So Great a Cloud of Witnesses By Scarlett Stough

Among the “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1), are two women who are mentioned by name--Sarah (Hebrews 11:11) and Rahab (Hebrews 11:31). In addition, unnamed “women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.” (Hebrews 11:35) All of these witnesses, women as well as men, testify to faith, the faithfulness of God and their faithfulness to God.


  • Through God’s faithfulness to his promise of an heir to be born of Abraham and Sarah, Sarah conceived even though she was infertile and past child-bearing age. (Hebrews 11:11)

  • The mother and father of Moses showed faith in God by hiding the infant Moses in defiance of the Pharaoh’s edict so he would not die. (Hebrews 11:23)

  •  Because Rahab hoped and trusted in the God who brought Israel out of slavery, she and her family were not destroyed with the rest of Jericho. (Hebrews 11:31)

  •  Like them, we are encouraged to remain faithful because God is faithful to keep his promises. (Hebrews 11:11; Lamentations 3:19-26)


The writer of the letter called Hebrews reminds us:


These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. (Hebrews 11:39)


He defined faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) He further defined the faith that pleases God as belief that God “exists and that he will reward those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)


He encourages us to hang onto that confidence and to not quit during our hard times:


So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. (Hebrews 10:35-39)


Sometimes we wonder why God does not act to fulfill all of his promises right now and end all of the evil and suffering of this world. The reason he gives is this:


God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they [the faithful witnesses] be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:40)


Peter adds to our understanding:


The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9)


He reminds us that our inheritance is being kept in heaven and we through faith are being “shielded by God’s power” (I Peter 1:4-5) as we endure whatever difficulties, sufferings, and challenges we face in this life. Faith is not a religion or religious institution; the faith described in the Bible is based on the faithfulness of the One in whom we put our trust. Because God is trustworthy, we can safely put our trust in the God Sarah, Abraham, Rahab, and many others have trusted, and in Jesus the Son of God, sent to reveal the Father.

For the Scripture References and related Bible Study Guide, go to Bible Study Guide: By Faith