The Sojourner's Life

Hebrews 11:13-22 – The Sojourner’s Life

The book of Hebrews, in particular, Hebrews 11 presents the challenge to self-evaluate.

  • “What is faith?” “Do I have it?”
  • Remember, faith’s definition.

ESV  Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of athings not seen.

  • Faith “sees” with conviction.
  • Faith “does” something about it!

Verses 13-16 forms a bridge answering why these faith heroes are at center stage.

  • Pre-flood heroes to Abraham and Sarah to their progeny.
    • These heroes seem like one in a million type people.
    • Yet the Bible is honest with both victories and failures.
      • Just like you and me.
      • Men and women born to fight their sin.
    • Like you and me, facing the challenge to persevere!

“Will you live a life of faith measuring your life in view of eternity?”

  • Living life in view of heaven.
  • Seeking first the Kingdom of God.

Christians swing between two motivations.

  • Judgement or reward.
  • These heroes were all seeking reward.


  • These verses in chapter 11 dive into the mindset of real faith!
    • Mindsets characterize by hope.
    • Mindsets to set our course.


  1. A sojourner’s mindset (vv. 13-16)

Let me begin by defining a “sojourner.”

  • Word translated “exile” (v. 13b)
  • Verse 13 calls them “strangers” and “exiles.”
    • Not wrong descriptors, though negative in connotation.
    • An anti-world mentality.
    • Saying, “I am not supposed to be here.”


  • 1 Peter 1:1 and 2:11 use this same word, “exile.”

ESV  1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of athe dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia

ESV  1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you aas sojourners and exiles bto abstain from the passions of the flesh, cwhich wage war against your soul.

Whether translated, “strangers” “aliens” or “exiles” they act as synonyms.

  • Hebrews 11, context creates a functional definition where the term, “sojourner” seems best.
    • People who are home while not home.
    • A traveler, on their way to somewhere else, a better home.


  • A sojourner’s mindset is the cash of the Christian experience.
    • Nothing higher to possess in life than this mindset.
    • Faith being wealth beyond wealth.
    • Earthly comforts do not compare.
    • Family, friends, health, and money without a sojourning mindset offer temporal stability.
    • You will destabilize.


  • Sojourning means when you lose things on earth and you will find them again elsewhere!
    • Losing family, friends, health, and money.
    • Banked in heaven.


  • Believers living in light of a vision for where you are going.
  • This is a treasured mindset.


          a. Sojourner’s think differently

First, “These all died in faith” (v. 13).

  • Reading this raw, blunt, and a hard thud.
    • Heroes in their life journey - and they “died.”
    • Meant to hit hard, so the full meaning will sink in.

The negative sentiment continues with, “…not having received the things promised…” (v. 13).

  • “Is this what believers sign up for?”
    • Sojourning for God, believing His promise.
    • Dying without seeing God come through!


  • “A wasted investment?”
  • No! Not even close!

Verse 13b fills out the author’s point.

  • They journeyed as strangers because they both “saw” and “greeted” God’s promise “from afar” (v. 13).
    • The context fills out what “from afar” means.
      • Think “from afar” not in terms of time but in terms of place.
      • Promise that is not fully realized until heaven.


  • Being “strangers and exiles on the earth” means you are driven by somewhere else.
  • Promises, like anticipating a great friend coming to meet you! Someone you love.


  • Not a lifeless, fatalist existence.
    • This is actually simple faith.
      • The lights are either all the way on or all the way off.
      • There is always a dimmer switch where your faith is not always bright.
      • However, in the Spirit, you are warmly “greeted” by God’s promises.


  • I find this especially true in corporate worship, singing promises together!


When I am working through something sad or seemingly hopeless and I sing, lyrics like what is listed on our bulletin:


“O LORD, My God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds they hands have made.  I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, thy power throughout the universe displayed”


Reflecting on God’s greatness and power and might turns to dimmer up, warming my heart to believe, see, and “greet” his divine assist through whatever I am facing!


          b. Sojourner’s talk differently

Verse 14 says, the way someone talks tells what is going on inside the heart (cf. v. 14).

  • Jesus said, “From out the mouth the heart speaks.”
  • Jesus said as much to the Pharisees.

ESV  Matthew 12:34 aYou brood of vipers! How can you speak good, bwhen you are evil? cFor out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Mat 12:34 ESV)

A tree bearing either “good fruit or bad fruit” that a “tree is known by its fruit” (Matt. 12:33).

  • The mouth reveals what is inside!
  • Paul characterized his entire preaching ministry saying, “I believed, and so I spoke” (2 Cor. 4:13).

ESV  2 Corinthians 4:13 Since we have athe same spirit of faith according to what has been written, b"I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak

Back up to verse 13, the word “acknowledged” is “confessed” (v. 13).

