Abraham… was a liar.
Sarah… was a manipulator.
Lot… was a compromiser.
Jacob… was a deceiver.
Job… was arrogant.
Moses… was hot-tempered.
Joshua… was undiscerning.
Gideon… was idolatrous.
Samson… was lustful.
Eli… was passive.
Saul… was insecure.
David… was violent.
Solomon… was hedonistic.
Elijah… was given to self-centeredness.
Jonah… was given to racism.
Isaiah… was given to evil-speaking.
Jeremiah… was given to complaining.
Mary… was the stereo typical stage mother, seeking to put her Son into the limelight before His time.
Matthew… was the unethical IRS agent, exploiting his own people for financial profit.
Simon… was the calculating zealot, waiting to put a knife in the back of the nearest Roman.
Martha… was a compulsive homemaker, driven by a busyness that left her no time for devotion.
Thomas… was the proverbial doubter, refusing to yield himself to any positive expression of faith.
Philip… was the tightfisted accountant, paralyzed by his inability to exercise any vision beyond his own ledger sheet.
James and John… were neighborhood bullies, the “sons of thunder” that were notorious both unduly and explosive, and ambitious.
And then of course, there was Peter… consistently inconsistent, emotionally erratic, plagued with the profound vulnerability to the tyranny of public approval.
Finally, we arrive at the apostle Paul… Christianity’s “big gun,” an intolerant “type-A” leader when considering the feelings of John Mark. A quick-tempered name caller when standing before the high priest. A man in dread of speaking the gospel, when facing Jewish opposition in Corinth.
Quite to the contrary of what we often hear in the books our children read, there is no “Hall of Fame” in the Bible. No catalog of superheroes of the faith. Only ordinary human beings distinguished by their very obvious failings.
Now, to be sure my friends, we love the various characters of biblical history because God has used them, and we have consequently benefited from their instrumentality. One needs only pause for a moment to consider our indebtedness to men like David, and Moses, and Paul, and Peter, and Luke. If, however, you are looking for a hero to honor unconditionally, you will always be disappointed with the men and women of the Bible, because in the end not one of them has ever been worthy of the task to which God has called them, and for which He has inevitably use them.
How does Paul himself say it? “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. God chose the week things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world, the despise things, the things that are not, to nullify the things that are.”
Now, of course dear friends, we know this to be true of ourselves. We have no problem at this point. We must also appreciate, however, the fact that it is simultaneously true of Abraham, and Moses, and John the Baptist. Not one of these has ever been worthy, that is, morally confident, fit with inner ethical worthiness, so as to merit the right to serve the living God. The Bible my friends does not resort to hagiography. It paints people as they really are, warts and all.
And, why is that the case?
So it might steadily and unmistakenly point our attention then, to the one perfect Hero. The only worthy One.”
– Art Azurdia, from his sermon on the second half of chapter 5 of the Book of Revelation, which focused on the exclusive worthiness of the Lamb (Jesus Christ) to open the scrolls.
It is quite tempting to want to elevate such people to a “Hall of Fame” status. To emulate their character or example, as to improve our Christian walk. And, to also treat scripture as though it was just the chronicling of the lives of saints. Or, as Art so astutely put it in the negative…
“The Bible my friends does not resort to hagiography.”
What is interesting about the saints is that they did not regard themselves in the way that some of us in the church do. Here are some examples…
James 5:17 (HCSB)
“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours…”
Acts 14:11-15 (HCSB)
“When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the form of men!” And they started to call Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the main speaker. Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the town, brought oxen and garlands to the gates. He, with the crowds, intended to offer sacrifice. The apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their robes when they heard this and rushed into the crowd, shouting: “Men! Why are you doing these things? We are men also, with the same nature as you…”
Acts 10:25-26 (HCSB)
“When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, fell at his feet, and worshiped him. But Peter helped him up and said, “Stand up! I myself am also a man.””
Acts 3:1-12 (HCSB)
“Now Peter and John were going up together to the temple complex at the hour of prayer at three in the afternoon. And a man who was lame from birth was carried there and placed every day at the temple gate called Beautiful, so he could beg from those entering the temple complex. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the temple complex, he asked for help. Peter, along with John, looked at him intently and said, “Look at us.” So he turned to them, expecting to get something from them. But Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” Then, taking him by the right hand he raised him up, and at once his feet and ankles became strong. So he jumped up, stood, and started to walk, and he entered the temple complex with them — walking, leaping, and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized that he was the one who used to sit and beg at the Beautiful Gate of the temple complex. So they were filled with awe and astonishment at what had happened to him. While he was holding on to Peter and John, all the people, greatly amazed, ran toward them in what is called Solomon’s Colonnade. When Peter saw this, he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this? Or why do you stare at us, as though we had made him walk by our own power or godliness?”
Acts 10:24-26 (HCSB)
“The following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, fell at his feet, and worshiped him. But Peter helped him up and said, “Stand up! I myself am also a man.””
And, sometimes, even the saints themselves mistakenly elevated those who were not God, to a level that they should not have elevated them…
Revelation 22:8-9 (HCSB)
“I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. When I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had shown them to me. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow slave with you, your brothers the prophets, and those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.””
Such is the point. We must be careful to only worship God. As Art properly stated, the Bible…
“…paints people as they really are, warts and all.
And, why is that the case?
So it might steadily and unmistakenly point our attention then, to the one perfect Hero. The only worthy one.”
Christ is whom our attention should be on…
Revelation 5 (HCSB)
“Then I saw in the right hand of the One seated on the throne a scroll with writing on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. I also saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or even to look in it. And I cried and cried because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or even to look in it.
Then one of the elders said to me, “Stop crying. Look! The Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has been victorious so that He may open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw One like a slaughtered lamb standing between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth. He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of the One seated on the throne.
When He took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song:
You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because You were slaughtered,
and You redeemed people
for God by Your blood
from every tribe and language
and people and nation.
You made them a kingdom
and priests to our God,
and they will reign on the earth.
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels around the throne, and also of the living creatures and of the elders. Their number was countless thousands, plus thousands of thousands. They said with a loud voice:
The Lamb who was slaughtered is worthy
to receive power and riches
and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and blessing!
I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say:
Blessing and honor and glory and dominion
to the One seated on the throne,
and to the Lamb, forever and ever!
The four living creatures said, “ Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.”
Godspeed, to the brethren!
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