:7, 10) Because of having similar faith, Jehovah’s modern-day witnesses have been able to endure comparable sufferings “for the sake of righteousness.”—1 Peter 3:14.
14. (a) Who was among those “stoned”? (b) Who may have been “sawn asunder”?
14 “They were stoned,” said Paul. One such man of faith was Zechariah, son of priest Jehoiada. Enveloped by God’s spirit, he spoke out against Judah’s apostates. The result? At the order of King Jehoash, conspirators pelted him to death with stones in the courtyard of Jehovah’s house. (2 Chronicles 24:20-22; Matthew 23:33-35) Paul added: “They were tried, they were sawn asunder.” He may have thought of the prophet Micaiah as one of those who “were tried,” and uncertain Jewish tradition has it that Isaiah was sawed in two during King Manasseh’s reign.—1 Kings 22:24-28.
15. Who suffered “ill-treatment” and “wandered about in deserts”?
15 Others “died by slaughter with the sword,” as, for example, Elijah’s fellow prophets of God who were “killed with the sword” in the days of wicked King Ahab. (1 Kings 19:9, 10) Elijah and Elisha were among those with faith who “went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, while they were in want, in tribulation, under ill-treatment.” (1 Kings 19:5-8, 19; 2 Kings 1:8; 2:13; compare Jeremiah 38:6.) Those who “wandered about in deserts and mountains and caves and dens of the earth” as objects of persecution must include not only Elijah and Elisha but also the 100 prophets that Obadiah hid by 50’s in a cave, supplying them with bread and water when idolatrous Queen Jezebel started to “cut off Jehovah’s prophets.” (1 Kings 18:4, 13; 2 Kings 2:13; 6:13, 30, 31) What integrity keepers! No wonder Paul said: “The world [unrighteous human society] was not worthy of them”!
16. (a) Why have pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah not yet received “the fulfillment of the promise”? (b) For Jehovah’s witnesses of pre-Christian times, being “made perfect” must relate to what?
16 Faith gives us the conviction that in God’s due time all who love him will “get the fulfillment of the promise.” (Read Hebrews 11:39, 40.) Pre-Christian integrity keepers “had witness borne to them through their faith,” now a matter of Scriptural record. But they have not yet received “the fulfillment of the promise” of God by an earthly resurrection with the prospect of eternal life under Kingdom rule. Why? “In order that they might not be made perfect apart from” Jesus’ anointed followers, for whom “God foresaw something better”—immortal heavenly life and privileges of corulership with Christ Jesus. By their resurrection, beginning after the Kingdom’s establishment in 1914, anointed Christians are “made perfect” in the heavens before Jehovah’s witnesses of pre-Christian times are resurrected on earth. (1 Corinthians 15:50-57; Revelation 12:1-5) For those earlier witnesses, being “made perfect” must relate to their earthly resurrection, their eventually being “set free from enslavement to corruption,” and their attaining human perfection through the services of the High Priest Jesus Christ and his 144,000 heavenly underpriests during his Millennial Reign.—Romans 8:20, 21; Hebrews 7:26; Revelation 14:1; 20:4-6.
Keep in View the Perfecter of Our Faith
17, 18. (a) To succeed in our race for eternal life, what must we do? (b) How is Jesus Christ the “Perfecter of our faith”?
17 Having discussed the acts of pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah, Paul pointed to the prime example of faith. (Read Hebrews 12:1-3.) What a source of encouragement to have ‘so great a cloud of witness bearers surrounding us’! This prompts us to put off every weight that would impede our spiritual progress. It helps us to avoid the sin of loss or lack of faith and to run with endurance the Christian race for everlasting life. To reach our goal, however, we must do something more. But what is that?
18 If we are to succeed in our race for eternal life in God’s new system, we need to “look intently at the Chief Agent [or, Chief Leader] and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus.” The faith of Abraham and other integrity keepers living prior to Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry was imperfect, incomplete, in that they did not understand then unfulfilled prophecies about the Messiah. (Compare 1 Peter 1:10-12.) But by Jesus’ birth, ministry, death, and resurrection, many Messianic prophecies were fulfilled. Thus faith in a perfected sense “arrived” through Jesus Christ. (Galatians 3:24, 25) Moreover, from his heavenly position Jesus continued to be the Perfecter of the faith of his followers, as when pouring out upon them the holy spirit at Pentecost of 33 C.E. and by revelations that progressively developed their faith. (Acts 2:32, 33; Romans 10:17; Revelation 1:1, 2; 22:16) How thankful we are for this “Faithful Witness,” this “Chief Leader” of Jehovah’s Witnesses!—Revelation 1:5; Matthew 23:10.
19. Why should Jesus be ‘considered closely’?
19 Since it is not easy to endure the reproaches of the faithless, Paul urged: “Consider closely the one [Jesus] who has endured such contrary talk by sinners against their own interests, that you may not get tired and give out in your souls.” Indeed, if we keep our eyes fixed on “the Faithful Witness,” Jesus Christ, we will never tire of doing the divine will.—John 4:34.
20. What are some things you have learned about faith by considering Hebrews 11:1–12:3?
20 From the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ we learn much about the facets of faith. For instance, faith like that of Abel enhances our appreciation for Jesus’ sacrifice. True faith makes us courageous witnesses, even as Enoch boldly spoke Jehovah’s message. As with Noah, our faith moves us to follow God’s instructions closely and serve as preachers of righteousness. Abraham’s faith impresses us with the need to obey God and trust in His promises, even though some of them have not yet been fulfilled. Moses’ example shows that faith enables us to keep unspotted by this world and stand loyally by Jehovah’s people. Exploits of Israel’s judges, kings, and prophets prove that faith in God can sustain us amid persecution and trials. And how grateful we are that the superlative example of Jesus Christ makes our faith firm and unshakable! Therefore, with Jesus as our Leader and in the strength of our God, let us continue to manifest enduring faith as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
What Are Your Answers?
◻ What acts of pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah prove that faith is shown by complete reliance upon God in the face of danger?
◻ Why can it be said that by faith we can successfully meet every test of our integrity?
◻ What proof is there that through faith we can endure persecution?
◻ Why is Jesus called the “Perfecter of our faith”?
◻ What are some of faith’s many facets?
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David showed faith by relying completely upon Jehovah. A fine example for Jehovah’s people today!
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“Women received their dead by resurrection.” Faith in the resurrection helps us to maintain integrity to Jehovah