Hebrews 11: Part IV
Hebrews 11:13 says: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Now notice the text says ‘these died in faith’. Who does’ these’ refer to? I believe it refers to those just mentioned in previous verses: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Sarah. Abraham received the promise his and Sarah’s son would be the one through whom a great nation would come. Abraham and Sarah lived to see the promised son born to them, Isaac. And Abraham lived until his grandsons; Esau and Jacob were 14 years old. But none lived to see the great nation which would come through their line, but were assured of it, and believed it and welcomed it from far off. Many of the promises God makes to us are for when we are in heaven. But there are promises for us on earth also. God has promised to never forsake us or leave us; supply all our needs, and never place more on us than we can bear. The Lord also promised He was going to prepare a place for us and when it was time, He would come again and where He was we would be also. This will be our eternal home. We were created to live with God. God has always wanted to live among His people.
These saints had come to the place in their lives where they considered themselves strangers to this world, pilgrims, and travelers passing through. Paul said our citizenship was in heaven. I believe as Christians the longer we walk with the Lord, the longer we serve Him, the more we long to be with Him. I also believe the more we turn our eyes upon Him, the more the things of this world grow dim in the light of his wonder and grace.
THE PRINCIPLE OF DESIRING AND SEEKING.
Two key words we notice in today’s lesson: looking in vs 14 (seeking in KJV); and longing in verse 16 (desiring in KJV) Desire is one of the most powerful forces in our lives. It can fill one with passion and determination. Your desires can lead you to the life you were meant to live or lead you into a lot of trouble. This is why Proverbs 4:23 says to’ guard your heart with all diligence for out it spring the issues of life.’ The heart is the home of desires.
Without overstating the obvious, what we desire is what we seek. The world culture we live in is obsessed with self. Almost all of the advertising via- television, radio, media, magazines, malls is focused on fulfilling the desires of your heart with the things of this world. Including good health obtained by exercise, good looks enhanced by surgery, and the respect of others based on your accomplishments. This has been the work of the deceiver since the Garden of Eden, that the desires of your heart, the fulfillment you are longing for and seeking is to be found in the things of this world. John writes in I John 5: 19”…the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” The world under the influence of the enemy of God and our souls wants to conform us. The pressure to conform is greater than ever.
And so mankind goes about seeking to create heaven on earth, to make a god of himself or of money and what money can buy as a means of satisfying the hunger within. God made all humans by nature hungry and God made food to satisfy our physical hunger. God made us all hungry for something we needed in our souls- and it was Him that was needed. Jesus said He was the bread of life come down from heaven. Jesus told us he came to give us life and life more abundantly, while the enemy wants to kill, steal and destroy. (John 10) If we live a life trying to fill and satisfy that hunger with the things of this world we will find each and every one of those things after a time become meaningless. God made us humans with inquiring minds, a desire to understand and know ‘why?’ as this is the favorite question of all children. Our study so far has revealed God wants us to come to believe two things about Him: He exists, He is and He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Notice the writer used the word diligently to describe how we are to seek Him. Wholeheartedly. Open minded search for the truth- because this is what our soul longs for and desires. I know it is God’s desire that none should perish but all come to repentance. God’s desire is to live with me so I can have the life I was intended to have. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37) God and God alone is the only one who can give you the desires which will bring peace and satisfaction and the life you were meant to live. Life apart from God will be an endless pursuit of things we have been deceived into thinking would provide us the satisfaction and peace we so desperately sought. Jesus taught us a simple prayer in which He said to pray: ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ The kingdom of God is a realm where the king’s word has complete obedience and full sway. What the king desires is what happens. This is the way it is in heaven now and there is no strife, worry or fear in heaven. When Jesus was here on earth, He gave us a glimpse of what the kingdom of heaven was like. He healed diseases, raised the dead, made the blind to see, He brought good news of the kingdom. These saints we read of here, there desire was for the kingdom, for a city whose builder was God. They desired a heavenly country where God lived. For they wanted to live with God and God wanted to live with them.
