Derek Prince - Hope Beyond This Life
The next passage we'll look at is chapter 11:8–10 which deals with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I'll translate those three verses and then comment on them. By faith, being called, Abraham obeyed to go out to a place which he was due to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in an alien land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs together with him of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose builder and architect is God. There is our next example of faith, it's number four in our list and it concerns not only Abraham but his son and his grandson, Isaac and Jacob.
Let's look at the nature of what these three patriarchs did. Abraham was living in Ur of the Chaldees, which was a wealthy, and cultivated city of that time but idolatrous. I believe it was primarily a worshiper of the moon goddess. Probably Abraham was a fairly substantial citizen of that city. God appeared to him, spoke to him, and told him to leave the city, to leave his family and his roots and to go out to a country which God would later show to him. As the writer says, he went out not knowing where he was going. That's the first aspect of his faith... He obeyed God although he didn't know what it would lead to. I'm sure if I were to ask for a show of hands... Which I don't intend to do... That many of you would say, "At some point in my life God made a similar demand of me. He asked me to give up something, to leave it," apparent security and prosperity and worldly success and acceptance; "and to go out not knowing what lay ahead".
That was certainly true of my first wife whom I've mentioned here. I think it was true of my case also. I think, actually, sooner or later, it's liable to happen to almost everybody who is truly called of God. At some point you've got to step out of the familiar and the secure and just leave your faith in the hands of God. That seems to be an absolute requirement of God to begin the life of faith. The next aspect of his faith was also shared by Isaac and Jacob. It says they lived as aliens in the land of promise. Living in tents, they didn't stake out any permanent claim in the land that was to be their inheritance. It's rather interesting, they lived in tents, which are a very mobile, very impermanent type of dwelling. It says several times of Abraham "he pitched his tent but he built an altar".
The most permanent thing that Abraham actually built was not his dwelling, but an altar to God. I believe it was Charles Simpson who said once, "A lot of contemporary Christians build their tent and pitch their altar". Abraham had a right sense of priorities. The altar of God was more important than his own dwelling. Interestingly enough, those three patriarchs, though the whole territory was promised to them, up to the present time, own no more than just the burial ground of Machpela. They have just enough to be buried in. That was their faith. Why was he willing to do that? It says in verse 10 he was looking for something in the future. He was expectantly looking for this city which has the foundations. There's "the" in both parts. The King James Version, which we're also familiar with, says "a city". It's more specific, it's "the city" which has "the foundation," which is, of course, the city that's described at the end of the book of Revelation which John the Revelator saw coming down from heaven and it's foundations were the twelve apostles of the land.
Let's look at the principle, number five. To receive our God-given inheritance it is often necessary to renounce our worldly inheritance. There's one word I hesitated about there, do you know what it was? Can you guess? It was the word "often". I'm not sure that it isn't always necessary sooner or later. I believe Jesus essentially said this in Luke 14:33. "So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions". That's very simple and very radical, isn't it? "You cannot be My disciple," Jesus says, "as long as you're holding on to your possessions in this world". We've had a lot of teaching about discipleship which has been valuable, but I've observed many times in that teaching there's been very little reference made to the basic requirement which is giving up all your possessions. That's basically what Abraham had to do. Abraham is the father of all who believe and we are his children if we walk in the steps of his faith.
I would like to suggest to you God doesn't ask you to do it simply out of principle. There are principles in the Bible, but if we try to act on principles we usually mess it up. We are not sufficiently sensitive to know how to apply the principles. If Jesus chooses you to be one of His disciples, He will arrange the circumstances of your life so that you'll end up by meeting His conditions. I've been impressed by the statement that He made in John 15 when He said to His disciples, "You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you". I don't think He was talking about the choice of salvation, I think He was talking about the choice of discipleship. So, I want, in a sense, to frustrate you and I want to say, "You can't follow Him in discipleship unless He chooses you". They didn't make the choice, He did. He knew what He was doing.
You will see, if you study the gospels, that in fulfillment of His choice, they had to meet His conditions: to forsake all that they had. This was true in my life when I stepped out into what they call "full-time ministry" in 1946. I had no knowledge of the principles, but the Lord led me to do the things. I was considering the other day: I gave up my career, I gave up my money, I gave up my country. I put the claims of God's call before those of my family. I did literally give up everything I owned. I didn't do it with a great spiritual flourish. "Here I am, Lord. I'm becoming a disciple". As a matter of fact, to be honest, some of it I did rather reluctantly. The Lord gave me no option. He said, "If you want to enter into your calling, what I've called you to do, that's the only way".
