We must yet listen to what the writer tells the Hebrew readers concerning David, Samuel and all the prophets. This may seem like an attempt not to wax long and tedious in his exemplification of the power of faith; fact is, that the writer really gives us a deep and profound view and insight into the mighty power of faith in these worthy saints, which he summarizes in a few words. What is here stated in Hebrews 11 will have a deep and profound meaning in the same measure as we have studied the Old Testament Scriptures from which the Hebrew writer gleans these insights!
We are often so slow and dull in grasping the import of such passages as these because we fail to believe these Scriptures with a deep and perceptive faith. The Bible wills to be studied; the spiritually lazy do not profit, failing to see the import of the God-inspired Scriptures.
CONCERNING DAVID, SAMUEL AND ALL THE PROPHETS (Hebrews 11:32)
The writer to the Hebrews is not concerned simply about chronological order here. Were that the case he would have mentioned Samuel before referring to David. But he mentions David and Samuel together, as very nearly associated in their importance in the history of Israel and in the coming of the Kingdom of God. Both have their unique place in the prophetic history of the Old Testament; we cannot, understand the one without studying the other. The writer also speaks of Samuel in the second and last place for he would refer to him as standing at the beginning of the prophets, which truly have their beginning in Samuel in Israel’s history and end in the greatest of them all, John the Baptist! Thus we are here given a grand and panoramic view across Israel’s history.
In each age we see greater things done by the Lord in delivering Israel from the enemies, and in the establishment of the Kingdom of God. The darker the night the more the light of the sure prophetic word and the heroic deeds of the prophets point toward the power and coming of the Lord. And we do well to give heed unto this more sure word of prophecy even in our day, until the day dawn and the day-star arrive in our hearts. (II Peter 1:19) In this frame-work of the fulfillment of the mighty promises of God we are to view David, Samuel and all the prophets!
THE FAITH-LIFE OF KING DAVID (Hebrews 11:32-33)
David served the counsel of God in his day. (Acts 13:36) He lived to serve the counsel of God by faith. What David wrought no other saint could have done. When that work was finished he was gathered to his fathers. It was a life of sin and grace; nothing else can be gleaned from the Scriptures concerning David. Not all in David’s life was “by faith.” There was also something of the flesh and of unbelief and littleness of faith in David. We have but to think of the time when he said, after God had so signally delivered him from the hands of Saul, “And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul; there is nothing better than that I should escape into the land of the Philistines . . .” We know how poorly David fared during that time. There were no noble and great deeds of faith; it simply was a cowering before Saul. And no good became of David until once more “by faith” when all seemed lost in Ziglag, David “strengthened himself in Jehovah his God.” Then out of weakness he waxed strong. (I Sam. 30:6b) It is really needless to speak of the lack of faith and of the obedience of faith in David when he committed adultery with the wife of his trusted servant, Uriah, and then murdered him by the hand of others. But even here David “by faith” walked in contrition and sorrow and wrote the immortal fifty-first Psalm.
However, the writer to the Hebrews cites here the mighty deeds of David, which were “by faith.” David was a man of war. And in this warfare he was a man after God’s heart. It was walking in the faith which is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen! David “subdued kingdoms”; he slew his ten thousands. As a youth he slew the mighty Goliath before whom the entire army of Israel trembled, including king Saul. He did so “by faith” with a sling and stone in the name of the Lord. Says he, “Thou comest to me with a sword and a spear, but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast reproached and defied.” (I Samuel 17:44) Yes, David walked in faith in the unseen God when he delivered the entire army into the hands of Israel that day. Hear him speak in faith, “This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thy head from off thee; and I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day unto the birds of the heavens, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel and all this assembly may know that the LORD saveth not with the sword and the spear; for the battle is the LORD’S, and he will give you into our hand.” (I Samuel 17:46-47)
Here we see David, a mere stippling waxing strong in weakness, subduing nations, working righteousness and obtaining the promised victory. When we see this we see faith in action; we see the faith which conquers the world! From this comes the mighty testimony out of the cloud of witnesses to the church: press on in faith, do not fall back by unbelief into perdition as did Saul, the son of Kish.
