Hebrews 11:8-16

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017




In chapter 11 the fifth major section of Hebrews, which began in 10:19, is continued.


In this section Christ is shown to have provided a better way of life, the life of faith.


In 10:19-25 believers have been called upon to hold fast their confession.


Furthermore, in 10:26-39 an alternative has been given to those who are wavering: it is either Christ, or it is judgment.


In chapter 11 some Old Testament examples of faith are cited.


We have already seen –

      I.         A definition of faith – 11:1

      II.  That the elders demonstrated the existence of their faith by their actions – 11:2

      III. That by faith we understand that God created the worlds out of nothing – 11:3

      IV.      That Abel demonstrated his faith by coming to God on God’s terms – 11:4

      V.  That Enoch demonstrated his faith by pleasing God – 11:5

      VI.      That pleasing God requires faith – 11:6

      VII.     And that Noah demonstrated his faith by building an ark – 11:7

As we move on, we see –

    I.     ABRAHAM’S CALL – 11:8A


Hebrews 11:8 a – By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance. . . .


By faith is again used in the sense of because of faith (i.e. because of belief or trust).


Abraham is the next hero of faith.


When he was called is literally being called or being summoned, and what Abraham was called or summoned to do was to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance.


This is literally being called to go out to the place which he was about to receive for an inheritance. Abraham went to a specific place, the place which he would some day receive as an inheritance or as a possession.

We also see that –



Hebrews 11:8 b – . . . Abraham . . . obeyed. . . .


Obeyed is the action he took. God called him, and Abraham responded by obeying. He listened to God, but he did more than merely listen. He followed God, and he was submissive to God.

Next, we see that –



Hebrews 11:8 c – . . . Abraham . . . went out, not knowing whither he went.


And introduces an additional thought about Abraham’s obedience in going out.


He went out not knowing whither he went is he went out not knowing where (or to what place) he was going.


Abraham knew that he was going to receive some specific land as an inheritance, but he did not know what specific land this was.


He obeyed God, and he went out but did not know where his journey would take him.


Not knowing is understood as although he did not know.


It is also true of every believer who surrenders his life to live for the Lord. He surrenders his life not knowing where it is going to lead him in his life.


As juniors in high school, my wife to be and I surrendered our lives to live for the Lord and serve Him regardless of where this would take us. For three or four years we assumed that we would eventually go to the mission field as Bible translators, and we prepared for this end. We studied our Bibles and went to college where we majored in Greek. In our minds we were preparing to be Bible translators.


At that time in my life I had no idea what expository preaching was. All I ever heard in my home church were topical salvation messages. My understanding of church was that it was the place where you would invite your unsaved friends so that they would get under the sound of the gospel and get saved. After I graduated from high school, our church called a youth pastor who actually preached verse by verse. It opened my eyes and resulted in my eventually becoming an expository preacher. God used him greatly to influence my thinking. Fifty years later I would be a part of this man’s staff in a church in Salt Lake City as president of his Bible college.


Near the end of my sophomore year in college, God made it clear to me that I would serve Him in the United States as a pastor. During my senior year in college, I succeeded my friend as youth pastor in my home church. God led me to continue in this position while earning my master’s degree.


God led me to pastor a small community church in Illinois about 30 miles from where Kevin’s dad lived or still lives. God taught me in this church that I was a Baptist and a separatist, that I was not an evangelical and an interdenominationalist. It took me about two years to get the philosophy of the college I had attended out of my system. This happened because I studied my Bible and did not read the literature promoting evangelicalism against fundamentalism. God led me to start a church in northwestern Illinois which I pastored for 21 years, and then to North Carolina to become a Greek professor. Two years later I was dean of the college. Meanwhile I also was led to begin a local church in North Carolina. Following this I taught Bible, math, and science in a Christian high school in North Carolina. Then it was to Utah for four years and finally to Fort Walton Beach for the past five plus years.


Never in our wildest imaginations did we dream of serving God in the various places where He has led us, but He led us every step of the way just like he did Abraham and used each place to prepare us for the next one. It has been a wonderful privilege and pleasure to have been able to serve the Lord in each of the places where He has led us and used us to influence others for Him.


Although your stories differ from ours, there is a common theme. When we gave our lives to the Lord to live for Him, we had no idea where it would lead us in His harvest field; but we count it a privilege to have been led by Him every step of the way.


Those of you who have not yet dedicated your lives to the Lord to live for Him, do it. You won’t regret it. It will be the second best decision you will ever make in your life, second only to your decision to trust Christ as your personal Savior.