At a certain point I was in the land of Israel (although it was still called Palestine at that time). My grandfather, who was a retired general in the British Army (and I was his only grandson (and there was a close relationship between us), was dying in Britain of cancer. The British Army owed me a free passage back to England because I'd served nearly five years overseas. I dearly wanted to see my grandfather and I knew that he would be missing me, but when I began to make plans to accept that free passage to go home the Lord gave me a prophecy which was rather vivid which was rather vivid, and it's not the way I would think. He said, "The ship is in its harbor, the sails are set, the crew is on board, the cargo is stowed. If you want to get on now, you can get on. If you don't get on now, the ship will sail without you".
He was absolutely radical. I know that if I made any other decision at that time I would never have entered my calling in God. I think we need to bear in mind that Christianity, amongst other things, is a very radical religion. You know what radical is? It means "it goes to the roots". When John the Baptist introduced Jesus as the coming Messiah, one of the statements he made in that connection was, "Now also the axe is laid to the root of the tree. Every tree which does not bring forth good fruit will be hewn down and cast into the fire". You can cut down the branches of a tree and it will go on growing. You can even cut its trunk and it will remain in the soil. But when you deal with the root, there's no more tree. That's radical. The claims of Jesus are radical. I don't want to say that to bring anybody into fear or condemnation, but I have a feeling that the Holy Spirit through me is talking to people who are going to be faced with that decision.
Some of you, I know, have been faced. Some of you have made the decision already. I'm kind of serving notice on you that if God has something further ahead for you that you've yet entered into, He's going to insist on His unvarying conditions. At some point you're going to have to step out like Abraham and leave everything behind not knowing what lies ahead. I did that, as I say, basically 39 years ago. I just want to tell you that I've never regretted doing it. If I had the choice again I'd make the same decision. I remember fellowshipping with a veteran missionary from Argentina one time. He'd been traveling in various churches speaking about the missionary call. He said, "In those churches I met quite a number of people who'd heard God's call and not obeyed it. There was not one of them that was happy". And he said, "I've also met people who've heard God's call and obeyed it. I've never met one who regretted it".
Bear that in mind, Abraham is the pattern, he's the father of all those who believe. We walk in the steps of his faith and we have the same destination. We are looking, like him, for the city which has the foundations whose builder and architect is God. Let's look now in the outline, I'll just read those words again. I'll still put in "often" although I'm not sure I should be. To receive our God-given inheritance it is often necessary to renounce our worldly inheritance. Then I put there: "Notice the continuing emphasis on inheritance". In this outline we've traced a number of words, twelve words that are key words, plus the word "high priest". Three of those key words were very closely related. I wonder if you can remember them. Inheritance, what were the other two? Can you remember? Both looking towards the future. Perfection and rest. Inheritance, rest, perfection. They're all ahead, they all combine. Only in our inheritance will we find rest and perfection. It's ahead. We cannot stop till we get there.
We go on to verse 11 which deals with Sarah. This verse is translated differently in the New International Version, for reasons we don't need to go into. Personally, I think it's a mistake. I think the Standard Version of that verse is right. Verse 11: By faith also Sarah herself received power to conceive seed, even though she was past the natural time of life, because she judged faithful the one who had given the promise. It's important to see that Sarah's faith played an essential part in God's purpose. Sarah was not just an appendage; she was an essential part of the plan. Twice Abraham nearly missed the whole thing by being willing to let Sarah go. That was one of the great weaknesses in his character. He could never have entered into his inheritance apart from Sarah because Sarah was the foreordained mother of the child that was to bring the inheritance.
I say that to ladies. Bear in mind, you're just as important as your husband or the men in the church. Your importance is in a different area, but it's no less. I am very... I have strong reservations about any kind of presentation of Bible truth that suggests that women are on a lower level of importance or spirituality. I don't believe it. I know for my part I could never be what I am or anywhere near it without both my first wife and my second wife. We're going on to verse 12, which describes the result of the previous examples. We'll read the verse and then we'll go back and look at the examples. Wherefore also, there came forth [there sprung from one], and him a dead one, as many as the stars of heaven in multitude, and as the sand which is by the shore of the sea innumerable. Once you've really got the King James for that verse you can't say it any other way. It rolls off the tongue, it has an impact that nothing else ever will have.
That's the result of the examples of faith in the previous verses. What was the example, going back to your outline on verses 8–10? Abraham obeyed God's call to leave Ur; he sojourned in Canaan with Isaac and Jacob as in an alien land living in tents, no permanent dwelling, always looking forward to the city of God. And then, the two principles. We've already said one, to receive our God-given inheritance. The next one, or rather, the results in verse 12. The results of both Abraham's faith, Isaac's faith, Jacob's faith and Sarah's faith: an innumerable posterity to obtain the promised inheritance. Notice again the emphasis on obtaining the inheritance. I think it's good to see there was a family faith. It included Abraham, his son, his grandson and his wife. And really, his son's wives, too.
