January 7, 2020
In the Psalms, in the Prophets, in the Gospels and Epistles, the Bible constantly urges us to look back and remember the great things God has done. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the One who delivered the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. He is the God who, out of love, sent his Son to die, and who then resurrected him from death.
By focusing myopically on what we want God to do on our behalf, we may miss the significance of what He has already done. Likewise, the Bible points us toward the future. The prophets envision a future state of peace and justice and happiness; and they call us to live in the light of the future they image up. … Most of these Old Testament characters show up in the honor roll of Hebrews 11, a chapter some have labeled “The Faith Hall of Fame.” I prefer to call that chapter “Survivors of the Fog,” for many of the heroes listed have one common experience: a dread time of testing like Job’s, a time when the fog descends and everything goes blank. Torture, jeers, floggings, chains, stonings, sawings in two—Hebrews records in grim detail the trials that may befall faith-full people.
Saints become saints by somehow hanging on to the stubborn conviction that things are not as they appear, and that the unseen world is as solid and trustworthy as the visible world around them. God deserves trust, even when it looks like the world is caving in. “The world was not worthy of them,” Hebrews 11 concludes about its amazing assemblage, adding this intriguing comment: “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.”
God’s favorites, especially God’s favorites, are not immune from the bewildering times when God seems silent. As Paul Tournier said, “Where there is no longer any opportunity for doubt, there is no longer any opportunity for faith either.” Faith demands uncertainty, confusion. The Bible includes many proofs of God’s concern—some quite spectacular—but no guarantees. A guarantee would, after all, preclude faith.—Philip Yancey1
These people in Hebrews 11 never got what they were looking for on earth. “But now they desire a better country.” We’re not satisfied with this world. We’re not satisfied with all that we have here and now. We’re looking forward to a better country—heaven.
“Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.” That is one of the most amazing statements in the whole Bible to me. What does that mean? If God’s not ashamed of you, what is He? He’s proud of you. Why? Because you’re not satisfied with this world; you’re not settling down here. This world is not your home. You’re seeking a better country, a better city, that hath foundations, a better land.
This world doesn’t satisfy your heart; it doesn’t fulfill your longings, your desires for the heavenly. You’re working hard and willing to be pilgrims and strangers and to go wherever God calls. And because you’re willing to be reshuffled in whatever way God designs, God’s proud of you. God is thankful for you. I just hardly know what other word to use to express it, but He’s proud of you.—Just like you’re proud of your children when they do well.
You’re passing through this world; that’s another sign of progress. You’re ready to go, ready to stay, ready to do His will. So God’s proud of you. He says it right here: “So God was not ashamed to be called their God.”—David Brandt Berg
I want very much for God to say to me what he said about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “I am not ashamed to be called your God.” As risky as it sounds, does this not really mean that God might actually be “proud” to be called my God? Maybe he would say, “Not only am I not ashamed to be called your God, I am proud to be called your God.” … So I would really like to know what would make God proud to be called my God. Fortunately, this wonderful possibility is surrounded (in Hebrews 11:16) by reasons: one before and one after.
Take the one afterward first: “God is not ashamed to be called their God, because he has prepared for them a city.” The first reason he gives why he is not ashamed to be called their God is that he has done something for them. He made them a city—the heavenly city, “whose architect and builder is God.”2 …
Now consider the reason he gives in the front. It goes like this: “They desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.” “Therefore” signals that a reason has just been given for why he is not ashamed. The reason is their desire. They desire a better country—that is, a better country than the earthly one they live in, namely a heavenly one. This is the same as saying they desire heaven, or they desire the city God has made for them.
What a city it is! No pollution, no graffiti, no trash, no peeling paint or rotting garages, no dead grass or broken bottles, no harsh street talk, no in-your-face confrontations, no domestic strife or violence, no dangers in the night, no arson or lying or stealing or killing, no vandalism and no ugliness. The city of God will be perfect, because God will be in it. He will walk in it and talk in it and manifest himself in every part of it. All that is good and beautiful and holy and peaceful and true and happy will be there, because God will be there. Perfect justice will be there, and recompense a thousandfold for every pain suffered in obedience to Christ. And it will never deteriorate. In fact, it will shine brighter and brighter as eternity stretches out into unending ages of increasing joy.
When we desire this city more than we desire all that this world can give, God is not ashamed to be called our God.—John Piper3
Published on Anchor January 2020. Read by Jerry Paladino.
Music by Michael Dooley.
1 Philip Yancey, Disappointment with God (Zondervan, 1988).
2 Hebrews 11:10.
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