“Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct” (Hebrews 13:7).
I had a fun week in homeschooling, a monumental week really. My children and I got a school room of our own! For 9 years of school, we’ve been using the dining room as our “school room,” which is fine—but my husband is so neat and tidy (and I’m not naturally so at all), so it’s always a struggle to return the dining room back to its original purpose at the end of each day. In addition, I have always wished for a place to hang a white board, maps, charts, and other “schoolish” things. Maybe not all mothers feel this way, but it’s always been a secret desire of mine. (Again, I love our decor, but it is sometimes hard to teach in an environment of pretty things in… well… a dining room!)
But I digress…
Now we have a room dedicated just to school time. One of my favorite things is indeed hanging teaching aids on the walls. We were listening to an audio by Andrew Pudewa, of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, where he describes many of the values of having visual aids on the walls to help with memorization.
One of the devices we’ve been using is to make charts of various mnemonic devices. The word mnemonic is Greek and means “to continually remember.” For instance, my son in algebra learned the mnemonic device “FOIL” for multiplying binomials. FOIL stands for First, Outer, Inner, Last—a way to remember which factors to multiply when.
In case you think I’ve completely forgotten our text for today, don’t worry. Mnemonic comes from the same Greek word as the one in our verse. Mnemoneuo or remember.
“Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you…”
I’ve always thought that this verse was talking about honoring the elders in my congregation. Later in Hebrews 13:17, the writer of Hebrews does talk about how to obey those leaders, but most commentators make the argument that the rulers mentioned in this verse are past rulers.
“Remember those who led you…” (NASB).
“Remember your former leaders…” (GNB).
“Remember your leaders, those who spoke God’s message to you…” (CJB).
One of the things we’ve been memorizing in our homeschool is various historical dates and places, as a framework of sorts to “hang” all our other history learning on. As mnemonic devices, or memory aids, they bring to our mind those Christian leaders who have gone before us. We remember the faith of John Knox of Scotland, for instance, and we learn about the people to whom he spoke the Word of God. We remember the faith of Calvin, Martin Luther—and even Abraham—and we remember that we are to follow their faith.
My husband mentioned that the readers of the book of Hebrews would remember the lives of Peter, James, Barnabas, Paul, and other eyewitness followers of Yeshua, those who gave their lives to take the gospel all throughout the Roman empire and to tell of the life, death, and resurrection of Yeshua.
“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 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. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground” (Hebrews 11:23-38, NIV).
One of our wall charts talks about kinds of verbs, and I can see two verbs in today’s verse: “Remember” and “follow.”
- Remember—(“Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you…”)—The words “have spoken” here aren’t referring to a sermon that is systematically and carefully arranged and delivered. They also aren’t referring to a single word, a hint of the gospel too casually mentioned on very rare occasions. Rather, “have spoken” is talking about an extended conversation that is characterized by strong emotions. Who is the leader who passionately argued in favor of Truth with you, leading you to faith in God? Was it your mother and father? What is a friend? What about all the leaders who, down through the centuries, were so passionate for “Word of God” that they even gave their lives? How does their influence live on? Do we know? Do we even care?! And what mnemonic devices have we used to help us carefully remember them?
- Follow—(“…whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct”)—Why are we to so carefully remember our leaders, those who first spoke to us the Word of God? Because we are to follow in their footsteps. The word “conduct” here means “behavior.” The “outcome” of their behavior is probably referring to the end of their lives, sometimes even ending in martyrdom. They were faithful to the literal end, when their physical lives were extinguished because of their consistent behavior. More sobering to me, though, is that the word “follow” doesn’t mean I should follow distantly in the shadows, hoping no one will see me (as Peter did at the trial of Yeshua), but that I should “mimic” them, as Peter did at the end of his life, when tradition tells us he was crucified as Yeshua was. I am to live boldly, openly, fearlessly, no matter what others think of me or say about me or do to me.
Who are your spiritual heroes? While we are to worship only God, we are told to “consider” (to stare intently at) the “behavior” and faith of those who have gone before us. They weren’t perfect people, but they were characterized by faith, by seeing the unseen and trusting the unseen God.
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
As mothers, we need to remember those who have gone before us, following their faith and godly behavior. We need concrete memory devices to help us do that, whether it be the study of the lives of great men and women in the Bible, in the pages of history, or in biographies and autobiographies.
Finally we need to follow their faith because little eyes are watching OUR faith! They are checking to see if our behavior will endure to the ends of our lives. Do we believe what we believe, enough to keep believing it until the end?
“…he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from YHVH; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6-8).
So I really did have a fun week in homeschooling. All my memory devices are neatly stored in wicker baskets on a shelf or hung up on the walls. As we study geography, Latin verbs and Greek roots, our history dates, our Bible stories, and and our keyword outlines, I’m hoping that we’ll all remember why we’re studying so hard. May the seeds we plant during our school days bloom into strong plants that have the faith to endure until death, walking by faith.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture in this blog post taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.