Hebrews 11:29-12:2 Why Us?
I have spent a lot of time studying the book of Ecclesiastes. It can seem a rather cynical book. To give you an example, the second verse of the book in the translation I use states, “Perfectly pointless, says the Teacher, perfectly pointless. Everything is pointless.” (Eccl. 1:2 CEB)
The NIV translates the book, “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (Eccl. 1:2 NIV)
Why in the world would someone say this? They must really have a dim view of our human life. Our lives have meaning, correct? Our lives are significant, aren’t they? Our existence does matter, doesn’t it?
Of course, we matter. The question is, why do we matter? We matter to those who love us. We matter to the functioning of society. We matter because we need each other. But what does this mean? It means the human species can survive. But why does that matter?
If the scientists are right, someday our sun will burn out. Will humanity matter then? We dream of our continuation through our ability to use knowledge and technology. But for what purpose? Does it all come down to survival? Is that the ultimate purpose?
I don’t believe we exist just to survive. I believe we exist for a much better reason. The most important reason for our existence is that we exist for our creator. We exist because of love. And love, true love, exists because of faith.
What in the world do I mean by that? I mean for love, true love, to be shared, there must be faith. Faith that is built upon a relationship of trust, commitment, value, and hope.
I have a question, “How do you know you are loved?” We know when we are cared for, and told we are important and valuable. This is why it is so painful when people violate love. We call this being unfaithful. Unfaithfulness is a violation of trust, a breaking of commitment, and a dashing of hope by violating love. God loves us. God is never unfaithful. God has made us for love. Faith is the way we come to know this is true.
The lectionary passage in Hebrews is a history of the power of faith that includes individuals from all walks of life and situations. People who believed God, love God and depended upon God in faith.
In their lives, faith persevered no matter what happened, no matter what circumstance or situation. They tied their lives to their belief in the faithfulness of God despite the challenges that came their way. The promise they most sought was beyond this existence, beyond mere survival. In fact, many times their faith caused them not to survive. Many of them died because of their faith.
Listen again to verse 39, “All these people didn’t receive what was promised, though they were given approval for their faith.” (Heb. 11:39 CEB)
Now if God was faithful, why did they not receive what was promised? Isn’t breaking a promise being unfaithful?
Let’s look a little closer. Note, that it does not say they did not ever receive their promise. It does not say God broke a promise. What is said is that the people of faith in the Old Testament did not base their faith on what they perceived they could get. It was not a faith based on reward. It was a faith based on trust. A faith based on hope. A faith that would bring them into God’s love, not just a promise, but the ultimate purpose for which we were created.
Look at verse 40. God provides something better. Not a rigid law that condemned. Not a rigid religion that judges and labels. God provided Jesus. Jesus descended into death so that faith would produce life. True life, eternal life, from which we were made; not existence, not survival, not chasing after things, not being misled by lies, but life as it was intended. A life that leads us to perfection.
Perfection is not free from mistakes, failings, fallings, foolishness, and choices made in ignorance and arrogance, but by perfection in love. That perfection in love will lead us to be wiser and have a deeper understanding of life.
Perfection in a faith born of love. God’s love.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, the writer of this book tells us, “I have observed the task that God has given human beings. God has made everything fitting in its time, but has also placed eternity in their hearts, without enabling them to discover what God has done from beginning to end.” (Eccl. 3:10-11 CEB)
It is important we pay attention to that. They were not able to discover. This was the mystery. It is a mystery of love. It is the mystery of why God cares about us. It is the mystery fulfilled in Jesus. Now we can know what God has been doing. Without question, the mystery of godliness is great. Jesus was revealed as a human, declared righteous by the Spirit, seen by angels, preached throughout the nations, believed in around the world, and taken up in glory. (1 Tim. 3:16 CEB)
This is the mystery, the mystery that touches human hearts so deeply. The mystery proclaimed in John 3:16, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. (Jn. 3:16 CEB). This is the foundation of faith. God is love and we exist of love and know this love, experience this love, grow in this love through faith, faith in a God who became one of us because God loves us.
Look again at verse 2. This is how we can know our lives are not meaningless, not pointless. This is how we can be forgiven for the wrongs we do and the ignorance we too often embrace. Turn your eyes on Jesus. Know Jesus is the one who perfects our faith. Know that he died for you. He endured the cross. He endured the shame for us. Why did Jesus do this? The answer is right here, “for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him.” (Heb. 12:2 CEB)
And what was the joy? The joy of Jesus is us!
Listen to what he said, “I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. (Jn. 15:11 CEB).
Listen to what the scripture tells us, “What we have seen and heard, we also announce it to you so that you can have fellowship with us. Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy can be complete. (1 Jn. 1:3-4)
As we grow older, we learn just how important relationships are to us. They are our treasure. Broken relationships are often the most painful experiences of our lives. Loving relationships are our greatest treasure. Why is this so? Because for this reason we were created. This is where faith will lead us. This is where faith finds its strength.
We exist because of love. And love, true love, exists because of faith. Is your journey of faith one that is leading you to the power of faith, the truth of faith, the hope of faith, the love of faith.
God does not force faith. Love cannot be forced. But God is calling, Jesus is calling, the Holy Spirit is calling, calling you in grace to faith. What will be your reply?