Thus, while Abraham was going out, he did not know where he was going just like we did not know where we were going when we surrendered our lives to serve the Lord.

In addition, we see that –



Hebrews 11:9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.


By faith is used in the sense of because of faith.


It is faith in God which led Abraham to take the action described in this verse. He believed what God told him and acted accordingly.


He sojourned in the land of promise.


He sojourned means he inhabited a place as a stranger, he lived as a stranger, and perhaps it may even mean he migrated. Abraham led a nomadic existence moving about from one place to another. He was just a temporary resident wherever he went.


The land of promise is the land that had been promised to him and refers the land of Canaan.


As in a strange country means as in a country which is not his own, as in a country belonging to another, or as in a foreign country.


God had promised the land to Abraham, but it was not yet Abraham’s.


At the same time, Abraham was there because of his faith.


While he was there, he was dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob who are described as the heirs with him of the same promise.


Dwelling is living or settling down and suggests while living or while settling down.


In tabernacles is in tents.


With Isaac and Jacob indicates that at least some of this dwelling in tabernacles occurred after both Isaac and Jacob had been born.


According to Genesis 21:5 , Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born.


According to Genesis 25:7 , Abraham lived a total of 175 years.


According to Genesis 25:26 , Jacob was born when Isaac was 60 years old. So, at the time of Jacob’s birth, Abraham was 160 years old. This was approximately 15 years before he died. So, there is every reason to believe that Abraham was well acquainted with his grandson Jacob and that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob moved together to the same places in their nomadic existence.


With Isaac and Jacob also indicates that Isaac and Jacob engaged in the same nomadic existence as did Abraham.


Isaac and Jacob are described as the heirs with him of the same promise, i.e. as the fellow-heirs with Abraham.


Of the same promise indicates that they would inherit with Abraham the promise that this land would be theirs and that their seed would also be in number as the stars of heaven and as the sand of the sea.

We furthermore see that –



Hebrews 11:10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.


Verse 10 provides the reason Abraham sojourned in the land of Canaan as a temporary resident. It may be explanatory of verse 9, or it may indicate the cause for the action in verse 9.


If for introduces an explanation, it is understood in the sense of now. If, however, for indicates cause, it is understood in the sense of because.


The tense of he looked for indicates continuing action in past time and means he was looking for, he was expecting, or he was waiting for; and what he was waiting (or looking) for was a city.


In the Greek text it is a particular city as is indicated by the presence of the before city.


It is the city; it is not just any city; it is the city which hath foundations.


This city is further described by whose builder and maker is God.


Thus, Abraham was looking for a permanent place where he might dwell in fulfillment of the promise which God had made to him, a place which God had built.


Builder suggests craftsman, artisan, or designer.


Maker suggests craftsman or creator.


God is the One Who is described as both the designer and maker of this city for which Abraham was looking.

We also see that –



Hebrews 11:11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.


Through faith is the same phrase translated by faith in the previous verses and means by means of faith or because of faith and tells the means by which also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed or the reason she received strength.


Also introduces an additional fact. Sara also believed God, which implies that her faith was in addition to Abraham’s faith. Also may instead be emphatic in the sense of indeed, in fact, certainly, yea, or verily.


Sara herself is an emphatic way of describing Sara.


Received strength implies that she was physically incapable of conceiving and of bearing a child. However, God performed a miracle, and Sara became an expectant mother. It means that she received ability or she received capability.


To conceive indicates what kind of strength she received.


Seed is used in the sense of descendants, children, or posterity.


And introduces another statement regarding Sara.


Was delivered of a child is gave birth.


Child does not actually appear in the Greek text although it is certainly implied in the context. What else would she conceive and be delivered of but a child?


When she was past age is when she was beyond a time of age or when she was beyond a time of life and clearly indicates that, humanly speaking, she was too old to have a baby.


Because she judged him faithful who had promised is the reason she was able to do this.


Because is since or for.


She judged is she thought, she regarded, she deemed, or she considered; and it implies that she made a decision after considering the facts of the matter. After she considered the facts, she determined to believe God.


She judged him faithful who had promised is literally she considered the One Who had promised to be faithful.


Faithful means dependable, reliable, or trustworthy. In other words, she believed God and believed that God would keep His word.

Again, we see that –



Hebrews 11:12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.


Therefore is for this reason and refers to Sarah’s considered judgment that the One Who had promised was trustworthy. In other words, it refers to Sarah’s belief in God.


Sprang is literally was begotten.