  • Sojourners have confessional faith.
  • Speaking with conviction as to who they are.

Verse 14 “They make it clear” they are “seeking a homeland” that is somewhere else.

Verse 15, closes the argument with a principled experiment.

  • “If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return” (v. 15).
    • Undoubtedly refers to Abraham, Sarah, Isaac.
    • Abraham could have gone back to Ur or Haran, but he did not!
      • While Abraham and family were inside Canaan they were refugees in their own Promised Land.
      • They walked it, pastured their flocks on it and raised children on it but never really possessed it.


  • They could have simply left but did not.
  • They sojourned and died as sojourners.
  • They did not go back, they endured to the end.

History is deliberate.  A model for Christians here and now.

We enjoy our world while we guard against a sudden return to our former way of life.

  • People faking themselves out in the faith, will just return like dogs to vomit.
  • People set free from the world’s undertow have this kind of joy.


Believers, facing terminal illness will live fully detached, manifest this kind of faith.  This kind of detachment is not simply for people who are terminal; this same detachment from the world is for Christians full of health.

Enduring faith is not passive resignation but driven desire.

  • They wanted something “better!”
  • Jesus being “better” is a major theme in Hebrews.
    • Better than the angels (1:4).
    • Melchizedek (a type of Christ) is better than Abraham (7:7).
    • Jesus brings a better hope (7:19) and a better covenant (7:22; 8:6) because he offered a “better” sacrifice (9:23).
    • Jesus’ blood is “better” than Abel’s (12:24).
    • So, we have a “better possession” (10:34) and a “better resurrection” (11:35) – “something better!” (11:40).

Jesus commands every believer “to seek first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33).

  • This I the “better country” a “heavenly one” a better “city!” (v. 16).
  • This is the standard mindset.

However, the question is, “How on earth can we think this heavenly.”

  • It does not seem possible.
  • Left to ourselves this is true.

Verse 16 pushes that the reason you desire something “better” than the world, is God’s direct intervention.  “Always is!”

Verse 16 still about the heroes, but insert your names in this list.

  • He “is not ashamed to be called their God…”
    • Why? Because of how strong they were?
    • God “has prepared for them a city” (v. 16).


  • This is the same promise Jesus made to his disciples as he said he was going to leave them. “I go and prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).

ESV  John 14:1-3 a"Let not your hearts be troubled. bBelieve in God;1 believe also in me.2 In amy Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that bI go to prepare a place for you?1

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you ato myself, that bwhere I am you may be also.


  • If you are ashamed to God, he will be ashamed of you (cf. v. 16).
  • If you are not ashamed of God, then he has already worked in your heart, so that he ensures he will not be ashamed of you!
  • You say this takes responsibility off actively loving God!
  • Only if you believe that you first loved God before he loved you!

Losing sight of grace!  We love him more by grace.  We want heaven by grace.  Left to ourselves we will always settle for less.

When grace is the driving force behind wanting what is “better,” dramatic obedience or fruit happens.

  • Left to ourselves we would never obey like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph did!
  • A true sojourner’s mindset always brings fruit - dramatic obedience.


Seeing your future homeland by grace makes people do abnormal things.  Sojourners live life in a noticeably different way than everybody else.


  1. A sojourner’s obedience (vv. 17-22)


          a. Abraham offers Isaac

Abraham’s example is striking.

  • This test is easy to assume it puts Abraham was in a class all by himself.
    • A command that does not even square with God’s prohibition of human sacrifice. “You shall not Kill.”
    • The key that cracks the code to immediate questions is in the phrase, “he who had received the promises” (v. 17).


  • What God was proving through this test.

Abraham was a man like anyone else.

  • Lied twice (to Pharaoh then a King) saying Sarah was his sister to save himself.
  • Took Hagar as a substitute to bear the child Ishmael to pragmatically carry out God’s promise to build this nation.

Still, Abraham’s faith was real but not fully engaged.

  • Faltering – dimmer switch turned low!
    • Abraham surviving prior tests, now faces a supreme test.
    • One God destined for him to pass!


  • In fact, the point is that he passing was fool proof.
  • Why? “He had received [avadekomai] the promises” (v. 17).
  • The natural man does not “receive!”

ESV  1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are afolly to him, and bhe is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

“How do we know Abraham had “received” this promise?”

  • “When…tested [he] offered Isaac.”
  • This was ludicrous right?

Verses 17-19 frame this event in two ways it is both emotional and logical.

  • A human dimension and supernatural dimension.
    • This “offering was his only son” – literally Abraham’s “only begotten son.”
    • This is the emotion of a father who especially loved his son.


  • The same language that casts God the Father who “gave his only begotten Son” (Jn. 3:16).

ESV  John 1:14 And athe Word bbecame flesh and cdwelt among us, dand we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of egrace and ftruth.

Unique and special connections.

