As I was reading through a familiar passage this morning, Hebrews 11, I was taken aback as the Lord showed me this passage in a whole new light. I guess in the past I have always looked at what the people in these verses were recorded as doing and how their actions equated to faith, but today I was drawn more to what God did in response to the faith exhibited by these men and women and how by God's gracious hand in their lives they were propelled toward promises beyond anything this world was able to offer them.
As you read the passage below, read very carefully the underlined sections which highlight God's responses to the faith lives of the people recorded in the first part of Hebrews 11:
“By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, 'and was not found, because God had taken him'; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.” Hebrews 11:4-12
What is even more interesting here I think is that in passing from this world into the next, these individuals did not see the bigger scope of what their faith led to. They experienced a small piece of the reward God allowed them to experience, readily realized that that the bigger picture was not within their human grasp, and in doing so were able to grasp the fact that this world would never be able to show them the completion of their faith – only the kingdom of God would be able to contain that promise, and that larger promise was the goal they sought to being in faith.
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:13-16
I do not know what God has asked you to do in faith, but I do know that He does not ask any of us to do things which will cut short His kingdom promises. God calls us to live by faith, to be thankful for our “tip of the iceberg” experiences we have the privilege to taste and see here on this earth. But, it is the rest of the iceberg we must yearn to see more than just the tip here on earth. That bigger vision is what gave the men and women from Hebrews 11 the faith to keep holding onto God and His promises. And it is the same vision that is given to each of us to hold us firmly in places where we cannot be deterred in our focus to seek God's kingdom above the lowly places we occupy on this earth.