August 7, 2022
“These all died without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on earth.”
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“These all died without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on earth. Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been remembering that land they came from, they would have had opportunity to return. But they now aspire to a better land – a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:13-16
Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets…all these people were considered righteous by God because of their faith. Faith, in and of itself, is not sufficient to save a person. God’s standard is that people be perfectly righteous. The system of salvation, which allows our faith to be counted as righteousness, is itself a gift from God. That is His Grace towards mankind. Faith of only human value is considered righteousness. That is because the value of our faith is not in its origin (us) but rather in its object (Jesus). If I pull the trigger on a pistol, faithfully believing a bullet will be fired, it is not my faith that has hit the target but the bullet propelled by the object of my faith, the loaded pistol.
“For it is by Grace that we are saved through faith – and this not of ourselves, but it is the gift of God - not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.
These heroes of the Bible are generally known for the great things they accomplished. It is easy to assume they earned their salvation through good works. Every Jewish parent would want their children to succeed in the manner of these patriarchs and tsadiks (righteous men). But each of these spiritual giants was also human and fell short of God’s standard. The Bible tells us so.
The writer of Hebrews is drawing attention away from the accomplishments of these people and focusing on the root of their success: Faith. He didn’t say, “Seek to build an ark, or have a child in your old age, or slay a giant Philistine,” etc. He is challenging us to employ the FAITH which led these patriarchs to accomplish such feats. The Holy Spirit, working through their faithfully surrendered lives, was the source of their strength. Whenever those so-called “spiritual giants” departed from the path of faithfulness, they ceased to live victoriously. Perhaps, King David is the best example.
God is not ashamed to be called “the God” of those who faithfully respond to His call. Though we may be ashamed of some of our decisions, thoughts, or behaviors, God honors faithfulness. Most of these “heroes of the faith” committed extremely faithless acts: adultery, murder, drunkenness, cowardice…yet God recognized their faith as righteousness.
As the patriarchs did not know when Messiah would come, we are unaware of when He will come again. Those whose hope is Messiah see God’s kingdom from a distance. We greet it by living faithfully and waiting for God to unfold His plan in His timing.