Of one is from one and refers to Abraham.


The comment is made regarding Abraham and him as good as dead.


And is emphatic and used in the sense of indeed, in fact, or certainly.


Him as good as dead is used in the sense of (him) worn out or impotent. Its meaning is very clear: at his age Abraham was physically incapable of begetting children.


So many as the stars of the sky in multitude is a reminder that God had promised Abraham that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven.


This promise began to be fulfilled at a time in life when Abraham was physically incapable of begetting children. Thus, it was clearly a miracle.


In multitude is in number or in quantity.


And as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable is an additional fact regarding the number of Abraham’s descendants. It would be absolutely impossible for anyone to count the grains of sand by the seashore.

Finally, we see that –



Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.


These all died in faith refers to the heroes of faith mentioned thus far: Abel, Enoch (though he did not actually die), Noah, Abraham, Sara, Isaac, and Jacob.


Not having received the promises is understood in the sense of but did not receive and indicates that the promises were never totally fulfilled during their lifetimes.


The promises are the promises God made. The before promises indicates that it is the sum total of all the promises God made to them.


But introduces a statement in strong contrast to not having received the promises.


But having seen them suggests but saw them (i.e. but saw the promises), and afar off is from a distance or at a distance.


And were persuaded suggests and were convinced, and came to believe, or and believed.


And embraced them is literally and greeted them and is understood in the figurative sense of and welcomed them (i.e. they welcomed these promises).


Furthermore, they confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.


Confessed suggests that they agreed, they admitted, or they acknowledged.


The action of all five of these terms (i.e. having received, having seen, were persuaded, embraced, and confessed) occurred before the action of died. In each case it is something that happened before their deaths or during their lifetimes.


What they confessed was that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.


Strangers is used in the sense of aliens or foreigners.


Pilgrims is used in the sense of strangers, exiles, or sojourners.


Thus, strangers and pilgrims are two words which mean approximately the same thing.


On the earth indicates where they were strangers and pilgrims and indicates that the earth or the land was not really their home. Their home was some place else. It was in heaven.



Hebrews 11:14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.


For continues the thought of the previous verse in the sense of now.


They that say such things is the ones who are saying such things as these (or things of this sort). The things which they are saying is that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.


Declare plainly is make known, make clear, explain, inform, or make a report.


By their indicating that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth, they were also indicating that they seek a country.


That they seek is that they were wishing for.


A country is a fatherland or a homeland.


Now, this was not a one-time seeking or wishing; it was a continuous thing, and it lasted the rest of their lives.


Hebrews 11:15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.


Verse 15 begins with a condition which is contrary to fact.


The condition itself is assumed to be false.


And truly is emphatic and suggests indeed, in fact, certainly, yea, or verily.


If they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out is a condition which is assumed to be false.


The truth is that they were not mindful of that country from whence they came out.


If they had been mindful suggests if they (i.e. if Abraham and his family) were remembering, if they were keeping in mind, or if they were thinking of and implies continuous action in past time.


Of that country refers to Ur of the Chaldees out of which God had called Abraham.


From whence they came out is from which they came out and refers to their homeland.


In other words, if they had just been thinking constantly of their homeland, they could have returned; but apparently they did not miss it badly enough to want to return to it.


They might have had opportunity to have returned is the conclusion of the condition.


They did have opportunity to return, but they did not return.


The reason they did not return is that they were not mindful of that country from which they had come out.


Might have had is simply they were having or they could have been having and implies that there were many opportunities to return if they had wished to do so.


Opportunity suggests a favorable time.


To have returned is simply to return.


This was not a one-time opportunity. The fact is that they could have gone back any time they wished to; but they did not wish to go back. Therefore, they did not go back.


Hebrews 11:16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.


But now suggests but as a matter of fact.


They desire suggests they were aspiring to, they were striving for, or they were desiring.


A better country implies a more prominent (country), a (country) higher in rank, or a preferable (country).


That is, an heavenly implies the sort of country they were seeking.


They did not want a country here on earth; they wanted a country in heaven. This implies that they desired a permanent and eternal place of residence or home in heaven rather than a temporary one here on earth.


Wherefore is therefore or for this reason.


God is not ashamed to be called their God is the result of their desiring a better country, i.e. a heavenly country.


For may be explanatory in the sense of now or emphatic in the sense of indeed or in fact.


He [i.e. God] hath prepared is He made ready, He prepared, or He put in readiness.


What he prepared is a city. The implication is that God has prepared heaven.


For them is for those who believed His word.