by Allan Knapp
And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. ~ Hebrews 11:39–40
The familiar Hebrews chapter 11 is the “Hall of Faith,” describing great heroes of the Old Testament who believed in the One True God, knew that He would keep His promises, and made decisions and acted accordingly. Verse 1 defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Further explanations of faith are given in Verse 6: “Believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him,” and Verse 8, where Abraham is commended for following God, even when he did not see the path ahead.
In my recent study of Hebrews (guided by the recommended devotional Tabletalk), I was intrigued by the faith of Joseph. He is famous for his declaration of the sovereignty of God: “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good. (Exodus 50:20)” But his faith is commended in Hebrews 11:22 for remembering and believing in God’s promised land for His people, and asking his relatives to take his bones along when they go back.
Joseph could not have envisioned the twists and turns of history that would happen between his death and the Israelites crossing the Jordan – slavery, infanticide, plagues, miracles, wilderness journey – but he KNEW God would give His people Canaan. The Israelites must also have had some faith that such a thing would happen, because they kept track of a dead man’s bones for 400 years so they could haul them along as they exited Egypt and then bury them when they arrived.
Joseph’s story and the admonition to proceed even though unsure of the path ahead should influence our planning and our prayers. For planning, Proverbs 16:9 says “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Make your plans in accordance with God’s Word. When the twists and turns of life make decisions questionable and short- and long-term goals seem further away, pray, asking for wisdom for any needed adjustments. Exercise your faith by trusting that God is still with you.
Our prayers can be enriched by looking and asking for future outcomes for current situations. “O, Lord, we pray that six months from now, our brother will be through the surgery and back to work.” “Father, keep us strong in our faith and unity in you for the next several rocky months.” “Holy Spirit, we look forward to hearing of the many conversions you have been doing during this trying time.”
Being on this side of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we now know much more about the promised heavenly city that Abraham was looking forward to (Hebrews 11:10). John 14:2 tells us that Jesus has prepared for us rooms within the house in that city God has designed and built! The resurrection assures us of eternal glorious life with Jesus. We don’t know when it will happen, but we do know Jesus will return at just the right time. We can pray, “Oh LORD Jesus, please delay returning so that your mercy may be extended to all of your redeemed, but please Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus.”