"Remember those who led you,
who spoke the word of God to you;
and considering the result of their conduct.
imitate their faith."
There is something about ancestry.com that has opened up an avenue to remember our forefathers. To me it is fascinating to find those who fled for their lives for their faith and those who were martyred, those who came with bravery on the Mayflower to become some of the first to step foot in the New World to escape persecution of Old England--seeking freedom to practice their faith, to those who were already here as Native Americans, to those who fought in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and some who were imprisoned, died, or fought on the right or wrong side of the Civil War. (Be sure your sins will find you out!) You see, our lives leave a trail and you never know who will follow it, even if it only leaves crumbs.
But more specifically, the writer says to remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you. Hmm. Can you think back to those who led you or spoke the Word to you? It was interesting to me whose names or images popped up, those people in my childhood and teen-hood who were pivotal in turning the weather vein of my life until it was fixed to be blown only by the wind of the Spirit. Then in adulthood there are many who enriched my life. Actually, I have been blessed to have been married to one of the best preachers of the Word I've ever heard. What a blessing to not only have heard, but have seen the godly example he leads.
Adam Clarke puts it in context when he says, "This clause ('Remember them which have the rule over you.') should be translated, 'Remember your guides, who have spoken unto you the doctrine of God.' Theodoret's note on this verse is very judicious: 'He intends the saints who were dead, Stephen the first martyr, James the brother of John, and James called the Just (Jesus' brother). And there were many others who were taken off by the Jewish rage. 'Consider these, (said he,) and, observing their example, imitate their faith.' This remembrance of the dead saints, with admiration of their virtues, and a desire to imitate them, is, dead saints, with admiration of their virtues, and a desire to imitate them, is, says Dr. Macknight, the only worship which is due to them from the living."
Remember this letter is to the Hebrews who also were living under persecution and even to the point of imprisonment and death to stand for their faith.
He continues, "Considering the end of their conversation. 'The issue of whose course of life most carefully consider.' They lived to get good and do good; they were faithful to their God and His cause; they suffered persecution; and for the testimony of Jesus died a violent death. God never left them; no, He never forsook them; so that they were happy in their afflictions, and glorious in their death. Carefully consider this; act as they did; keep the faith, and God will keep you."
The opposite of this verse is remembering those who have been bad examples by the tainted lives they've lived. I think of a pastor in a district where we served. who was committing adultery, whose pulpit was destroyed when a beam fell from the ceiling and smashed it; his sin was almost immediately revealed. Hmm. I think of standing and walking out from a church assembly when a pastor who had committed adultery, and within five years of being caught, had been "restored," stood before the assembly reading the Scriptural charges for new ministers. I withdrew my membership, not so much from the local church, but from the denomination leadership who weakly lifted up such men as godly examples. We left this denomination for that and many other reasons, when we could not follow them any longer.) There are always hypocrites, but lifting them up is dangerous, like Ananias and Sapphira who were struck dead in the sanctuary for their double life: "Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." (Acts 5:1-6)
Remember those whose lives we can look at with admiration of their virtues, worthy of imitation; and since God never forsook them, they were happy and glorious. "Keep the faith, and God will keep you."
In other words, we look to Christ who is our example, but we are also encouraged to look at the heroes of the faith. Who do you look up to? Remember them. For me, I also remember my godly mother and grandmother, wonderful examples and inspiration. Their saintly lives were not perfect, but they never fell off their pedestals in my eyes.
My we be the kind of example that inspires faith.