On November 1, 1961, Marvel introduced the Fantastic Four. Other heroes followed in rapid succession. These superheroes were more like real people. They complained and argued among themselves. They were moody. Many were freaks or misfits, and some resembled monsters more than heroes—can you say Incredible Hulk? Spider-Man's world was a dark one; Dr Strange's was bizarre. They were victims of accidents and injuries that gave them their superpowers, or they were born with a deformity of some sort. The comics tried to make their superheroes approachable. Funny how we make the heroes of the Bible just the opposite.
Sometimes you read a passage of scripture for years without seeing what it really says. I suppose it was only seven or eight years ago that I really saw Gen 21:11. Sarah had had enough of Hagar’s attitude, and Ishmael she viewed as nothing but a competitor to Isaac. She wanted to send them both away. And the thing was grievous in the sight of Abraham because of his son.
“…because of his son.” For the first time ever it dawned on me that Abraham loved Ishmael. Of course he did. This was his son! In fact, when God backed up Sarah’s wish with a command of his own, he said, Let it not be grievous in your sight because of the lad and because of your handmaid, v 22. Hagar had been his wife, (16:3) for eighteen to twenty years, depending upon Isaac’s age of weaning. A relationship had to be broken, two in fact.
Now look at Abraham as he sends the two of them away, particularly his oldest son. Do you have a child? Can you imagine knowing you will never see that child again, and how it must have felt as Abraham saw their departing figures recede into the heat waves of the Palestinian landscape?
Too many times we look at Bible people with our “super hero glasses” on. We fail to see them as real people with real emotions. Of course they could do as God asked. They were “heroes of faith.” When we do that, we insult them. We demean the effort it took for them to do what was right. We diminish the sacrifices they made and the pain they went through. And we lessen the example they set for us.
That may be the worst thing we do. By looking at them as if they were “super” in any way at all, we remove the encouragement to persevere that we could have gained. “There is no way I could do that. I am not as strong as they were. I’m not a Bible super hero.” If you aren’t, it’s only because you choose not to be.
Those people were just like you. They had strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures. They had problems with family, with temptations, and with fear of the unknown. You have everything to work with that they did. In fact, you have one thing the Old Testament people didn’t have—a Savior who came and took on the same human weaknesses we all have (Heb 2:17; 4:15), yet still showed the way. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps, 1 Pet 2:21. If you belittle the accomplishments of those people as impossible for you to copy, you belittle His too.
Take off the glasses that distort your view. Instead, see clearly the models of faith and virtue God has set before us as real people, warts and all. They weren’t perfect, but they managed to endure. Seeing them any other way is just an excuse not to be as good as we can be.
Brethren, be imitators together of me, and mark them that so walk even as you have us for an ensample, Phil 3:17.