Welcome back to our study of the book of Hebrews, today we’ll be looking at Hebrews 8: 8-16, the discipline of waiting. Once again, we need to recall the background to this letter. It is within this context that we must look at the passage. The writer is addressing believers of Jewish background under persecution. They were weary and were probably asking themselves when God would rescue them. So the following section is mainly going to talk about the discipline of waiting patiently on the Lord even when it seems as if He has forgotten. To illustrate his point, the writer is going to mention Abraham and two other patriarchs ( Isaac and Jacob), as well as Sarah.
The Discipline Of Waiting
The Passage: Hebrews 11: 8-16
8 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. 9 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. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 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.
13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
- Verse 8
We need to remember that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. We’ve talked about this in the previous presentations. It is God who produces faith in His saints through His word, as He promised in Isaiah 55:10-11,
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Now let’s look at verse 8. The call of Abraham began in Genesis 12:1-3. When God spoke to Abraham, he obeyed by faith for the word of God worked in him and accomplished the purpose for which it was sent; Abraham didn’t know where he was going but packed up his belongings and his entire household with his nephew Lot included, and left. In the same way, God has promised that Jesus would return and one day will take us home to Him. So as believers we look forward to His return and wait patiently, the writer is going to elaborate more on this point in verses to come. He is only setting the stage for some exhortations.
- Verses 9-10
Canaan was the land of promise yet when Abraham and his household migrated from Haran to Canaan, the land had not yet been given to him as God had declared. So Abraham lived in Canaan as in a foreign land even though it was the land of promise. And his immediate descendants, Isaac ( his son ) and Jacob ( his grandson) who were the recipients of the same promise, also lived in the same land in tents. What’s the point the writer is trying to make here? Living in tents is an indicator of a nomadic lifestyle, not being settled. Abraham and his immediate descendants ( Isaac and Jacob) were given the promise of inheriting the land of Canaan yet they lived a nomadic lifestyle. Meaning, the promise hadn’t been fulfilled yet or else they would have been settled. But the scripture tells us why they lived that way. They could’ve complained to God yet because of what they were looking forward to, Scripture tells us that they gladly embraced the nomadic lifestyle. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were looking forward to the heavenly city of God, they were looking forward to being home in heaven with God. As a result, they weren’t bothered with the prospect of living as nomads. Because they were convinced according to the Scripture that their true home was the city of God Himself, where HE dwells. So the writer is conveying to his readers and us as well that we must emulate Abraham’s faith. It’s easy to seek for comfort and ease and settling in our earthly life but as believers , our true home is an eternal one built by God Himself. So the antidote to seeking comfort on earth is keeping our eyes on the heavenly city of God. Or else, we’ll be miserable. And that’s the point the writer is trying to make to the congregation he was addressing.
- Verses 11-12
The writer abruptly shifts his focus from the patriarchs to Sarah. It seems as if there is no connection between his earlier remarks and Sarah but there is. We need to remember that his main point in this section is “waiting patiently”. Abraham was told that he was going to have a son. He and Sarah had to wait 25 years for the fulfillment of that promise. I want you to pause for a second and think about the prospect of waiting 25 years for a promise to come to pass. We live in the world of microwave, high speed internet. We want things to get done, and done quickly. In God’s economy, it seldom works in that manner. Scripture tells us that Sarah was past the age of child bearing yet by faith she received power to conceive. We are also told that she considered God faithful who had made the promise. Why is this verse so important? The child of promise, Isaac was born because of the Word of God, Sarah was able to give birth because God enabled her womb to bear a child when according to the laws of nature, she was past the age of childbearing. This was to show the power of God and His word. By faith, Scripture tells us that Sarah considered him faithful who had promised. She believed God for the word of God worked in her to that end. But she had her share of failures, in her impatience she led Abraham into sin by giving her servant Hagar so she could have a child by their union. She misinterpreted the Word of God but God still fulfilled His promise in spite of humans’ failures ( in this case Abraham and Sarah). This isn’t to encourage us to sin but to remind us that even when we fail, God is able to restore us the same way HE restored Sarah.
I believe the writer was trying to encourage those believers who probably began to doubt the Word of God in their life. Abraham and Sarah had to wait 25 years ( those years were packed with action, even Abraham almost interfered with God’s plan a year before Isaac was born when he lied about Sarah being his sister in Egypt, and Pharaoh almost committed adultery with her). Waiting isn’t without trouble but God strengthens His saints in the process. Verse 12 tells us that as a result of Abraham and Sarah’s faithfulness in waiting, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. God eventually fulfilled His promise to both Abraham and Sarah in His own appointed time and the same goes for the readers the writer was addressing and us today.
- Verses 13-16
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob never inherited the promised land themselves, but Scripture tells us that they received the promises from afar. Let me pause for a second and let’s think about this. Let’s go to Genesis 15:7-20. We read the following words in verse 18-20
On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give[c] this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”
God declared to Abraham after making a covenant with him that to his offspring He gave the promised land. Abraham in that way along with Isaac and Jacob greeted the promises from afar. But more importantly as Scripture tells us, as much as they received the earthly promises from afar, they were looking forward to the city of God in heaven. Their nomadic lifestyle as we saw in the previous notes didn’t bother them because they knew they were exiles on earth, seeking their true place of rest ( the city of God). So life on earth for them was just a temporary passage to their true destination, they were looking forward not backward. They desired a better country, as Scripture tells us, a heavenly one where God Himself dwells and has built. And as a result, God is pleased to be their God because what these saints were after was the city HE had prepared for them. They weren’t hung up on the earthly temporary benefits but their minds were focused on the city of God. Let’s go to Colossians 3:1-4,
3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your[a] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
and Matthew 6:19-21,
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[a] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The writer is giving us the cure against seeking ease, comfort and pleasure on this side of eternity. There is nothing wrong with wanting a house, a family or a comfortable life , but when these earthly goals eclipse our desire for God then there is a problem. The writer’s congregation were seeking peace from all their troubles and there was nothing wrong with that. They were being persecuted, so there was nothing wrong with seeking relief, God tells us to cast our burdens upon Him because He cares for us. But the problem was that some of them began to shrink back to old habits and were drifting from the word of God and neglecting the great salvation that awaited them. In that way, their patience/waiting of the Lord was affected and the writer’s objective was to get them back on the right track.
Where do you stand? Where do I stand in this matter? Have you or I been so consumed with the things of this earth that our taste for the things of God have died. This is a call to examine ourselves.
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