The Faith of the Patriarchs: Hebrews 11:13-16
13 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. 14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
When we look at verse 13, we see the word “these.” What does this word mean? It is talking specifically of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–the patriarchs of the Jewish people. It could also include Sarah since verses 11-12 just discussed her. None of these patriarchs ever saw the fulfillment of God’s promise, yet they believed. I love the words that God uses to describe their faith. They were “persuaded of the promises,” and they “embraced them.”
Many of us are persuaded of the promises that are left us in God’s Word. We have believed and put our faith in Christ to save us from our sins. But do we embrace the promises? Here are a couple definitions of the word, “embrace” which could be used to help us understand how readily these patriachs believed and how deep their faith really was:
to take or clasp in the arms; press to the bosom; hug
to take or receive gladly or eagerly; accept willingly: to embrace an idea
Again, have we “embraced” God’s promises to us? Do we eagerly latch on t0 His promises and do not let circumstances cause us to waver? If we do waver, do we get back up in faith, confess our sin, and go on trusting that God will keep His Word? When we look at the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we see that they did have moments of doubt and unbelief; but that did not characterize their life. We see that when they were rebuked, they did not turn away from God’s promises but that they continued on in faith.
Do we have the same mindset as these patriarchs that we are just pilgrims and strangers? That we will never fully fit in, and we are looking for that heavenly city? Verse 15 points out that they could have returned to the country they came from if they had desired to, but that they did not because they kept their focus on their heavenly home.
In this devotional, I feel like I am making broad generalizations and that many people will not feel the way I do; but I think that many times I am keeping one foot in this world with only a 50% focus on my heavenly home. God has not called me to leave my home and wander around with the promise that eventually he will give me the land I am standing on. Most of us have not taken such a big step of faith as these patriarchs, and in our busy world with so many distractions–many of them good and necessary distractions–it is easy to lose our focus. To remember that we are pilgrims. To get busy with our earthly homes and problems and to get sucked into this world’s philosophy and system and to forget what our priorities should be!
The only way these patriarchs were able to live with the difficulties that they encountered was because they always believed the promises they had been given. They did not lose their faith; they kept their eyes on the ultimate goal. Most of us will experience some grave difficulties in our lives. Loss will come our way; grief will overtake us. But we can still have victory and hope and even joy–if we remember we are just pilgrims. That one day we will go to a better country where God has prepared for us a city!
Because they kept this perspective, they finished their life strong. They “died in faith.” They died as they had lived. I want to finish strong. When I reach that better country, I want to hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” We know these patriarchs heard that, because God commended their faith in the written Word of God. How did they die in faith? Well, they lived in faith every day. If we want to finish strong, to die in faith, then we must daily live our lives faithfully resting in God’s promises.
LIVING FAITH WILL GIVE US DYING FAITH!
My favorite quote for these verses:
Spurgeon’s devotional from Morning and Evening – “These all died in faith.”
Behold the epitaph of all those blessed saints who fell asleep before the coming of our Lord! It matters nothing how else they died, whether of old age, or by violent means; this one point, in which they all agree, is the most worthy of record, they all died in faith. In faith they lived-it was their comfort, their guide, their motive and their support; and in the same spiritual grace they died, ending their life-song in the sweet strain in which they had so long continued. They did not die resting in the flesh or upon their own attainments; they made no advance from their first way of acceptance with God, but held to the way of faith to the end.
Faith is as precious to die by as to live by.