I wrote this in November last year – and don’t know why I never published it! Obviously it was just waiting for now.
I’m now two weeks behind in Sunday School readings – sometimes, there are things to linger over. Thoughts and insights and connecting connections… I’ve just finished Hebrews, and took a long time especially over chapter 11, because it’s so interesting. How? Well, Abraham is really a fascinating figure. Hugh Nibley mentions some intriguing and inspiring things about him, such as that he would go out seeking for travellers and bring them back to his tents to care for them with food, rest, water, etc. – in an age when travelling was dangerous and people looked out for themselves to the point of robbing and killing strangers, not welcoming them.
Paul also speaks of Abraham in glowing terms, here and elsewhere in his letters. In Hebrews 11, he describes how Abraham dwelt in tents in a strange land because God directed him to, and he had faith in God and his covenant with Him. But he knew that the covenant related to eternal things as well as earthly. His concern wasn’t centered in where or in what circumstances he lived, but in the things of eternity – the true riches. His wealth didn’t bind him to possessions or power, but enabled him to bless those in need. And he gave it away freely. Paul says that he was looking for ‘a city with firm/solid foundations’ – not minding living in tents, like a nomad (constantly temporary dwellings with no solid foundation) – of which God is the architect and builder. This city (you can call it Zion) is our eternal home. By faith, Abraham looked towards it as a strength, a hope, and a promise, and endured whatever came on earth. (Verses 8-10)
We all are seeking a homeland, and that land isn’t found on this earth; we all are strangers and nomads here; ‘wanderers in a strange land’. We need to be here, of course – our earth is a wonderful and difficult place, and entirely necessary for our development. How we use the gifts of mortality has everlasting effects. But we also don’t belong here – we’re eternal creatures. This is not really our home, but our school. Like a boarding school. If we become too comfortable here, too attached to the things of this world – good, bad and indifferent – we will stop seeking our real home, the city Abraham and others sought, and we won’t gain it.
So, we need to see this life for what it is, through faith – believing in things that are invisible – or we will think that the things which are visible to us, here – the things of mortality – are all there is, and more real than the things which are invisible. This paradox which Paul teaches so often, of visible versus invisible things, is vital to understanding ‘things as they really are’.
All of the people used by Paul as examples of faith in this chapter, called of and covenanted with by God, died without receiving the fulfillment of those promises – but they died in faith. Their faith was in heavenly things, and the homeland they sought will be theirs – a better one than any earthly place we consider home. I feel deeply connected to my homeland, Australia. I love the eucalypts, the kookaburras, the ocean and hills and its unique nature. I feel belonging to this land, and its people and culture. I feel like it’s in my blood and bones. But the longing I feel for my eternal home – something I can only feel and not see – is also ‘like a fire shut up in my bones’, and I know its beauty and goodness transcends the homeland I have here. What we seek is truly ours, for eternity. This is God’s covenant: the promise of that reward, that homeland, from which we will never need to leave.