SAMUEL THE PROPHET-JUDGE IN ISRAEL
Samuel was a child who was given in answer to his barren mother’s prayer in Shiloh, in the tabernacle. He was a child who was promised to the LORD in anticipation of his birth. Hannah vowed that the child would serve the Lord, and that, too, in a time when Israel was under the cruel yoke of foreign bondage, due to the Lord’s chastisement for Israel’s sin. Not only did Israel serve idol-gods of the heathen, but the very “house of prayer” had become a veritable den of thieves. The priests, the sons of Eli, were sacrilegious and adulterous. They despised the sacrifices and ceremonial ordinances of Christ. They so maimed and destroyed the sacrifices that their import, as pointing to the LAMB of God, was effaced. At such a time as that was Samuel born to be a Nazarite child! He was to be standing in the service of the LORD in a special way in God’s Tabernacle. His prophetic work began when but a little child; he received the call from the Lord in the Tabernacle and must bring dreadful tidings to the aged high-priest Eli concerning his house and wicked sons.
Samuel sees, in his day, the word of the Lord fulfilled concerning the “departure of the glory” from the house at Shiloh. The Ark of God is taken, and is captured by the uncircumcised Philistines and this Ark never returns to Shiloh, but after being in many different places in Judah, is finally brought to the LORD’s resting-place in Jerusalem under David. Samuel, too, walked “by faith.” He, too, was a prophet through whom the Lord “subdued kingdoms.” We have but to think of the signal victory under Samuel over the Philistines at Mispah and Bethcar. Did not the Lord there under Samuel, the delivering Prophet-judge, discomfit the Philistines with thunder, rain and hail? Was that not the place where the faithfulness of the LORD is marked by the stone of remembrance, “Eben-HaEzer”?
By faith Samuel, too, was a teacher in Israel, one of the first and great prophets, teaching and operating in that very prophetical history wherein the kingdom of God is in the offing under David. It seems that Samuel was the last of the judges and the first of the prophets. We read in Acts 13:20, “and after these things he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet.” Thus also we read in Acts 3:24, “Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and them that followed after, as many as have spoken, they also told of these days.” How great Samuel stood is evident from Jeremiah 15:1 where we read, “Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind would not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight and let them go forth.” Samuel was a great judge-prophet who interceded for Israel in his day as did Moses in the days of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness.
“Samuel and all the prophets” takes in the entire era from Samuel till the coming of Malachi. It was during these days that we see the great deeds of faith here spoken of. We have but to think of Elijah as he stood alone before God fighting the entire house of Ahab and wicked Jezebel! He brought down kingdoms, wrought righteousness and obtained promises. He wrought this by the sword of the Spirit, and was mighty in prayer, even though he was a man of like passions as we. Or turn to Elisha who received a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. See how, upon his word, the king Jehoshaphat had the victory of Moab and the host of it. It was all by faith.
We will only remind you, dear reader, of such men as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel and Daniel. We know that Isaiah prophesied before the captivity of Judah in the Emmanuel-prophecies, and Jeremiah prophesied during the time of Judah’s being taken captive, while both Ezekiel and Daniel were prophets in the land of Babylon with the captives. All the prophets stood together in this one work of subduing kingdoms, working righteousness and obtaining promises.
GREAT DELIVERANCES BY FAITH (Hebrews 11:34)
What faith was there not exhibited in “stopping the mouth of lions!” Think of the power of Daniel’s faith, when, he, rather than ceasing to pray to the Lord, was cast into the lion’s den by king Darius. (Daniel 6:24 f.f.) Conversely we see what happened to the men who threw Daniel into the lion’s den. Perhaps the writer also has in mind the faith of Samson when he killed a lion (Judges 14:6) and the faith of David when he killed a lion. (I Samuel 17:34) They, like Daniel, were delivered “because they trusted in God.” (Daniel 6:23)
Yea, they “extinguished the power of the fire.” The three friends of Daniel refused to bow down to the image of king Nebuchadnezzar in the plain of Dura. We know the history. It was because the “Son of God” was with them. By faith in him the very fire could not touch them. The fire lost its burning power. Their clothing were not touched by the terrible heat. Such was their faith.
And they “fled the edge (mouth) of the sword.” This was true of David fleeing before Saul, and of Elijah and Elisha when pursued by Israel or when surrounded by the armies of Syria. Even the hosts of God that were for Elijah were more than those against him. Jeremiah fled the edge of the sword more than once. He stood in faith, even when put in the damp dungeon in Jerusalem. Moses was delivered from the sword of Pharaoh. (Ex. 18:4) David escaped the javelin of Saul. And those who escaped the edge of the sword are many in the annals of Israel’s history.
Truly this is a great cloud of witnesses, who interpret for us the meaning of faith, which believes to the saving of the soul.