Online Bible Commentary
A Better Plan
Hebrews 11:36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated--38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. (NIV)
In this final passage of chapter eleven the writer completes his recognition of the great men and women of faith in God. As in the previous passage he gives descriptions of their sacrifices for God, but not the names of these individuals. We can ascertain some of the faithful even though their names are not given.
We know that Jeremiah “faced jeers and flogging” (v. 36a). He was known as the weeping prophet because of the persecution and frustration that he endured during his ministry. We know that Joseph was “chained and put in prison” (v. 36b). Some of the apostles also endured these sacrifices for their faith.
Zechariah (Mt. 23:35) was “stoned” (v. 37a), as were some of the apostles. Isaiah was “sawed in two” by Manasseh (v. 37b), according to tradition. Others, like Uriah (Jer. 26:23) “were put to death by the sword” (v. 37c). Also, there were mass slaughters by the sword of faithful Hebrews in the times of the Maccabees. Some of the apostles were beheaded for their faith.
Those who maintained their faith in God were “destitute, persecuted and mistreated” (v. 37d) because they would not recant and deny their Lord. Prophets and apostles alike suffered the persecution of the world. The world proclaimed that they were not worthy, but, in reality, “the world was not worthy of them” (v. 38a).
The faithful were forced to wander the “deserts and mountains” (v. 38b), and hide in “caves and holes in the ground” (v. 38c). Elijah was forced to wander in the desert and hide in a cave, where he heard that still, small, voice of God, a reward for his faithfulness (1 Kgs. 19). David was forced by King Saul to roam the wilderness and to hide in the cave of Adullam (1 Sam. 22). Moses was exiled to the desert.
All of these people were “commended for their faith” (v. 39a) by God. However, “none of them received what had been promised” (v. 39b). None of these great people of faith lived to see the Messiah rule on earth. God has a “better” (v. 40a) plan. His plan is that “only together with us would they be made perfect” (v. 40b). We will all be made perfect when we are all caught up together in the air with the Lord at the rapture. We will all enjoy the perfection of having resurrected bodies upon the return of Christ.
All of the great men and women of faith referred to in this chapter have been recognized by God. They all have been included in what we might call God’s Hall of Faith. Their faith has placed them in God’s favor. None received the promises of God that they sought in their lifetimes. That is not God’s plan. God’s promises, and our ultimate rewards, are received in Heaven.
However, we do receive blessings and rewards on this earth for our faithfulness. When we are faithful God blesses us. We are rewarded, on earth, for our faithfulness. Our blessing may be our family, or our church. Our reward may be nothing more than knowing that we are walking in God’s will for our lives. When we walk with God we are rewarded with his peace, and joy. We are given His wisdom, his insights. We see things as He sees them. We understand our purpose, our place in life.
Yes, we will be persecuted for our faith, to one degree or the other. But the rewards far outweigh any persecution we may encounter. God’s plan for us is far better than the world’s plan for us. His plan is a better plan, perfect and eternal.