Want to know what happens to all your material things and all of your possessions you spent a lot of time and money acquiring? When Gina’s parents and my parents passed away, we went through their homes and soon found we had formed three piles. One to be thrown away or given to Goodwill; one to be sold and the proceeds to be split among the family; and one pile which would be kept, either pieces designated in the will or needed or wanted by family members, usually for sentimental value. Solomon sure had a lot of stuff, did a lot of stuff, and had great accomplishments – only to find they were temporary. In the end he concluded life without God is meaningless. Here is what one of the world’s richest, wisest man had to say in the end: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
We will experience promises of God here on earth, but our greatest promise is to live with Him forever in a place called heaven, which is our home, our country. We were created to live with God. Our faith is in His promises to us. Some will be realized here on earth, but we must realize that most of God’s promises are not mainly for this world, but for heaven, our home where the city and builder is God. Our desires determine what we seek. God says if we delight ourselves in Him, He will give us the desires of our heart. The desire He gives us is to know Him, to walk with Him and talk with Him and spend the rest of our lives on earth glorifying Him and then to spend all of eternity in a place He has prepared for us. A heavenly city set on earth without crime, pollution, decay, death, disease, graffiti, and tears. I recently heard a preacher say he was really looking forward to heaven more now than ever since his wife of over 50 years had died and was in heaven now.
So we become like these saints of old, aliens, strangers on earth traveling through this world with our eyes on that which we desire with all our heart- God. In the meanwhile, we live in a fallen world where God has promised to supply our needs, to never leave us or forsake us, to work all things together for good and to never place more on us than we can bear. “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit guaranteeing what is to come.” 2 Cor. 1: 20, 21
Do you see the foundation which Jesus has laid? Jesus put a foundation under us which assures of the promises to us. Jesus was the Promised Seed of the woman which had been promised since the Garden of Eden. His coming was foretold by the prophets of old. Jesus by signs and wonders and finally by his crucifixion and resurrection and ascension into heaven became the sure foundation of all of God’s promises to us who believe. When you say “Yes” to Jesus you will have all you ever need. Your soul will finally be satisfied. You will have found the desire of your heart for which you had been seeking.
The story of Genesis 22 is summarized in the three verses here in Hebrews 11: 17-19. But I believe this story is so important I want to take you back to Genesis 22. You know the background of Isaac, the promised miracle child born to Abraham and Sarah when they were 100 and 90 respectively. It is such an important story and occurs in such a special place I could not help but go back and go through it with you. (I will share the story with you from the KJV version.) “Now it came to pass after these things, that God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He (God) said, “Take now your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will show you.” This story is a picture of God the Father taking His only Begotten Son and sacrificing him.
Four important words I want to share: tested, love, Moriah and offer. The word ‘tested’ is a better translation than tempted. God tests, Satan tempts. Test comes from the Hebrew word meaning to ‘assay, or prove or try.’ God does not tempt the heart; He tries it to confirm our faith. Satan tempts us for the purpose of seeing us fail. This is the first mention of the word, ‘love’ in the Bible. Theologians refer to a principle of first mention, which means pay careful attention to the context in which this word is used for the first time for it sets a pattern for its primary usage and development for the rest of Scripture. Isn’t it interesting the word is used not in the association of a husband and wife or a child and mother but used instead to speak of the love of a father for his son. First time the word ‘love’ is used in NT is in Matthew 3, when Jesus is baptized, God speaks from heaven and says “ this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. “ First time the word ‘love’ is used in Gospel of John is in John 3: 16, where Jesus tells us the Father loves us , and demonstrates that love toward us in allowing His Only Begotten Son to die in our place. He laid Him on that wooden altar, the Cross, and sacrificed Him, who knew no sin. We see this picture clearly in this account of Abraham and Isaac.
Remember, God the Father and God the Son existed long before the world began, in fact they have always been, and their love is without beginning or ending. Love which is unconditional, sacrificial and withholding nothing as we will see in this story. I selected the KJV because the NIV uses the word sacrifice, where the KJV uses the word “offer”. Offer means to present for acceptance. Paul uses this word when he writes in Romans 12 –‘to present your bodies a living sacrifice.’
