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The Bible is Hard on Its Heroes

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The Bible is Hard on Its Heroes

MP3 Audio (34.58 MB)


The Bible is Hard on Its Heroes

MP3 Audio (34.58 MB)

Every one of the "heroes" of the Bible -- except Jesus Christ -- sinned. Their sins are frequently brought out in the Bible, often in considerable detail. The difference between these "heroes" and the "bad guys" of the Bible, however, was that the "heroes" fully repented of their sins and "bounced back." The "bad guys," on the other hand, allowed sin to overcome them and rule their lives. How we handle sin when it happens in our lives shows us who we truly are.


“The Bible Is Hard on Its Heroes”

Steve Corley


Given in Kingsport February 4, 2023

Given in Roanoke February 18, 2023

Given in Knoxville July 1, 2023



To sin, like to err, is something which is human – and such is particularly true in the present age when Satan (who tempts us to sin) still remains as ruler of the earth (John 14:30).  Everyone sins (Eccl. 7:20) and if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves (1 John 1:8).  The only person who ever lived a sinless life was Jesus Christ Himself (Heb. 4:15). He, of course, did not sin because He was God in the flesh and also He had the Holy Spirit beyond measure (John 3:34) – the Spirit which helps us to resist the temptation to sin (Rom. 8:26).   We think of the sins of the “bad guys” – Cain, the Pharaoh of the Exodus, Korah, all of the kings of northern Israel and many of the kings of Judah, Judas Iscariot, Caiaphas, etc. – and the Bible indeed tells us much about these.  However, such is not going to be the focus here.  All of God’s other servants through the pages of the Bible have had to contend with major flaws and these are often described in detail.  We all commit sin – but what are we going to do about it?  The key difference between God’s true servants and the “bad guys” is what they did after committing sin – and their attitude toward sinning in the future.  The detailed Biblical descriptions of sin in the lives of God’s servants are for our instruction – how they suffered penalties for their sins, and how we should deal with sin – and the tendency to sin – in our own lives.  We can title this sermon “The Bible Is Hard on Its Heroes.”

Jesus told us in John 8:34 that whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  He said further in verse 32 that we would know the truth and the truth would make us free.  Yes, the “heroes” of the Bible committed sin but they were not content to be its slave.  They repented, sought God’s forgiveness and struggled not to commit sin in the future.  The “bad guys,” on the other hand, allowed sin to overcome and dominate them – they became its permanent slaves.  And one of the keys to freeing us from slavery to sin, as Christ indicated, is truth – the truth of God’s Word (John 17:17) which tells us what sin is and how not to commit it.  Let us look at a number of “heroes” of the Bible and how they dealt with sin in their own lives.

Noah was a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5) who found grace in the eyes of God (Gen. 6:8) and was chosen by God to survive, along with his family, through the flood that God used to wipe out the rest of rebellious mankind. Nevertheless, after the Flood he planted a vineyard, made wine and got drunk – and while he was drunk his grandson Canaan apparently did something to him which was very evil (and was cursed as a result – Gen. 9:20-28).  But Noah repented – or else he would not have been spoken of so favorably in subsequent Scriptures such as Ezekiel 14:14 and 20 and Hebrews 11:7.

Abraham twice gave in to fear and called his wife his sister – to Pharaoh (Gen. 12:10-20) and to Abimelech (Gen. 20) and he and Sarah decided on their own way they thought God’s promise for a son in Gen. 15 could be fulfilled (Gen. 16).  However, these mistakes were repented of and did not become a way of life.  Jesus spoke very highly of Abraham (John 8:39-40, 56 and other passages) and Abraham was highlighted as an outstanding example of faith in Hebrews 11:17-19.  (Note that Abraham’s son Isaac made the same mistake during the time he also stayed with Abimelech, likewise out of fear (Gen. 26:1-11).  But to do such things was not typical behavior for Isaac and Isaac also repented – Isaac will be in the Kingdom of God along with Abraham and Jacob (Matt. 8:11, Luke 13:28).) 

Abraham’s nephew Lot chose the most fertile and productive land (in the Jordan Valley) for himself, leaving the less desirable mountain area to Abraham (Gen. 13:7-12).  Lot made the further mistake of pitching his tent too close to Sodom and he became influenced by the moral depravity of that city.  As a result, Lot later was balky in getting out of Sodom and initially refused to flee to the mountains (Gen. 19:17-21) although he did flee there out of fear when he saw what actually had happened to Sodom and Gomorrah (verse 30).  While in the mountain cave, Lot let his daughters persuade him to get drunk twice – and while he was drunk his daughters tricked him into getting them pregnant without his realization (verses 31-38).  Nevertheless, Lot repented of all these actions – in the final analysis he was called righteous (2 Peter 2:7)

Jacob cunningly decided to take advantage of his brother Esau at a time when Esau was in distress in order to get Esau to hand over his right to the birthright (Gen. 25:29-34). Likewise, he followed his mother’s instruction on how to deceive his father Isaac to get Isaac actually to confer on him the birthright blessing (Gen. 27:1-29).  Jacob had plenty of time to repent of his deceptive practices when he had to flee to Mesopotamia because his brother Esau wanted to kill him (Gen. 27:41-28:5).  Jacob subsequently ended up serving 20 years (Gen. 31:41) working for his relative Laban, a master deceiver – as shown when he substituted Leah for Rachel (Gen. 29:20-26) and when he removed from the flock the sheep and goats which he had agreed to give to Jacob (Gen. 30:35-36).  And Jacob indeed repented – when he returned from Mesopotamia he was a changed man, and Jesus Himself pointed to Jacob as one who will be in God’s Kingdom (verses mentioned earlier).

