What does Hebrews 11:9 mean?
ESV: By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.
NIV: 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.
NASB: By faith he lived as a stranger in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise;
CSB: By faith he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise, living in tents as did Isaac and Jacob, coheirs of the same promise.
NLT: And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith — for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise.
KJV: 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:
Abraham, then named Abram (Genesis 12:1–4), left his homeland when called by God. Despite the fact that he did not know exactly how God would make good on His promises, Abraham obeyed. The writer of Hebrews includes this moment in Abraham's life as an example of how God blesses those who respond to Him with obedience. That obedience, according to the writer, is evidence of their faith—which is the key requirement for those looking to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Later on, as the theme shifts to those who "held fast" to their trust in God despite hardships, Abraham will be mentioned again (Hebrews 11:17).
This verse also mentions Abraham's son and grandson: Isaac and Jacob. God gave to them the same promises given to Abraham. This is a key point that many readers might miss: God's promise to Abraham was to create a large and mighty nation, occupying a particular territory (Genesis 15:5–7). That promise was not entirely fulfilled in the lifetime of Abraham. Nor was it completed during the life of Isaac, or Jacob. However, their faith in God led them to obey, and to trust, knowing that God was able to make good on His promises. Those of us reading their stories, today, can look back and see how God did, in fact, fulfill His guarantees (Joshua 1:1–4). That should inspire us to be all the more confident in our faith.
Hebrews 11:4–16 gives examples of figures from the Old Testament who demonstrated faith in God and were blessed as a result. Persons such as Abel, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah are commended for their trust in God's promises. In particular, this segment of the book of Hebrews focuses on those who heard from God, obeyed, and were blessed. While their actions are important, the common theme of these early references is obedience to God when fulfillment of His promises seems distant. The following passage will explore a similar idea, but in the context of those who demonstrated faith in the face of more immediate hardship.
True, godly faith is defined as trust, relying on God when looking to the future, and obeying even when we don't fully understand all details. The great figures of the Old Testament, such as Abraham, Moses, and David, all lived according to this type of faith. Ultimately, that means trusting God's intent to make good on His promises from an eternal perspective. The model of faith presented by those people, in light of the struggles they faced, ought to inspire Christians towards a more confident, purposeful faith.
Up to this point, the book of Hebrews has given extensive evidence proving that Jesus Christ, and the new covenant He brought about, is God's ultimate plan for mankind's salvation. Chapter 10 provided an additional warning about the danger of falling away from this truth. Chapter 11 begins by clarifying the meaning of the word ''faith,'' primarily by listing examples of Old Testament figures who exemplify it. The ultimate application of this knowledge should be a motivation to ''hold fast'' to the gospel, despite hardships. That encouragement is a major theme of chapter 12.
The book of Hebrews is meant to challenge, encourage, and empower Christian believers. According to this letter, Jesus Christ is superior to all other prophets and all other claims to truth. Since God has given us Christ, we ought to listen to what He says and not move backwards. The consequences of ignoring God are dire. Hebrews is important for drawing on many portions of the Old Testament in making a case that Christ is the ultimate and perfect expression of God's plan for mankind. This book presents some tough ideas about the Christian faith, a fact the author makes specific note of.
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