Study Notes

Hebrews 11:13-16


Last Sunday in our study of Hebrews chapter eleven, we examined the faith of Abraham and Sarah. They weren't perfect people, but they did believe God when He made a promise. Abraham came to the land of Canaan, believing that he would receive this land as an inheritance. Sarah believed God that she would bear a son in her old age. They both believed that God's promise of innumerable descendants would be fulfilled. These were people of faith.

11:13 Died In Faith Without Receiving The Promises

Abraham and Sarah died long before Canaan was given to the Jews. Their hearts stopped beating hundreds of years prior to their descendants becoming innumerable. We might say, "How sad! They never got to see the promises of God fulfilled in their lives!" But that would not be accurate to say. For they did see the promises.

Welcomed Them From A Distance

Abraham and Sarah saw the promises. No, they never received them in the sense that we would expect, but they did see them, welcome them, and experience them. How? Remember,

Hebr. 11:1 is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Having faith means that you are assured of it, you are convinced of it. Even if you don't have it in your hands, it is just as real to you as if you did.

So although Abraham and Sarah did not receive the promises during their lifetimes, they welcomed them, they saw them from a distance.

Do you have faith like that? Faith to say, "Although I haven't received the promise yet, I still feel like I have?" When you read Romans 8:28, do you own it?

Rom. 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to {His} purpose.

Regardless of your difficulties right now, your sorrows and hurts, your pain and suffering, do you believe that God is working everything in your life out for your good? Have you welcomed God's promise, seeing it in the distance? Do you know for a fact that this is going to have a positive outcome? That is real faith.

Strangers And Exiles On Earth

That may seem like an impossibility to you right now. After all, how can anyone have faith like that?

But faith that treats God's promises as so tangible, so real is really not that difficult to have. The secret to having that kind of faith, of living in that kind of faith, is simply to recognize that you are a stranger on this earth. You must know that this world is not your home. You must realize that your citizenship is in heaven.

Jesus told us,

John 15:19 " are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world..."

And when He was praying for us, He said to the Father,

John 17:16 "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."

We are not citizens of this world. Sure, we've got documentation saying that we're Americans, but what are we really? We are citizens of heaven who are here for a short time. We used to be of the world but then,

Col. 1:13 ...He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son

We now belong to the kingdom of God. Paul told the Philippians,

Phil. 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ

Eagerly waiting for the Lord to take us to heaven is part of living in true faith. Look at these next verses:

11:14-16 A Heavenly Country

Abraham and Sarah had been promised that their descendants would inherit the land of Canaan. But although they believed in faith that God was going to keep that promise, they weren't focusing on the country of Canaan. They were seeking a different country.

Remember back in verse ten we saw that Abraham...

Hebr. 11:10 ...was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Abraham and Sarah didn't set down roots in Canaan, they lived in tents. They didn't go back to the comfort they had in Haw-RAWN, although they certainly had ample opportunity. No, they were thinking of heaven. They had the mindset that David had when he wrote,

Ps. 27:4 One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to meditate in His temple.

Their focus was on their eternal dwelling. Their real desire was to be in God's city, God's country, God's kingdom. That is what enabled them to have great faith. So when they died without having received the promises, it was not a disappointment, for they inherited the greatest promise.

When Stephen was preaching to the Jewish Council, he angered them by telling them that they were just as stiff-necked as their ancestors had been.

Acts 7:54-60 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they {began} gnashing their teeth at him. But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears, and they rushed upon him with one impulse. And when they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him... And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon {the Lord} and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" And having said this, he fell asleep.

Stephen focused on heaven in the midst of his greatest trouble, and found tranquility in turmoil.

David penned Psalm 23, which spoke of the difficulties we experience in this life, walking through the valley of the shadow of death, but also of God's faithfulness to shepherd us through those difficulties. The final, climactic line of this psalm acknowledges,

Ps. 23:6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

You see, in spite of difficulties on this earth, you can endure with faith if you focus in on the promise of your eternal inheritance.

God Is Not Ashamed To Be Called Their God

Now, because Abraham and Sarah desired heaven over anything on earth, the author notes that God is not ashamed to be called their God.

The inverse would also be true: if we desire the things of this world instead of heaven, then He is ashamed to be called our God. You see, if we are focused on this earth instead of heaven, we are saying that these worldly things are more important and have more value than the Lord does. And when that is our mindset, we are embarrassed to even be recognized as Christians, because we're not really living like them.

Are you embarrassed about Jesus? Do you leave your Bible at home when you go to school or work? Do you hide the fact that you're a Christian from people around you? Do you tiptoe around controversial religious subjects, just to stay out of the spotlight? This is shameful to God, and Jesus said,

Luke 9:26 "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory, and {the glory} of the Father and of the holy angels.

When my focus is on the earth, I don't want to be recognized as a Christian, because I'll feel like a hypocrite. But when my focus is on heaven, then I want to share Christianity with everyone, because it's such a blessing to have that promise, to have that hope, to have that peace. And when I'm in that state, God is not ashamed to call me His own. Paul told the Colossians,

Col. 3:1-4 If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

God is proud to point out that some people follow Him. I pray that each of us is counted among them.

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