Hebrews 11:13 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. (NASB: Lockman)
Greek: Kata pistin apethanon (3PAPI) outoi pantes, me labontes (AAPMPN) tas epaggelias, alla porrothen autas idontes (3PPAI) kai aspasamenoi, (AMPMPN) kai homologesantes (AAPMPN) oti xenoi kai parepidemoi eisin (3PPAI) epi tes ges;
Amplified: These people all died controlled and sustained by their faith, but not having received the tangible fulfillment of [God’s] promises, only having seen it and greeted it from a great distance by faith, and all the while acknowledging and confessing that they were strangers and temporary residents and exiles upon the earth. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
NLT: All these faithful ones died without receiving what God had promised them, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed the promises of God. They agreed that they were no more than foreigners and nomads here on earth. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: All these whom we have mentioned maintained their faith but died without actually receiving God's promises, though they had seen them in the distance, had hailed them as true and were quite convinced of their reality. They freely admitted that they lived on this earth as exiles and foreigners (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: These all died dominated by faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off and greeted them, also confessed that they were strangers, even those who had settled down alongside of a pagan population upon the earth.
Young's Literal: In faith died all these, not having received the promises, but from afar having seen them, and having been persuaded, and having saluted them, and having confessed that strangers and sojourners they are upon the earth,
ALL THESE DIED IN FAITH WITHOUT RECEIVING THE PROMISES: Kata pistin apethanon (3PAPI) houtoi pantes me labontes (AAPMPN) tas epaggelias:
- Ge 25:8; 27:2, 3, 4; 48:21; 49:18,28,33; 50:24
- Hebrews 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
All these (always seek to practice the 5W/H questions! e.g., All who? Who are these?) - In context (which is king for interpretation) this reference refers to the recipients to whom the promises were made, those just mentioned in He 11:9 10 11 12, specifically the patriarchs of Israel, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (these also includes Sarah). God's promise to Abraham (Abram) was passed to Isaac (Ge 26:2, 3, 4, 5,24) and from Isaac it was passed to Jacob (Ge 28:10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15). This interpretation is supported by the fact that the promises began with Abraham (cf. Acts 7:17; Ro 4:13; Gal 3:14, 15, 16, 17, 18) and were passed on to Isaac (Ge 26:2, 3, 4, 5,24) and Jacob (Ge 28:10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15). In addition, only those individuals fit the description in v15 and Enoch did not die. See He 6:15. These people of faith didn’t know when they would inherit the promise. They had a life in the land, but did not possess it.
Moody comments on the fact that they all died in faith without receiving the promises - We ought in these days to have far more faith than Abel, or Enoch, or Abraham had. They lived away on the other side of the Cross. We talk about the faith of Elijah, and the patriarchs and prophets; but they lived in the dim light of the past, while we are in the full blaze of Calvary and the resurrection. When we look back and think of what Christ did, how He poured out His blood that men might be saved, we ought to go forth in His strength and conquer the world. Our God is able to do great and mighty things.
Spurgeon sees "all these" patriarchs as representative of all believers writing...“These all died in faith.” Believers constitute a class by themselves, — “These.” They are the people that dwell alone, and shall not be numbered among the nations. We see a great many distinctions in the world which God takes no notice of: there is neither Jew nor Gentile, bond nor free, in his sight. But there is a distinction which men think little of, which is greatly observed of God; and that is the distinction between them that believe and those that believe not. Faith puts you across the border most effectually, for it brings you out of darkness into marvelous light, from death to life, and from the dominion of Satan into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. It is the most important thing under heaven that we should know that we believe in God. The Holy Spirit puts believers by themselves, and speaks of them as “These.”...Dying In Faith. What does it mean? Does it not mean that, when they came to die, they had not faith to seek, but having had faith in life, they had faith in death? I will pronounce no opinion upon death-bed repentance. I have heard judgments far too sanguine, I have heard verdicts far too severe. Where we know little, we had better say little, but this much I may say: I would not like to lie upon a sick-bed, much less upon a dying bed, and have a Savior to seek there. (Hebrews 11:13,14 An Inscription for the Mausoleum of the Saints)
Spurgeon on all died in faith - They did die, although they had faith, for faith is not given to us that we should escape death, but that we may die in faith. God will not in every case hear our prayers for restoration to health. It is not true that if we gather together and pray for a sick man he will always be restored. No believer would die if that were the case, for every Christian man would find some friends in Christ to pray for his recovery. Saints die as well as sinners. David dies as well as Saul. He who leaned on the bosom of Jesus lived long, but died at last—died as surely as Judas did, though in a better style. “It is destined for people to die once” (Heb 9:27). Two have entered into glory by another way, but only two. There shall come a day when we who are alive and remain shall not see death, but that day is not yet.
Kent Hughes comments on the phrase died in faith noting that...Death is the final test of faith, and they all passed with flying colors, living by faith right up to the last breath. The beauty of their dying was that they died in faith though never receiving the fullness of the universal blessing that had been promised. The reason they could do this was, they saw the unseen—they were certain of what they did not see. The patriarchs could see through the eye of faith the ultimate fulfillment of the promises, like sailors who become content they can see their final destination on the horizon. Land ahoy! (Hughes, R. K. Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul. Volume 1. Crossway; Volume 2)
Died (599)(apothnesko [word study] from apo = marker of dissociation implying a rupture from a former association, separation, departure, cessation + thnesko = die) literally means to die off and can speak of literal physical death (Ro 6:9-note) but in this context speaks figuratively (metaphorically) of a believer's death to sin (Ro 6:2-note, Ro 6:7-note, Ro 6:8-note, Col 3:3-note), self, Satan, the law (Ro 7:6-note, Gal 2:19) and the world (Col 2:20-note, cp Gal 6:14-note - crucified used instead of died) which was effected when Christ was crucified and when by faith we believed in Him and in God's reckoning (albeit a "mysterious" teaching) were crucified with Him (Ro 6:6-note).
