The Scriptorium

Forebears in the Faith

They're our genealogies, too. Hebrews 11.17-12.2

Gleanealogy: Gleanings (5)

Pray Psalm 16.1-3.
Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.
O my soul, you have said to the LORD,
“You are my Lord,
My goodness is nothing apart from You.”
As for the saints who are on the earth,
“They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.”

Sing contemplatively Psalm 16.1-3, 11.
(All to Christ: Jesus Paid It All)
Preserve me, O my God; I refuge seek in You.
You alone are all my good, my Lord and Savior true!
Refrain v. 11
Make me know life’s way! Pleasures fill Your hand.
Fill my life with joy each day! Before Your face I stand.

The saints within the earth, majestic in their day,
delight me with the worth of all they do and say.

Read Hebrews 11.17-12.2.

1. What do all the people in this “genealogy” have in common? Why are we one with them?

2. In what sense are we “surrounded” by this great cloud of witnesses? What are they doing all around us (cf. Rev. 4, 5)?


As we have seen, genealogies bridge epochs of history, creating continuity between generations, and reminding us of the importance God vests in people and His covenant. The writer of Hebrews adds an important qualifier to the genealogies of Scripture, which is taken for granted in much of the Old Testament. While it undoubtedly was not true of all the people listed in the genealogies of the Bible, it was true of a great many of them, and perhaps even most of them; and it is the one attribute that binds us with them in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and gives each of us in our place a role in God’s project for creating a people for His glory.

They were people of faith. And as such, they are not merely God’s people, or the chosen people; they are our people, our forebears in faith.

They believed God’s Word, longed for His promises, walked in obedience to His Law, and looked forward to the day of redemption. They looked forward to that which we look back to, the work of our Lord Jesus Christ in dying for our sins and rising for our salvation (Heb. 11.39, 40).

We are part of this great, nations-spanning heritage, and thus we must delight in them, and learn as much as we can from those excellent saints who are in (not on, as NKJV) the earth bodily, and among that great cloud of witnesses in their spirits. And we can learn from them, so that our hope is daily renewed (Rom. 15.4).

Each time you come on a genealogy in your reading, remember: These are your forebears in the faith. Dwell on a new name or two each time you read a genealogy. Thank God specifically for what you know about them. Meditate on what they can teach you. Don’t just read them, study them prayerfully, so that their history of trusting the Lord becomes yours as well.

The people listed in the genealogies of Scripture are more truly our forebears than many of the blood relations we might trace back for generations. What they imparted, from one generation to the next, is far more significant than titles, occupations, family traditions, color of eyes or hair, or anything else people typically discover by seeking their family roots. The saints who make up that great cloud of witnesses passed down to us a tradition of faith, and thus committed to us the ongoing project of passing faith on to those who will succeed us in this life.

1. Why is a heritage of faith more important than a heritage of family traits?  

2. We are surrounded by that great cloud of witnesses whose faithfulness in their day made it possible for us to believe in Jesus in ours. How should this affect the way we think about them?

3. What is our role in making sure the “faith line” continues for generations to come?

This conclusion is, as it were, an epilogue to the former chapter, by which he shows the end for which he gave a catalogue of the saints who excelled in faith under the Law, even that every one should be prepared to imitate them; and he calls a large multitude metaphorically a cloud, for he sets what is dense in opposition to what is thinly scattered. Had they been a few in number, yet they ought to have roused us by their example; but as they were a vast throng, they ought more powerfully to stimulate us.
John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Hebrews 12.1

I thank You, Lord, for all those who have gone before me in faith, so that I might have faith in my day, and I may…

Pray Psalm 16.4-11.
Claim the Lord as your portion, lot, and inheritance; and bless Him for the counsel He provides. Set Him before you and preview your day with Him in prayer. Let the example of great saints you have known or read about come into your purview as you pray.

Sing Psalm 16.4-11.
Psalm 16.4-11 (All to Christ: Jesus Paid It All)
They endless tears shall weep who worship idols vain.
Their ways I will not keep, nor speak their empty names.

Refrain v. 11
Make me know life’s way! Pleasures fill Your hand.
Fill my life with joy each day! Before Your face I stand.

My portion and my cup are You, my Savior dear.
You help and hold me up and ever keep me near.

I bless Your Name, O Lord; my mind instructs each night.
You teach me by Your Word and guide me in the right.

You are ever with me, Lord; in You I shall not fall.
But rejoicing in Your Word, I abide within Your call.

Soon Your glory I shall see, for as Jesus rose again,
You will come to gather me to my home with You in heav’n.

T. M. Moore

The genealogies of Scripture reveal the heart of God in His covenant relationship with His people. To learn more about God’s covenant, order our book, I Will Be Your God, by clicking here. You can learn to sing all the psalms to familiar hymn tunes by ordering a copy of The Ailbe Psalter (click here).

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore