July 20, 2022
Thank you for praying for our prodigals and for revival.
As we near the close of our study in Hebrews 11, the hall of faith, it is good to remember that these people were not superheroes. They were ordinary people. They were imperfect people. They were failing people. They were not great in themselves, they were faithful people in a great God.
The list below is a horrific sequence of atrocities endured by these faithful witnesses of God.
“Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:35-38).
S. Michael Houdmann says:
“Ancient Jewish-Christian tradition suggests that Isaiah was martyred by King Manasseh son of Hezekiah. According to the tradition, Isaiah was tied inside a sack, placed within the hollow of a tree trunk, and then sawed in two. This story traces back to a first-century, noncanonical book called the Ascension of Isaiah, which claims to tell the story of Isaiah’s death.
According to the account in the Ascension of Isaiah, Isaiah prophesies that King Hezekiah’s wicked son, Manasseh, will torture and kill him and renounce the commands and precepts that Hezekiah had previously delivered. After Hezekiah’s death, King Manasseh devotes himself to serving Satan, and Isaiah flees to the mountains of Bethlehem along with Ananias, Joel, Habakkuk, and other faithful servants of God…Manasseh has Isaiah arrested and then cut in half with a wooden saw.
The legend contained in the Ascension of Isaiah influenced other early Jewish and Christian writings. According to the Talmud, a collection of Jewish texts that record the oral tradition of the early rabbis, Isaiah hid inside a cedar tree and then was sawed in two by King Manasseh.”
Right in the middle of the Hebrews 11 list is this statement, “of whom the world is not worthy,” which reminds us that God’s values are much different from the world’s. He allows His people to suffer in order to promote them to an eternal realm where their worth is fully recognized.
There are 3 applications for us to take away.
First, we have the privilege of honoring those who died as martyrs. God honors them; they are the foundation of our faith. They, along with many since, have allowed their blood to flow for the sake of their God.
Second, their example can motivate us to live by faith regardless of the cost. Their lives can be a source of great inspiration. They treasured those things that delighted the heart of God and in turn were hated by the world.
Jesus was clear on this point as He spoke to His disciples on the way to the cross. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19 ESV).
Third, those who are enduring present-day persecution need our prayers. Some of us live quite comfortably, yet there are those who are enduring great suffering in lands that are openly hostile toward the gospel. There are good resources to help us pray, including organizations such as The International Bible Society or The Voice Of The Martyrs.
Christians who live in North Korea, China, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Russia, and other countries are presently going through great hardships. They are our brothers and sisters in the faith. We may not know their names or circumstances, but we can hold their hands in prayer and bring them to the throne of grace as we pray for their support and courage.
As we think of those who have paid such a cost for their faith, may it renew our courage and strengthen our commitment to live for Christ no matter the cost.
Love in Christ,
Bryan and Rachel