Today's reading from Hebrews with its "sound byte" list of stories of faith led me to a sermon about the importance of Biblical literacy. My iPod, as it turns out, was not charged and I, therefore, did not record the sermon; however, I thought it might be nice to provide a link to some of the "classics" of our faith as delimited by the author(s) of Hebrews:
AMEN. Thanks be to God!
THE EXODUS / THE PROMISED LAND
- "By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned." -- The Exodus as told in Exodus 13:17 - 14:31 (larger context is the story of the Hebrews enslaved to the Egyptians, the story of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, and the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, and their entry into the Promised Land -- Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and the early chapters of Joshua (the book of Leviticus which falls between Exodus and Numbers is primarily devoted to the laws received in the wilderness)). [a great novel which "retells" the story is Zora Neale Hurston's Moses, Man of the Mountain.]
- "By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days." -- The battle for Jericho as told in Joshua 5:13-6:21 (larger context are the battles of conquest to secure the Promised Land for the people of God and the division of the land amongst the Hebrew peoples -- Joshua)
- "By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace." -- a prelude and postscript to the battle of Jericho which shows how God's plan for salvation is worked out through the most unlikely of persons as told in Joshua 2:1-24, 6:17-25 (for larger context, refer to #2 above)
The judges "ruled" over the people from the time of entry into the Promised Land (c. 1200 BCE) until the formation of the first Kingdom of Israel (c. 1050 BCE).
- . . . "time would fail me to tell of Gideon" - the fifth judge of the Hebrew peoples. His story is told in Judges 6 - 8. He is, by his own account a member of the weakest clan in Manasseh and he is, also by his own account, the least important in his own family; thus continues a scriptural theme of God working through the least likely of persons.
- "Barak" -- advised and accompanied by Deborah, Israel's 4th Judge, (clearly an oversight by the author(s) of Hebrews to omit her name!) to march to Mount Tabor with 10,000 troops to fight against Sisera and his Canaanite army and free the Israelites as told in Judges 4:4-5:31
As an aside, as Sisera retreats and takes refuge in the house of Jael, he is killed by Jael, "Jael the wife of Heber took a tent peg, and picked up a mallet; she crept up softly to [Sisera] and drove the peg into his temple right through the ground. He was lying fast asleep, worn out; and so he died." (Judges 4:17-22). My friends, this is the stuff great movies are made of !
- "Samson" (the 12th Judge) - his story can be found begninning in Judges 13:1 when his birth is foretold. Like many biblical heros, Samson is born to a barren woman (cf. Sarah and Hannah). His story is made up of some of the great story telling devices - riddles, intrigue, and betrayal at the hands of Delilah as told in Judges 16:4-31. His full story: Judges 13:1 - 16:31.
"Jephthah," the son of Gilead (the 7th Judge) by a harlot, fled from his family in the land of Tob where, some time later, he is sought after by his father's people - the very persons who had persecuted him - to lead Gilead's army against the Ammonites. Jephthah becomes the 8th Judge and judges in Israel for six years before he dies. His story is told in Judges 10:6-12:7
- "of David" - the Great King who, like so many, was not without his shortcomings! His exciting story including his fight with Goliath (1 Samuel 17:1-58), his long and deep friendship with Jonathan, his visit to the witch of Endor (a great read on All Hallow's Eve, 1 Samuel 28:3-25), and the many stories of his reign as king are told beginning in 1 Samuel 16:1 and continue through the remainder of that book, through 2 Samuel, and are concluded in the early chapters of 1 Kings (1:1-2:11). He was king over Israel for 40 years. Many of the psalms are attributed to King David. [a great song which has at its root a portion of David's story is "Hallelujah" - I'm partial to the Rufus Wainwright version.]
- "and Samuel," the son of Hannah who is dedicated to the Lord before his birth. (Hannah's song, which is likely a model for Mary's Magnificat in Luke's Gospel, can be found in 1 Samuel 2:1-10). Samuel is the last of the judges and a great prophet. He is teacher and mentor to Saul, consecrates Saul as King but later parts company with Saul for Saul's disobedience during the revolt against the Philistines. Samuel remains obedient to God and is sent by God to Jesse of Bethlehem to find David, God's chocen king. His story is told in 1 Samuel 1:1-25:1.
- "and the prophets" -- the author(s) of Hebrews does not name any individual prophets, but the Old Testament is filled with great prophets - the major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel) and 12 minor prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zaphaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi) - each of whom has an entire book attributed to them. In addition, the prophets are a part of the stories that fill 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles.
AMEN. Thanks be to God!