It is notable that as life was never meant to be merely existence, for indeed death which is the antonym of life does not mean non-existence. It is important to note that to die does not mean one is annihilated as some falsely teach (including even some who classified as "evangelicals"! Be a Berean - Acts 17:11-note when you read anything but the Bible -- and this warning applies to the site you are currently reading!). Everyone who has every been born will continue to exist, either in the presence of God or to experience conscious existence in separation from God (see 2Th 1:9).
Gil Rugh applies this passage suggesting that "for most of us, there might be some discontent with God when, after years and years in a foreign land, none of His promises came true in our lifetimes. Abraham left his home, and witnessed the death of his wife (Ge 23:1,2) in this foreign land; but did this curtail his faith? No. He accepted his circumstance, and continued to trust the Lord and as He 11:13 proclaims, he 'died in faith.' (By Faith Abraham)
WILL GIVE US
In faith - Literally this reads "according to faith." What does this mean? Vine comments that the idea is that they died "in keeping with their life of faith." And so they died, as they lived. Wuest feels that the idea is that "These all died dominated by faith." That is their strong, persevering faith was a controlling characteristic of their life.
Spurgeon comments that "In faith they lived. It was their comfort, their guide, their motive, and their support, and in the same spiritual grace they died, ending their life-song in the sweet strain in which they had so long continued. They did not die resting in the flesh or upon their own achievements; they made no advance from their first way of acceptance with God but held to the way of faith to the end.
In a sermon on Hebrews 11:16 Spurgeon writes ...
Notice that it is said, “These all died in faith,” so that they did not believe in God for a little while, and then become unbelievers; but, throughout the whole of their lives, from the moment when they were called by God’s grace, they continued to believe Him, they trusted Him till they came to their graves; so that this epitaph is written over the mausoleum where they all lie asleep, “These all died in faith.” Ah! my beloved brother’s and sisters, it is very easy to say, “I believe,” and to get very enthusiastic over the notion that we have believed; but so to believe as to persevere to the end,— this is the faith which will save the soul.
“He that shall endure unto the end
the same shall be saved.”
The faith that many waters cannot drown and the fiercest fires cannot burn,— the faith that plods on throughout a long and weary life,— the faith that labors on, doing whatever service God appoints it,— the faith that waits patiently, expecting the time when every promise of God shall be fulfilled to the letter when its hour has come,— that is the faith which, if it be in a man, makes him such a man that God is not ashamed to be called his God (Heb 11:16). I put it to every one of you, have ’you a faith that will hold on and hold out,— not a faith that starts with a fine spurt, but a faith that runs from the starting-place to the goal? Some of you, I know, have believed in God these twenty, thirty, forty, or even fifty years. Just before I came to this service, I stood by the bedside of a dear brother who is the nearest to Job of any man I ever saw, for he is covered from head to foot with sore blains (pustules, blisters); I might almost say, “wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores;” and yet he is as happy as anyone among us, joyful and. cheerful as he talks about the time when he shall be “with Christ, which is far better.” Oh, that is the faith we want! “These all died in faith,” “wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.”
He is not the God of apostates, for He hath said, “If any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him.” (Heb 10:38-note) If he has put his hand to the plough, and. looks back, he is not worthy of the kingdom. (Lk 9:62 - see comments related to "Remember Lot's wife") It is the man who steadily, and perseveringly, resting in his God, and believing Him against all that may be said by God’s foes, holds on until he sees the King in his beauty in the land which is very far off. Of such a man it may be truly said that God is not ashamed to be called his God. (Read the full sermon Hebrews 11:16 The Two Pivots)
The writer of Hebrews wrote a similar description of Noah who acted on God's warning even though he could not see it at the time it was given and as a result he...
became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith (kata pistis). (Heb 11:7-note)
Comment: In short Noah was "saved by grace through faith" in the promises of God, specifically the promise that He would save Noah and his family in the Ark, a beautiful picture of the "Ark" of our salvation, Christ Jesus. Are you in the Ark? Don't wait until the flood waters begin to rise before you try to get into the Ark of Christ, for then it will be too late for the LORD will close the door (cp Ge 7:16, cp Lk 16:24 25-note, cp Mt 25:10)
Jesus warned: But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 37 For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then there shall be two men in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. 42 Therefore be on the alert (present imperative = command calling for this to be one's continual attitude), for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. (Mt 24:36-42)
W E Vine comments on three prepositions that precede faith - In Romans the frequent phrase is “of” or “from” faith (ek), indicating faith as the source of righteousness, e.g., Ro 1:17; Ro 9:30; Ro 10:6, and by faith (dia), signifying the instrument. Here (Heb 11:7) it is kata, “according to” faith, that is, in agreement with, or consistent with, faith.
Steven Cole explains that the idea according to faith indicates that
Faith was the dominant characteristic of their lives, right up to the point of death. None of them realized the promise of the land of Canaan, or the promise of innumerable descendants (eg Ge 15:5 6). They viewed themselves as strangers and exiles on earth. If they had doubted God’s promise (Ed: While their faith was not perfect and they had moments of doubting, they did not manifest a habitual practice of doubting like James describes Jas 1:6 7-note Jas 1:8-note), they could have gone back to their homeland. “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (He 11:16). And so they died well, “according to faith” in the yet unfulfilled, unseen promises of God. As such, they are examples of how to live and die according to faith as exiles on earth, while we pant after a better country in heaven. Our text makes two main points: (Hebrews 11:13-16 Desiring a Better Country) (Link to all of Pastor Cole's sermons - recommended)
Beloved, may God grant that we all live well (according to faith 2Co 5:7-note He 6:11 12-note) that we will like the patriarchs "die well", according to faith, even as did the NT saints like Paul who was confident that "He (the Lord) is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day." (2Ti 1:12-note)
Matthew Poole adds that "they did not only live according to faith, walking with, worshipping of, and waiting on God, testifying against sin, but finished their course by dying according to faith; by faith, as the instrumental efficient of it; in faith, as the regulating cause of it; according to faith, as in the state of believing. Faith was immortal in them as their souls, making their death a covenant dissolution, Lk 2:29, a voluntary, hopeful, blessed death, as 2Co 5:8-note 1Th 4:13-note.
