There’s a lot to cover in our reading from our last post. If we take the right path I think we’ll receive that training in righteousness I mentioned. So let’s begin by focusing our attention on verses 13 through 16 of Hebrews 11. The writer of Hebrews said, “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises,”
Can We Ask God Questions?
Okay, let’s stop right here. I don’t know if you know this but you’re allowed to ask questions of God and His word. Not only will He and His word stand up to our scrutiny, whatever is said will prove true in the end, I assure you. God’s word does not return void!
So with this understanding let’s ask two questions. First, who are “all these?” and second, is it true that they died in faith without receiving the promises?
- All these. There are two schools of thought. The first is that the writer is referring to the Patriarch’s—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The second is that the writer is referring to everyone he’s mentioned up to this point. Now there’s merit to both for sure but the reason I choose the second is because of something said later in this chapter.
“And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.” – Hebrews 11:39-40
You see “all these” refers to everyone mentioned because God had a plan to make us all perfect through the same means—King Jesus! And because of the righteousness we are invited to this country of our own!
2. Is the statement “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises,” true? I mean really?
Are we then saying that Abel wasn’t credited with righteousness? No. He was. So, Enoch wasn’t pleasing to God? He clearly was. Noah didn’t save his family in the ark, becoming an heir of righteousness? Yes, he did both. Abraham didn’t truly live in the “land of promise” and Sarah didn’t conceive Isaac? Again, they absolutely received all of these things.
So what in the world is going on here? Why would the writer say they died not having received the promises?
What Was the Promise?
The answer has to do with a particular promise—or promise(s) plural—in that this promise was made to the many. The promise was one of a country of their own. Again the writer said, “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth…. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.”
You see, each of these people died, in faith, waiting for the very same thing you and I are waiting for as servants of Christ. That is, if we’ve truly understood our Bibles and the Gospel we understand that we’re waiting for a country of our own—a heavenly one!
Hebrews 11:16b “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.” And Revelation 21:1-4 shows us what this country will be and when it will come about, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer [any] sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be [any] death; there will no longer be [any] mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.’”
You see what these individuals were waiting for was the culmination of all things. Did they receive some individual promises? Yes. Did they die, in faith, not having received this promise? The Bible is clear, they did. But the issue that is so important for us to understand is this issue of a universal promise—God’s promise of a place to dwell with Him—the foundations of which He built.
Why is this so important to us? Because if you haven’t noticed we’re living in a time of political upheaval in our country, heck in our world. A moment in time where regardless of political affiliation no one believes that the other side listens or even cares. And most of the time it’s because they don’t.
This upheaval engages that age old fight or flight response that is found in every person. Many flee from these conversations or issues sure enough. But when people get to fighting (and we’re seeing more of this than ever before) people seem to stop being objective, they stop being loving and gentle, and worst of all they stop pursuing the only thing that matters—God Himself!
The fact that Christians are part and parcel to this train wreck is pitiful. This is where, as a pastor and teacher of the Gospel, I have to step in and say something. And the things I say can’t be mere opinion. We have enough of that already! I have a responsibility to go back to the Word of God, draw from it the correction and training we need, and present it to you for your consideration.
This World, This Country, Is Not Our Home
So before we get into each of these characters’ stories I wanted you to know that each of the people we read about today believed and trusted and even declared the truth I mentioned before—that this earth is not. there. home. It was this belief that motivated them in the godly lives they did. We would do well to believe and do likewise!
Please hear me, I love being an American but this is not my home! Should I steward it well? YES! Should I and can I appeal to its rules or even try to change those rules so that I might live a more peaceful life? Yes! Just as the Apostle Paul did concerning his Roman citizenship (Acts 22:22-25). Can I settle in and build a house, raise a family, own a dog? Yes, yes, and yes (just no cats, they’re of the Devil)!
But what I can’t do, Church, is allow my personal views of this country, or even our world, to derail me from the mission at hand. I can’t get so caught up in the system and the arguments of the day that I forget the mission set before me. That I forget the ethic by which I am to live.
The reason is that when we get side tracked people no longer see hope in us. They see a people who look just like all the rest. They see a people that are still slaves to fear and they’re not interested in changing from one fear inducing master to another.
But if we can be like the people in Hebrews 11, a people who truly walked by faith, a people who had sanctified “Christ” and not “Cesar” as Lord in their hearts, well then the words of the Apostle Peter will prove out in our lives,
“but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;” – 1 Peter 3:15
If we are a people of true supernatural hope the world will take notice. People will ask. People will experience Jesus in us. If we’re not… life will continue on much as it has in the past. Anxiety, anger, chaos, etc. In our final post, we will look at characters from Hebrews 11 to see what we can glean from their faith. Until then I’d like to hear if you feel you’ve lost sight of your true home during the chaos of this past year. Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.