So I was reading Hebrews 11 today. If you haven’t read it yet, you should read that first. Seriously. Go read it and then come back. Wait. I can add a link thing. Okay, click here. And then come back.
THE ORIGINAL THOUGHT
So here’s a recap. Hebrews 11 is the chapter a lot of people call the “Hall of Faith.” It’s the one about Abel and Enoch and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and Moses. The author goes through one person and then another and another, saying nice things and then moving on.
I kept wanting to tell him to slow down. He wasn’t giving Moses the credit he deserved; Joseph only got like two lines about him. Gideon took out a huge army with just a few guys and David was, well, David, and all they got was just a shout out. Really, if this author guy won an Emmy, he would give a really crappy acceptance speech. Doesn’t he know how much more space these guys deserve?
Then at the end of the chapter, he says there are more and more and more and more stories. He could probably fill a whole book.
I wish there was a whole book full.
But then I had two thoughts.
I thought of something John said when he was talking about his time with Jesus. He said that if he sat down to write out everything that happened, he wouldn’t be able to. There isn’t a single book in the world that could contain everything Jesus did and said.
And here, in Hebrews 11, it seems like the author is saying something similar about God. It seems like he is saying that God’s works cannot be contained. They can’t fit into a book or a chapter. They’re much too grand and beautiful and rich.
My second thought was who the main characters were.
The main characters in this chapter are not Abel or Enoch or Noah or Abraham or Isaac or Jacob or Joseph or Moses. I was upset that the author wasn’t focusing more on these men; I thought they deserved more than a few sentences each. However, I failed to recognize the author or the storyline. The author of the story, the story of history, is God, and the storyline is faith.
Faith is the keyword, the motivation. This chapter is not celebrating individuals for their individual greatness. It is celebrating faith. It is saying that we are each a part of a larger story. And not a cliché larger story like were all one or community. Those are too vague. Our larger story is a return home. It is Odysseus. Or Homeward Bound. Or the prodigal son. A story about people who are trying desperately to return home to where they truly belong. To the land that is more sure than our own, the land of milk and honey and divine contentedness.
THE FINAL THOUGHT (for now)
And the destination is made apparent in Hebrews 11. The author says a few times that these people of faith were striving for their heavenly home, that “they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (v. 16). He seems to say the tree I’m looking at as I write this or the wood table I’m working on are only brief, fleeting things compared to the kingdom that the Holy Spirit and Jesus and God have been building.
There is a fluttering inside the deep part of each of us. A beautiful fluttering full of longing. The author thinks this place, the earth as we know it, is not our home. It is our temporary home, but it is not our home. Our home is with God and without sin. And what gets us to this home is faith. That’s what got Abel and Enoch and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and Moses there. That’s what got my grandma there. And that’s what will get us there. Faith.
And just as the journey home is not vague, neither is the faith. The faith Hebrews 11 talks about is a faith in God. A faith that God sent his Son to die on the cross for our sins. A faith that the Holy Spirit is alive and active in the world, helping direct us to the better country we belong to. That kind of faith.