These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
The preceding verses leading up to our text refer to various old testament people who exemplified faith in God. Great people of faith such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah staggered not at the promises of God. They were able to persevere through great danger, suffering, and difficulty by embracing by faith their belief in the God of their lives.
Our text gives explanation, or the reason for including these various stories in the record. The defining point is that each of these people had a faith that “looked forward.” Though they did not have a clear view of how God would deliver, they by faith chose to trust in God and be obedient to His Word. (Heb 11:1-2)
Their faith perspective was eternal, rather than temporary. In other words, they could see afar off! They beheld themselves as pilgrims and strangers, people on the move toward a place and time in God’s order of things. (Hebrews 11:10)
I These all died in faith – That means that Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob, continued to believe, to the end of their lives, that God would fulfill this promise; but they neither saw the numerous seed, nor did they get the promised rest in Canaan.
In this verse, the writer of Hebrews informs us that those who truly believe in and trust God, life on earth is merely a temporary journey: “Faster than a weaver’s shuttle”, Job says.
“A vapor that appears for a while and then vanishes away” and a flower that grows from the ground and is cut down.”: and “as water that is spilt upon the ground that cannot be gathered up again.” So in effect, this world is not our home!
This is the kind of faith which allows us to trust God despite
1.Personal abuse, as did Abel (Hebrews 11:4)
2. Obey difficult and confusing commands, as did Noah
3. We can trust God to make good on His word, even when it seems as if He’s waited too long, as did Abraham and Sarah.
Strangers and Pilgrims = Strangers, ξενο, persons who are out of their own country, who are in a foreign land: Pilgrims, παρετιδημοι, sojourners only for a time; not intending to take up their abode in that place, nor to get naturalized in that country.
I wonder today, How many of God’s people use these expressions, and slogans, professing to be strangers and pilgrims here in this life, and yet the whole of their conduct, spirit, and attachments, seem to indicate that they are perfectly at home! How little consideration and weight are given to many of our professions, whether they relate to earth or heaven!
We must be reminded of a NT follower of Paul, who was a follower of Jesus, abandoned God’s will for his life, and aborted a life of servitude in ministry because he loved this present world!
The temptation to resist faith and only trust the here and now is a prominent trait of millennials and our present culture. But for the believer, the attitude of already, but not yet is a prescription for faith and power with God.
As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.
As pilgrims and strangers on our way to Heaven’s gate ofttimes we find ourselves in a desert place, weary and tired from carrying the load, exposed to the elements, and longing for relief. In the middle of that desert place, in the midst of the heat and pain, we find that God has prepared a watering place for us. This service today is a watering place for some pilgrim today. There is a refreshing drink of life-giving water that will never run dry.
That’s what happens when we sing about a land where we’ll never grow old. Its what happens when we sing, “There’s a land that is fairer than day. And by faith we can see it afar.” Its what happens in a believer’s spirit when he hears preaching about a home God has prepared for us. Its what happens when we hear a message about our glorified bodies. Its what happens when a message is given out, and the Holy Spirit gives us some good news from a far country, admonishing us to be strong, and keep the faith, victory is ahead
II. GOD WANTS YOU TO SEE (KNOW!)
All of us, are equipped with two sets of eyes. We have eyes of spiritual understanding, and physical eyes to navigate and perceive our world physically. The trouble comes when we confuse the spiritual with the physical. That will always be a problem, because “God dwells in a light that no man can approach unto.”
1 Timothy 6:16
Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath see, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.
That is why God’s dealings with us are called mysterious! His coming to us, and intermingling with us, teaching us, training us, role modeling for us, delivering us, healing all of our diseases, and pardoning all of our iniquities, and then commissioning us to continue in His place is all part of the mystery of godliness, and cannot be understood apart from faith.
1 Timothy 3:16
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
So then, we find ourselves in a favored position. Now we have an Intercessor, a Mediator, a Propitiation for us in Heaven. So much so, that we see through a glass darkly, but through eyes of faith we look to a far country and a future time when we shall know face to face.
For thus saith the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
16. For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.
17, For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, ad he went on frowardly in the way of his heart.
18. I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners.
19. I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD; and I will heal him.
20. But the wicked are like the toubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
21. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.
There was a time in a Garden called Eden that we were near to God. Our fellowship with Him was close and intimate. We walked with HIM and talked with Him in a close and personal way. But a slimy serpent slithered his way into the garden and appealed to the physical eyes of Adam and Eve, and pride caused them to disobey and forget their covenant with God. Because they failed to by faith choose the right and shun the wrong, we who once were nigh were made afar off.
Every man may see it; man may behold it afar off.
In theological terms, our juridical position was described by John Calvin as total depravity. We lost fellowship with God, and our sin disabled us to dwell in His presence, and could do nothing about our fall. So then, the separation caused by the original sin created a condition so catastrophic that we were estranged from God, and even called enemies against God. We were dead, lost, separated, condemned, hopeless, and afar off.
But thanks to an early scholar named Irenaes, what we lost in Adam, we regained in Christ. Restored fellowship and peace with God was accomplished by His death on the cross. That is the Doctrine of Recapitulation.
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God, by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
12. That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
13. But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
14. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
15. Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
16. And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
17. And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
18. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
III. GOD’S REMEDY
Redemption is God’s idea! His nature is love and everything He does is because of His nature. While we were dead in trespasses and in sin, God sent His son (Gal. 4:4) into the world to seek and to save that which was lost. So that we regained what we lost in Adam.
For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.
And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
So in Pauline theology we have been made nigh, or brought into right standing with God(righteousness) by obtaining peace through the blood of His cross and a better hope in Christ Jesus. That better hope encompasses all that God has promised for those who have accepted the sacrificial offering of Jesus and are justified by faith!
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,
16.Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
17. That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
18. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
19. And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
20. Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
21. Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
22. And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
23. Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
I want to inform you that God has little patience with those who exalt themselves with pride and arrogance. With stiffened necks they spew out their defiance of God, insisting on their own way, their own intellect and intuition. From such minded people, the Lord stands “afar off”
Psalms 138:6 Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off.
God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble!
But this “afar off” distance presents a chasm that must be spanned by eyes of faith; understanding which produces humility. Now we see through a darkened lens, and cannot understand the mystery of God’s dealing with us. O praise God, through the lens of faith and hope in the promises, we are able to remain focused and committed to things which now are afar off. By faith we can follow after the things of the spirit to give life while combating the things of the flesh that destroy faith and hope in Christ.
Yes there was a time when the disciple Peter followed the Lord “afar off”. Yes in Exodus 20 when God wanted to meet with His people, they stood “afar off” But God would have you know that He gives grace to the humble. The publican while standing afar off, said, “Lord Have Mercy upon me, a sinner.” Luke 18:13
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.
In second Peter the Bible gives a great list of virtues that should identify ever Christian. But through everyday life if not careful, we will become distant and away from God. The result is spiritual blindness, and no recollection of what God has done for you.
2 Peter 1:9
But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
If not living in a state of watching and waiting in readiness for the coming of the Lord, we may at some time find ourselves suffering from a spiritual blindness. We can see perfectly in the here and now, but unable to see “afar off”. All of our information is about this world, and this present time. We cannot see by faith into another dimension, and by this inability to see spiritually, we lose our appreciation for our salvation by grace through faith