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Hebrews 11:13-16 – Living on Earth as Foreigners

Summary

People of faith recognize that they are not fully at home in this world. They live like strangers or aliens, because in faith they hope for a better, heavenly life.

Analysis

These are some of the most poignant verses in Hebrews. Abraham and Sarah had received the promises of land and countless descendants but died before these promises were fully realized. They had come to the land of Canaan but lived there as resident aliens; they hoped for many descendants but together had only one child, Isaac. The disappointments of life on earth did not seem to match the grandeur of God's promises. When Sarah died, Abraham had to obtain a place for her burial, since he did not actually own land. When requesting a burial site, he confessed that he was a stranger or foreigner in the land of Canaan (Genesis 23:4). Hebrews says that these words sum up much of Sarah and Abraham's lives: they were not fully at home on earth. This is also true for other believers. They live on earth while recognizing that they never fully belong and have never completely arrived at their destination. Nevertheless, the hope that they have for the future gives them encouragement to live life in the present, knowing that God is still at work, bringing God's saving purposes to their final realization.

Hebrews 11:13-16

13 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, 14for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But 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.

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