And Others


And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; Of whom the world was not worthy: they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.                                 (Hebrews 11:36-38)


These three verses describe some of the heavy trials and afflictions to which many of God’s saints in the Old Testament were subjected.


They were stoned.”—Because God’s saints were counted as a people who were harmful, corrupting, destructive to society, they were stoned to death. Stoning was a form of capital punishment appointed by God to protect society as a whole from those who would destroy it by murder, rape, moral decadence, and idolatry (Lev. 20:2, Joshua 7:24, 25). But that which God ordained for good, Satan perverted for evil. "The devil is never more a devil nor more outrageous, than when he gets a pretense of God’s weapons into his own hands" (John Owen).


They were sawn asunder”— as wild beasts who were feared by men. There is no record in Scripture of anyone being put to death this way, though tradition tells us that God’s prophet Isaiah was slaughtered by this barbaric method of execution.


Were tempted”—They were tempted by their persecutors to repudiate their faith in Christ by the bait of having their lives spared, of being delivered from death. No doubt they were tempted of Satan to doubt the goodness and grace, power and faithfulness, mercy and love, promises and tender mercies of God; but they were steadfast.


Were slain with the sword”—Those words would be more accurately translated, "they died in the slaughter of the sword." They were slain, as was Abel, for only one reason. —They believed God, trusting Christ alone for acceptance with him, denying salvation by any other means.


Saul slaughtered those priests of God who were faithful to the Lord (1 Sam. 22:18-21). Israel slaughtered God’s prophets under the reign of Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kings 19:10). Papists have exceeded countless multitudes in their insatiable thirst for the blood of God’s saints. The Holy Spirit tells us that the whore, Babylon, is "drunk with the blood of the saints" (Rev. 17:6). History verifies that fact repeatedly.


They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins”—as people unfit for society. They were driven out of their homes and forced to live like animals, reduced to wearing the skins of wild beasts, instead of clothes woven by man. Any day, any one of these wanderers could have rejoined their families and former friends, enjoyed their society, and shared their comforts. But they preferred to live as wandering beasts than to deny Christ. They loved not the world. They loved not themselves. They loved their Savior.


Being destitute, afflicted, tormented”—"Destitute" means they were deprived of the ordinary necessities of life. Neither relative nor friend would intervene for these banished ones. "Afflicted" has reference to their state of mind. They were not stoics without emotion. They felt the pain of these hardships as acutely as anyone else would. —There may be a reference here to Satan’s harassing torments because of their inward struggles with horrid unbelief. They were "tormented" by the taunting jeers of men, the assaults of Satan, and the lusts of the flesh with which they had to contend.


Of whom the world was not worthy.”—Here we see the difference between God’s estimate of his people and the world’s. God regards his people as "the excellent" of the earth in whom is his "delight" (Ps. 16:3). The people of this world are altogether ignorant of it, but the fact is, all the blessings and benefits of providence they enjoy they enjoy because God’s saints yet dwell among them in this world. God’s people really are "the salt of the earth.” Their presence stays the hand of divine judgment (Gen. 19:22), and brings down God’s blessings upon the earth (Gen. 30:27). Their prayers secure divine healing (Gen. 20:17). Their presence brings both sunshine and rain upon their neighbors. Child of God, if your neighbors knew how much they benefit from you, rather than trying to run you out of town, they would be making your house payments for you.


They wandered in deserts, and in mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.”—The word "wandered" suggests a wandering about as a stranger in an unknown place. It is the term used in reference Abraham in verse 8, and Hagar in Genesis 21:14. It is used in reference to wandering sheep in Matthew 18:12.


So long as we are in this world we are wanderers and strangers. The world makes us wanderers and strangers. Let us make ourselves wanderers and strangers. This world can never provide a home, a resting place, or an inheritance for our souls. It provides nothing for us but empty deserts, mountainous obstacles of trouble, and cold, damp, dark dens. But that is okay. That is just fine—“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). Oh, may God give us grace ever to live with eternity before our eyes, with eternity in our hearts, for Christ’s sake.