THE CITY PREPARED FOR THE PARTRIARCHS (Hebrews 11:13-16 continued)
We are concerned in this little paragraph with what the writer states in Hebrews 11:16b, “for he hath prepared for them a city.”
This subordinate clause states the reason why God is not ashamed to be called the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It speaks of a Divine preparation which is of such a nature that is behooves God to be called with the surname: God of Abraham etc. We do well to inquire into the meaning of this clause under consideration.
The question is whether the verb “hath prepared” (Greek: “eetoimasi“) refers to the actual finishing of the city historically or whether it refers to a city which God has preordained to be inhabited by the numberless throng of Abraham’s spiritual seed, the church of God. After some study and reflection we are of the conviction that this clause expresses the completed act of God’s preparation in his counsel. This is evident from the current usage of the verb “hath approved” when used to refer to the outgoing works of God in Scripture. Thus we read in I Cor. 2:9 where the apostle Paul quotes Isaiah 64:4. The apostle, quoting form the Septuagint Version, writes “the things which eye hath not seen, and ear hath not heard, and hath not risen in the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them who love Him.” What is he here proving from this Scripture? He is asserting that the Christ, the Lord of glory, was crucified by the hands of evil men. They were not aware of the deep import of what they were doing. It never entered into their heart that they were nailing the Lord of glory to the accursed tree. Had they known this they would not have crucified Him. But now we begin to see the things which God prepared for those who love him. God is here uncovering, revealing that mystery which had been completely hid but which is now revealed by the Spirit. God had prepared a “good” in the Lamb which is slain from the foundation of the world. Besides, we ought to notice that Jesus tells us that to sit on the right hand or on the left hand of Christ is determined by God, prepared of my Father in heaven. (Matt. 20:23) And in the last day when the Son of Man shall come in his glory with all the holy angels . . . then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
Wherefore we hold that here, too, the term “prepared” refers to this preparation of the city as God has it in His counsel of peace, in readiness for the heirs of the kingdom of heaven. And in view of this city and all the inhabitants which are elected before the foundation of the world in Christ, God is not ashamed to be called historically and to all eternity: the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the God not of the dead but of the living!!
THE FAITH OF SARAH (Hebrews 11:11, 12)
The discerning reader will have noticed that we by-passed these two verses in our former essays. We did not tarry to interpret this passage when finished with the foregoing verses concerning Abraham’s sojourn in faith, but went on to the verses 13-16 to see the deep motif of these patriarchs in their pilgrimage, Now we must return to see what the writer has to tell us concerning the faith of Sarah, the wife of Abraham, the mother of Isaac in whom the Seed is called.
It will become abundantly evident that Sarah has the same faith as all the elders had, who walked in faith and obtained a good report. Also here faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Faith ever deals with two things: the things hoped for, and the things not seen. Here, too, we must remember that without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing to God. No one can place his life as a sacrifice of thanksgiving upon the altar of God without faith.
And Sarah also is another example of the faith which we need to press forward unto the salvation of our souls. That is the intent of the writer. The readers must not fall back into the unbelief of Jewry, who call Jesus accursed, and count the blood of Christ a common thing. Since we have a great high priest and have boldness to enter into the holiest of all, we must draw near with true hearts in the full assurance of faith!
Sarah has the singular place of being a mother by faith. The text says “by faith even Sarah herself.” She is one of whom it would never have been thought that she would be a mother of children. For the fast notice which we read concerning her is that she “was barren; she had no child.” (Gen. 12:30) She became a mother “by faith.” God wrought a miracle in her “by faith.” She pleased God by faith. The power which transformed her was by faith. And from so very little, yea, from nothing came a multitude as the stars of the heavens for multitude. Don’t ask me to explain this wonder of God. God’s ways are past tracing out. Here in the nether parts of the earth (poetry!) Isaac was formed in a most wonderful way. We see it but do not comprehend it. But it is so very true; it is no myth but it is a fact of history!