I think we need to give more thought to the importance of family faith. I think in the Bible and in biblical culture there was much greater emphasis on the collective faith of a family than we have in our very fragmented society today. Where a family can achieve collective faith, it's tremendously powerful. As parents we must never neglect the faith potential of our children. The real way to bring children into the spiritual life is to challenge their faith. Not to treat them as immature but to challenge their faith, to present the needs and the problems to them and challenge them to pray in faith for their solutions. The children that my first wife and I brought up, they had to live that way. Sometimes Lydia would say to them, "We've got no breakfast children; you'd better pray". Or, "We have no money; you'd better pray". When they saw the breakfast come and the money come, believe me, they knew that God was real. That was something that no subsequent brainwashing in a secular school could fully take away from them.
My youngest daughter of that batch, Elizabeth, when she was 18 years old, had very poor eyesight. Every year she'd have to get thicker glasses. When we were in East Africa I said to a servant of the Lord (who I now believe is with the Lord), I said, "Brother Mattson, would you pray for Elizabeth's eyes"? He prayed a very short simple prayer and Elizabeth took her glasses off. We didn't tell her to do that. She's a rather reticent child so we didn't want to push her, but after a couple of days Lydia said to Elizabeth, "How is your eyesight? Is it better"? She said, "Well, he prayed, didn't he"? She had absolutely perfect eyesight. She excelled in needlework and she's never had to use glasses ever since. Well, she's had some problems in her life, some ups and downs spiritually, but that one thing is a rock for her faith that cannot be removed. God gave her her eyesight.
We're going on now to verses 13 and 14. All these died... The translations say "in faith," don't they? But it's not the same preposition that's translated "in" earlier. It's died, I would like to say, "on the faith plane". They didn't come down from the faith plane when they died. That's my amplified version, which is not in print but it's fully licensed! They all died on the faith plane. Let's go on... not having obtained the promises, but having seen them from afar and having embraced them, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims upon the earth. Let's look, first of all, at some of the Scriptures to which the writer is referring. Genesis 23, these words always touch me. I think having seen one wife go to the Lord I can always identify in a special way with Abraham. I think I know what he felt. Genesis 23, immediately after Sarah's death, verses 3–4. Then Abraham arose from before his dead, and spoke to the sons of Heth, saying, "I am a stranger and a sojourner among you; give me a burial site among you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight".
You realize in that hot climate it had to be done very quickly. But notice his confession. "I am a stranger and a sojourner among you". I don't suppose he said that with tremendously spiritual motives. Like many things that we say that are very significant, we don't think at the time of their significance. You see, God heard that, and it was recorded in his favor. Then we could look at Jacob's confession in Genesis 47:9. In fact, I dare say Abraham's heart was breaking when he said that. It occurs to me that sometimes things that we say in moments of pressure and sorrow turn out for the best. This is Jacob's statement to Pharaoh in Genesis 47;9. It was a convention in Egypt that no one was to excel Pharaoh in anything significant. When Jacob was asked how old he was, he had to present his age, which was greater than that of Pharaoh, in such a way that it didn't upset Pharaoh's dignity. This is what he said: "The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their sojourning".
Most people today would be content at a hundred and thirty. But Jacob said it's just a poor thing by comparison with Abraham an Isaac. But you notice that he too used the word sojourning. So, those are the passages that the writer of Hebrews had in mind. We're going back now to verse 13 and we go on to verse 14 which is a comment. For those that say such things [those are the words we've just read] make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. The Greek word is patris, directly derived from the Greek word for "father". It means a fatherland. All of the patriarchs were looking forward to a country, not backward. They all had in mind a place with a father. That's a very interesting root from the word "father", pater in Greek. Another word is patriarch which occurs in Ephesians 3:15 where it says of God the Father: whom every fatherhood in heaven and earth derives its name [or every family].
You understand that both the word family and the word country are connected with the word father. They were looking forward to a place with a father. My comment on that is, every true believer yearns for an eternal home. You hardly ever meet a person who doesn't change when you begin to talk to him about his home. It does something to a person. Even you... or myself who are quite old, if we were to start thinking and talking about our childhood home or homes, something would begin to churn inside us. I don't know whether you've ever felt somewhat lonely.