Faith "is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (He 11:1-note) Faith sees the invisible (He 11:26, 27-note, 2Co 5:7-note, 2Co 4:18-note) and believes the impossible (cp Abraham in Ro 4:19 20 21-note)
Spurgeon - What long arms faith has! The promises are afar off, and yet faith embraces them to-night. Embrace the promises, dear friends, and stretch out your hands by faith to hands that have gone before.
“E’en now by faith we join our hands
With those that went before; "
And greet the blood-besprinkled bands
On the eternal shore.”
Faith (4102)(pistis) is synonymous with trust or belief and is the conviction of the truth of anything, but in Scripture speaks of belief respecting man's relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervor born of faith and joined with it. As pistis relates to God, it is the conviction that God exists and is the Creator and Ruler of all things well as the Provider and Bestower of eternal salvation through Christ. As faith relates to Christ it represents a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through Whom we obtain eternal salvation and entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. Stated another way, eternal salvation comes only through belief in Jesus Christ and no other way.
For more discussion on the meaning of faith see commentary on Hebrews 11:1-2.
Faith is believing that God will keep His promises, despite circumstances that seem to be to the contrary! True faith that saves one's soul includes at least three main elements - (1) firm persuasion or firm conviction, (2) a surrender to that truth and (3) a conduct emanating from that surrender. In sum, faith shows itself genuine by a changed life. (Click for W E Vine's definition of faith)
Faith is relying on what God has done rather than on our own efforts. It may surprise you that the word faith is rarely mentioned in the Old Testament (only 4x in NAS = Dt 32:51 Job 39:12 Ps 146:6 Hab 2:4). The word trust is used frequently (79x in 78v in NAS). In addition, and verbs like believe (39x in 38v in NAS) and rely (14x in 11v in NAS) are used to express the right attitude to God. The classic example is Abraham, whose faith was reckoned as righteousness (Ge 15:6 - See word study on Hebrew word for "believe" = 'aman [word study]). At the heart of the Christian message is the story of the cross: Christ's dying to bring salvation. Faith is an attitude of trust in which a believer receives God's good gift of salvation (Acts 16:30,31) and lives in that awareness thereafter (Gal 2:20-note; cp He 11:1-note).
Alexander Maclaren said that Faith is the hand that grasps. It is the means of communication, it is the channel through which the grace which is the life, or, rather, I should say, the life which is the grace, comes to us. It is the open door by which the angel of God comes in with his gifts. It is like the petals of the flowers, opening when the sunshine kisses them, and, by opening, laying bare the depths of their calyxes to be illuminated and coloured, and made to grow by the sunshine which itself has opened them, and without the presence of which, within the cup, there would have been neither life nor beauty. So faith is the basis of everything; the first shoot from which all the others ascend...Faith works. It is the foundation of all true work; even in the lowest sense of the word we might almost say that. But in the Christian scheme it is eminently the underlying requisite for all work which God does not consider as busy idleness...
Although I do not agree with all of William Barclay's theology, he offers a sound definition of Biblical (saving) faith writing that "Faith begins with receptivity. It begins when a man is at least willing to listen to the message of the truth. It goes on to mental assent. A man first hears and then agrees that this is true. But mental assent need not issue in action. Many a man knows very well that something is true, but does not change his actions to meet that knowledge. The final stage is when this mental assent becomes total surrender. In full-fledged faith, a man hears the Christian message, agrees that it is true, and then casts himself upon it in a life of total yieldedness. (Barclay, W: The Daily Study Bible Series. The Westminster Press)
The writer of Hebrews tightly links faith with obedience (Heb 3:18, 19). Do not misunderstand -- Faith alone saves but the faith that save is not alone.
Spurgeon on without receiving the promises - They had received a great deal, but they had not received the fullness of the promises. Abraham had not beheld his seed so many as the sands upon the seashore. Neither Isaac nor Jacob had ever seen the Shiloh, in whom all the nations of the earth are blessed. No, they had not received the promises. And you and I have not received all the promises. We have received a great deal, but there are certain promises that we have not received yet. The coming, the glorious coming, which is the brightest hope of the church, when the Lord “will descend from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God” (1Th 4:16-note)—we have not received that as yet. And heaven itself, with all its splendor, its white robes and palms of victory, we have not yet received. We are looking for these. We do not die in the fruition of these. We die in faith, expecting that we shall enter upon the fulfillment of these promises.
Promises (1860) (epaggelia/epangelia from epí = intensifies verbal meaning + aggéllo = to tell, declare) originally referred to an announcement or declaration but in later Greek came to mean a declaration to do something with the implication of obligation to carry out what is stated (thus a promise or pledge). Epaggelia was primarily a legal term denoting summons, a promise to do or give something.
In Acts Luke records this instructive passage...
And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob to whom and through whom the Abrahamic Covenant passed) that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, 'THOU ART MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN THEE.' (Acts 13:32-33)
In Romans Paul speaks of the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant writing...
