An All Satisfying God | Hebrews 11:13-16, 39-40
Topic: Stand Alone Passage: Hebrews 11:13–11:16, Hebrews 11:39–11:40
INTRO: As we are on the cusp of the new year, around this time and even this past month is when the conversations of new years resolutions take place within our homes and culture. We often talk about what we are going to do in the new year, and it always has to do with a greater future hope. Perhaps in the new year we will complete school, better finances, get a new job, move somewhere new, home or spouse we’ve been waiting for, old unhealthy habits gone and new healthy habits put in its place, etc.. A greater, more stimulating, more accomplished and even more hopeful year than the previous one awaits us we think, as joy and anticipation swells inside of us for what is to come. What I see manifests itself underneath all of this, is the attributes of longing and desire for a greater future hope. The new year comes to us bringing the promise to satisfy and fulfill our souls and when it arrives we are not met with being content but rather underwhelmed by the let down of an unfulfilled promise. We believe somehow that by new year we really mean there’s new life that will be found. However we cannot be fooled by the one number on our calendars changing, to be the means by which our longings and desires will be met and satisfied. WHY do we desire and long for a new year? What is it about our human nature that desires for something new as desiring a cold glass of water on a hot summer day?It seems experience has been tested and the results will show that nothing in this world can satisfy the human soul. The result of this is that there are 2 problems before us, 1) that we need to find a way to endure in this world if our promises for a better life are not received and 2) we need to know one who will truly satisfy our desires if nothing in this world can.
We are going to look at a solution for these questions in Hebrews chapter 11:13-16, 39-40. As you are turning there, a quick synopsis of the book of Hebrews is how Jesus Christ is greater than any old covenant practice, greater than any priest or angel that we would seek to find true satisfaction in, and chapter 10-12 focus on a call to endurance and faith in Jesus alone.
13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth
Abraham and Sarah are the ‘these’ as previously mentioned in verses 8-12 and they ‘died in faith.’ This means that they died not only believing in God but also in His promises given to them. To Abraham, there was the promise from God of giving him a promised land and Abraham along with Isaac and Jacob went about living in this land in tents.(V.9) To Sarah, there was the promise of having the power to conceive and to have as many descendants as ‘the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand at the seashore.’ (V.12) Chapter 11 is filled with examples of Godly men and women who ‘lived by faith’ did amazing and great things for the glory of God and it seems the writer of Hebrews has taken a detour in the chapter to highlight some who ‘died in faith.’ Those who ran their race and finished well. How did they do it? They endured in this world by faith.
1) a) - We can endure in this world by faith.
- If we are going to endure in this world we need to understand what faith is and isn’t. Have you read those books on faith that are 3-500 pages and you open them with the thought ‘what is faith?’ and at the end of it you’re still left with that question? Let’s not muddy the water on this topic when it’s meant to be simply understood.
- Faith means to trust in God by believing what He has told us in His word. Heb.11:1 gives us a good definition of what faith is. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. An example of this would be that it is much the same thing as you believing your spouse or a close friend when they promise you something or give you their word, even though you don’t see the promise. Your trust, your belief in their word is based on the character of the individual that you are placing your trust in, and in our case it is God, who has created us and designed us in such a way to worship Him and to trust His word. What contrasts this is credulity, which is nothing more than belief/trust in something too quickly or without reason. You have heard I’m sure of belief upon belief. Those who say they believe in something and you ask why and they say ‘because I believe.’You believe in something because you believe in it or you trust something because you just trust; it lacks sufficient reason. Where have you placed your trust/faith in something void of reason? If I may give a suggestion, perhaps the new year is where you have.
- We must note that none of the apostles talked this way. None of them decided to follow Jesus, to pick up their crosses and follow Him and die for Him simply on a whim without a shred of thought or reason. Peter says in 2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. You also have the apostle John who says in 1 John 1:1-2 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us….. As chapter 11 is filled with ‘by faith’ as a repetitive theme there is not a single chapter or verse of people who ‘by credulity’ ran their race and finished well, enduring in this world. Brothers and sisters, if all you have is mere optimism for the future, might I submit to you first that you don’t have faith and secondly that you cannot and will not endure in this world, because you will always be looking to that greater future of someday in this world, without sufficient reason and will never attain it. There is a greater future for those of us in Christ but NOT in this world; it is in heaven our true home. (Will speak to this later)
So how we endure in this world is by faith in God, by believing what He has told us in His word, and this will help us persevere in a world that we are discontent with and never satisfied by.
