BROTHERS AND SISTRES, by faith Abraham stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For Abraham looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom he had been told, “It is through Isaac that descendants will be named for you” (Genesis 21:12), concluding that God is able even to raise someone from the dead - and figuratively speaking, Abraham did receive Isaac back from the dead. By faith Isaac invoked blessings for the future on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions about his burial. By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets - who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were killed by the sword, they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented - of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.
Happy and blessed New Year!
This is the Epistle reading for the Sunday before the Nativity of the Lord. Just like the Gospel lesson, it mentions a bunch of people who came before Christ, who received the promise of the Messiah, yet who did not live long enough to see the Messiah. And it was not because of the lack of faith that they did not see Him, notice how many times Paul says "by faith," rather they became part of the history of salvation.
Christ is the fulfillment of the history of salvation, but human beings played an important role in it. Yet all the people of the Old Testament, "did not receive what was promised." And why? Because "God had provided something better" for the Christians, so that apart from the Christians the saints of the Old Testament "would not be made perfect."
The Christians were promised the same glory of God as was Israel, and the reward came when the Messiah was crucified, died, and subsequently raised from the dead. Then the saints of old received their reward, and their wait was worth it. We receive the same reward by holding to the same faith as they did and obeying and following God when it is good and easy, as well as when it's hard and painful.
Yours in the Lord,