“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.”- Hebrews 11:16 (ESV)
Our verse today records a promise that God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and many others in the Scriptures. He promised that He was “not ashamed to be called their God.” Wouldn’t we want very much for God to say the same to us; “I am not ashamed to be called your God?” This possibility is surrounded by one reason before and one reason after. Take the one after, first: “…for he has prepared for them a city.” This first reason is that God has worked for us by doing something for us. He made us a city — the heavenly city “whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). It is not the other way around. Now, consider the reason he gives in the front. It goes like this: “They desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.” The word “Therefore” signals that a reason has just been given for why God is not ashamed to be called our God. The reason is we desire a better country — a better country than the earthly one we live in. We desire a heavenly one where God is.
“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1b-2 (ESV)
We are to look to Jesus as the object of faith and salvation. Why are we to look to Him? Because He is both the Author and Perfecter of our faith. The word “author” is a term that means originator or even the preeminent example; it suggests that Jesus “pioneered” the path of faith Christians should follow. He also “perfected” the way of faith since He reached its end successfully. The term expresses the idea of carrying through to completion. It also might mean ‘maturity’ of the kind that is moral completeness. It is only in Christ that we find a faith that is perfect and it is only through Christ that that perfect faith become a reality for us. For those reasons, we live our lives in His and through Him our faith is perfect. On our own it is nothing more than daydreaming or wishing. We fix our eyes on Jesus and because of what he did, enduring the cross despising the shame He sits at the right hand of the throne of God. We are there too seated with Him (Ephesians 2:4-6) because God gave us a gift of faith which led to our salvation. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race…” – Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)
The word “therefore” is frequent in the Bible. When we come across it we find out what it is there for. This time it bridges a transition between Chapters 11 & 12 of Hebrews where is a list of deceased people whose lives witnessed the value and blessing of living by faith. The author of Hebrews is giving us reassurance that is drawn from the saints in the past who faithfully believed in the LORD God. We are encouraged to rid ourselves of sin because sin entangles us and inhibits our ability to live with endurance. We are all on a path that is a race of sorts, not against each other but against the wickedness of Satan who is set on causing us to stumble and fall and fail to reach our goal. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 3:13-14) explains this, and like him, we have a goal that we are straining forward to reach. A life pleasing to God. Therefore we are pressing on toward the goal God has set before us. Sin entangles us and misdirects us and causes us to miss out on the prize of blessings God has set for us.
“Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is impaired may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.” – Hebrews 12:12 (NASB)
The unusual visual of the language in our verse is drawn from a prophecy given in Isaiah 35. This is a picture of what will happen for the believers when the Lord comes again. The next sentence encourages those who are discouraged to ‘Be strong and don’t be afraid. This is a common experience – weak hands and feeble knees – especially as we get older. But even the young have weak faith and drooping arms with week knees. How are we to strengthen our hands and knees? Listen to the author’s encouragement as a coach. There is more of the race left to run, it is not the time to allow weakness and feebleness so, don’t quite yet. Take care to watch where we are walking and follow the path that is level. God will make our path straight (Proverbs 3:6). Throughout our lives we have choices of which paths we will walk. If we make sure to take the level path or to make our way level and straight, then all our ways will be sure (Proverbs 4:26-27). As we walk we are told to not swerve back and forth. No flip-flopping. And very important, let’s turn away from evil.
“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” – Hebrews 12:7 (NASB)
Discipline is a two-way street. Every true believer in Jesus receives opportunity to grow through the discipline God sends our way and thrive in spiritual growth, stronger faith, and increasing knowledge of God. Other’s buck against it and end up going the other way. They refuse to learn the lessons God gives them, causing them to miss the blessing and benefit. In times of adversity, says the author of Hebrews, keep in mind that all our setbacks come from God; He is training us in godliness because He has accepted us as sons and daughters in His eternal family. He wants the very best for us. The difficulties we encounter are blessings in disguise, for behind our difficulties stands a loving Father who is giving us what is best. As God’s children, then, we must always look beyond our trials and realize that God himself is at work in their lives training us to trust Him. Discipline that reproves teaches us to have character that is disciplined. It is a sign of God’s parentage of us. It is a confirmation God really loves us for whom He loves, He reproves and discipline. When disciplined, let’s repent and be zealous.
“Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” – Hebrews 9:28 (ESV)
It’s not over. One day it will be over but in the meantime, we wait with eager expectation. This is what the disciples did not understand at first. Even after Christ rose from the tomb and before He appeared to them , they were closeted in a locked room in fear for their lives. But Christ did appear to his disciples and many others over the next 40 days after His resurrection. On the Mount called Olivet, Jesus promised them that He would send God the Holy Spirit to dwell in them. And, to remind them of all He had taught them. He charged them with their mission to spread the news to all people. Jesus had come from heaven to earth taking the form of a human and lived a perfect life and when He died, our sins, laid on Him, caused God to forsake His Son for a time. Jesus was despised, rejected, pierced, crushed, and killed. We remember, however, that all this was according to God’s plan for us so that we can have eternal life. He left but He is going to come back a second time. That is when it will be over.
“…so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to hold firmly to the hope set before us.” – Hebrews 6:18 (NASB)
“A promise is a promise” we say because just a promise is sometimes not enough to convince others that we are true to our word. We find the need to double down on our promise to tell the truth and not lie. This is because we and humans in general have a history of being untruthful or not fully truthful at least. So our oath when sworn in to testify in court is “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” An oath puts an end to all arguments, so there can be no argument about the expectation of truth. God promised Abraham He would make him a great nation, He then confirmed it with an oath by swearing by Himself. As heirs of the promise we know they are for us as well. When we find the promises from God and trust them – at least we should because God’s promises are underscored by two things. First is it impossible for God to lie; second, His ever truthful Word is supported by His promise sworn on Himself. We have hope in every promise of God. We can know it is real and true.
“But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Hebrews 9:26-27 (ESV)
What happens to us when we die? Does anyone know? This is a question that concerns many people. We know there is a destination for all. We know Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life that will get us to God. With the truth we have in these verses, the realities of what is to come in our after-life, come into focus. We humans are sinful creatures. We were born in that state and we all are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. That is a promise we need to take very seriously. Have we believed in the only way to God? If not our destination is eternal death. If yes, we trust in the fact that Christ was sacrificed once to take away our sins and the sins of all who believe. We can notice the word “once” and what it tells us. It emphasizes the finality and the singleness of Christ’s sacrificial work. The law that Christ came to fulfill stood in contrast as the Levite Priests repeated their sacrifices over and over. We also note the promise that, the “once”-sacrifice of Christ compares with the “once”-death of each person.
“Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Hebrews 13:13-14 (ESV)
Surely it is not wrong for us to think and talk about heaven. I’d like to locate it, and find out all I can about it. I expect to live there through all eternity. If I were going to dwell in any place in this country, if I were going to make it my home, I would inquire about its climate, about the neighbors I would have, about everything, in fact, that I could learn concerning it. If I was soon going to emigrate, that is the way I would feel. Well, we are all going to emigrate in a very little while. We are going to spend eternity in another world, a grand and glorious world where God reigns. Is it not natural that we should look and listen and care about who is already there, and what is the way there? In the Revelation the Apostle John describes what was shown to him. “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Revelation 21:2 NASB) This city that is to come is promised and marvelously described for us in Revelation 21:22-27 (NASB)
Thanks in part to: A Living Daily Message From The Words of D. L. Moody selected by Emma Moody Fitt, Copyright, 1900, by Fleming H. Revell Company, now in public domain.
“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15 (NASB)
Each one of us who believe that Jesus is the Son of God and our Savior have a sacrifice we can offer up to God. During the days before Christmas we hear about the angels who sang praises to God when Jesus was born. We know that angels do sing praises to God in heaven and the Bible urges us to sing His praises too. That is the message of our verse today. The reason the angels keep singing praises to God is because they know how great and wonderful He is. The more we know about our Lord, the more we will want to praise Him. Let’s be careful during these days of activity before Christmas that we do not let the lights and the beauty of decorations distract us and cause us to forget God’s greatness and His love for us. As we sing carols of praise and thanksgiving, let’s be sure to remember to really praise our God with all our hearts. It is a wonderful time of the years to continually offer our sacrifices. Let’s make our time of truly praising and thanking God for His wonderful gift of Jesus and eternal life.