But if that is all that I leave you with, there would be cause for disappointment. Why? Because are faith is often weak. It is often failing, moving about like waves of the sea, one minute very high, strong and bold and the next minute incredibly low, hanging by a thread. There is good news however, that though we be weak at times in this world, God is faithful towards us. That when we are faithless Paul says that God remains faithful. Simply put, it is not that we hold on to God in as much that He holds on to us and secures us in Himself, regardless of great faith or little faith, We can endure in this world by God’s help.
b) - We can endure by acknowledging that we are strangers and exiles in this world.
We read of Abraham and Sarah that though they died in faith, they didnot receive the things promised but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.’ The promised land of which they sought and the descendants that would be innumerable, all resembling a greater future hope, were seen at a distance, and not received and therefore, seeing the promises from afar led to the result of Abraham and Sarah acknowledging that they were strangers and exiles, not simply to a country or a tribe but to this whole earth. Upon this entire earth, there was not a single place for them to find a true home.
Ruth and I are in a unique place in life right now where we have quite a few friends and family that are moving out of state, always for two reasons. the first is that it’s too pricey here and the second is that there’s less rain elsewhere, which are valid reasons. But with them moving out of state, the conversations seem to go that they are seeking a place in this world that will satisfy. Where they can rest or where a true home is. And we are given an example with Abraham and Sarah who are people of faith and showing us that in order to endure in this world there needs to be the acknowledgment that we are strangers and exiles to this world. To acknowledge that this world is not enough to satisfy us; we long for something greater.
C. S. Lewis put together a book called ‘Studies In Words’ which is based on his lectures at Cambridge University and in reference to the many ways the word ‘world’ has been used across cultures, he says this about a particular use of the word.
“The world as we know it must no doubt be good. True. But the final goal of every human being is the enjoyment of God and not of this world. Therefore, nothing that this world can offer, not even its most innocent blessings (daily bread, health, natural affection or friendship) must be allowed to engage the whole heart. If it were, we should be treating as our home what was meant to be only a wayside inn. Unless we practice detachment, the world, however good in itself, it will become for us a danger.” What Lewis is saying here is that there is a healthy way and unhealthy way of looking at the world. 1) One way that is unhealthy is where the world engages our entire heart. Our promises, our hopes our dreams are all tied up in the world seeking for it to satisfy us. There are good things within this world to enjoy certainly, but they are too small, too insignificant because they’re not enough to substitute the enjoyment of God Himself, which does wholly satisfy us because we are created to worship Him. 2) The healthy way however, is that we look at this world as a ‘wayside inn’ a place of temporary stay. Lewis finishes his quote by saying unless we practice detachment from this world it does become for us a danger because we are going to making something good into god which this world is not.
So there is an importance therefore of being able to acknowledge that we’re strangers and exiles in this world because it frees us to enjoy God primarily and to enjoy this world as well with what good it brings in a rightful understanding of it not being our true home. It says of Abraham and Sarah that they ‘greeted [their unreceived promises] them from afar’ as opposed to pursuing or being upset about not attaining the promise. Because they acknowledged they were strangers to this world they were freed instead of enslaved from chasing the ideal that would fulfill them because there’s the recognition that this world is temporary. We are staying at an inn right now and will move on.
Jesus speaks to this clearly in His high priestly prayer for those of us who trust in Him in John 17:16 He saysThey are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” Jesus speaks to our identity as strangers to this world, not of it. And how we will endure is by the freedom that is given by acknowledging we are strangers in this world allowing us to greet our unfulfilled promises at a distance and never receive them.
c) - We can endure by desiring a better country, a heavenly one.
14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 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 for them a city.
