All these in the Old Testament who are mentioned in the Hall of Faith for their trust in God are commended for their faith and the works that their faith led them to accomplish. Above all they pleased God (Hebrews 11:6) and obtained a good testimony both with God and with men. However, the next phrase is quite clear. For all their faith, hope, expectation, and steadfast resolve to take God at His Word, they did not receive the promise.
They lived in the Promise Land, saw God’s miraculous deliverance, accomplished many amazing tasks, but they did not receive the promise. To be sure, they did receive many promises. In fact, Hebrews 11:33 tell us that through faith these “obtained promises” but here just a few verses down the page we read that they did not receive the promise. What is the difference between the promises and the promise?
The promises, plural, were the things that God gave as part of His promises for inhabiting the land, driving our enemies, etc. These were temporary, earthly things that God gave them and did for them in response to their faith. But the promise, singular, was not fulfilled in the Old Testament. What is this promise then? As the Reformation Study Bible notes tell us:
Though the Old Testament believers lived by faith, they were not privileged to witness on earth the fulfillment of the great promise of God.
That promise of course then is the incarnation. It is the coming of Christ. It is His birth, life, death, and resurrection. They trusted God and hoped in God to save them but they did not see the Savior come.
Can you imagine? These faithful did not have the whole Bible, nor did they did not see the object of their faith revealed during their lives. They lived and died believing God would save them through the coming Messiah. They took God at His Word and this chapter of Scripture shows us all that they were able to do as a result of their faith. Without seeing Him, without hearing of His birth, without the testimony of the Apostles in the New Testament, without ever witnessing God with Us in person – without all of this, they still believed God!
How easy we have it. We have the Old and New Testament. We have evidence that Jesus came, was born, lived, died, and was raised from the dead. We look back on the day history changed forever, the coming of Christ. And while we too have never seen Him, we know He has come as our faith gives substance to our conviction (Hebrews 11:1).
They are our examples. They teach us how to walk by faith. Jesus told the disciples that they were blessed for believing in Him having seen Him. He said those who believed without seeing were even more blessed (John 20:29). It is significant that they believed and did not see the promise fulfilled. That did not negate their faith. We are told this to see that their faith was validated, for what they believed eventually did come to pass.
Think about this then today – in the midst of trials and struggles do we have faith that will endure even if we do not see the promise? Even if we do not see deliverance? Even if we die? Do we have the kind of faith that does not blink at threats and glories in the prospects of one day seeing Jesus face to face no matter what we must endure here and now waiting for that day?
We too have promises given that may or may not be fulfilled in this life. But what we have for sure is the promise – Jesus has come! Do we trust Him with our life? With our family? With our all? Trust Him. He is the Promise, ever faithful, never failing, and always interceding for us before the Throne of Grace.