by Joanna Harader
Scripture: Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. …
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised.Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”
All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.
This passage begins with words that may be familiar to you: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.” The hope here is not hope for material goods or even physical health; it is hope for our heavenly home; hope for the city God has prepared for us. So we have faith not in a god who will grant our wishes, but in the God who loves us so much that the Divine presence will be with us always. Our true home is in God’s presence, which is wherever we are — always. That is our faith. That is our hope.
We do not hold this hope foolishly or without cause. We hold this hope because of the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. This particular passage reminds us of God’s faithfulness to Abraham and Sarah. The full chapter of Hebrews 11 recounts God’s faithfulness to Abel, Enoch, Noah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, and a list of others. All of this leads into the familiar opening of Hebrews 12: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses . . .”
The witnesses have, of course, continued beyond the stories of the Hebrew scriptures into the faithful of the New Testament: Mary and Elizabeth, the twelve disciples, Mary Magdalene, the centurion, Mary and Martha, Paul, Stephen, the unknown writer of the book of Hebrews. And the witnesses continue to this day. Because of these witnesses, we know that we, like them, can live in the Divine presence. We, like them, can cling to the hope offered to us by God through Christ Jesus.
Questions to Spark Conversation
*What do you think of when you think about “home”?
*How is being in the presence of God like being at home?
*What is one of your favorite stories from the Bible about a person who was faithful?
*What is one of your favorite stories not in the Bible about a person who was faithful? (Maybe a historical figure or a relative or a church member or a friend . . . )
Look through a family photo album together and share stories about your family. Talk about the ways you have seen God’s presence in your life together as a family.
Sing together: Great is Thy Faithfulness
Holy God; Creator, Mother, Father of us all.
Thank you for being our home.
Thank you for the stories of faithfulness
we have in scripture and throughout history.
Thank you for the faithfulness you have shown to our family.
Help us to be faithful to you.
Grant us a deep hope and joy in knowing
that you are our home. Now and always. Amen.