Gracefully Truthful


Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

Hebrews 11:13-16

13 These all died in faith, although they had not received the things that were promised. But they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth. 14 Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they were thinking about where they came from, they would have had an opportunity to return. 16 But they now desire a better place—a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them!

The Original Intent

1) Who died without receiving what they were promised? (verse 13)

These all died…” without receiving the things they were promised! (verse 13) That’s a challenging promise, isn’t it? Yet to many Bible students, this chapter of Hebrews 11 has become known as Scripture’s “Hall of Faith.” In other words, these became famous for their faith.

These all” refer to those mentioned in the preceding verses: Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob. (verses 8-11) THESE lived as exiled strangers by faith. The writer of Hebrews began this section by rehearsing the faithful lives of these Old Testament characters. (For more study on these characters, see Genesis 12-35)

In previous verses, the author had been stressing to his readers the importance of actively living a life of faith. (Hebrews 10:35-39) This chapter begins by defining faith (verses 1-3) and giving examples of what it looks like in real life. These faithful saints all continued to live by faith, believing God would fulfill His promises to them.

I can only imagine how often Abraham and Sarah revisited the promise God made to them in the decades of time between “promise given” and “promise fulfilled”. (Genesis 17:10-14) In fact, the writer of Hebrews, inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16), gives a vivid description by saying these saints “saw them from a distance and greeted them.” They saw and greeted the promises they had received from a trustworthy God!!

Even though they died before receiving them, they trusted God would provide just as He always had. (Genesis 22:14) “The saints ‘embraced’ the promises. The Greek word signifies ‘salutes,’ as when we see a friend at a distance.” (Spurgeon, They were able to greet the distant promise with faith because they assuredly knew that their condition was temporary and their God was ever-faithful and trustworthy.

The Everyday Application

1) Who died without receiving what they were promised? (verse 13)

The term Hall of Faith is never used in the Bible. It is a title that has been used to describe Hebrews 11. It comes from the modern-day idea of the “Hall of Fame” which we find in the world of sports. One of the greatest honors of an athlete is to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. One of the remarkable things about it is the opportunity for fans to hear of the extraordinary athletes who they never saw play in their lifetime. In the same way, and of much more significance, is this chapter in the book of Hebrews.

God inspired the author to place these names on a list of people who HE wanted to be remembered for their faith. (verse 4) Reading the life stories behind these people, I’m shocked at the brokenness I discover. But God! He saw them differently. Oh, my sweet Sister, aren’t you glad? He has a perspective we don’t. He knew their hearts’ deepest desire.

Faith that is from God enables us to see the things not humanly revealed by our present experiences. This faith is perfected by God Himself. It’s not up to us, praise His glorious name!! We are broken people, but just like these, He sees and hears our cries for mercy. (Psalm 86)

A personal relationship with God begins when our eyes are opened to see His promises revealed in Jesus Christ. When we confess we are helpless to save ourselves, He welcomes our contrition and invites us to His heavenly dwelling, our eternal home. It’s a promise! (1 John 2:24-25) “O for the wonderful love He has promised for you and for me … Though we have sinned He has mercy and pardon for you and for me. Come home, come home … you who are weary come home.” (Softly and Tenderly, Will L. Thompson, pub.1880)

The Original Intent

2) What was the attitude of those who were seeking a different homeland? (verses 14-15)

The term foreigner in the Bible refers to a person who is just passing through. The verse describes them as “temporary residents.” These were willing to surrender control of their lives to God’s purposes and promises. They chose not to turn back to what they had left and known. Instead, they looked forward and believed God was faithful because He had proven to be so. Each of them needed to choose to trust God rather than go back to what they could see. This was the proof of their faith: continued hope amid the unseen. (verses 1-2) Their mantra had become “believing is seeing.”

