Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
It’s midnight in the mountains, and you’re sound asleep in your cabin. Suddenly you’re awakened by a strong desire to get up, go outside, and look at the sky. You do, and to your amazement it’s pitch black. All around you is inky darkness; you are adrift, dizzy, almost nauseated in a sea of nothingness. You rush back into the cabin, turn on the light, and anxiously wait for the dawn, wondering if you’ve gone mad.
The next night, the same thing happens. But fearful though you are, when the impulse to go outside comes upon you, you obey it. Once again the sky overhead is a sea of darkness. This time, however, something is different. This time you notice a single star, twinkling in the heights above. Though you are still afraid and shaken by the strangeness of the sky, the tiny star brings a measure of comfort, even joy. “Strange,” you say to yourself, “how such a small a thing can dominate such big a thing, and calm my fears in the process.” Fascinated, you stay outside for half an hour, gazing at that one little star.
In the weeks ahead, this scenario repeats itself, but with an important difference: Each time you go outside there are new stars. Eagerly you scan the heavens to find them. Appreciatively, you notice the slight variations in their size, shape, and color. Delightfully, you discover that with each new addition, constellations are taking shape before your eyes; that the various shapes in the heavens—objects, animals, men, women, events—seem to be speaking to one another, and to you as well; that they seem to be telling a great story, the gist of which is slowly—all too slowly—coming into focus in your mind.
And something else is happening. Each time you go outside, you realize the stars are now casting a heavenly light on earthly things; earthly things you thought you saw clearly beneath the light of the sun, but which now, beneath the light of the stars, are quietly, willingly, even joyfully disclosing to you new forms and features you had failed to see before. Indeed, it is now becoming a passion with you to see how the old world is touched and unveiled by this new light. Not that you no longer enjoy the daytime; to the contrary, now you look for it more expectantly than ever, eager to examine in the light of day what you previously beheld in the light of night. Nevertheless, something mysterious and something profoundly important is happening; for as much as you still love the day, it is the call of the night that has captured your imagination. Now your spirit hungers and thirsts to rise and go in search of new stars and new constellations, even as you pause over and again to see how the earth is reflecting and echoing the unfolding story of heaven.
Finally, it all becomes clear: There is a heavenly Someone, a divine Awakener whose loving purpose is to introduce you to a whole new world; indeed, his loving purpose is actually to change your very place of residence, spiritually speaking. Yes, day by day you still walk the earth beneath the light of the sun. But henceforth, because of the super-added light of the stars, you realize that from now on your true home is in the sky.
Such, I think, is the message of Hebrews 11:1, a verse of Scripture that sets the stage for a roll call of the saints of old, men and women who obtained a glowing testimony from God because of their tenacious faith in unseen things that the invisible God was pleased to reveal to them. Indeed, whether we think of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Isaiah, John the Baptist, the Sons of Thunder, Peter, Paul, or any other saints of the times before our own, it is always the same story:
The Lord Himself came to them in the pitch darkness of their spiritual night. He placed a single star—a single truth, a single revelation, a single promise—in the sky of their mind. In so doing, He assured them of something devoutly to be hoped for; He convinced them of something altogether unseen by the eye of flesh, yet utterly real to the eye of faith. So day by day (and night by night) they steadily gazed, through the window of Scripture, upon that star. And as they did, more such stars began to appear, and constellations as well, until at last they found themselves dwelling beneath a mighty tapestry of divine revelation comprised of story, teaching, law, warning, promise, proverb, poetry, letter, faith, hope, and love; a vast tapestry of heavenly truth that overshadowed, bathed, and illuminated the things of earth, disclosing the ultimate meanings buried deep within them all. Finally, these saints realized that they were no longer at home in the earth, but at home in the sky; that from now on their pilgrim bodies were simply making their way to a world where their hearts and minds already lived; and that one day soon, the Lord himself, descending from above, would fully drape the great tapestry of heavenly light over a whole new earth, so that heaven, earth, sky, and light will all at last be one.