I grew up in Britain between the two world wars and Britain was a very secure place in those days. My family, all being officers in the British Army, had a very secure position. The world today is extremely different. It's unimaginably different. There's very little real security anywhere. Social position doesn't give it, money doesn't give it. We live in a tremendously insecure age when almost everything we would seek, for security in the natural is liable to crumble and disappear almost overnight. I have to admit sometimes I think back to the days of my childhood and I think how secure I was. I didn't know anything, but security in those days. There was nothing to threaten me. My grandfather, with whom I lived while my parents were in India, was a respected person in the area. I got some of the reflected glory. I would still feel insecure today if I didn't have the same conviction that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had. I believe I'm headed for a place where there's a father, a country of my own.
Let's look, for a moment, in Revelation 14:1. This is part of the vision of John the Revelator. And I looked and behold, the Lamb [that's Jesus] was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. These people, who are very special people in the book of Revelation, are identified by the fact that they have the name of Jesus and the name of God the Father on their foreheads. And what is on your forehead, I think, typifies the way you think. They thought father-wise, they were secure, they knew they had a father. They followed the Lamb wherever He went. It seems to me that as this age draws to a close and as we get nearer and nearer the picture of things that's given us in Revelation, we're going to have to have our Father's name on our foreheads. We're going to have to think in terms of security. We're going to have to be very sure that we're not looking backwards but like the patriarchs we're looking forwards to the city that has foundations, the foundations.
Let's look now at the two principles that emerged. Principle number six, faith inspires hope beyond this life. I think that's very, very important. There's been a certain tendency sometimes almost to belittle faith for a future life. The world talks about it as "pie in the sky". Well, I think that pie has a sweet taste. I'm glad it's there. I'm not ashamed of looking forward to heaven. That's a mark of faith. It doesn't look backwards, it looks forwards and upwards. The second principle there, number seven, faith needs to be expressed by appropriate confession. That was the strength of Abraham, his right confession before the tomb of Sarah. That, of course, is contained in the principle stated there in Romans 10:9–10 which we probably should know by heart. If thou shall confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shall believe in thine heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shall be saved; for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. It is not enough to believe in the heart.
What makes believing in the heart effective is confessing with the mouth. And you'll see that, in one way or another, this principle runs all through this 11th chapter of Hebrews. There has to be the appropriate confession to make faith effective. Looking now in verse 15, still speaking about the patriarchs. And if they had remembered that country from which they came out, they would have had opportunity to return... God doesn't always slam the door behind us; He sometimes leaves it open. If you want to turn back you're free to do so. But faith does not turn back. I have to say, in my own experience, I've many times gone through difficulties and pressures and I've sometimes said to myself, Is it worth it? But then I've said to myself, What's the alternative? Frankly, there isn't one that appeals to me. I tasted the world for 25 years, it has nothing that attracts me. I understand young people who've grown up in a totally Christian atmosphere, they look at it a little different. It has some glamour at a distance but when you're in it, it turns to ashes. I can really endorse that.
We are partakers of a heavenly calling and we cannot afford to turn back. Principle number nine which is by verse 16, going on with that sentence: ...but now they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Wherefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared for them a city. I think that relates specifically to Exodus 3:15. I'd like to turn there for a moment. This is the conversation between the Lord and Moses when the Lord is sending Moses back to Egypt to deliver Israel. Moses says, "When I tell them God has appeared to me, what name am I to give them"? This is the answer of God in Exodus 3:15. God, furthermore, said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations".
That verse has really made a deep impact on me. When God said, "You want to know My name? My name is the God of three men: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is My name and My memorial to all generations. If you want to know how to call Me, call me the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob". That's stupendous, that God has chosen forever to be identified as the God of three men. Why? Because they were not ashamed of Him. Because they made the right confession. So, the writer of Hebrews says "neither was He ashamed of them". Remember what Jesus said? "He that confesseth Me before men, I will confess before My Father; and he that denieth Me before men, I will deny before My Father". What we say is of destiny-deciding importance. God is the God of those who acknowledge Him by their confession. Now we're coming to a rather lengthy passage and we have only a few minutes left.
The next passage deals with Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac. I want to redeem the time, so we'll begin to go into it but I'm afraid we'll have to go back at the beginning of next time. This is a very important passage. I think I can translate it, at least. By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he was willing [or he was in process] of offering his only son; he [Abraham] the one who had received the promises; to whom it had been said, In Isaac your seed will be called. In other words, his whole destiny in God depended on Isaac. Without Isaac he had no destiny. And yet he was willing to offer him up in death. It goes on to say: Reckoning that God was able even to raise him from the dead; from whence he received him also figuratively. So in Isaac we have a figure of resurrection. He was not actually killed, but he was at the point of death and Abraham was convinced because of his faith in God that if he obeyed God by killing his son, God would bring him back to life.