“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” – Hebrews 11:13
As the writer of Hebrews helps us examine the lives of faithful men and women, he shares stories of Abraham and Sarah and others that are named. The people he was writing to would know the stories. They knew how Abraham was promised to be the father of many nations through his son. They knew that Sarah would mother that child. But, if you do not know the story you would have missed the impact it had because it was said that Abraham was 99 and Sarah was 90 when Isaac was born. It seemed impossible, but they held on to the promises of God by faith.
In this verse, the writer of Hebrews shares these stories with purpose. To these patriarchs of the faith, the promises given were still far off but they did not know that. They lived in anticipation and expectation. God said it and they believed it and obeyed Him. Abraham obeyed by faith when he did not know where he was going (Heb.11:8-10). He obeyed when he did not know how God’s will and promise of a child would be accomplished (Heb.11:11-12). He believed when he did not know when God would fulfill His promises (Heb.11:13-16). Even though they never got to see the fulfillment of most of these promises, it has been said that “their telescopic vision brought the promises near, so near that they are pictured as waving at them with joyful anticipation.”
They were strangers and pilgrims in the land and never settled. Their hearts were set on a heavenly future and their desire was to pass through this world without taking on its likeness or characteristics. They looked ahead for the cross and never got to see Messiah physically, but they believed by faith. Today we look back at the same cross they looked forward to. Like them, we did not see Jesus die on the cross for our sins physically. However, as Christ followers, we must be assured of it, embrace it and confess it. They did that in faith and we must do the same. This is the writers point and exhortation to them and us today.
Today, nobody knows when Jesus will return and fulfill all of His promises. Like the patriarchs, we must wait in anticipation and keep busy while we wait. What about you today? Are you waiting in anticipation to be in heaven with Jesus? Is He still your first love? Are you keeping the cross of Christ in view? Be assured of it, embrace it and confess it believing by faith!
“Faith engages the Person and promises of God and rests upon them with perfect assurance – and of such faith we can never have too much.” – Tozer