In Hebrews chapter 11, the author develops a critical similarity between the old covenant saints and new covenant believers; the absolute need to live by faith. For the Old Testament believers, their faith was centered around the idea that something better was coming.
“By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain…By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death…By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, prepared an ark…By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out…not knowing where he was going…By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for a city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised….All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Heb 11:4-13).
The author continues to highlight the faith of the Old Testament saints throughout the rest of chapter 11. By the end of the chapter he brings us, the new covenant believers, into the picture. “And all these [Old Testament saints], having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us [new covenant saints], so that apart from us they would not be made perfect” (Heb 11:39-40). “Something better” takes us back to Hebrews 8:6, “But now Jesus has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises” (Heb 8:6).
What are these “better promises” that apply to new covenant believers? And what kind of faith is required for us to lay hold of these promises? We will explore these questions next time.