Who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.…
I. THEY SUBDUED KINGDOMS. Though this may agree to, and be affirmed of others; yet in this particular David seems to be most eminent, who subdued the Philistines, Edomites, Ammonites, and other of the Syrian kingdoms.
1. The cause of the conqueror was just.
2. He had warrant from God, and many times the warrant was extraordinary.
3. Sometimes he had directions from God, who was first consulted.
4. He depended not upon his own strength and policy but upon his God.
5. The victory was given by God upon the faith and prayer of the victorious party.
6. The Kingdoms subdued were not only enemies to God's people, but to God Himself and His laws; so that both the safety of the people, and also of religion, did much depend upon these victories, which were far more excellent because given upon the faith of such as trusted in their God.
II. THEY WROUGHT RIGHTEOUSNESS. The subduing of kingdoms was the exercise of their military power, and this may seem to be the use of the sword of justice. The duty of a prince is to defend his people from foreign enemies, and to protect their loyal subjects, and punish the injurious. This righteousness therefore is judicial, and their doing of righteousness their constant administration of justice.
III. BY FAITH THEY OBTAINED PROMISES. By promises understand things promised, and these not general but particular. To the patriarchs before Joshua the land of Canaan was promised; yet not given, not enjoyed; only their posterity under Joshua obtained that promise. Christ was promised to them all, yet they obtained not this promise; for He was not exhibited till many years after. These were more general promises. There were besides many eminent mercies, particular of victory, deliverance, peace, and other things, which by faith they obtained; yet so as that they used the means which God vouchsafed unto them, and these means without faith had been insufficient.
IV. BY FAITH THEY STOPPED THE MOUTHS OF LIONS. This is understood principally of Daniel. Samson slew a lion, and so did David; Daniel was saved from the hungry, fierce lions when he was cast into their den of purpose to be devoured. This he acknowledged as a great and special mercy from his God (Daniel 6:22). This preservation was miraculous, and a mercy obtained by faith. For his cause was just, he would not intermit his devotion unto his God though he should suffer death, and resolved to observe the just command of God, and refused to obey the unjust commander man, and was persuaded that God was able to deliver him, and therefore he cast himself wholly upon His mercy. This he could never have done without faith.
V. BY FAITH SOME OF THEE QUENCHED THE VIOLENCE OF FIRE. By this and the former we understand that divers of these particulars are not to be attributed to the faith of all and every one, but to some particular persons of them as severed from the rest. The former worthy intended was one of the prophets, and these might be such also, yet not so eminent; for these words are not meant of a single person, but of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego. By these two last examples we understand how easily God can, and how ready He is to deliver His believing servants out of greatest dangers.
VI. BY FAITH THEY, THAT IS SOME OF THEM, ESCAPED THE SWORD. The sword may here be taken synecdochically for any kind of destroying instrument used in either war or peace. In war David and many of the judges escaped the edge of the sword, and were saved from the fury of the enemy. In peace Elijah, Elisha, Jeremy, and others, were delivered out of the hands of those who intended to murder them. They were in danger because they served God, did His work, and gave no just cause of offence. They were delivered because whilst they were obedient to their God, they trusted in Him. No dangers can hurt those whom God will save; they are safe in the midst of greatest evils.
VII. BY FAITH OF WEAK SOME BECAME STRONG. This, by many, is understood of recovery from sickness and diseases; and the same sometimes mortal, and by man incurable; and some instance in Hezekiah, whom God upon his prayer of faith restored to perfect health; and because his disease was mortal therefore the cure was supernatural, and said to be obtained by faith. Others understand it of such as were weak in respect of warlike valour, and far inferior to their enemies for multitude, strength, prowess, policy; yet by faith in God few overcame many; the weak subdued the strong; the plain unskilful not only defended themselves, but terrified their enemies; and though at first they were fearful, yet by faith they strengthened themselves in God, and upon their prayers were encouraged against potent enemies.
VIII. WAXED VALIANT IN FIGHT. Many of God's saints, and some of the forenamed, were soldiers and men of mighty valour, who through faith were so encouraged that they feared neither the number nor the strength of their enemies. Valour is proper unto a good soldier, and in war is necessary, as cowardice is the ruin of many a goodly army. War is very dangerous and full of hazard, and the event uncertain. The more the danger and the difficulty the greater measure of fortitude is requisite. The nature of valour is not wholly to contemn dangers, but to foresee and resist them, and no ways to adventure upon them. It is the strength of the mind without which the strength of the body is to little purpose. This is not a blind boldness, nor merely moral and grounded only upon reason, but it is Divine. For when the cause was good, and they had a command with a promise, and sometimes with instructions from God, they had great reason to be valiant. These did not fight only for their estates, wives, children, and their country; but for their religion, the covenant, and the cities of their God. Their valour was grounded upon the goodness of their cause, and the promise of their God; which firmly supported their faith, as their faith did much increase their valour.
IX. THEY TURNED TO FLIGHT THE ARMIES OF THE ALIENS. These aliens were heathens and idolaters, and so enemies not only to their country but to their religion and their God. This made their cause the better, and the enemies' cause the more unjust. The event of their wars against these was that they routed them, and made them turn their backs and fly. For as they fought for God out of faith, so God fought for them according to His promise, which was the ground of their belief and confidence. If, in a just war, we have the like cause and the like faith, we may expect the like success. But now many wars are made amongst Christians, and sometimes against the same nation; and the cause is not just, but the quarrel is begun and continued out of pride, malice, cruelty, ambition, and desire of revenge; and they fight not out of faith against God's enemies, but against God's people.
Parallel VersesKJV: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,