World English Bible translation
11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen TR adds "and being convinced of" them and embraced them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 11:14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking after a country of their own. 11:15 If indeed they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had enough time to return. 11:16 But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
So far the Epistle to the Hebrews has looked at the faith of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah. These are a few of the "elders" of Israel, men and women of history and scripture who were the models for those who would seek to follow God. Hebrew children were raised with the stories of Cain and Abel; Noah and the Ark; and Abraham and Sarah. This letter uses these figures from the history of the Jewish people in order to demonstrate the type of faith that God seeks.
There are many aspects of the life of Abraham and Sarah that are worthy as examples of faith. What interests our author the most, however, is that Abraham was willing to leave Ur of the Chaldeans and venture out on the calling of God. He was seeking for a country to call his own, a country that had been promised to him by God. When Abraham left the land that he lived in before he had heard God, he went out and never returned.
This image is very important to the author. He is trying to make the Hebrew congregation that he is writing to see themselves in the life of Abraham. They have heard the calling of God in Jesus Christ. They have left the familiar territory of Judaism and have gone out to claim a new promise that is offered in Christ. Once having left, there is no going back. Abraham could not return to Ur and these Jews could not return again to the Covenant of Moses.
It is not as though Abraham received the promise for his own. Abraham and Sarah lived as strangers and pilgrims in the land that they had been promised. Even at the end of their lives, they had not yet received the fulfillment of the promises God had given to them. Instead, God gave them a downpayment, just as He has given us a downpayment by giving us the Spirit of God.
There must be a sense of dissatisfaction with this current world in order to exhibit the kind of faith that God requires. Those that hear the calling of God cannot have their ears filled with the noise of this world. They must be listening for the voice of God in order to hear it. Those who would follow after God must be willing to leave everything behind. They must venture out into the unknown territory of faith without the luxury of every being able to return.
Are you willing to say goodbye to who you are today so that God can make you into something completely new tomorrow? Do you realize that once Christ has changed your heart, you can never go back to who you were before?
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