In recent days I have been drawn to Hebrews Chapter Eleven; it is an old friend but perhaps a too familiar friend. I recall my excitement some 51 years ago when I first read this passage – I loved reading Hebrews 11 and Romans 8 aloud with their ending crescendos. I recall reading one of these chapters (I can’t recall which one, it may have been both), to my friend Tommy Parkman as we stood on a small bridge over a small creek in Rockville, Maryland. I was so excited about the message of both passages, and so excited about the way they were written. Both of these chapters were my early companions in the faith, alongside Mark 8:34 – 38, which I also loved reading aloud.
As I’ve pondered Hebrews Eleven these past few days I’ve realized that an element of my life has been too passive – this is a tension in following Christ; on the one hand we want to rest in Him, abide in Him, and to allow Him to live through us. However, mystery of mysteries, we are also called to “obtain promises” and seek the God who is a rewarder of those who pursue Him – to ask and seek and knock. Paul addresses this tension in Philippians 2:12 – 13: “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” As a Puritan prayerfully wrote, “By grace let my will respond to thee, knowing that power to obey is not in me, but that thy free love alone enables me to serve thee.”
I have fallen into the trap of reacting against an extreme, in this case it is the “Name it and claim it” approach to the Bible and God. As a result I have not pondered “faith” in the context of Hebrews Eleven as fully as I should have. Oh I am convinced we are strangers and pilgrims and that we should be seeking that city whose builder and maker is God – I am passionate about that and even more so in the current social and political environment in which I think that the professing church has lost its Biblical voice; but there are other facets of this passage that I have not explored, not meditated deeply upon – it is as if I’ve hurried through an art gallery from one end to the other, never contemplating the paintings, never allowing them to draw me into them.
An irony in this is that one of my passionate passages is Hebrews 12:1-3, I love preaching and teaching this passage and when I do I set it in the context of Hebrews Eleven – so the more I understand Hebrews Eleven the better my context of seeing Hebrews 12:1-3.
Lord, teach us to see the unseen.