Jacob’s son Joseph unwisely bragged to his family about his dreams of greatness, and possibly also showed off his multicolored coat to his brothers (Gen. 37:1-11).  Like his father, he had plenty of time to rethink (and repent of) his previous actions while in a foreign land – but in Joseph’s case, such was under the much more trying circumstances of being a slave and then a prisoner.  The remainder of Joseph’s life was certainly exemplary – at least the parts recorded in the Bible.  He certainly did not make a point of parading his position in front of his brothers once he had revealed his identity to them – and he forgave his brothers completely for what they had done to him (Gen. 50:19-21, cf. Romans 8:28).

We have discussed the patriarchs, how the Bible shows us not only their acts of faithfulness, but also the mistakes they made where they temporarily failed to obey God or to trust Him.  They are all mentioned as examples of faith in Hebrews 11:17-22.  (There is one man who lived soon after the age of the patriarchs whom I will focus on later near the end because of the detail with which the Bible describes his mistakes, his internal struggle and his repentance.)

Leaving the age of the patriarchs, what about another Biblical hero, Moses?  At one time God was ready to kill him, apparently because of Moses’ failure to circumcise his children at a time when this was required by the Abrahamic covenant (Ex. 4:24-26).  At Meribah-Kadesh Moses became angry with the people, disobeyed God’s instruction to speak to the rock but instead struck it twice, and failed to give God the glory for the miracle of water, with the result that he was not permitted to enter Canaan west of the Jordan River (Num. 20:7-12, Deut. 32:48-52).  Nevertheless, Moses was called the greatest prophet who had ever lived until Jesus Christ came in person (Deut. 34:10-12). 

Joshua, like Moses, was generally a sterling example of obedience to God but he too made a mistake concerning the Gibeonites (Joshua 9) – without asking counsel from God (verse 14) Joshua and the leaders under him believed the Gibeonites’ deceptive story that they had come from far away.  Hence he unwittingly made a covenant (forbidden in Deut. 7:2) with a group of people who were actually among the inhabitants of the land of Canaan.  (It might be noted, however, that in making the Gibeonites serve as slaves Joshua was actually fulfilling the curse on Canaan which Noah had pronounced as we read earlier.)

King David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14, Acts 13:22) but we are all familiar with the serious sins which he committed – coveting, adultery and indirect murder in the affair involving Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Sam. 11) and the military census of Israel and Judah (2 Sam. 24:1-9).  We also see the severe penalties which he suffered for both (2 Sam. 12:1-23 and 24:17).  And we see the intensity of his repentance in both cases – in Psalm 51 and in 2 Sam. 24:14-17.  Note in the second instance that 70 000 died as a result of the forbidden military census – God can cause the death of other people to drive the message home (to a person such as David with whom He is strongly working) that sin has consequences and cannot be allowed to remain in one’s life.  (Remember the similar case when Uzzah died after touching the ark – an incident through which God was impressing on David that he was responsible for knowing the laws governing how the ark was to be transported (2 Sam. 6:3-8, cf. Deut.17:18-20).)  And David indeed did repent fully – he will be king over the Israelite nations in the Millennium and beyond (Ezekiel 37:24-25).

What about the subsequent kings of Judah who were identified in the Bible as “good?”  Asa certainly made a number of major mistakes – trusting in his alliance with Syria instead of relying on God (2 Chron. 16:7-9), becoming angry with and imprisoning the prophet who had warned him about that problem, and also oppressing some of the people at the same time (verse 10).  However, we are told nevertheless in 1 Kings 15:14 that “Asa’s heart was loyal to the Lord all his days” – indicating that he must have repented of these sins.  (Contrast what 1 Kings 11:4 tells us happened to Solomon’s heart in his old age.)  Two of the later “good” kings, Hezekiah and Josiah, were identified as having pride problems.  Hezekiah rebelled against the king of Assyria (2 Kings 18:7), leading to an unnecessary and very destructive war (even though God eventually granted Judah victory in that war).  After the victory, he (apparently proudly) showed off the nation’s accomplishments to the Babylonian envoys (2 Kings 20:12-19).  Josiah unwisely – and proudly – refused the request of Pharaoh Necho to let Egyptian troops pass through Judah, instead engaging them in battle and as a result suffering a fatal wound (2 Chron. 35:20-24).  Nevertheless, Hezekiah and Josiah were described as the most loyal to God among all the kings of Judah (2 Kings 18:5-6, 23:25).

