The City of God and God’s People
Beginning in chapter 11 of the the book of Hebrews, the writer introduced the idea of the city to engage the reader’s imagination of God’s work. It’s not just any city, but the heavenly city, the city of God.
In this week’s reading, riding on the momentum of the sermon from this past Sunday called Resilient Prayer, we will interact with the City of God and find out what it looks like to be a citizen in the heavenly city. You will pray for yourself and others, growing your desire for God in the process.
THE CITY OF GOD
Read Hebrews 11:1-16 (Click here to read)
Faith can be abstract at times. It is not easy to grasp what it means for someone to have faith. Not to mention that we often hear about others having faith in other people, systems, stuff, or money, or power.
The writer defines faith as being sure of what is unseen and trusting in what we are looking forward to.
Once you have faith, powerful things begin to happen. The write listed a long list of people from ancient times who had faith and achieved the seemingly impossible! These are people of faith and we’ll talk about that in Day 2’s reading.
Today, let’s focus on the city of God. There are a few important things about this city:
- God is the architect and builder of the City
- The city with foundations (a place and people with lasting goodness)
- It’s a heavenly city, it’s a better city
God, the builder of the heavenly city, designed it to be a place of everlasting life and goodness that is different and better than the earthly cities we live in.
Jesus used another language to describe this city – he called it the kingdom of God where God’s rule and reign is evident and permanent.
This city is only accessible by faith. And this faith is fueled by a “longing”, a “longing for a better country”.
Based on this understanding, I think you might find yourself in one of these three situations, you might have…
- No faith in God
- Blind faith in falsehood
- Faith draws you to a deeper longing for God
Whatever state your faith is in, our tendency might be to muster up more faith. But our call is not to tough it out. Rather, it’s to rely on Jesus our saviour!
There is a song that has helped me a lot through difficult times when more faith is needed. It helps me rely on the Lord. Sharing it with you here. Use it as a prayer and ask God to give you more faith than you have now. Here’s the song.
CITY OF GOD’S PEOPLE
Read Hebrews 11:17-40, 12:1-3 (Click here to read)
On Day 1, we learned about the city being God’s city. Now that’s only half the story. The city of God is inhabited by the city of God’s people. The writer listed more than a dozen people throughout the Israelite’s history whose lives of faith altered the history of humankind and brought glory to God.
There’s Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Joseph, Rahab, Norah, Enoch, and more. They all had to wrestle with God during hardship. And their faith did not reward them with answered prayers during their lifetime. Yet, they are exactly the people fitting to be proud citizens of the City of God.
Friends, it is not logical to labour and wrestle for a life without visible rewards. These historical figures had to take a much longer view to long for what is of God, the heavenly city.
I love how scripture referred to them as a cloud of witnesses! And by them we shrug of all of our obstacles and look to Jesus, the ultimate igniter of our faith as we push forward to the city of God. The writer knows how hard the faith journey can get.
What about you? Are you in a situation where you can see the light at the end of the tunnel? Where your prayers seemed unanswered? I’d encourage you to look to Jesus for strength.
Do you have one or two people of faith who are the cloud of witnesses? That their way of life is an inspiration to you? Take a moment to pray and give thanks to God for them. And spend the next 5 minutes reaching out to them with a simple message of encouragement! I’m sure they’ll be energized by your words of kindness.
THE GOD YOU COME TO
Hebrews 12:14-24 (Click here to read)
Would you want peace in your life right now? Maybe you are going through a tough situation in your relationships, finances, or career. Having peace in your life would certainly be a great inner resource! The understanding of the word “peace” here is defined as a sense of health and welfare, a kind of wholeness that is marked by rest and quietness. The passage here urges us that this kind of peace is not just an individual peace that has nothing to do with others. It is peace that is lived in relation to those around us. A kind of wholeness, restfulness that is experienced between people, together in harmony.
The next quality the writer mentioned is holiness, and it means this: to set apart for God. A life that is different and consecrated to God. A life that is not hindered by sin, but rather motivated by God’s grace. Remember that God has grace for you as you wrestle through what it means to live in peace and holiness.
The way to go about living in peace with others and being set apart, is to watch out for the bitterness that may grow over time. Watch out for any kind of resentment that surfaces, especially due to the hardship we face.
How do you do that?
Scripture reminds us of who God is – we have not come to darkness and gloom, but we are coming to the city of the living God, you are among the joyful assembly of angels. That God is not out to get you, but that he is here to bless and to love you.
One of the best ways to process any bitterness in your heart is to be honest to God with your feelings and emotions during difficult seasons with people and circumstances. Through honest prayers, you can direct all that is not going well towards God, keeping in mind that he is there is bless and to love you.
Take some time, in your journal or notepad, write our your thoughts and emotions at the moment. Be free and know that God is listening to you intently. If you need some help with write honest prayers. Here is the video of a prayer and poem by a woman ravaged by cancer. Through the video, learn to be expressive to God about your life.
Hebrews 13:1-8 (Click here to read)
Towards the end of the book of Hebrews, the writer asked the readers to remember three groups of people.
First, those who are imprisoned, meaning those who are without freedom, bounded by the walls and kept under tight restrictions
The second group are those who are suffering because they are being mistreated. Step into their shoes to understand what they are going through.
Thirdly, remember your leaders. Learn from their good examples.
Let’s do an exercise here by praying for one person in each of these categories.
Think of a person who lost their freedom and is bounded by clear restrictions and limitations. Pray for them to receive freedom in Jesus to live.
Take a moment to pray for that person.
Next, is there someone in your life who are being mistreated and suffering greatly as a result. Pray for that person to be comforted and to be seeking the God of justice for rescue.
Pray for that person.
Finally, think of a leader in your life. We know that leaders aren’t perfect. But God have placed some good leaders around you. What good qualities do you see in that leader? What helpful things can you begin to imitate from the leader?
Take some time to give thanks for the leader. Ask God to help you mature in the areas where you can grow.
Hebrews 13:20-21 (Click here to read)
There are only two verses to read for today’s entry. The book of Hebrews is a difficult book to understand at times, if you have been tracking with us for the past 4 weeks or for most of it, WELL DONE!
Let’s wrap us our reading with a blessing? The key here is not to rush but taking your time to pray it through.
We will read it a few times. Each time focusing on a different emphasis.
Here is the passage again.
Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Read slowly, focusing on “God of peace.”
Pause for a minute.
Read again, put the focus on “the blood of the eternal covenant”
Pause for a minute. Taking deep breaths.
This time as you read, Emphasize on “our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep”
Continue the slower pace of breather for another minute.
Read for one more time, focusing on “equip you with everything good for doing his will”
Did a word or phrase resonate with you? What did you hear? Take a moment to write down your thoughts in a journal or notepad.