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Now "since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses" Hebrews 12:1

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

By opening the sentence with "therefore" the writer is tying what is about to be said with concepts previously stated. It would be logical to read the prior statements, as they may have a profound effect upon what is coming. All of Hebrews, to this point has been an attempt at progressively building faith in the reader; and the writer has given you the strong reasons why. The primary reasons center around the Son, Jesus; the price he paid on the cross; all that he did for us; his resurrection from the dead (that is not just the tomb.), and his faithfulness not only to the father, but to us as well.

Now "since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses" we should have some tremendous inspiration.

Who are those that make up the cloud? That was part of the "therefore". People like Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Rahab. And then there were the nameless, that in truth did not seem so victorious, and yet may well be our strongest examples, for they represent most of us who are not the great leaders, but those who live our lives and hang in there. At least we hope that God looks at us and says you had great faith, if even for a few minutes.

I want to ponder Rahab for a moment, because she is considered one that had great faith. Israel comes toward Jericho and spies are sent to scout the place out. Unless you look extremely different how difficult could it be to spy on someone's land? As sneaky as the spies might have been they were seen and so they took refuge in the prostitute's house. How did they know that this was the home of the prostitute? For a spy this would be the perfect place to hide out, because there were probably many who quietly slipped in and out of the prostitute's home. The spies told Rahab why they were there and how any in her house would be treated (saved) when Israel comes, and destruction that will come with them.

Something I just saw. Once again God has given us an analogy to our salvation from the destruction that is to come (the tribulation). In this case the destruction comes upon the city, and just as the spies said, everyone who stayed in the house (our house is Christ, make note of that.) was saved. The fact that they stayed in the house with Rahab may not have indicated a change of heart, but certainly showed that they wished to avoid the destruction and death that was coming.

Jericho seemed impenetrable, but the people already knew that Israel was coming and had knowledge of their reputation for winning battles. As impossible as that would seem, because of the strength of Jericho's walls, it still happened, and only a handful believed. Noah said it would rain, and he said this to people who had no idea of what rain was. In a similar act as Rahab, Noah builds an Ark, in a sense a house, and any who wanted salvation from the destruction that was to come were invited in. None came, save his immediate family.

So then, how did Rahab show faith:
- She believed the story that the spies told her and based upon what she knew of Israel's accomplishments, acted.
- She did not want to die (quite possibly her primary motivation, but if you think this through there are several other strong motivations that can be inferred.) and after telling her parents and other family members, they followed the instructions that the spies left them.
- She and those with her had to trust that the spies were telling the truth. That may have taken the most faith, but when someone may have a knife against your throat how many options do you have.
- She had to have a belief that Israel and their God were coming, and bringing destruction with them. (She told them she had heard of their God. That would imply an interest on her part.)
- When destruction came, they had to believe that the spies would have shared their little secret with everyone else, and that Israel, in general, would agree with the deal
- Once saved Rahab became one of them, and became part of the lineage of our Savior. We do not know what became of her family, but we can assume that they lived and died quietly, protected by Israel and, in a sense, God.

About this cloud of witnesses. A cloud is made up of so many water molecules that you could probably not count them. Most times those molecules are so small that you cannot see them unless they are amassed together. Clouds can be transparent or dense, dark, and ominous. To use a cloud for an analogy would seem to convey that the number of people that have demonstrated faith in a way that God would have you use as an example, is innumerable. Some are listed here in the bible. Some pass you on the street and have amazing stories of how God's love and mercy moved into their situation and changed their lives forever.

Many of those people, in that cloud, never experienced the great salvation, but like Rahab understood that what was promised was coming. Because of their faith in the words they waited patiently, knowing that what surrounded them was not the salvation, even though others pranced about mocking. I am sure that Noah heard the mocking, for while he built the Ark life for others went on; people continued to die and be born without seeing this rain that he spoke of, and never believed that it would come.

I believe that God expects us to be like Rahab and Noah. Having been given the word we are to do what we have been asked to do. Rahab was told to hide her family in the house. She had an advantage, and that was that Israel was such a large contingent that Rahab could see Israel coming, know then that time was short, and gather her family in, all the while continuing to work, but prepared to move. Noah and his boys just went about their business of living and building. This boat took one hundred years to build; one hundred years of knowing that God was coming. Rahab knew that God was coming, and we know that God is coming. Why? We have his word on it, and we have a consistent track record by God demonstrating that he does what he says.
Our inability to have faith in God comes because of an arrogance that refuses to believe. Those who stood about, in the rain, when the door of the Ark shut, may now have understood what Noah was saying, but it was to late. Those who did not believe that anyone could penetrate the walls of Jericho, suddenly had their minds changed as the walls came straight down and Israel came rushing in. How striking it must have been to have the section where Rahab's house was, still standing.

Because we have strong words, witnesses, and Christ to lead the way we too can do this, for that is the purpose of this book. It was written to bolster and remind us that we can walk in faith. Yes, there will always be something that tries to convince you that your faith is faltering or even gone. That is why you have someone like this that occasionally comes along and gives you a backbone again.

Faith is not about the huge victories, although those are fun and tend to show the world that God is real, but it is about the daily grind. Working toward a goal while facing opposition and keeping on anyway. Build your ark (that is a spiritual one, and it is inside of you) knowing that the rain is coming upon the earth, and you will have your safe haven when that rain comes.

Every time I open the Word I see a God that will rescue us when that time comes. In the mean time I am to live my life in worship toward Him with the best possible effort that I can muster, trusting that God will do what he said he would do regardless of what the world tells me. If I die living this way then I have done my job, living my life in behalf of others, showing kindness whenever possible, living as generously as I can, and loving the God who made me.


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