I believe I mentioned in a past blog that I have been working on memorizing Hebrews 11. This week I have completed my goal. 40 verses. And through the process, I have gained intangibles that I believe will produce fruit for the rest of my life.
For one thing, this one chapter has cause me to consider the application of faith not just in my own journey but in the journeys of those mentioned in the text. Abraham, Enoch, Moses, Noah, Joseph, Abel, Isaac, Rahab, Sarah, Jacob, and many more. A lot of big hitters in that text. And those whose journeys were specifically mentioned had a couple things in common.
They did what was asked of them, even if it didn’t make a whole lot of sense at the time. They were told to build an ark, move to a land that was promised but that they had no possession over, sacrifice their only offspring through whom their promised descendants were supposed to be reckoned…
And they never received the promises made them in their lifetimes.
Cogitate on that for a minute.
“They were stoned, sawed in two; their lives were taken by the sword; they went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted, and mistreated-the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in the deserts and mountains, in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what was promised them.” Hebrews 11:37-39
I won’t lie. This depresses me a bit.
But it also humbles me to the core. Who am I to complain about the inconveniences in my life when these people experienced all horrible things to provide the experience of faith for their offspring?
Verse 40 renders explanation. “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”
What does that mean?
I looked it up in a the Amplified version, as I had been doing my memorizing in the NIV. And it says for verses 39 and 40, ” And all of these, though they had divine approval by [means of] their faith, did not receive the fulfillment of what was promised, Because God had us in mind and had something better and greater in mind for us, so that they [these heroes and heroines of faith] should not come to perfection apart from us [before we could join them]”.
Ok, so this gives a more expanded concept, and it reminds me that God doesn’t see the timeline JUST in order. He sees it in ALL order. Ever looked at something from the front and thought that was all there was to it, but then when you took a step to the right or left you realized there was much more dimension than what you originally saw?
I apply this concept to Hebrews 11. These people and what they lived look to me (from the front view) as birth, life, and death. They were born. They lived and received promise, they walked out their faith, and then they died before receiving what was promised. To that construct, the lack of fulfilled promises is discouraging to me. But when I step a bit to the side, I can begin to wrap my head around the concept that God’s perspective is not only linear, and the complete fulfilled promise was that we all partake of His promise of everlasting life. Not only that, but I can see that God, back when He was directing these saints, had me in mind…
Abraham and Sarah’s promise that their descendants would be numerous as the stars and grains of sand is still being fulfilled. Had Abraham and Sarah not had faith that God WOULD fulfill the promise he made, we would not be reaping the benefits of their faithfulness now. What about all of the saints referenced in this text? They were given promises that are still, today, being played out. The deaths of those who were fighting for the Gospel to reach all peoples were not in vain. The promises are still being walked out. And those promises have become ours.
Another thought occurred as I contemplated this. If God were to say to Abraham, “Hey, how about I send you back to where you were in the promised land, and instead of coming home at the point of death, you can just hang on there until I finish fulfilling the promise I made you?”
I’m guessing Abraham would be like, “Uh, well, if it’s all the same to you, Yashuea, I will stay here in heaven with You. I’m good.” Why in the world would he want to stick around for the fulfillment of a promise, when he had the option of heaven. And ultimately, heaven really is the promise fulfilled for those who serve God, right?
So in thinking this way, I have to rethink my understanding of my Dad’s promises to me. Sometimes He makes me promises that He fulfills in my life immediately. His Word houses promises throughout that I find occurring in real time in my life. “I will never leave you or forsake you,”(Hebrews 13:5) is one that comes to mind. That is a promise he renews each day I’m alive and I find it answered as I drift off to sleep every night.
But there are other promises that are, perhaps, generational. And they take much time. I truly believe that the promises given the saints in Hebrews 11 are now mine, and every generation of saints hands off the baton to the next. We all share in those big monumental promises of God. We all contribute. We run our race, and we have faith that even if we do not see the end result, God will not waste us. He will use us for the fulfillment of promises. And that is where faith becomes very active for us.
Because we are so finite, we tend to think the best promises are the ones that we see fulfilled in our lives. They are wonderful, and God loves to give to us, but the promises that matter the most are those we contribute to, I think, rather than the ones we see only for ourselves.
If you have not spend time memorizing scripture, I encourage you to do so. Just a verse at a time. It will have a profound impact on your walk that will ripple throughout the moments in your journey. This section of scripture has been a game changer for me. It is massive in warfare. It has given me hope. It has bolstered my endurance. It has expanded my theology, and it will continue to educate me long after I move on to other scripture.