Great Cloud Of Witnesses
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us”.
In chapter 11, author cited many examples of faith, showing the power of faith, the author now encourages the Hebrews to be steadfast in their faith. He begins to exhort them by asserting that Christians are, “compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses”. To be “compassed about” is to be surrounded, to have all about one. The idea suggested by “cloud” is that of a multitude, great number. The meaning of “witness” is to testify. What, then, is the nature of their testimony? They bear testimony as to the power of faith.
What does this verse mean? Many simply state that these OT witnesses are spectators in the grandstand cheering on the participants of the Christian race. True, the author does speak of the figure of a race in this verse, but he does not say that the departed people of faith view our race with a keen interest. What the author says is, that we are surrounded by witnesses who speak to us of the power of faith. Like Abel, these are all dead but yet they speak from the record contained in the Scriptures. As we run our race, they are telling us of victory through faith.
If one is to run his race successfully, and receive the approval of God, as these of old (Vs.39), then it is necessary for him to “lay aside every weight (encumbrance) including the sin that doth so easily beset us (entangle)”. Vines defines the word “beset” to mean “standing well around”. He further states, “it describes sin as having advantage in favor of its prevailing”. Sin which easily ensnares or encircles.
The figure which the author uses is that of an athlete foot race. Paul refers also as a race in I Cor. 9:24, “do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it”. Paul also states in II Timothy 4:7, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. Any athlete knows you cannot win a race by wearing that which impedes him from winning a race. Unless he casts from him all forms of sin, he will find it impossible to run successfully.
But more than this is required. Not only is one to rid himself of all sin, but he must run “with patience” the race. Patience includes both endurance and persistence. If one experiences opposition and slows to a trot, or quits the race, he forfeits victory. To receive the clown, we must persevere in order to win to crown. We must lay aside that which hinders, hampers us, until our race is run.
- CL Bruner