For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, neither is there violation. For this reason it is by faith, that it might be in accordance with grace, in order that the promise may be certain to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, (as it is written, "A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU") in the sight of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. (See notes Romans 4:14; 4:15; 4:16; 4:17)
Barnes - The covenants of promise were those various arrangements which God made with his people, by which he promised them future blessings, and especially by which he promised that the Messiah should come. To be in possession of them was regarded as a high honour and privilege; and Paul refers to it here to show that, though the Ephesians had been by nature without these, yet they had now been brought to enjoy all the benefits of them. (Albert Barnes. Barnes NT Commentary)
Illustration of faith - When missionary John Paton was translating the Scripture for the South Sea islanders, he was unable to find a word in their vocabulary for the concept of believing, trusting, or having faith. He had no idea how he would convey that crucial concept to them. One day while in his hut translating, a native came running up the stairs into Paton's study and flopped in a chair, exhausted. He said to Paton, "It's so good to rest my whole weight in this chair." John Paton had his word: Faith is resting your whole weight on God. That word went into the translation of their New Testament and helped bring that civilization of natives to Christ. Believing is putting your whole weight on God. If God said it, then it's true, and we're to believe it. (See also Heaven Born are Heaven Bound or Missionary's Return)
Illustration of Not Receiving the Promises - Just after the turn of the century, pioneer missionary Henry C. Morrison was returning to New York after forty years in Africa. That same boat also bore home the wildly popular President Theodore Roosevelt. As they entered New York harbor, the President was greeted with a huge fanfare. Morrison felt rather dejected. After all, he had spent four decades in the Lord’s service. But then a small voice came to Morrison, saying, “Henry… you’re not home yet.”
Spurgeon's devotional from Morning and Evening - "These all died in faith." Hebrews 11:13
Behold the epitaph of all those blessed saints who fell asleep before the coming of our Lord! It matters nothing how else they died, whether of old age, or by violent means; this one point, in which they all agree, is the most worthy of record, they all died in faith. In faith they lived-it was their comfort, their guide, their motive and their support; and in the same spiritual grace they died, ending their life-song in the sweet strain in which they had so long continued. They did not die resting in the flesh or upon their own attainments; they made no advance from their first way of acceptance with God, but held to the way of faith to the end.
Faith is as precious
to die by as to live by.
Dying in faith has distinct reference to the past. They believed the promises which had gone before, and were assured that their sins were blotted out through the mercy of God.
Dying in faith has to do with the present. These saints were confident of their acceptance with God, they enjoyed the beams of his love, and rested in his faithfulness.
Dying in faith looks into the future. They fell asleep, affirming that the Messiah would surely come, and that when He would in the last days appear upon the earth, they would rise from their graves to behold Him. To them the pains of death were but the birth-pangs of a better state.
Take courage, my soul, as thou readest this epitaph (a brief statement commemorating or epitomizing a deceased person or something past).
Thy course, through grace, is one of faith, and sight seldom cheers thee; this has also been the pathway of the brightest and the best.
Faith was the orbit in which these stars of the first magnitude moved all the time of their shining here; and happy art thou that it is thine. Look anew to-night to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of thy faith (He 12:2-note), and thank Him for giving thee like precious faith with souls now in glory.
BUT HAVING SEEN THEM AND HAVING WELCOMED THEM FROM A DISTANCE AND HAVING CONFESSED THAT THEY WERE STRANGERS AND EXILES ON THE EARTH: alla porrothen autas idontes (AAPMPN) kai aspasamenoi (AMPMPN) ai homologesantes (AAPMPN) hoti xenoi kai parepidemoi eisin (3PPAI) epi tes ges:
- He 11:27; Ge 49:10; Nu 24:17; Job 19:25; Jn 8:56; 12:41; 1Pe 1:10, 11, 12) (Ro 4:21; 8:24; 1Jn 3:19
- Ge 23:4; 47:9; 1Chr 29:14,15; Ps 39:12; 119:19; 1Pe 1:17; 2:11
- Hebrews 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
This world is not my home
I’m just a passing through
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me
From heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home
In this world anymore
But (contrast - always ask 5W/H questions like "What is being contrasted?" "Why?" "When?" "How?", etc) These OT saints of great faith did not receive the literal fulfillment of the divine promises but (contrast) they saw the promises with eyes of faith, a good example for who are beloved by God (1Th 1:4-note) to follow.
Their faith was a patient faith, a persevering faith, a faith willing to weather great hardships because they believed their great God had promised them something better, something greater! As a result of their faith (and a manifestation of the authenticity of their faith - cp Jas 2:14-note, Jas 2:17-note) they had no desire to go back to the paganism and idol worship of Ur of the Chaldees, (See map = The World of The Patriarchs) but chose to look forward to and longed for their future home, a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness dwells (Job 19:25,26; Ps 27:4). Beloved, what you are looking for will radically affect what you are living for! If you are looking for satisfaction in the things of this passing world, that is what you will live for. But if you are continually seeking the things above (Col 3:1-note), setting your mind on the things above (Col 3:2-note, cp Titus 2:13-note), you will be motivated by love, empowered by the Spirit, to live for the revelation of your future grace (1Pe 1:13-note) and your future day of redemption ("glorification", Read Lk 21:28, Ro 8:23-note, Eph 1:14-note, Eph 4:30b-note, cp 1Co 15:51 52 53 54). These wonderful divine promises to all NT saints beg two questions...
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
WHAT ARE YOU LIVING FOR?
Delitzsch (quoted by Alford) comments that...From afar they saw the promises in the reality of their fulfillment, from afar they greeted them as the wanderer greets his longed-for home even when he only comes in sight of it at a distance, drawing to himself as it were magnetically and embracing with inward love that which is yet afar off. The exclamation, ‘I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord,’ Ge 49:18, is such an aspasmos, such a greeting of salvation from afar.
From a distance ("from afar") - This phrase is not referring to distance, but to time.
