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The great failures of the faith

By Scott Tibbs, November 9, 2011

Hebrews Chapter 11 is the Bible's great chapter of faith. At a time when there were battles between those who believed new Christians had to follow the ceremonial laws and those (like the Apostle Paul) who argued that salvation is by grace through faith, the writer of Hebrews uses the heroes of the Old Testament to argue that it has always been about faith rather than works. But how heroic are these heroes of faith?

After the Flood ended, Noah immediately got drunk and was naked in his tent. Abraham passed his wife off as his sister and gave her over to the king to be his wife, leading to God intervening directly to protect Sarah. His lack of faith in God's promise led to him taking Sarah's handmaiden as a concubine. Jacob was a devious liar who cheated his brother out of his rightful inheritance. Joseph was an arrogant little brat who lorded his favored status over his brothers.

It doesn't end there. Moses murdered an Egyptian in cold blood and then had the audacity to directly contradict the call of God. King David had sex with his friend Uriah's wife and then murdered Uriah to cover it up. Samson took a wife from another nation in rebellion against God's command, which was his downfall.

There is no disputing the great things these men of faith did. But they were also deeply flawed sinners, who sometimes engaged in deplorable wickedness. They serve as both a positive and negative example.

I've always taken the fact that the Bible records the terrible failures of the heroes of faith as evidence that the Bible is true. If men were writing this of their own imaginations, why would they record the failures of the heroes of faith in such detail? I've also wondered why things turned out as they did - that the line of Christ went through Judah instead of righteous Joseph and that why the line of Christ went through David's union with Bathsheba.

What is the point? The point is that we have no righteousness of our own. Our righteousness is as filthy rags before God, because there is no one who is righteous. (Romans 3:10-12.) Every blessing we have, including our faith, is a gift from God. Without His grace, we not only will not do good, we cannot do good. As someone who constantly fails (and often fails the same way repeatedly) this is a great comfort.