Many people look for inspiration in those given as examples in the Bible. They may point to Esther, from poor orphan to Queen; David, the shepherd boy turned King; or Abraham who went on a journey to possess a faraway land as a reward… Oh wait! He never actually possessed it! He died “not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar” (Hebrews 11:13). In fact this particular verse is not just talking about Abraham, but also the entire Old Testament believing community. Why did they not receive the things promised?
Of those that did not receive the things promised not all were success stories. Example, think of Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. Many suffered and struggled and longed for the reward. Yet in this life they never saw it: they died in faith.
Hebrews 11 gives us great insight into the lives of Joseph and the many like him, who “suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment” while others were “stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword… of whom the world was not worthy” (vs 36-38).
Why did they endure this? We are told that they refused to give up “so that they might rise again to a better life.” (v 35) The reward is not fully realised on this side of life.
Hebrews 11 further explains:
“(13) These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. … (16) But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”
We also see this example in Moses.
Heb 11:24 “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, (25) choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. (26) He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”
There is something much more beautiful than anything in this life, something more pleasurable than all the treasures of this World (Egypt), something so fulfilling it’s worth living and dying for. We live between two worlds. Behind us is Egypt (this World) and in front of us is the world to come (the Promised land). Behind is a temporal life filled with treasures that tease us without fulfilling us, in front of us is eternally fulfilling treasure. What is that treasure?
If we go beyond Hebrew 11, we see what Christ Jesus said that reward was. Speaking of himself he said, “that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:15-16). He then said that eternal life is that we would know God (John 17).
As the Apostle says,
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8)