Spurgeon - They saw them from a distance. Faith touched their eyes with salve so that Abraham could see his seed in Egypt—his seed coming out of the land of Zoan. He could see the people traveling through the wilderness. He could see them entering Canaan and taking possession of the land. Indeed, our Lord said, “Abraham saw my day” (John 8:56). He saw the babe in Bethlehem. He saw the Son of God, who was the Son of Man, the son of Abraham, too. Though the promises could only be seen from a distance, faith has such long arms that it embraced them, clung to them as loving relatives cling to one another, and would not let them go. So may we see the promises, and be persuaded that they belong to us, and embrace them as we clasp to our bosom those who are nearest and dearest to us!
Lenski - They were like pilgrims to the Holy City who see its towers and spires on the horizon, ecstatically point to the vision and shout their acclaim. This is all they had during their earthly lives.
Marvin Vincent...“having seen them from afar and greeted them”: as seamen wave their greeting to a country seen far off on the horizon, on which they cannot land.
Abraham rejoiced to see Christ’s day in the dim distance (John 8:56)
Steven Cole comments that there are four implications...
(1) We must see God’s promises - Before we can believe in God’s promises, we must see them. Before we can see them, God must open our spiritually blind eyes (Mt. 13:11, 12, 13, 14, 15). As Paul explains, “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” In order for us to see spiritual truth, the God who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” has to shine in our hearts “to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2Co 4:4, 6).
Faith, which is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8, 9-note), enables us to prove the things not seen (Heb. 11:1-note) by bringing them into our present experience. In this way, Abraham rejoiced to see Jesus’ day. “He saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). A personal relationship with God begins when He opens your eyes to see His promise in Jesus Christ, that whoever believes in Him has eternal life (John 3:16). If you have never seen this, read the Gospel of John with the prayer, “Lord, open my eyes to see the glory of Jesus Christ.”
(2) We must welcome God’s promises - Having seen God’s promises, the patriarchs welcomed them. (KJV and NKJV add that they were persuaded or assured of the promises, but there is virtually no manuscript evidence for this reading.) They greeted God’s promises with open arms. They brought God’s promises into their lives as gladly as they welcomed guests into their tents. Have you done that? Have you welcomed Jesus Christ into your life as Savior and Lord? Have you embraced Him as you would a long lost friend? If God has opened your eyes to your true condition as a guilty sinner before Him and to the glory of the Savior who bore the penalty you deserved, then you rush to welcome Him warmly into your life!
(3) We can only see and welcome the promises from a distance - What does this mean? It amplifies the opening phrase of the verse, that these men “died in faith, without receiving the promises.” But, Hebrews 6:15-note states, “having patiently waited, [Abraham] obtained the promise.” Hebrews 11:17 says that Abraham “had received the promises.” So, in what sense did he not receive the promises, or, receive them at a distance?
The author means that the patriarchs did not receive the total fulfillment of God’s promises in this life. They only received a taste of them. Abraham and Sarah finally received the promise of a son in Isaac. But Abraham died with only two heirs according to the promise, Isaac and Jacob, hardly an innumerable nation! Isaac owned a few wells, plus some grazing land for his flocks. But he still lived in a tent and was not in any significant way the heir of the land. Jacob died with about 70 descendants, including his sons, who became patriarchs of the 12 tribes. But they were forced to move out of the land into Egypt, because of the famine. So the patriarchs had a taste of the fulfillment of the promises, but they only welcomed them from a distance.
The same is true of all believers. God has promised us eternal life, and yet, like the patriarchs, we all die (unless we’re alive when the Lord returns). The world scoffs at an epitaph like Hebrews 11:13: “All these died in faith”! What a joke! That’s “pie in the sky when you die”! The world says (with Reverend Ike), “I want cash in the stash here and now, not pie in the sky when I die!” But, as C. S. Lewis observed (The Problem of Pain [Macmillan], pp. 132-133):
Scripture…habitually put the joys of heaven into the scale against the sufferings of earth, and no solution of the problem of pain which does not do so can be called a Christian one. We are very shy nowadays of even mentioning heaven. We are afraid of the jeer about “pie in the sky,”….
But either there is “pie in the sky” or there is not. If there is not, then Christianity is false, for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric. So, we must see and welcome God’s promises, although we can only do so in this life from a distance.
(4) Seeing and welcoming God’s promises alienates us from this world - The reason that Abraham left his homeland and migrated to Canaan was that he had seen and welcomed God’s promises. If he had ignored God’s promises, he would have continued to live in his native land, where he blended in with everyone else. But be-cause he believed God and obeyed His call, he went out from his family and friends and “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” (He 11:9-note).
Seeing and welcoming God’s promises disrupted the rest of Abraham’s life on this earth. Instead of blending in, he was different now. People stood and stared at them when they journeyed past the villages of Canaan, or when they pitched their tents outside of town. “Who are they? Where did they come from? Why do they look different? Why are they here? What do they want from us? Be careful around them! They might be dangerous!”
Have you ever felt like an outsider? Marla and I have felt it when we’ve traveled in Eastern Europe. You can try to blend in, but you still stand out as different. You don’t speak their language. You can’t read the signs or the newspapers. They use different money. You stand out by your appearance. You don’t share or understand many of their customs. While the native believers are very friendly and hospitable, and do everything they can to make you feel welcome, you’re still a stranger.
As Christians, we’re supposed to feel that way about living in this evil world.
We shouldn't fit in!
The world pursues different goals and pleasures than we do.
The world laughs at jokes and scenes in movies that we find repugnant.
The world lives for this life only,
but we live in light of eternity.
The world lives as if there is no God, but we live to please the God Who knows our every thought and motive.
