Hebrews 11:10

Thursday, 7 March 2019

…for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Hebrews 11:10

There are two articles in the Greek which are rather important in understanding the intent of the words of this verse. The KJV completely botches the translation by ignoring both of them, thus rendering the verse impotent. The NKJV includes one, but not the other. The words read, “the city which has the foundations.” With that understood, we can properly appreciate the words of the author.

Building upon the previous verse, he notes that Abraham “dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country.” He goes on to say that in that land, he dwelt in tents. The reason for this is that “he waited.” If Abraham thought of an earthly possession, he would have claimed land, built a home, and started to build his empire. But God promised that his descendants afterward would possess the land, meaning he would not. Thus, he waited. In his waiting, “he waited for the city which has foundations.”

It was understood that dwelling in tents meant that his lodging was temporary. With the pulling up of the pegs, the tent would collapse. With a strong enough wind, the tent would blow away. There was never a sense of permanence in his tent-dwelling lifestyle. The earth itself was the only foundation. But the earth is in a fallen state. It brings forth life which then eventually dies and returns to the dust.

However, there is the city which has the foundations. It is a city of life everlasting. It is what Abraham looked forward to, and it is referred to by Paul in Ephesians 2 –

“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:19-22

Here Paul speaks of a holy temple, but Revelation clarifies the picture –

Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Revelation 21:14

When it says in Ephesians 2 that the household of God is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, it signifies their proclamation of Christ is the foundational message. It is He who is the chief Cornerstone. In the New Jerusalem, the names of the apostles are on the twelve foundations, signifying the work of the apostles in carrying out the foundational message of Christ. In other words, the city with the foundations is speaking of nothing less than the message of Messiah, and the reality of Messiah as the focal point of our relationship with God. It was He who was promised to come and restore all things, and Abraham looked forward to that, not to an earthly inheritance.

His understanding of this was limited to the simple promise of God to Adam, as had been passed down throughout the generations, but it was a promise that was sure to come. It is this city, built upon the message of Messiah, “whose builder and maker is God.”

Babel was a city built by men, and by human effort. The purpose of it was the uniting of the people and to reach heaven. As it says, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens” (Genesis 11:4). However, the Lord spurned this, dispersed the people, and rejected it as a means of restoration with Him.

In the very next chapter of the Bible, it tells of the call of Abraham and the continued work of God in building an everlasting city which would be united in purpose, in speech, and in devotion to God, all because of the work of God in Christ. This is “the city with the foundations.” It is set in contrast to anything available in tents, demonstrating Abraham’s anticipation of future glory in Messiah.

Life application: Many years later after Abraham’s call, while speaking to Pharaoh in Egypt, his grandson Jacob used the terminology of someone looking beyond the life he was living –

The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.” Genesis 47:9

A pilgrim is a person on a journey to a holy place. Jacob, like Isaac and Abraham before him, knew that this life was temporary and troubled, but these men looked forward to that city whose “builder and maker is God.” This is a really good lesson for each of us to consider. How deeply have we set our roots in this life instead of looking at it as a stepping stone for the next? Keep your eyes on the prize and don’t get sidetracked by what is only temporary and fleeting.

Lord God, You are preparing a true home for Your people, an eternal home which is the city with the foundations. It is our great hope since the time of our first father, Adam. Help us to not get so caught up in the things of this world that we forget the promise and lose sight of the goal. Help us to keep our eyes on Jesus, and to live in anticipation of the time when we are forever returned to the splendor of Your presence. Amen.

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