Hebrews 11:8–10, “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.”
The Christian faith must be a lifelong possession. If we do not endure in faith over the course of our lives, we show that we never really had true faith to begin with.
Living by faith is not easy. We wrestle with difficulties that might lead us to question our hope. We need encouragement to maintain our profession, and we find it in the pages of God’s Word.
In Hebrews 11, we find special encouragement to remain in faith. The examples of the saints of old who continued in faith despite never receiving all of the promises (Heb. 11:13) motivate us to trust God as we wait for Him to bring all things to final consummation.
Throughout the New Testament, the life of Abraham is held up as the example of faith par excellence. Thus, we are not surprised to read about Abraham in Hebrews 11. This Abraham, we are told, “went out, not knowing where he was going” (Heb. 11:8).
The reference in this verse is obviously to Genesis 12:1–3. At first, God calls Abram (later “Abraham”) to leave Ur but Abram is not told where he is going. We are eventually told that God led Abram to the land of Canaan (12:5), but Abram does not know this at first. Nevertheless, Abram faithfully trusts God and obeys. John Owen says that “Abraham wholly committed himself to the power, faithfulness, goodness, and direction of God without having the least encouragement about the place he was going to.” Persevering faith trusts God to direct us even when we may not know where He is leading us.
In his lifetime, Abraham did not inherit the Promised Land. He lived as a stranger in Canaan, dwelling in tents because he had no land of his own (Heb. 11:9). We are told that he could do this because he was looking forward to the city whose builder is God Himself (v. 10). Even Abraham knew that Canaan was not the ultimate end of God’s promises. He understood that it only pointed forward to the heavenly country that was, and still is, yet to come (v. 16).
Today, we who are the children of Abraham by faith (Gal. 3:7) live as strangers in the Promised Land (see Lev. 25:23). We will inherit the whole earth when Jesus returns to bring the city built by God (Rev. 21). Until then we, like Abraham, must continue trusting God to direct us, to provide for us, and to bring His creation to renewal.
Jesus is our ultimate example of one who lived as a stranger in the Promised Land. By dwelling (or, “tabernacling”) among us (John 1:14), He became the ultimate example of the one who lived in tents in the land that was, by all rights, His. Read through the Gospels and let Jesus’ trust in the Father encourage you to trust Him as well.