The world should not be able to understand us, because we think, act, and live so differently than they do. (Hebrews 11:13-16 Desiring a Better Country) (Link to all of Pastor Cole's sermons - recommended)
Spurgeon commented that "They not only were strangers and pilgrims, but they confessed it. Confessed faith is requisite. Oh, you who, like Nicodemus, come to Christ by night, be ashamed that you are ashamed, and come out, and boldly confess what you are!
A T Robertson “To reside abroad carried with it a certain stigma” (Moffatt). But they “confessed” it (Gen. 23:4; 47:9).
Having confessed (3670)(homologeo from homoú = together with + lego = to say) literally means to say the same or to agree in one's statement. To express openly one's allegiance to a proposition or a person. To acknowledge a fact publicly (eg in reference to sin 1Jn 1:9) To make an emphatic declaration which can be public (Mt 7:23; Acts 7:17)
Marvin Vincent - They admitted and accepted the fact with the resignation of faith, and with the assurance of future rest. Comp. Ge 23:4; 24:37; 28:4; 47:9; Ps 39:12; 119:19, 54.
Homologeo drew on in the contemporary legal system where confess meant to agree with a charge brought against one and to acknowledge guilt before the court. Thus homologeo has strong legal connotations and a person can confess to a charge in court and thus openly acknowledge guilt. Or one may agree with a court order and thus make a legally binding commitment to abide by it.
Homologeo - 26x in 23v in the NAS - Mt 7:23; 10:32; 14:7; Lk 12:8; Jn 1:20; 9:22; 12:42; Acts 7:17; 23:8; 24:14; Ro 10:9 10; 1Ti 6:12; Titus 1:16; Heb 11:13; 13:15; 1Jn 1:9; 2:23; 4:2 3, 15; 2 Jn 1:7; Rev 3:5. NAS = acknowledge(2), admit(1), assured(1), confess(6), confessed(4), confesses(6), confessing(1), declare(1), give thanks(1), made(1), profess(1), promised(1).
JUST "PASSING THROUGH"!
Abraham confessed before the sons of Heth - I am a stranger (Hebrew = ger [Lxx = paroikos] = someone who did not enjoy rights usually possessed by residents) and a sojourner (Hebrew = tosab [Lxx = parepidemois] = temporary resident; "the temporary, landless wage earner" according to TWOT, Lev 25:23) among you; give me a burial site among you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight. (Ge 23:4)
Jacob "confessed" to Pharaoh regarding his “pilgrimage”
So Jacob said to Pharaoh, "The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their sojourning." (Ge 47:9).
Comment: Though God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham, the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full (Ge 15:16), and all the patriarchs were considered as sojourners there. The majority of their descendants were called by this term while in Egypt (Ex. 23:9). In fact, Moses named his son Gershom (meaning refugee, exile) to commemorate his stay in Midian (Ex. 18:3). He had been exiled from both Egypt and Canaan.
Hebrews 11:13 reminds one of David's prayer in Psalm 39...
Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry. Do not be silent at my tears; For I am a stranger with Thee, A sojourner like all my fathers. (Ps 39:12)
Spurgeon comments: Not to thee, but with thee. Like thee, my Lord, a stranger among the sons of men, an alien from my mother's children. God made the world, sustains it, and owns it, and yet men treat him as though he were a foreign intruder; and as they treat the Master, so do they deal with the servants. "It is no surprising thing that we should be unknown." These words may also mean, "I share the hospitality of God," like a stranger entertained by a generous host. Israel was bidden to deal tenderly with the stranger, and the God of Israel has in much compassion treated us poor aliens with unbounded liberality. And a sojourner, as all my fathers were. They knew that this was not their rest; they passed through life in pilgrim guise, they used the world as travellers use an inn, and even so do I. Why should we dream of rest on earth when our fathers' sepulchres are before our eyes? If they had been immortal, their sons would have had an abiding city this side the tomb; but as the sires were mortal, so must their offspring pass away. All of our lineage, without exception, were passing pilgrims, and such are we. David uses the fleeting nature of our life as an argument for the Lord's mercy, and it is such a one as God will regard. We show pity to poor pilgrims, and so will the Lord.
Thomas Manton comments: How settled soever their condition be, yet this is the temper of the saints upon earth -- to count themselves but strangers.
All men indeed are strangers and sojourners, but the saints do best discern it, and most freely acknowledge it.
Wicked men have no firm dwelling upon earth, but that is against their intentions; their inward thought and desire is that they may abide for ever; they are strangers against their wills, their abode is uncertain in the world, and they cannot help it. And pray mark, there are two distinct words used in this case, strangers and sojourners. A stranger is one that hath his abode in a foreign country, that is not a native and a denizen of the place, though he liveth there, and in opposition to the natives he is called a stranger: as if a Frenchman should live in England, he is a stranger. But a sojourner is one that intends not to settle, but only passes through a place, and is in motion travelling homeward. So the children of God in relation to a country of their own in another place, namely, heaven, they are denizens there, but strangers in the world; and they are sojourners and pilgrims in regard of their motion and journey towards their country.
Robert Leighton comments: Now, in this prayer of David, we find three things, which are the chief qualifications of all acceptable prayers. The first is humility. He humbly confesses his sins, and his own weakness and worthlessness. We are not to put on a stoical, flinty kind of spirit under our affliction, that so we may seem to shun womanish repinings and complaints, lest we run into the other evil, of despising the hand of God, but we are to humble our proud hearts, and break our unruly passions.… The second qualification of this prayer is, fervency and importunity, which appears in the elegant gradation of the words, “Hear my prayer,” my words; if not that, yet “Give ear to my cry,” which is louder; and if that prevail not, yet, “Hold not thy peace at my tears,” which is the loudest of all; so David, elsewhere, calls it “the voice of my weeping.” … The third qualification is faith, “He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” Heb. 11:6-note. And, certainly, as he that comes to God must believe this, so he that believes this, cannot but come to God; and if he be not presently answered, “he that believes makes no haste,” he resolves patiently to wait for the Lord, and to go to no other. (Amen)
David declared: "For we are sojourners (Hebrew = ger) before You, and tenants, as all our fathers were; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope (David shortly before he died, asserted that as for humans, their days were without any hope in this short life - He did not give the answer for this hopeless state but Paul did describing Jesus as our "Hope" 1Ti 1:1, cp Titus 2:13-note). (1Chr 29:15).