This brings us to Moriah and the mountain where God will tell Abraham to take Isaac. Mount Moriah is the very place in later years; King David bought the threshing floor of Oman as place for the site of the temple. His son Solomon would build a magnificent temple here. Today a Moslem mosque, the Dome of the Rock occupies this place. The word ‘Moriah’ means “foreseen of Jehovah.”
Notice Abraham rose early the next morning, no delaying, but immediate obedience to the will of God. God told him to go to the region of Moriah and God would show him the mountain. Abraham had learned to walk by faith which sometimes meant going out, not knowing where you were going.
Abraham had come to the place in his walk of faith; he believed God’s promise that through Isaac would come the nation and the seed which would bless all the nations. Abraham so trusted God’s promise he told the servants traveling with him and Isaac to stay with the donkey while he and his son would go yonder and worship and we will come back to you. (Gen. 22:5)
When Abraham laid Isaac on the wood altar, Isaac asked his father, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering? Abraham, in faith, answered, “My son God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering.”
We know the story; the Angel of the Lord stopped Abraham. Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked and there behind him was a ram caught in the thicket by it horns. So Abraham took the ram and offered it for a sacrifice. Abraham called the name of the place, “The Lord Will Provide.” Jehovah Jireh.
The story of Abraham reveals how one learns to walk by faith and not by sight. Abraham faltered at times and leaned to his own understanding. He sometimes operated out of his old nature, the flesh. In doing so Abraham was learning a lesson we all must learn in following God. Sometimes following God means leaving behind the things our old nature loved.
Think about what Abraham left:
*His home in the Ur of Chaldees, Mesopotamia.
*His father, Tehran, left in Haran.
*First choice of land, leaving the choice to Lot. Which actually meant he left it up to God.
*Refusing the rewards of the King of Sodom. Faith leads to refusal of the things of the world
*Now if Isaac was the child of God’s promise and a picture here of God’s Son, then Ishmael was the son of flesh, the old nature. Abraham and Sarah, growing weary of waiting for the promised offspring decided to lean to their own understanding and attempt to accomplish God’s will in the flesh, by their own works. This is why the sending away of Ishmael and Hagar is an important spiritual truth. When Abraham had received his only begotten son, Isaac, God had him send away his Ishmael. God will not take away your Ishmael, until you have received your Isaac. The old nature must be done away with when the new nature comes. Paul explains our old nature is crucified with Christ and we must reckon it dead.
Isaac was a young man. He certainly could have run from his old father or even overpowered him. But he allowed himself to be placed on the altar. Can you imagine the heart of Abraham when his son Isaac asked him where is the lamb? Jesus and His Father were alone in the Garden and Jesus asked His Father, if this cup could pass from Him, but nevertheless, His will be done, not His own. Jesus came to do the will of the Father. Can you imagine how agonizing it was for God the Father to sacrifice the life of His Only Begotten Son that lost sinners, like me, might be saved, forgiven and live with God from that moment on -to forever.
Do you see what Jesus was revealing to us in His ministry? He was restoring sight to the blind, life to the dead, hearing to the deaf, cleansing for the leper, forgiveness for the thief, the prostitute, a welcome home for the lost son. He was restoring. His was a ministry of restoration. He makes all things new again. Life is restored to what is was meant to be. If you have ever had a serious illness, you know the joy of having your health restored.
Life is meaningless without God. And all that I had sought for and never found, I found in Him the desires my heart had been seeking.
It takes time, just as the story of Abraham reveals. It takes endurance for sometimes, life is very difficult. But we have this promise: God is working all things together for good for those who love Him. Does not say all things are good, but the outcome of all those things God uses to work out good. To understand this and the love, God has for you, just look to Calvary.
What are the desires of your heart? Life is a journey of the heart that requires the mind to be transformed by the truth of God’s Word. This truth must be brought into our hearts to guard it with all diligence and allow God to give us the desires we desire.
When we do this watch what occurs: “Peace is the flag which flies from the castle of our heart when the King of Heaven, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life is on the throne.”