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Read: Hebrews 11: 1, 2, 6, 8-10, 13-16
When did you last confess to someone that you’re not from around here, that this present world is not your home?
It requires a certain confidence to say something like that, doesn’t it?
And it reveals a certain type of heart too – a seeking heart, a heart that is looking forward.
We read in Hebrews 11:14 that people who say they’re strangers, aliens on the earth prove that they’re people who look forward (your version might say seek and the word actually means seek diligently).
And God is pleased with people like that.
So, God was pleased when Abraham said to his neighbours in the land of Canaan, “I am a foreigner and stranger among you” (Gen 23:4).
Why? Because, Abraham proved, manifested [the root word means to shine] himself to be a forward-looker, a seeker.
That’s the challenge I want to bring to you today: are you proving yourself to be a forward-looker?
Before we consider what Abraham was looking forward to, I want to show you the sequence I discern in Hebrews 11 so that you can see where this looking forward fits into that sequence.
The sequence I see is:
Promises: first, come the promises of God.
God promised Abraham land and offspring through which all nations would be blessed.
He’s promised us so many things; we’ve enjoyed thinking of some of those promises today.
He’s coming back.
We’re going to be with Him forever.
We’re going to be like Him.
In fact, when God promised Abraham, He did so on His own life (see Gen 15).
The Psalmist says a similar thing about the Lord Jesus - He swore to His own hurt and will not change His mind!
He has done that so that…
Certainty: we might have confidence in the promises.
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for (i.e. the promises).
Our modern definition of hope is a kind of unsure optimism, to wish for or expect without certainty or assurance.
In Scripture, hope is an indication of certainty: a strong and confident expectation.
And faith is the reasoned assurance which springs from that sort of hope.
“We know that” is a common expression in a number of the verses we will read this afternoon.
It expresses confident faith.
And that sort of faith does not stand still.
No, that sort of faith prompts us to…
Look Forward: we don’t settle down here; we don’t make ourselves comfortable.
We cannot, because we’re convicted by the reality of things unseen.
The promises are so close we can taste them and so we go after them with all our hearts.
We look forward to them, we seek them – and all the works of obedient faith in Hebrews 11 are bound up in this.
In fact, the patriarchs were not only looking for the promises, verse 16 tells us they were longing for them.
Other verses we will read shortly express an inward groaning, as we long for the consummation of God’s promises.
And here’s why it’s so important that we prove to be forward-lookers…
Commendation: the result of all this is the Father’s pleasure, leading to His commendation.
Reward: and, lastly, comes our inheritance of the promises, consummation, receipt of the reward.
You see why looking forward is so important then, don’t you?
It’s the evidence of saving faith – indeed, Peter speaks of the proof (not to God, but to ourselves) of genuine faith.
So, what should we be looking forward to?
I want to consider 3 things this afternoon:
the new home (the essence of which is our rest)
the new vision (our satisfaction)
the new body (our glorification)
The New Home – our rest
What was Abraham looking forward to?
In verse 10, it’s a city.
In verse 14, it’s a country, a homeland, a home.
To admit he was an alien meant that he had to be looking for a home.
You see, the need for home is so strong, it’s hard-wired in us, I believe.
Psychologists would tell us that a home answers to so many of our basic human needs – shelter, security, REST etc.
We can’t live without it!
Yet there’s a sense in which every human knows they haven’t found it.
We’re restless.
The home we crave eludes us.
God’s word explains that sense – it’s a corporate memory trace which goes back to Eden.
Way back in the beginning we see God creating home.
God prepared a place, He planted a garden in Eden – the first homeland.
It was a place in which all of man’s capacities would be supported and fulfilled.
In that place, man would flourish and prosper, displaying the glory of the God in whose image he’d been made.
Then, because of sin, it was all lost!
Man was banished from that homeland; sent into exile, to live in a foreign land!
So, this world can’t support our deepest needs; we were made for a home that we’ve lost.
The unfulfilled longing for home we all experience traces right back to our exile from Eden.
But with God’s promise to Abraham came the prospect of restoration.
God promised to give Abraham the homeland he’d always dreamt of.
But the promise wasn’t for now.
Even though Abraham was actually living in the very land God spoke to him about – Canaan – he recognized that the promise wasn’t for now.
We read:
They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance… Hebrews 11:13
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all died before taking possession of the land.
Yet Hebrews 11 records that their confidence in the promise was not in the least bit diminished by the approach of death.
They weren’t looking back to Mesopotamia, but neither were they getting too comfortable in Canaan.
They were looking forward to a better country, a heavenly one!
And in Peter’s second letter to the early Christians, he says:
But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:13
You see, the promise to Abraham is for us too!
God’s going to give us the home we’ve always dreamt of!
And like Abraham, we must be forward-lookers, since the promise is not so much for now.
Now, I wonder how you imagine our homeland.
Abraham didn’t know exactly where he was going when God led him out of Ur of the Chaldees, but he believed it existed; he knew enough to expect a city with foundations; and he knew enough to be confident that it would be a far better home than the one he had.
You see, to look forward to something, to long for it, you first have to know a little about it.
There’s no excuse for saying we know very little about it, because we have the greatest guidebook.
What this book reveals to us is not some sort of ethereal existence where we’ll be sitting on clouds, playing harps and communicating by telepathy.
The homeland we’re looking forward to is not just compensation for the home we never got to enjoy in this world.
Rather, in Revelation 21 we see heaven coming down and transforming the earth!
What we’re looking forward to is a restoration – we’re going to get the home we’ve always dreamt of!
I encourage you to explore the exuberance of the promises to Israel about the land they would inherit.
They’re promises of:
PROSPERITY: The land is called good and spacious.
A land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant (Deut 6:10-11).
A land flowing with milk and honey.
A land in which they would eat and be satisfied.
SECURITY: So that you will live in safety (Deut 12:10) with freedom from all your enemies.
REST: The Lord your God will give you rest by giving you this land (Josh 1:13).
No more striving to establish our name, to carve out a place for ourselves and our loved ones.
For Christ is preparing a place – for us!
Do you understand the significance of that?
It means rest from all our toil!
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