Strangers (3581)(xenos) means a foreigner . Xenos describes that when is unfamiliar because it is unknown (strange doctrine, Heb 13:9, a strange deity Acts 17:18). Xenos can mean strange in the sense of unheard of or surprising (1Pe 4:12). Xenos refers to Gentiles who are unacquainted with God as strangers or estranged or without interest in God (Ep 3:12).
Words that use the xen- stem most often convey the sense of foreign or strange but can also convey the sense of guest whereas xenophobia is a fear of strangers.
Xenos is used once in the NT to describe a host (who treats a stranger as a guest) and elsewhere we note that hospitable is a derivative which means love of strangers (philoxenos).
William Barclay summarizes xenos -
Xenos is the word for a stranger and a foreigner. In the ancient world the fate of the stranger was hard. He was regarded with hatred and suspicion and contempt. In Sparta xenos was the equivalent of barbaros, barbarian. A man writes complaining that he was despised “because I am a xenos”. Another man writes that, however poor a home is, it is better to live at home than epi xenes, in a foreign country. When clubs had their common meal, those who sat down to it were divided into members and xenoi. Xenos can even mean a refugee. All their lives the patriarchs were foreigners in a land that never was their own. (The Daily Study Bible)
In the ancient world the 'stranger' had an uncomfortable time. In the papyri a man writes...home to tell his people 'Do not be anxious about me because I am away from home, for I am personally acquainted with these places and I am no xenos, stranger, here.' ....' In the ancient world clubs in which the members met to have a common meal were very common; and those who sat down were divided into sundeipnoi, fellow-members, and xenoi, outsiders, who are guests only on sufferance and by courtesy. A mercenary soldier who was serving in a foreign army was xenos, a stranger (Xenophon, Anabasis, 1.1.10). In Sparta the 'stranger' was automatically regarded as a 'barbarian'. Xenos and bar-bows meant one and the same thing (Herodotus, 9.11). (Barclay, William: New Testament Words:. Westminster John Know Press, 1964)
TDNT - Strangeness produces mutual tension between natives and foreigners, but hospitality overcomes the tension and makes of the alien a friend. Historically foreigners are primarily enemies or outlaws who should be killed. It is then found, however, that hospitality is a better way to deal with strangers, and they thus become the wards of law and religion. (Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Eerdmans)
Xenos - 14x in 14v - Mt 25:35, 38, 43, 44 27:7 Acts 17:18,21 Ro 16:23 Ep 2:12, Ep 2:19 Heb 11:13 Heb 13:9 1Pe 4:12 3Jn 1:5. NAS = host(1), strange(2), strange thing(1), stranger(4), strangers(6).
Matthew 25:35 'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;
Matthew 25:38 'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?
Matthew 25:43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.'
Matthew 25:44 "Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?'
Matthew 27:7 And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter's Field as a burial place for strangers.
Acts 17:18 And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, "What would this idle babbler wish to say?" Others, "He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,"-- because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.
Acts 17:21 (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)
Romans 16:23 Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer greets you, and Quartus, the brother.
Ephesians 2:12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Ephesians 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household,
Hebrews 11:13 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.
Hebrews 13:9 Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.
1Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;
3John 1:5 Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers;
Xenos - 9x in the non-apocryphal Septuagint (LXX)- Ruth 2:10; 1Sa 9:13; 2Sa 12:4; 15:19; Job 31:32; Ps 69:8; Eccl 6:2; Isa 18:2; Lam 5:2
Ruth 2:10-note Then she (Ruth) fell on her face, bowing to the ground and said to him (Boaz), "Why have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner (Lxx = xenos - because she was a Moabitess in Israel)?"
Barclay adds that...All their days the patriarchs were strangers in a strange land. That picture of the sojourner became a picture of the Christian life.
Tertullian said of the Christian - He knows that on earth he has a pilgrimage but that his dignity is in heaven.
Clement of Alexandria said: We have no fatherland on earth.
Augustine said "We are sojourners exiled from our fatherland."
It was not that the Christians were foolishly other-worldly, detaching themselves from the life and work of this world; but they always remembered that they were people on the way. There is an unwritten saying of Jesus:
The world is a bridge. The wise man will pass over it but will not build his house upon it. (Ed: And yet the wise man does in fact build his house upon the Rock! Mt 7:24, 25-note)
The Christian regards himself as the pilgrim of eternity. (Barclay, W: The Daily Study Bible)
STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT
LONGING FOR THE LIGHT
...OF HIS RETURN
The great Puritan writer Thomas Manton expounds on the spiritual meaning of a stranger...
(1) A stranger is one that is absent from his country, and from his father's house: so are we, heaven is our country, God is there, and Christ is there. (Rev 22:3-note, Rev 22:4-note Isa 30:18b, 2Ti 4:8b-note Heb 9:28b-note Titus 2:13-note)
Spurgeon writes: Oh, how sweet the prospect of the time when we shall not behold Him at a distance, but see Him face to face: when He shall not be as a wayfaring man tarrying but for a night, but shall eternally enfold us in the bosom of His glory. We shall not see Him for a little season, but
“Millions of years our wondering eyes,
Shall o’er our Savior’s beauties rove;
And myriad ages we’ll adore,
The wonders of his love.”
