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Bible 'heroes' had messy lives

The Bible tells about real people
The Bible tells about real people
Photo by Marcia Hornok

Many people know about a famous chapter in the Bible listing “Heroes of Faith.” Hebrews chapter 11 has been called the Faith Chapter. God highlighted certain men and women by name because they based their lives on faith in His promises, not on what they saw, felt, or experienced (vs. 1-2, 7, 8, 9-11, 39). The chapter repeatedly says they lived for eternity not earth (vs. 10, 13-14, 16, 24-27, 35). And yet most of them were seriously flawed.

Noah got drunk. Abraham lied about his wife. Twice. Sarah laughed at what God said. Isaac tried to give God’s covenant blessing to the wrong son. Jacob was deceitful. Moses hated public speaking and had an anger problem. Rahab was a prostitute.

As for the Judges, Gideon was afraid and asked for proof. Then he got greedy and asked people to give him gold, which he made into a false ephod. It became an idol for Israel to worship. Barak refused to obey God unless Deborah helped him. Jepthah made a rash vow that jeopardized his daughter, involving a sacrifice of her hope for marriage or possibly even her life. Then he started a civil war and defeated his brothers, the tribe of Ephraim. Samson was a womanizer and broke his Nazarite vow. Why would these four judges even be mentioned in the faith chapter when they did such egregious things? Out of fifteen judges named in the book of Judges, only these four called on God or spoke to the Lord God. Prayer made the difference.

Hebrews 11 also cites David who had an affair with a married woman and had her husband murdered as a cover-up. Definitely an impeachable crime. Yet even Acts 13:22 calls David “a man after God’s own heart.” What made the difference? David confessed his sins and humbled himself before God. He wrote several emotional Psalms about repentance and forgiveness (Psalm 25, 31, 38, 51).

Looking at other Bible people, Adam and Eve lived in a perfect environment and had conversations with God, but they chose to obey Satan instead of God and got evicted from their home. Judah slept with his daughter-in-law thinking she was a prostitute. Aaron built a golden calf for the people to worship. Miriam was critical. Naomi was bitter. Job demanded that God answer to him. Eli was obese and a bad parent. Solomon married a harem full of women who turned his heart away from God. Elijah was suicidal. Jonah ran away from God, and Isaiah preached naked for three years (Isaiah. 20-perhaps wearing only his undergarment).

With a little tongue-in-cheek, it could be said that Joseph was a pampered child whom his siblings abused. He later spent time in prison. Samuel was in foster care from an early age. Jeremiah was depressed. John the Baptist was antisocial. The Samaritan woman had loose morals (divorced five times and living with another man). Zaccheus was too short. Martha worried too much. The disciples fell asleep while praying. Peter cussed and denied knowing Christ. Paul had a disability and argued with other Christians. And Lazarus was dead. Yet God used them all to do His will. They wrote Scripture, preached sermons, and spread the Good News of Christ the Messiah to the then-known world.

Anyone who thinks he or she needs to be worthy in order to serve God is seriously mistaken. God specializes in using failures! He can’t use people who are strong in themselves. His grace is perfected through human weakness (1 Corinthians 1:18-31; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). That way the glory goes to God not to someone’s resourcefulness, wisdom, or accomplishments.

In fact, as Hebrews 11 points out, God has only one requirement for His children—faith. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (vs. 1). “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (vs. 6). Like Sarah, those who want to please God must “consider Him faithful who had made the promise” (vs. 11).

When they mess up they confess it (1 John 1:9) knowing that God is a forgiving God, a God of multiple second chances. The Bible teaches that people don’t need to try to be perfect; they need to be forgiven. God’s “heroes” know that their destiny is not dependent on their faithfulness in doing the best they can, but on God’s faithfulness to keep His promises. Every one of us can put our faith in that.

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