How about the New Testament?  Peter was the leading apostle but his major mistakes and sins are shown a number of times.  Most notably, he denied Jesus during His trial (remember that he had refused to believe Jesus when Jesus had told him he was going to do exactly this).  Earlier, Peter had foolishly dared to rebuke Jesus when Jesus told him that He was going to be killed – and Jesus then replied to Peter “Get behind Me, Satan!” (Matt. 16:21-23).  Even a number of years later, Peter made the cowardly mistake of refusing to eat with Gentile Christians – and Paul “called him out” for this, especially because others (including Barnabas) had followed Peter in his error (Gal. 2:11-12).   (If James had actually told the men to discourage Peter and the others from eating with Gentiles, then James was in the wrong too.)  And how about Paul himself, who called out Peter’s mistake?  He, of course, had been a persecutor of the Church before his conversion and had encouraged the murder of Stephen.  And years later (Acts 15:36-41) he misjudged the character of John Mark, who himself had gone “AWOL” during an earlier missionary journey (Acts 13:13).  But all of these men repented of their errors (cf. what Paul said about Mark in 2 Tim. 4:11).

I mentioned earlier that there was one “hero” of the Bible, from soon after the age of the patriarchs, that we would save until the end – because of how the Bible shows in such detail the struggle that went on in his mind.  That man was Job.  Job did not know the true source of the tragedies which had befallen him.  He did not accuse God at first (Job 1:22, 2:10).  However, as the trials wore on, Job started to break down and give in to the temptation, accusing God of unfairly punishing him for sins he had not committed (Job 29-31).  His first three friends misdiagnosed his problem in two ways – they thought God was punishing him for his past sins, not realizing that the trials were actually coming from Satan (cf. James 1:13) and that Job’s past sins (at least of the type to which they were referring) had nothing to do with them.  The fourth and younger friend (Elihu) was the one who actually “hit the nail on the head” – Job’s true key sin was a pride and self-righteousness problem which had really come out into the open during Job’s suffering (Job 31).  Finally God Himself stepped in to correct Job, speaking “out of the whirlwind” (Job 38:1, cf. 1 Kings 3:5 and contrast Numbers 12:6-7).  And after first Elihu and subsequently God Himself had put Job “in his place,” Job fully and dramatically repented and furthermore prayed for his three friends who had misdiagnosed his problem (Job 42:1-9).  God wanted Job in His Kingdom and He know that Job had a problem which could potentially keep him out.  In His wisdom, God saw that the best way to bring Job to realize this – and to ultimately repent – was actually to incite Satan to bring a severe trial upon Job.  And it worked (cf. James 1:2-4).  At the conclusion, Job was blessed with twice as much as he had had before (Job 42:10).

We might note three “takeaways” from what we have seen of the depictions of sins and mistakes of the Biblical “heroes.”  First – we should not compare ourselves with them (cf. 2 Cor. 10:12).  We should not think we are “better” than they were because we did not commit adultery as David did, or deny Christ as Peter did, or think we were being judged unfairly by God as Job did.  (By the way: about adultery – think about it – have we committed adultery in our heart?  Let’s turn to Matt. 5:27-28.  I know I have been guilty of this many times in my life and I suspect that every male in this room over the age of 13 or 14 has also been guilty.  Remember that is what King David first did which led to his subsequent act of actual physical adultery.)  Second – we are to learn from their sins and not sin as they did (cf. 1 Cor. 10:11).  And we are most certainly not to take the fact that they sinned and use it to justify our own sins.  Even though they sinned, they were recorded as among the “heroes” of the Bible because they repented of their sins and strove diligently not to repeat them in the future.  Third – any one of us who comes up to this lectern and gives a message in a teaching mode must realize that he will be judged by God more strictly than those who do not act formally as teachers (James 3:1).  Most of the “heroes” of the Bible were likewise teachers and when they sinned, their sins severely impacted their ability to teach and their credibility – people tend not to believe someone who does not practice what he preaches.  David realized this after his serious sins regarding Bathsheba and Uriah (Psalm 51:10-13).  The point is brought home further in Luke 6:41-42.

Yes, the Bible is hard on its heroes and exposes their sins, mistakes and flaws for all to see.  But the crucial difference between these “heroes” and other figures such as Kings Saul, Joash and Jehu (and possibly Solomon) was that the “heroes” repented of their sins and continued in the struggle to overcome sin – while the “bad guys” accepted sin as a lasting part of their lives and allowed their sinful nature to overcome them.  We all sin.  And we will all sin again in the future – although we should be continually striving not to do so.  The writer (or writers) of Hebrews reminded those in the Church at Jerusalem that they had not yet resisted sin to the point of bloodshed – implying that they might have to do so in the future (Heb. 12:4 – note that this passage comes shortly following the “faith” chapter about the “heroes” of the Old Testament).  Again – the “heroes” did not give up their struggle against sin.  They repented, accepted Christ’s sacrifice (which was still in the future for those of the Old Testament) and resolved to continue their struggle against sinning in the future.  And let us do likewise.  Let us not give up.  Let us be among them.  Let us rise with them to meet Christ in the air when He returns, to follow Him back down to earth and to serve and rule under Him in His Kingdom through the Millennium and for eternity.