Hebrews 12 says that “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…”
What in the world is a “great cloud of witnesses”? Whatever that is it is clearly something meant to encourage and help us.
The previous chapter listed several spiritual heroes and ancestors who lived faithfully over the long haul. So the “cloud of witnesses” are those people who have gone before us and who invisibly surround us, like a cloud. You can’t reach out and touch them, but they are very much there and real. Like witnesses in a trial, their very lives “give evidence of the victorious life of faith.”*
Their past faithfulness gives confidence to our present faith. We should be buoyed and compelled forward by the evidence they have personally demonstrated about the victorious life of faith. These people are the spiritual heroes listed in chapter 11, but they also include people you know personally who have been faithful over the long haul and who encourage you forward by their own example… that grandparent, that Sunday School teacher, that friend, that camp counselor…
Let’s ride this theme a little further still. There will come a day, after you are dead and gone, when someone in a future generation will look back and think of you and put you in that same category! Yes, that’s right: Your present faithfulness will give confidence to their future faith.
Talk about motivation! Backward is not an option—not for yourself, and certainly not for those who will come after you who will need the encouragement that your example will give.
“Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses… let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…”
–My latest article is published by The Gospel Coalition Canada and is a response to this question: “What did Jesus mean when he said to store up treasures in heaven?” Do you think the right priorities are important? Me too. Click here to read.
–The Up Devotional is published 5 days a week (Monday-Friday) and returns on November 29, 2021.
–*Donald A. Hagner, Hebrews – Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (Baker Publishing Group: Kindle Edition, 1990), 211.