Throughout the Bible, we find that remembering people and events from the past helps to further our sanctification. The second generation of Israel is told to remember the mighty deliverance from slavery in Egypt so that they will find encouragement to possess Canaan (Deut. 7:17–24). In Jeremiah 2:1–3, God tells Israel that He remembers their devotion of old as a way of getting them to remember the faithfulness they owe to Him.
In order to stimulate obedience, the author of Hebrews also calls his audience to remember the former days. We have already looked at chapter 10 where he calls his audience to recall that time when they were first enlightened (vv. 32–36). In those early days, their confidence was most evident, and they needed this confidence to persevere.
Just like some in the original audience, there are those of us who when we were first converted found ourselves living in some of the sweetest days that we will ever experience in this life. Likewise, those days when God has done mighty things on our behalf are days that we remember with great fondness and gratitude. As we think on these events and the people involved, we often find ourselves moved to display this gratitude in love and obedience.
This is why in today’s passage the author calls us to remember the days of old. We are exhorted here to remember our leaders who first spoke to us the Word of God (13:7). These leaders are those who proclaimed Jesus to us at the earliest stages of our Christian walk. As we think of those who first led us to Christ, we will not be surprised, generally speaking, to find that their faithfulness to God motivates us to be faithful as well. There are exceptions, of course, but so many of us can look to the devotion of our parents, old friends, or Gospel preachers and see that their perseverance motivates our own.
Moreover, we are called not only to think of our leaders but also to imitate their faith. Not that we imitate men; rather, we imitate them as they imitate Jesus. Some remarks by John Owen on these verses are helpful as we conclude today: “We are not to follow mere men, not even the best of men, as our model and example in all things is Christ alone. But we can learn to emulate Christian graces where we see them displayed in Christian leaders.”
Take some time to think of those who first led you to Christ. Maybe it was a parent, a grandparent, or just a faithful preacher of the Word of God. If possible, find that person and thank him for his faithfulness in your life. Then, go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to help you emulate Christ as that person emulates Him.