ESV  Genesis 22:1-8 After these things aGod tested Abraham and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I."2 He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to athe land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy1 will go over there and worship and come again to you."6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and alaid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together.7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said, "Here am I, my son." He said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?"8 Abraham said, a"God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together.


  • The emotion between the two is evident.
  • Still, God’s supernatural intervention overrides normal activity.
    • The point is not that Abraham would slay his son as his ultimate sacrifice.
    • To moralize the story. “Never give God second best!”


  • Abraham was not operating on a “giving and receiving” promise. No!
    • Abraham already witnessed the miracle conception of Isaac found in Sarah’s womb.
    • Who was well past childbearing age.

Abraham was convinced that God’s greater plan was to be fulfilled through Isaac.

  • Verse 18 makes this clear! It would be “Through Isaac” (v. 18).

Verse 19 introduces Abraham’s mindset with the word, “considered” (v. 19).

  • “Considered” [logisamevos] - the word logarithm which means “calculate or compute.”
    • Abraham was reasoning this out using logic!
    • Not fideism - faith without reason; blind faith.


  • Almost mathematical in his reasoning.
  • Seeing death as an obstacle God would overcome.
  • God’s promise meant raising his Isaac from death.

A type of Christ’s resurrection.

  • “Figuratively” [paraBoln] - a parable of Christ being raised.

Gen. 22:9-16 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and alaid him on the altar, on top of the wood.10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I."12 He said, a"Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for bnow I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me."13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.14 So Abraham called the name of that place, a"The LORD will provide";1 as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided."215 And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven16 and said, a"By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son


When John Bunyan was in jail for preaching the gospel, he was deeply concerned about his family.

  • He was particularly grieved about his little blind daughter, for whom he had a special love.

He wrote, “I saw in this condition I was a man who was pulling down his house upon the head of his wife and children.  Yet, thought I, I must do it; I must do it.”

  • Bunyan suffered separation from his family, locked in the Bedfordshire prison for some years.
  • Preaching to his church gathered outside the walls.

ESV  Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him adeny himself and btake up his cross and follow me.

ESV  Romans 12:1 aI appeal to you therefore, brothers,1 by the mercies of God, bto present your bodies cas a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

I want to take the liberty to wrap this main point up with verses 20-22.

  • Three more sojourners.
  • Three more abnormal forms of obedience.
    • One thing links these three examples of faith together.
    • Death was very near.
    • All three men died without entering the promise God had made.


  • The promise of the Promised Land and greatness of the nation of Israel.
    • Isaac still a nomad.
    • Jacob an exile in Egypt.
    • Joseph who attained greatness but greatness as a stranger in a strange land.


          b. Isaac blessed Jacob, not Esau (v. 20)

Isaac meant to pronounce a blessing on his firstborn, Esau but was deceived (Gen. 27).

  • The blessing given to Jacob, Isaac took as binding, believing it would not fail.
  • Later redone full knowledge (Gen. 27:33; 28:1-4).


          c. Jacob reversed the blessing (v. 21)

Jacob, “when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph” (v. 21).

  • He leaned on his staff and had Joseph bringing his sons to be blessed.
    • Older Manasseh placed by his right hand for greater blessing, and the younger Ephraim on his left.
      • Jacob responds to God’s direction, crossed his hands, reversing the blessings (Gen. 48:17-20).
      • Jacob did this proving his trust in God’s Word!


  • He was certain about the future, convinced nothing would stop God’s purposes.
  • In time, the tribe of Ephraim lead in Israel.


          d. Joseph gave directions concerning his bones (v. 22)

Joseph who had left Canaan when he was seventeen (Gen. 37:2), lived in Egypt until his death at 110 (Gen. 50:26).

  • Nevertheless, Joseph’s certainty of God’s promise that Israel would possess the land drove him to give this directive!
    • “At the end of his life” required that his body, mummified, was to be carried out of Egypt.
    • It was first by Moses (Ex. 13:19) later to be buried in Shechem by Joshua when he conquered the land (Josh. 24:32).

ESV  Exodus 13:19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph1 had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, a"God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here."

ESV  Joshua 24:32 aAs for the bones of Joseph, which the people of Israel brought up from Egypt, they buried them at Shechem, in the piece of land bthat Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of money.1 It became an inheritance of the descendants of Joseph.


All of these patriarchs trusted God’s bare word, seeing beyond their own deaths.

Permanent greatness!


The overriding mindset: “God’s promise is true and he never breaks it!”

Whether we live to see what God was doing within our lifetime, we say, “I will be content!”

I am a link in the chain of God’s unbreakable plan!

Christians living in this mindset know the end of the story. “Jesus wins!”


Lift your heads above the daily struggle.

See a horizon that is broader than today’s circumstances.

See life through the eyes of a sojourner – investing for eternity!



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