By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. (Hebrews 11:8-12, ESV)
Has God ever instructed you to do something, the outcome of which you could not predict? You want to know what will happen. You want some guarantee that it will be good. Maybe fear of it not being good moves you to disobey God or question whether it was really Him telling you to do something. Surely He wouldn’t ask you to do something that could turn out bad.
The Hebrew congregation had embraced Jesus as Messiah but had experienced persecution for that. This, and other sufferings, made them wonder if they had made a mistake. But our author recalls for them the long journey of Abraham and Sarah toward the fulfillment of God’s promise. They left Ur of the Chaldees but stopped in Haran before finally making their way to the land of promise, to Canaan. They lived as nomads on land that was supposed to be theirs one day. They waited until it was impossible for them to have a child of their own even though that was promised them. They had a long time of not seeing the fulfillment of God’s promise but did not forsake the Lord.
And even when Isaac was born the promise that God had given them was not complete. They did not see the innumerable offspring God had promised. And they were still looking for a permanent abode, a city, beyond what they could conceive or experience in their lifetime. And so are we, the author of Hebrews is telling us.
God has designed a city for us. Like Abraham we are still looking for it. Life does not now provide the kind of shelter and stability we long for. The foundations of all we build are as feeble and fragile as our own lives are. We cannot compete with God when it comes to being a master builder. We can’t see it yet, but our hearts were made for this city and by faith we wait in expectation of its coming. Faith and hope have merged.
Hope is patience with the lamp lit.
[Tertullian, early Christian leader, A.D. 155-240]