Abraham lived in tents. He kept flocks. So did his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob. Abraham was told to move from the land where he was born. He was sent to Canaan, to the land of promise, to be filled with people of promise. But he was 100 when he finally had the son he was promised, and he always lived in tents.
As far as we know, the first of Abraham’s descendants to live in a city, to stay regularly in a house was Joseph. And that wasn’t in the promised land, It was in Egypt, where he was taken by human traffickers. Eventually, Joseph’s siblings all moved to Egypt. The descendants moved into houses of some sort. Four hundred years later, they ended up in tents again, traveling 40 years in the wilderness back to the the promised land.
And then they lived in houses. Between six and seven hundred years from tents to cities.
This travelogue came to mind when I was reading from Hebrews last week. Talking about Abraham’s confidence in what he hoped for, the writer says, “By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”
Abraham learned to take the long view, learned through successes and digressions, through faithfulness and misguided spiritual entrepreneurship, through returning and returning and returning. What he kept coming back to was the glimpse of blueprints of a city.
Even the city of David with the temple of Solomon was still a sketch, a taste of the Kingdom of heaven. Until a great-great-great stood in Jerusalem and said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
Sometimes faith takes a long time.