Posted by: Billy Marsh | June 8, 2007

I. Sojourners: Hebrews 11:13-16 (B) These all died in faith . . .

In an earlier post, I showed that one major aspect of the sojourner mentality consists of the fact that sojourners “acknowledge” that they are foreigners in this land. This truth constitutes that there ought to be an awareness of your “citizenship” in heaven though earth is our natural habitat, at least an unfallen earth. The heaven in which our adoption into the family of God has given us a home is a place of eternal dwelling with God in a new earth where the curse will be lifted and we will be clothed with new resurrection bodies existing in the state in which God had originally created the world to be. However, this is a study for a later time, one that I am planning on posting on reguarly when I finish the series on the sojourner mentality. Nonetheless, not only were “These all” aware of their identity as the people of God, but also this disposition was condusive to the type of faith that is based on the promises of God and not necessarily the works of God.

“These all” refers all the way back to Abel. But, I also believe that it includes those in vv.17-38 since the author of Hebrews picks back up in v.17 with Abraham and continues the theme of those commended for their faith who ultimately demonstrated that the “fleeting pleasures of sin” and this world are nothing compared to sharing in the “reproach of Christ” (vv.25-26).  However, the basis of the “things promised” is rooted in the Abrahamic covenant as referenced in v. 12. Even more specific, we may conclude that “these all” were Abraham, Sarah, Issac, and Jacob since we know from v. 9 that Issac and Jacob shared in the “same promise” as their father. Likewise, Sarah shared in the same promise through the part that she played in furthering the fulfillment of the covenant of God by giving birth to Issac thus beginning a lineage in which “all the nations of the earth will be blessed” (Gen 12:3). Furthermore, v. 10 is the key to understanding vv.13-16 as it functions as a commentary note by the author who returns to this theme in v.16 and of course of other instances in the Book of Hebrews (chpts. 3, 12, & 13).

The identity of “These all” is fairly easy to determine since the author paints us many portraits of God’s people who have multi-dimensioned eyesight which was enabled by their great faith. But what kind of faith is alluded to here in this text? Blind faith? Of course not! Blind faith betrays the very notion of biblical faith. I think that an innertexutual marker for this type of faith is found in Heb 11:1-3. In fact, in v. 2 the author clearly states that this definition of faith is the type of faith that these great men and women of old were commended for by God.

Two major aspects may be distinguished from this verse. First, the opposite of hope in the Bible is possession. The things that we hope for now, we will one day possess. Hence, faith gives undoubted assurance that hope will one day pass away, that the promises of God are true and that we will possess all that we truly long for in God (i.e. a city whose builder and architect is God, v. 10). Second, biblical faith gives proof of the reality of things unseen. This point is more than simply a gut feeling. Instead, there is an unquestionable certainty to the truth that the unseen world is more than a mythical or fantasical realm, but rather it is true reality. Faith serves as our eyes into the world in which God has shielded our earthly eyes from beholding.

These two aspects of faith, if equipped and strengthened, very obviously provide the means to believing God in even the most extreme circumstances such as Abram’s drastic call to leave his homeland or Moses’ giving up of his Egyptian throne and sceptor for the desert and the staff of God. Abraham died in faith awaiting his arrival in the great city of God, and Moses looked towards a better reward in Christ despite the fact that he was forbidden to enter the promised land.

This article in no way exhausts this topic and the meaning in this verse. However, you must know that the sojourner mentality thrives on a faith that is grounded in certainty and assurance. This faith in turn causes people to do the most wondeful things for God like build Arks, have children in old age, forsake kingship, conquer kingdoms, and stop the mouth of lions (v.33).

Can you die in faith? Does your faith rest upon what God has done for you and is doing for you? Do you serve God on a works based relationship? Does your faith increase only when prayers are answered and blessings come? Or, are you willing never to receive all the things that your pride tells you that you are entitled to? Can you die in faith, lowly and humble? Can you die in faith without getting a hundred books published like you (I) want to or preach the gospel in many nations or build your megachurch or teach at the highest academic arena? Can you rest secure in your role whether great or small in God’s great redemptive plan empowered by a faith which is characterized more so by fact than theory in a God who gives his promises to us and is himself ultimate reality?

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Responses

  1. Good post Billy. It’s very refreshing and challenging to hear a brother stirring me and others on to live as exiles, pilgrims, strangers in this land seeking a far better homeland.

    DD


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