what is faith?

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Barak.  Gideon.  Samson.  Jephthah.  These four men from the book of Judges are mentioned by name in Hebrews chapter 11 as having faith.  Hebrews 11 is the faith epitome chapter in the Bible.  It’s the who’s who list of God’s faithful people.  Make it into Hebrews 11, and your eternal security is sealed.  But Barak?  Gideon?  Samson?  Jephthah?  Really?  Were they faithful?

Barak.  He doubted.  When Deborah the prophet told him to go attack Naphtali and that God would give him victory, he said, "I’ll go only if you go, Deborah."

Gideon.  He doubted.  When we first find him, he’s in hiding.  When God tells him to go, he questions, he tries to wiggle out, he even claims that the Lord has abandoned Israel.  When God tells him to go again, Gideon asks for God to fulfill a test.  When God tells him to go again, Gideon asks God to fulfill another test- this time a 2 day fleece experiment.  His life ends after having polluted the spirituality of Israel by building a golden image for everyone to worship.

Samson.  He was a dufus.  He fornicated like crazy.  Ate out of a lion’s carcas.  Blasphemed his vow.  He was a drunkard.  The only prayer we see Samson accomplish is at the end of his life right before he suicide bombs the Philistines.

Jephthah.  He was a dufus.  To honor God, he declares that he’ll sacrifice the first person that comes out of his house.  Who did he expect… a strange wanderer that nobody would miss?  What was he thinking?!!  His precious daughter happens to be the first person to walk out.  Jephthah laments his declaration… but a man’s word is a man’s word, so he keeps his word.  What an idiot.

How is it, then, that these four are counted as the great faithful in Hebrews 11?  I have complete faith in Scripture…  so I have faith that there is an understanding here that is a bit beyond me right now.

What is faith, if these four can have it?

Anybody else struggle with this?


  1. Thanks Andrew… After studying this last week, I’m right back to the simple again. I think the key isn’t in the profound faith of these great heroes in Hebrews 11… it’s the profound grace of Jesus. These “heroes” are so filled with mistakes and sins and missed opportunities to be faithful… and yet through the grace of Jesus they are counted as having faith.
    Our faith has limits… and could never be great enough to truly merit the presence of God for eternity. I think Jesus delights in being gracious.

  2. I used to struggle with it Ken, but there was a time when I realized that the Bible was about real people and that it makes little sense to try to lift these people above that status. They are revered in words of the Scriptures, sure, I am not. The point, however, is that we are both people, even if one has more recognition than the other. I think it is also important to remember that the chapter is calling the Hebrews to live up to their history and to become the people of the presence that these people were, historical movers and shakers whose faith in God changed the world. Screw ups and all, they are being called to emulate something which ordinary people can accomplish. Ordinary. Really.

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