"A Better Plan"
I’m a planner by nature. I plan out my days, though they rarely go as planned! I plan our meals and grocery list for each week. I keep our family travel and vacation calendar. Even when we’re on vacation, it’s hard for me to get out of my planner mode. I want to use every last second to see as many sites as possible, to try as many delicious restaurants as possible, and to stay as close to budget as possible.
The end of our “Hall of Faith” chapter also outlines a plan—a plan of how God would work through the Old Testament saints for His glory. We hear of their amazing feats of faith, from conquering kingdoms, to enduring persecution, to facing imprisonment and death. I have to admit that while part of this plan sounds glamorous, my human temptation would be to try to avoid the more difficult portions of the text, to “plan myself” out of the pain. After all, I would prefer not to be sawn in half, which was Isaiah’s legacy. Yet these saints understood that God’s power was made perfect in their weaknesses, and they had an eternal perspective which helped them understand the true purpose of faith. As one theologian put it, “Faith in God carries with it no guarantee of comfort in this world: this was no doubt one of the lessons which our author wished his readers to learn. But it does carry with it great reward in the only world that ultimately matters” (F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 329). You see, God’s plan is a better plan because of His eternal perspective. While I’m sure none of these saints would have willingly chosen pain, they endured suffering because they believed there was something greater waiting for them through their obedience.
The beautiful part of this better plan is that, somehow, in God’s graciousness, He decided to include us! Even though the text tells us the world was not worthy of these men and women of faith, we learn in verses 39–40 that they “did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (ESV).
These faithful men and women were waiting for God’s deliverance, and they died waiting to see the promised day of redemption, when God would send a Savior to reconcile God and man. The sacrifices they made pointed forward in faith to the cross, to the final sacrifice made on behalf of mankind’s sin now and forever. God’s plan is better because we get the opportunity to enter into the same story as these “Hall of Faith” legends. And in the words of F.F. Bruce, “the ‘better plan’ which God has made embraces the better hope, the better promises, the better covenant, the better sacrifice, the better and abiding possession, and the better resurrection, which is their heritage and ours” (F.F. Bruce, 330).
Hebrews 11:32-40 (ESV):
32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.