"They call to us, Your timid footsteps lengthen; Throw off sin's weight, your halting weakness strengthen. We kept the faith, we shed our blood, were martyred; Our lives we bartered.
"Come, let us fix our sight on Christ who suffered, He faced the cross, His sinless life He offered; He scorned the shame, He died, our death enduring, Our hope securing.
"Lord, give us faith to walk where You are sending, On paths unmarked, eyes blind as to their ending; Not knowing where we go, but that You lead us—With grace precede us."
A cloud of witnesses surrounds us. They are the faithful believers, well-known and unknown, who lived and suffered and died without ever seeing the fulfillment of God's covenant promise. These witnesses are not merely cheering us on, like so many fans in a stadium. They are inviting us to join them in the race that they, by faith, have won.
In the hymn, the witnesses tell us to turn our timid steps into long, confident strides that will carry us forward in life's race of faith. The race run by the witnesses was not an easy one. The patriarch Abraham obeyed the Lord's call to travel into an unknown land. His wife Sarah, beyond the age of childbirth, conceived a son of promise. Abraham, obedient to God, prepared to offer that son for sacrifice, not knowing what would follow. Joseph, raised to power in Egypt, asked that his bones be carried to the Promised Land during an exodus he would not live to see. Moses rejected the wealth of Egypt to suffer with God's people. Countless others, unnamed in Scripture, endured pain and persecution as they lived and suffered and longed for God's promised Deliverer to be revealed.
Our race of faith may not be easy either. We experience trouble—fears, doubts, grief, and loss. We endure the ridicule and persecution of the world and, as the hymn reminds us, the paths before us remain unmarked and we are "blind as to their ending." Yet as we follow those paths, as we run the race of faith set before us, we are to keep our eyes fixed on the same Deliverer awaited by the cloud of witnesses. We keep our focus on Jesus, "who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame" (Hebrews 12:2b). He died, "our death enduring," and rose triumphant from the grave, granting to us the same joy that was set before Him.
Our paths forward may be unmarked, but we can stride forward in confident hope, because those paths are not unmarked for our crucified and risen Lord. We take up the cross and follow in His footsteps, knowing that wherever we go, His grace goes before us.
THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we give thanks for the many witnesses, known and unknown, who ran the race of faith before us. Strengthen our steps with your Word and Your Holy Supper as we join those witnesses and follow You. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler. It is based on the hymn, "Saints, See the Cloud of Witnesses," which is found on page 667 of the Lutheran Service Book.
1. Do you live your life determined to trust in God, or do you just hope for the best?
2. How does your faith empower your life when you're feeling scared or timid?
3. How often do you recall/reflect on the fact that there are many who have run the race of faith before you? Do you take inspiration from that?
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