When people speak, they make it clear they are seeking a homeland. A ‘homeland’ can be used to identify a place of belonging, rest, satisfaction and safety and when people speak, it is made very clear that people are longing and desiring for a homeland. It manifests itself in our everyday language whether it be longing for the weekend, our own homes, a new place to move to or the new year, etc., We think ‘perhaps this homeland will have rest, will satisfy, will have no more tears, no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain anymore.’ But that is the definition of the new heavens and new earth and not this world. Are desires have been wrongly misplaced. It is not that we are desiring a new year in as much as it is we are desiring a new world.
Now some of you I’m sure are thinking that is too drastic. Perhaps you would fall in line with verse 15 saying “If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.” Some of you will say ‘I’m sure they are just missing their old country/home/place where they grew up, so if they just go back things will be fine.’ God’s word however, is God communicating to us, and communicating with the knowledge of who we are. It’s as if God knows the rebuttal of the human heart, that we will question what is being said. But God in His wisdom replies with saying if it was that simple as going back to the country they grew up in, they would have had opportunity to return, and yet they don’t, because they desire something greater. [’but as it is they desire a better country’]
When Ruth and I were dating we would drive around and show each other where we grew up as kids. One day, I took Ruth to the first place my family moved to, when we moved from Canada when I was 5. The home was placed in-between Monroe and Duvall in the woods and I have all these memories of playing in the forest and climbing trees there with my siblings. I take Ruth there and we pull up on the house that is taken over by loggers, trees cut down everywhere, mud everywhere, not a single blade of grass to be seen and what I expected to be a majestic forest in my mind ended up being a wasteland.
Although the landscape was literally changed in my story, I believe it to be the same to all of us, that if we were to have the opportunity to return to a home, state or country to stay, we would find what we envisioned to be satisfying once upon a time to actually be just as unfulfilling as anywhere else in the world.
And all of this exposes to us our desire for a better country, that is a heavenly one. This is made evidently clear every election cycle isn’t it? A politician comes forward giving promises of a better country and people go nuts, people respond as if it’s the voice of a god speaking who will bring heaven to this earth, but all it is, is politicians preying on the unmet desires of people for an all perfect, all satisfying world. We can and will endure past all of this by desiring a better country, a heavenly one.
Church, if I may remind you, that all of this is brought up because as we are seeking to endure in a world that doesn’t satisfy and I am not under the motivation to depress you about being in this world, rather I am trying to correctly re-direct your desires to one who will wholly satisfy you, Jesus Christ.
Look how verse 16 concludes starting in verse 14. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 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 for them a city.
Are you able to say of Jesus, He is my God. He is my redeemer, my savior, my Lord? Martin Luther said people perish because they don’t know possessive pronouns. Do you have trouble saying these things? I don’t believe I am stepping out of the boundaries of orthodoxy church, when I say that Jesus Christ came to save you. Jesus, who left that perfect homeland heaven, that place of belonging, rest, satisfaction and safety and willingly became a stranger and exile on this earth, for you, meaning He willingly became vulnerable, unsafe, rejected by many. That Jesus took upon Him on the cross your sins and instead has given you His perfection that you don’t have on your own before a perfect God. That Jesus now glorified in Heaven is coming back one day for you. I hope you see Jesus is the all-satisfying God, because we see this not only by what Jesus did for us, but by what he has said also. When Jesus began His ministry He began to speak to weary strangers and exiles, like you and me with the language of being the fulfillment to satisfy the deepest desires of those whom He came to seek and save.
In John’s Gospel (just to name a few) we see Jesus in John 4 speak to the women at the well and say “Whoever drinks of the water I give them will never be thirsty again” (John 4:14)
John 6 Jesus responds to people who are seeking a sign and saying that their fathers were given the sign of bread in the wilderness during Moses time; Jesus replies “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) Finally in John 8 we see Jesus make the comment “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
It is beautiful that when we are met with a world that doesn’t satisfy our longings, that God says He is not ashamed to be our God because He has provided something greater than this world; a new world. A heavenly one.
So what became of Abraham and Sarah and their promises that weren’t received?
39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us….
They died not receiving their promises and it was okay, because God had something far greater for them!
The chapter concludes with more OT characters lives being displayed in honor as an example for us, that by faith in Jesus we can endure as strangers and exiles in this earth, even though we long and desire for a promised greater future hope in this world and don’t attain it, because God has provided something far greater for us than we could ever imagine, a true home in heaven, given to us when we place our faith in Jesus.