By Marcia Hornok
God highlighted certain men and women by name in Hebrews 11 because they lived by faith in His promises, not by what they saw, felt, or experienced. The chapter repeatedly says they focused on eternity, not earth (vv 10, 13-16, 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.
Judging the Judges
As for the Judges, Gideon was afraid and asked for proof. Then he got greedy and asked people to give him gold. From it, he made a false ephod which became an idol that Israel worshipped.
Barak refused to obey God unless Deborah helped him.
Jephthah 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 brother, the tribe of Ephraim.
And Samson was a womanizer and broke his Nazirite vow.
Why would these four judges even be mentioned in the faith chapter when they did such egregious things?
A possible reason is that only these four, out of fifteen named in the book, called on God or spoke to the Lord.
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. An impeachable crime. Yet in Acts 13:22, he was still called “a man after God’s own heart.” What made the difference?
David confessed his sins and humbled himself before God, writing several emotional Psalms about repentance and forgiveness (Psalms 25, 32, 38, 51).
More Bad Examples
Recall Adam and Eve who lived in a perfect environment and had conversations with God, but obeyed Satan instead of God and lost Paradise.
Judah slept with his daughter-in-law, thinking she was a prostitute.
Aaron fashioned a golden calf and built an altar before it. One wonders why he wasn’t killed.
Again, prayer may be the answer. Moses interceded for him (Deut 9:20).
Miriam criticized Moses.
Naomi was bitter.
Job demanded that God answer to him.
Eli was obese and a bad parent.
Solomon married women who turned his heart away from God.
Elijah wanted to die.
Jonah ran away from God.
Isaiah preached naked for three years (Isaiah 20—perhaps wearing only a loincloth).
With tongue-in-cheek, we could say that Joseph was an ex-con.
Samuel was in foster care from an early age.
Jeremiah was depressed.
John the Baptist was antisocial.
The Samaritan woman had loose morals and lived in sin.
Zacchaeus was too short.
Martha worried too much.
The disciples fell asleep while praying.
Peter cussed and denied 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 about Messiah to their world.
Perseverance Not Required
Anyone who thinks true believers persevere in following God cannot prove it with Biblical examples. Likewise, anyone who thinks he or she needs to be worthy to serve God is mistaken.
God specializes in using failures!
He can’t use people who are strong in themselves. His grace is perfected through human weakness (1 Cor 1:18-31; 2 Cor 12:5-10). That way the glory goes to God, not to someone’s resourcefulness, intellect, or accomplishments.
In fact, as Hebrews 11 points out, God has only one requirement for His children—faith. Believing what God said. Yes, walking by faith should result in faithfulness, but that is not guaranteed. Lordship proponents would say that Gideon, Jephthah, Solomon, and Paul’s former co-workers named in 2 Timothy must have returned to following God before they died, but Scripture indicates no such thing.
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. Everyone can put faith in that fact.
Marcia Hornok, writer and editor, is married to Ken, retired pastor of Midvalley Bible Church in Salt Lake City.