Veterans of the Faith

The word veteran is a word which means old, or experienced. (It is believed that the word veterinarian might have first been used to refer to one who cares for animals which have burdens.) Hebrews 11 is a chapter which is concerned with the veterans of the faith. The second verse of that chapter gets translated a bit different in various translations—“the people of old” (ESV), “the elders” (NKJV), “the ancients” (NIV). The point is, we are dealing with veterans of the faith who persevered and believed the promises of God. The list includes:

  • Abel
  • Enoch
  • Noah
  • Abraham
  • Sarah
  • Isaac
  • Jacob
  • Joseph
  • Moses and Moses’ Parents
  • The people who walked through the Red Sea
  • The people who walked around Jericho
  • Rahab
  • Gideon
  • Barak
  • Samson
  • Jephthah
  • David
  • Samuel
  • Prophets

Some are remembered, not by name, but by heroic actions.
Women received back their dead by resurrection. 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

Yet, the true point of this chapter is not that these people serve as our ultimate example. The real point is twofold: First, God has “provided something better for us” (Hebrews 11:40). And second, Jesus is the one to whom we look (Hebrews 12:2). No matter how honorable a person’s actions might be, the only perfect, sinless example that we have is that of Christ. There may be times when trusting in the promises of God will result in the world attempting to shame us. In the midst of such trials, we listen to the encouragement provided by the veterans of faith, and we look to Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).