Written by Janak B.C.
One of the key aspects of human survival is ‘Hope.’ I do not know how many of you would agree with me. But the fact is that the most vulnerable being in the world is none other than HUMAN BEINGS. Therefore, people are always insecure and try their best in some way or other to land on safe ground, no matter what price is to be paid.
As a result, we have also experienced the problems of terrorism, religious conflict, and corruption which are the dominant issues of this age. By saying this, I don’t want to lead you toward a pessimistic worldview. Rather I would begin with a question: “how would we respond to these issues from the Biblical arena?”
The author of the book of Hebrews is anonymous. However many readers believe it to be the work of Paul. The title doesn’t appear in any ancient manuscripts and, even if one agrees that Paul may have written it, he hardly has any prior claim to the authorship. Also, one cannot be certain about the date of Hebrews either; it is probably safe to assume that the book was written in the early eighties or soon after the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem by the Roman armies in AD 70.
One of the interesting things that we see in the book of Hebrews is that the Old Testament plays a dominant role throughout the book. Each chapter begins with an Old Testament reference or refers to Old Testament people or Old Testament concepts. Raymond Brown brings out five rich spiritual qualities in the lives of Old Testament personalities from the selected text, i.e. their confidence, witness, quest, discernment and security. However, I would like to approach the text in a slightly different way. Based on the read text I will be speaking on the topic “Christian legacy and the Missional Journey”
- 1. PROMISES OF GOD
Verse 13 begins with the position of kata. pi,stin at the beginning of the sentence. One of the interesting things that we can find here in the verse is that it doesn’t begin in a way that it has been used in the preceding verses! The dative form of pistin pi,stin, meaning ‘by faith’ is used eighteen times in Hebrews 11: 3-31. However the phrase Kata pi,stin ( according to their faith) is used only once in Hebrews. The author connects the early Christians with the patriarchs. The author very clearly signifies that the patriarchs had not acquired the promise, yet they could see it and they had it in mind. That’s what faith is all about. Therefore, it gives a clear sense of how the author defines faith in the early verses of chapter 11. It is an unseen substance! I know many of us are struggling with the quest for our future! We might not have received the answer yet. We might be in a dilemma concerning what we should do. I think we should see the heroes of the faith and emulate their faith in order to have hope and assurance of the future.
We can observe the trial of faith here: Firstly, the promises were not fulfilled in their life time, secondly, they could however see clearly that the promises would be fulfilled, thirdly, they were persuaded and believed the promises, and fourthly, they embraced them.
How do we check our faith? How do we articulate it? Can we say that, “Yes! God has the answers!”
Unfortunately, we don’t have eyes to see the promises which do not logically fit in with our understanding! There is one thing lacking in our academic intelligentsia– we downplay the heart of God in order to please the world. This is the great set- back of our Christianity. This is what we see in Europe and other western countries where churches are turning into museums and relics. Let us not forget that God is still looking for ….here and there…those who would hold onto the promises of God.
- 2. MISSION OF GOD:-
I mentioned in the first section how the Promises of God are what revive our wounded soul. I do not hesitate to say that it is the Promise of God which gives us the boost into the Mission of God. Patriarchs continued on in their mission that they would receive the promises of God. The writer of Hebrews clearly knew that the early Christians were on the verge of backsliding after the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem. Their hope of the Messiah’s return did not really seem to be sure. Who would give them justice and peace from the hands of the ever- present Roman Empire?
I raised the question earlier of how we would respond to the world’s problems. How would we see the promises fulfilled when we can’t even see what the promises are? Well! This is the secret of faith in that we have a hope which takes us beyond the state of the world to find the answers to the problems! Paul says in II Cor 1:10 that “we have set our hope on him that he will rescue”. In the same letter 3:12 says,” we have such a hope on which we act with boldness”. It’s hope that links the Promise of God with the Mission of God.
Andrew Kirk affirms in his book (what is Mission?) “The Church is because the Mission is.” Therefore, Mission is always active. How can we carry on in Mission if we don’t carry the promise of God with us? Jewish Christians were confounded with questions. The author comments on this situation, stating that our home is not here! “We are sojourners.” The end of verse 13 talks about strangers and pilgrims on the earth. (KJV). The Greek Bible says xe,noi kai. parepi,dhmoi “strangers and sojourners”. The source of this expression might be Gen 23:4 where Abraham describes himself as a temporary resident in the district of Kiriath Arba, without any civil rights. Whatever it may be, one thing is clear, and that is that Faith links the promises and the Mission and this very faith refuses to be silent. FAITH doesn’t limit its territory.
- 3. DESTINY OF THE MISSION
One of the profound meanings in the book of Hebrews is that it focuses on “Better Christ” and we are waiting for the BETTER COUNTRY. It is clear that their unsettled existence in Canaan provided enough room for returning to their previous land. But no! The promises of God helped them to carry on the Mission. Vs. 16 uses the verb ovre,gontai ‘to aspire to’, ‘to long for’. They were molded by a clear promise; longing for the promises…Headland calls it an Eschatological perspective. A perspective that would revive their hearts and minds. This also gives enough explanation why God is not ashamed to be called ‘the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob” Exodus 3:6.
Friends! Sometimes there are no answers to our questions! If we really want to know the answers, ask the Patriarchs and they would answer!
Ask Jim Elliot, who gave his life for the people of Ecuador. It seems to be foolishness! In fact it was foolishness in the eyes of the world but he knew that God’s promise would never fail. It would be better to be a fool for Christ sake than to be a prince in this world. Ask Fanny Crosby who was blind but could see God through the Promise. Ask Gladys Staines who lost her husband and two sons. After losing the treasures of her heart, Gladys could see the Promise of God and can greet Graham, Philip and Timothy with joy! That’s Faith!
In conclusion, I would like to leave these three thoughts with you and let us ponder upon this! One of the profound English writers G.K. Chesterton said that “The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul.” The problem will carry on… You will never see a problem- free world! But how shall we tackle this? Let the promise of God, the mission of God and the destiny of mission inspire us to take the right steps in the year 2012.
(This sermon was preached in the chapel at Union Biblical Seminary on 19th January 2012)
Republished in new layout 20-May-2013