All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. Hebrews 11, verses 13.
Today’s verse is a powerful conviction of the human race and an even more powerful demonstration of the grace of God. It’s kryptonite to the world thinking of itself as Superman. It’s a grace bomb.
Up until now, the writer of Hebrews has mentioned Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham as paragons of faith. They were men who lived out what God asked them to do. They weren’t better than anyone else in their day; they weren’t better than you or me. They simply did a better job at putting all their faith in God. He said then they believed. They had faith that, if God said so, it would be so no matter what. No matter what it cost them (even their lives), no matter what had to happen in the world, no matter anything, if God promised something, it would be so. His word is more reliable than anything else. I’ll ask you to back up a bit and consider the unspoken implications of what the verse is really saying.
Faith in God is worth dying for because when you have faith in God you’re a stranger in this strange land.
God created this place to be perfect. It was perfect for a time, though we don’t really know how long Adam and Eve lived in Eden. God created Adam and Eve to be perfect and they were for a time, existing in harmony with God and the nature He created. In the Garden there was perfection and there was even evil. Yet Adam and Eve lived perfectly with evil present until they accepted evil’s lying proposition. After that, they (and we) embraced evil in corrupting the perfection of what God had created. As a result, they (and we) fell out of harmony with God and the perfection He intended for us.
Sin, evil, corruption, sickness, deterioration, death: those weren’t what the world was created for. They are the abnormalities that have overtaken the world and made the normal perfection for which it was created abnormal. We have become abnormal in a world that considers things truly abnormal to be normal. The way around all this dysfunction, this frustration of God’s good plan, is faith in Him. Putting our faith in God, in His Son, Jesus, changes the equation of abnormality back into one of true normality. Disharmony becomes harmony again.
And to have that harmony in full again, unless Jesus returns, we have to die for it. Loving Jesus fully means being willing to die for Him. After all, He died for us.
The world of hate that we inherited from Adam and Eve’s idolatrous rebellion thinks itself to be above God. The men cited here in Hebrews saw past that. They didn’t have the benefit of the knowledge of Jesus for Jesus wouldn’t be incarnate for thousands of years. Yet they still put their faith in this unseen God, trusting that He would redeem them from the hatred of sin. They put their faith in Him doing what they couldn’t. They hoped He would redeem them in this life, but trusted He would keep His promise whether in this life or the next.
My friend, Bill Brimer, likes to talk about ‘grace bombs.’ This is a big one. It dropped right in front of you and exploded in your face. Blew you away, in fact, with it’s power of love. The ‘you’ that revels in the sensuality of our world is paled by the ‘you’ who is better than all that. You’re better than all that because God re-made you to be better. He remade you by redeeming you even when you and I distrusted Him. His grace overcame our grudges. He exploded his grace in your face by being His Word, by giving His word, by keeping His word, by being Himself for us. All we have to do is believe because He does everything else and He does it because of love. He proved it to these biblical forbearers. He does it still. BOOM. Take that, wannabe Superman.
For further reading: Matthew 13:17, Genesis 23:4, Leviticus 25:23, Philippians 3:20, 1 Peter 1:17.
Lord, thank You for exploding Your grace in my face, for all You have done and do today.