Devotional: ‘The Great Cloud of Witnesses’

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This week we have been studying the first part of Hebrews chapter 12. Perhaps some of you have noticed that by doing so, we have skipped over chapter 11; often called the “Heroes of Faith.” Did I make a mistake? Did I somehow inadvertently overlook this tremendous chapter in the Bible? Actually I have done what I have done as an introduction to next week’s study. Beginning next week we will take a brief look at the various men and women of God who have faithfully ran the race.

Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us…

It is from the Greek word for ‘witness’ that we get the English word – ‘martyr.’ What is a Christian martyr? Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines a martyr as: {a person who suffers greatly from something}. Most often what they suffer for – is something they strongly believe in. A Christian martyr is someone who suffers for their faith in Jesus Christ. History teaches us that many martyrs have suffered greatly, even to the point of death.

As we consider running the race that is set before us, we have two great examples. First and foremost there is the Lord Jesus Christ. (see yesterday’s devotional) But in addition to Christ, we also have the example of many great men and women of God.

Scripture says that we are ‘compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses.’ Some have imagined this to mean that the saints in heaven are looking down upon us and cheering us on. It’s as though we’re running our race in a great arena while these faithful saints fill the stands. The Bible doesn’t tell us that the saints in heaven can see us today. The story of the rich man and Lazarus teaches us that those who are dead can still remember those of us who are alive, but whether or not they are aware of what’s happening in our lives is unclear.

What then does it mean that we have this great company of faithful saints all around us? Most likely it means that we are encompassed about by their testimonies. The pages of scripture are filled with the examples of precious saints who would rather have died than to deny their God and Savior. Their examples cheer us on to keep running so that we too can win!

Join me again next week as we feast upon their wonderful stories.

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