Meditations on ‘Focusing Faith’ : 11. Expectancy
Heb 11:10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
In verse 9 the writer to the Hebrews had almost made a point when commenting that Abram lived in tents. He was a nomad of no fixed abode. We noted in that previous meditation that he travelled through the country, either unsure of where he should be or searching for something better. And that summarises how life so often is for us, we are unsure where we should be and searching for something better.
Our motivations may be varied. The person who constantly wants a bigger and better house, car or job may just be an insecure person who needs this sort of thing to make them feel worthy. They want to be looked up to and therefore they have to climb constantly upwards. But for other people there is this same sense of ‘something more’ but that is all it is, a sense that out there, there is yet something more.
It is the tension of the Christian life, having a sense of contentment in all that God has provided for us, yet also a feeling that there is yet more to come. No more is this so than when we are confronted by a situation that could either stay the same of we could seek God for something better and then have to step out in faith for it. Because we know that God has always got something more, there will always be this almost subconscious feeling of what should I be reaching out for?
Yesterday’s meditation was all about expectations and this is really just a continuation of that. We saw, “By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.” Not only was Abram a tent dweller, an alien in a foreign land, but so were Isaac and Jacob. They all had the promise that one day this land would belong to them, a place where their descendants could settle and built permanent dwellings. Of course when you put a lot of dwellings together you have a city, thus he now goes on to speak of Abram looking forward to a city, a place of settled permanence in contrast to the tents in which the patriarch lived.
But there is more to it than that, he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” The fact that he describes it as a city “with foundations” suggests that this is more than physical foundations but a place whose origins go right back in history. This is a city built by God for people. From Exodus onwards the Bible shows us God working to create a special people, a people who stand out in the world, a people who will reveal Him to the rest of the world, a people who are all the same, God’s people, relating to Him, drawn together by Him, all showing something of His character within them.
Later on the writer will say, “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Heb 12:22-24) It is a place where God, His angels and His people dwell together and it is possible because of all that Jesus has done. It is something clearly in the back of his mind for still later in the book we read, “And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” (Heb 13:12-14) i.e. Jesus was executed on the Cross outside the city, a sign of their rejection of him; thus we too are to leave the place of our habitation in the world – the old Jerusalem – and join him in the world’s rejection because any experience of community here in this world is temporary but the real community of God’s people is still yet to come in its fullness. We have a form of it now but the fullness is yet to come.
We see this in John’s vision in Revelation: “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away…. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” (Rev 21:2-4,10) God has on His heart a new community of His people who will dwell with Him in eternity and it will be a community where there will be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain.”
That is the ‘something’ each of us finds deep within up. Solomon wrote, “I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Eccles 3:10,11) Every human being has something inside them that yearns for more. The person who encounters the Lord, as Abram had, finds in them that this becomes crystallized into a yearning for fellowship with the Lord or a community in which the Lord resides in eternity. Why? Because we now have the Holy Spirit indwelling us and He conveys to us the longing or end goal that that Lord has on His heart for us. Thus when we encounter the Lord by faith (as we all have to as Christians) then we find this yearning within us that comes from the Lord, for a city, a stable community of God with His people that we will eventually experience at the end or outworking of His plans for us. The more we sense Him the more the experiences of community today will feel inadequate; like Abram we will sense something better with the Lord than we have today. It is all part of the faith package.