SARAH RECEIVES ABILITY TO CONCEIVE SEED. (Hebrews 11:11)
No, I do not understand, I do not comprehend this. I do not comprehend the birth of a child which is born from the will of a man and born according to the flesh, as was the case in the birth of Ishmael from Hagar. Much less do I understand this mystery and miracle of God here disclosed. The writer puts it very simply. Sarah received power, ability to conceive seed. A twofold miracle transpired in her. The natural barrenness was overcome and taken away. All her life Sarah, in. the inscrutable providence of God, had been barren. It was wonderful wisdom of God. It was a wisdom of God which is, foolishness with men. It must have been a difficult cross for Sarah and Abraham to bear. But God took away her barrenness. However, He did more. He took away her deadness. It had ceased with Sarah to be after the manner of women. She was past the age. She was simply an old woman. Was she not ninety years old? And now God will rejuvenate her. She will be a young woman again. God will work in her “Dunamin” power, ability, life-producing energy and strength. She will have pleasure again. It is so laughable, but it is true. (Gen. 17:15) She will be a mother of nations. Says the Lord, who cannot lie, to Abraham “And I will bless her, and give a son also of her: Kings of people shall be of her.” And when the Angel of the LORD comes to her tent and informs Abraham of the birth which will be next year at this time Sarah laughs in her heart. It is too ridiculous. Such are the ways of the LORD with His people. And then Sarah is rebuked with the stern yet loving “Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Gen. 18:14) Yes, Sarah laughed. Had Sarah not in hope against hope done everything possible to have a child, even if she must have it through an Egyptian handmaid? Small wonder that she was afraid when she hears “Is anything too wonderful for the LORD?” And in this trembling before the Lord she submits to the LORD. She submits to the name Sarah: mother of nations. That was faith! It was the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Here is life out of death. It is the miracle, the wonder of God. It is grace breaking through all sin and death. Such is the birth of the church.
SARAH ACCOUNTS GOD FAITHFUL WHO PROMISED. (Hebrews 11:11b)
Now there is but one thought that lives in the soul of Sarah who had laughed but now believes. It is that the Almighty God is not only able to do all things, but he is also a faithful Father who cannot lie. She takes God at His Word. That is faith. It regarded that the same LORD who had visited her tent would also visit her and perform his wonders. She believed this while she was still past the age of child bearing. She walked by faith and not by sight. The dead Sarah believed that in the very next year she would have a child. The fact had not only been told Abraham and Sarah, but also the time when it would come to pass! Sarah “lead” this thought out before her mind. Such is the meaning of the Greek verb “eegeesato.” She simply regarded it as being true that the promise of God would stand, and that not one of His words would fall to the ground. Over and over it went through her heart and mind, and it set her soul on fire: God is faithful, God is faithful! He will perform his own promise to me!
SARAH’S FAITH NOT PUT TO SHAME (Hebrews 11:12)
No, Sarah’s faith is not put to shame. It is rewarded. She will be a mother of nations. The promise to Abraham concerning the multitude of the people as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is by the seashore is fulfilled in her. (Genesis 15:5)
When Abraham’s faith needed to be bolstered and strengthened God came to him and said “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward.” It was then that Abraham had cried to the LORD that he was childless. Then he was told to go out under the stars of heaven, and the LORD said “So shall thy seed be.” That was a long time before this, at least some fifteen years earlier. But the promise was not fulfilled.
This is indeed a great and precious promise. It made clear that Abraham would have a son from his own bowels. And now this is become a reality. No, not in the birth of Ishmael from Hagar, but in this son which is born from the promise. The text here refers to this “One out of whom” this multitude becomes a reality. It becomes history!!
And it becomes history with a rich meaning and import. For this multitude refers to the great nation which comes forth from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the twelve tribes of Israel. It is really the Israel of God from both the Old and the New Testament.
At Mount Moriah the Lord repeats this promise by swearing by Himself when he could swear by none greater. (Gen. 22:17) And when Israel worships the golden calf and God will destroy Israel, Moses appeals to this promise of God that Israel shall be as the stars of the heaven in multitude. And then we see that this “multitude” is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy! This is the truth and reality which David forgot when Satan tempted him to number the people. Do we not read in I Chronicles 27:23 that very obscure notice “But David took not the number of them from twenty years old and under: because the LORD had said he would increase Israel like the stars of the heavens.” He numbered only the army and the plague killed 70,000, the number of God’s election as God numbers the people.
Yes, by faith Sarah conceived and she becomes really allegorically Jerusalem above, which is the mother of us all. For the church after Babylon will be greater than before. (Gal. 4:27) And thus the city foursquare shall be full of Sarah’s children.