We learn of the testing of Abraham’s faith in Hebrews 6:13-15. God had given him a specific promise after he obeyed God by offering up his son. Abraham trusted God to fulfill His promise by raising Isaac from the dead. (James 2:21-23, Genesis 22:16-18)

The author is prompting his readers to recall the history of faith in the Old Testament characters. He is also reminding them there is a history of faithfulness in their God. These could have returned to their homeland if they had been looking for an earthly inheritance. The living conditions “back home” were likely more developed than the place they found themselves wandering. I feel certain had they returned, their family and friends would have welcomed them with open arms. (Genesis 12:1-5)

But they didn’t go back because they were seeking a better country. A future one! There was a time Jacob fled to his familiar country, but he understood it was never to be his true homeland. (Genesis 30:25)

The Everyday Application

2) What was the attitude of those who were seeking a different homeland? (verses 14-15)

When you read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) you realize that not all who saw Jesus’ miracles in person believed in Him. When you talk to neighbors or coworkers, you’ll find the same to be true. Not everyone who hears or reads the eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ miracles in the Gospels believe in Him. Many wonder if something that can’t be proven is true?!

The story is told of a pastor who met three young boys and asked them, “Do you want to go to heaven?” The pastor was shocked when one of them answered, “No, not me!” The perplexed pastor asked, “You don’t want to go to heaven when you die?” The boy answered much like we might answer if we were honest, “Oh, you mean when I die. I thought you were getting up a group to go today!” Some of us may share those feelings about Heaven.

Someday, it would be nice to go there. We may say we long for heaven, but we don’t necessarily wish to change our address today! The author of Hebrews reveals the discomfort the saints of old had with this world. They didn’t completely comprehend what the future promise meant for them, but they had learned to trust the God who made the promises.

We can too, my friend! We can have confidence that God made us for so much more than we can imagine! (2 Corinthians 5:4-8)

The Original Intent

3) Why was God not ashamed to be called their God, and what makes that reality so essential to this passage? (verse 16)

When God appeared to Moses, He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (Exodus 3:5-6) Even though these were frail and sinful people, God was pleased to identify Himself with them. He had made them and envisioned a better future for them. (Isaiah 64:4-8) God’s mercy toward humanity, represented by these, is demonstrated in the many times He identified Himself as “the God of Jacob”, who was quite possibly the least exemplary of these! (Psalm 146:1-10)

God is not ashamed to be called their God, and “He has prepared a city for them!” (verse 16) The Creator God (Genesis 1:1) has a city crafted just for them, one unlike their temporary dwelling places. This one has foundationswhose architect and builder is God.” (verse 10) It is God who has worked for them. The pleasure of God was rooted in what He had accomplished.

The author of Hebrews explains in the next chapter how salvation began with HIM and would be finished by HIM, that is the LORD Jesus Christ! (Hebrews 12:1-2) “Therefore” signals the reason God is not ashamed. (verse 16) It was because these desired a better country, the city God had made ready for them. Their desire was pleasing to God, and they would be rewarded for their faith.

God had made a promise to them. He would certainly fulfill it. (Genesis 15:1) Their desire demonstrated their faith in His promise of a new city. (Revelation 21:1-4)

The Everyday Application

3) Why was God not ashamed to be called their God, and what makes that reality so essential to this passage? (verse 16)

Sister, do you SEE it?! Do you FEEL it? Do you KNOW it?! I hope you do. We can surrender our lives to Jesus knowing that one day it will be worth it. John writes in 1 John 3:1-3that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.”

Our hope in God’s promises reveal our faith in Him. The desire we have to one day look at the face of Jesus and spend eternity with Him MOVES the heart of God! Isn’t that incredible?!

Because of our faith, the faith HE has given us (Ephesians 2:8), He is preparing a place for us. He unashamedly calls us His own for He has forgiven us, redeemed us, and is shaping us to be like Him! Sister, it is our longing that points to the superior worth of what God offers compared to what the world offers.

While there are many questions we can’t answer about Heaven, we can know with certainty it will exceed all our imaginations and expectations. (1 Corinthians 2:9) The revelation to John talks of golden streets, walls and gates made of precious stones. (Revelation 1:1) God gave him a vision of indescribable beauty for us to gain a dim idea of how magnificent it will be.

The best part of Heaven, and what these understood, is that God Himself will live among His people. (Revelation 21:3) His glory will illuminate the earth as we dwell with Him. Hebrews says that these were not ever fully at home while they lived on earth. This is true for you and me, dear friend. We live on earth recognizing we will never fully belong and have yet to arrive at our destination.

But we live here with hope! This hope keeps us near Jesus, relying on His promise to hold us fast until the day He makes everything right and complete. (1 Peter 1:3-9)

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