A Great Cloud of Witnesses

There is a message from the Book of Hebrews that is mystical and inspiring, a message that’s been on my mind lately. Within this message is a unique phrase, “great cloud of witnesses.” Please read the passage below:

Hebrews 11:1-2 The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd…12:1-3 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans, so great a cloud of witnesses, cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of  where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: 
Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

This excerpt is from the interpretive version of the Scriptures called The Message. It rather bowled me over when I reread it a few months ago, because…

  • It summons up the lovely people in my life, among the living and those in glory, whose explicit and implicit teachings keep me focused on Jesus. 

  • It helps me recall that many in “my” cloud of witnesses overcame obstacles that I cannot even imagine.  In some cases, I know very little of the depth and depravity of their struggles because they would not or could not speak of such things.

  • It makes me smile as I realize that “my cloud” is filled with children, young folks, and those who are older than dirt. They are family, friends, and complete strangers.

  • It clarifies that whatever their struggles - physical, financial, psychological, etc., - they shared their ups and downs to glorify Jesus, not to garner pity or praise.

  • It assures me that because of Jesus, they believed that life was worth living and they won the race

What are your struggles, and who’s in your “cloud of witnesses”? We might reflect on these things as we face health issues, the holidays, and much, much more. This message from Hebrews is NOT a “be perfect” or “pull  yourself up by your bootstraps” admonition. So let us rejoice in our cloud of witness, follow Jesus, and trust in God so that even now, when our future can often seem dark and depressing, we know we’ll win this race.

A final word for us from the Book of Hebrews: When we find ourselves flagging in our faith, go over that story of Jesus again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!


Pastor Bob