Our passage today is longer than the previous, but teaches a unified lesson about this way of living according to the Unseen Reality. For the sake of easing references, I will emBolden portions upon which to expound.
By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.
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. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.~ Hebrews 11:8–16.
Why would a good teacher skim over so much great stuff and even include two different paragraphs to talk about one lesson? In answer, it seems clear to me that the author of Hebrews 11 has taken a break from chronologically recounting the lessons of faith, to share a summative lesson about what has been said before. The lesson about Abraham is the same lesson about “All these” and so it is my aim to dig into both sections to see the lesson from two angles. The lesson being: Faith is the way of exile.
Abraham and Sarah
What could induce a man to leave his entire life– his family, his home, his inheritance–behind? Faith. God called Abraham to leave, and Abraham obeyed and left. He went out from everything else, and lived as a stranger in the land. His faith was so great that he did not waver even when God brought him to the land of promise, and he didn’t take full possession of it. He continued to trust in God whole-heartedly. This is because his faith was not based on the promise’s fulfillment, but on something else.
Sarah, going with Abraham, considered that this was alright, for only one reason: Faith. Sarah received the ability to conceive simply because she trusted that the One who promised–the Promiser– was trustworthy. Out of this womb of faith, the special nation of Israel was supernaturally born.
Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah all have faith in common, and this uncommon faith made them wanderers. They would have agreed together to say the same thing: “Our home is still to come.” Cast away from their home, their hope rested on the One who was leading them home. No lesser home would do. If they were looking back, they could go back to their comfortable, ordinary home, but here even in the land promised them, they who pursued what was guaranteed were unwelcome. The Seen World had completely cast off the ruler in the Unseen Reality. Because of this, all who seek to walk in faith, will find themselves current Exiles, if they wish to be future Heirs.
Such a God is unashamed to be called their God, because He has already settled in his heart that their home will be eternal, and they they will have a share in it.
No Turning Back
This is the crisis of faith: Will you leave the inheritance of the world your eyes can see for the glorious kingdom that awaits those who look to the unseen? Very few have this kind of faith. God would be ashamed to call himself the God of those who turn back and who, out of remembrance of their old way, seek to be rejoined with their old country. And so he will not be called their God. As Hebrews quotes:“
“But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. ~ Heb 10:38.“ Hab 2:4.
- Take care that your heart doesn’t desire the Seen World, with it’s connections, wealth, and power. It will continuously draw you away from the One who is more real than the creation that you see corrupted before you. He is working a New Creation. But only those of faith can be a part of it.
- Consider yourself an exile, whose citizenship is now in heaven, and whose inheritance is God in the New Heaven and the New Earth.
- Endure without shrinking back so that you will actually gain what is promised. (Hebrews 10:39)