Hebrews is one of my favorite books of the bible. It manages to link the Old and New Testament with such clarity. It is full of empowering declarative statements. My heart turns to a worshipful attitude and reveals new mysteries every time I read it. I just finished reading Hebrews 11. It takes us through many stories of the Old Testament demonstrating how God was revealed through people’s faith. Verse 4 says:
“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.”
God showed preference to Abel for his sacrifice which led to his murder. The first recorded act of worship led to the first recorded act of murder, and yet God showed his grace to Cain. Marking him with a warning for all others that harm should not fall on him.
The chapter continues to tell of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and the Israelites, all forsaking comfort for the unseen because of faith. Verses 13-16 says,
“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. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
Here it talks of a homeland. One they will never see on this earth. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” a company of men, elves, dwarves, and hobbits travel to destroy the most dangerous weapon in middle-earth, a magical ring. Frodo the Hobbit is the bearer of this ring. His goal is to destroy it so he can return to his home that will now be guaranteed safe. Ultimately he accomplishes this, but when he returns home he realizes he cannot stay. His journey changed him too much, and He must leave to the grey havens across the sea. He has been changed by his journey of faith, and must go someplace greater, and yet unseen.
In Hebrews chapter 11 almost every paragraph begins with “By faith…” go ahead and read the first sentence of each paragraph. Will our life story begin with “by faith…?” How are you moving by faith? Are you living for now or are you on a journey to “a better country.”
Isaiah 49:6 says:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
It is clear from the beginning Jerusalem was just a prelude, a model, for what God intended as a final destination.