In heaven there shall be no interruptions from care or sin; no weeping shall dim our eyes; no earthly business shall distract our happy thoughts; we shall have nothing to hinder us from gazing for ever on the Sun of Righteousness (Mal 4:2) with unwearied eyes. Oh, if it be so sweet to see Him now and then, how sweet to gaze on that blessed face for aye, and never have a cloud rolling between, and never have to turn one’s eyes away to look on a world of weariness and woe! Blest day, when wilt thou dawn?
Rise, O unsetting Sun!
The joys of sense may leave us as soon as they will, for this shall make glorious amends. If to die is but to enter into uninterrupted communion with Jesus, then death is indeed gain (Php1:21-note, Php 3:7, 8-note), and the black drop is swallowed up in a sea of victory."
Thinking about the joys to come moved the renowned English physician Thomas Browne (1605-1682) to write,
When we begin to talk about life after death, we're like two infants in a womb discussing the nature of their future life. The difference between our present knowledge and understanding of what it will be to share God's glory is no less great than what exists between unborn babes and a man in the strength of his days....As Christians, we know it is indescribable and thus we can rejoice, but it will be even greater than our wildest imagination."
In life's darkest or most joyous moments, let's never forget that the best is yet to be.
To see His face, this is my goal,
The deepest longing of my soul;
Through storm and stress my path I'll trace
Till, satisfied, I see His face!
The greatest joy on earth
is the prospect of heaven.
(2) A stranger in a foreign country is not known, nor valued according to his birth and breeding: so the saints walk up and down in the world like princes in disguise. (1Jn 3:1-note, 1Jn 3:2-note, 1Jn 3:3-note)
(3) Strangers are liable (subject) to inconveniences: so are godly men in the world. Religion (specifically Christianity), says Tertullian, is like a strange plant brought from a foreign country, and doth not agree with the nature of the soil, it thrives not in the world. (Jn 17:15, 16 Ro 12:2-note)
(4) A stranger is patient, standing not for ill usage, and is contented with pilgrim's fare and lodging. We are now abroad and must expect hardship. (1Pe 4:12-note Acts 14:22b)
(6) A stranger is thankful for the least favor; so we must be thankfully contented with the things God hath bestowed upon us: anything in a strange country is much. (1Th 5:18-note Eph 5:20-note - How possible? Eph 5:18-note, Col 3:17-note Php 4:6-note Ps 34:1-note He 13:15-note Job 1:21)
(8) A stranger buys not such things as he cannot carry with him; he doth not buy trees, house, household stuff, but jewels and pearls, and such things as are portable. Our greatest care should be to get the jewels of the covenant, the graces of God's Spirit, those things that will abide with us. (1Jn 2:15-note, 1Jn 2:16-note, 1Jn 2:17-note Jas 4:4-note)
(10) A stranger is inquisitive after the way, fearing lest he should go amiss, so is a Christian. (Ps 111:10-note, Pr 1:7 2:5 8:13 9:10 10:27 14:26 27 15:16 33 16:6 19:23 22:4 23:17 2Co 5:11-note, 2Co 7:1-note Eccl 12:13, 14 Rev 14:7-note)
(11) A stranger provides for his return, as a merchant, that he may return richly laden. So we must appear before God in Zion. What manner of persons ought we to be? Let us return from our travel well provided. (Mt 6:19, 20-note Lk 12:33 Moses in He 11:26-note 1Pe 1:4-note 1Ti 4:7,8-note)
Exiles (3927) (parepidemois [word study] from para = near by and here implies a transitory sense describing one who passes near but on to something beyond + epidemos = stranger, epidemos from epi = in or among + demos = a people) literally means a stranger alongside and so a stranger or sojourner. This person is not simply one who is passing through, but a foreigner who has settled down, however briefly, next to or among the native people. What a picture of the believer in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation! (Php 2:15-note)
Barclay - A parepidēmos was a person who was staying there temporarily and who had his permanent home somewhere else. Sometimes his stay was strictly limited. A parepidēmos was a man in lodgings, a man without a home in the place where life had sent him. All their lives the patriarchs were men who had no settled place that they could call home. It is to be noted that to dwell in a foreign land was a humiliating thing in ancient days; to the foreigner in any country a certain stigma attached. In the Letter of Aristeas the writer says: “It is a fine thing to live and to die in one’s native land; a foreign land brings contempt to poor men and shame to rich men, for there is the lurking suspicion that they have been exiled for the evil they have done.” (The Daily Study Bible)
Parepidemos describes one who makes a brief stay in a strange or foreign place, who sojourns (stays as a temporary resident) or who resides temporarily among a native people to whom he or she does not belong. The parepidemos did not expect to be regarded as a native of the place he resided. Beloved are you becoming too comfortable and too familiar with this evil world system which is "devolving" and corrupting almost daily before our very eyes (and ears)? Remember that you are an "alien".
Two cognate words (words related by derivation), parepidemeo and parepidemia, are used in inscriptions in connection with civil servants who distinguish themselves for exemplary conduct while on international duty.
Vincent writes that parepidemos refers to "Persons sojourning for a brief season in a foreign country. Though applied primarily to Hebrews scattered throughout the world (Ge 23:4; Ps 39:12-[Spurgeon's comment] parepidemos is used in Greek of both these OT passages), it has here a wider, spiritual sense, contemplating Christians as having their citizenship in heaven. (Vincent, M. R. Word studies in the New Testament. Vol. 1, Page 3-628)"
Parepidemos then means to settle down alongside of the pagans. Christians have always had to live among the pagans, among those whose habitual practices are dominated by the fallen desires of their flesh. We are living beside them, but we are not to live like them.
Wiersbe - Everybody has some metaphor to describe life—a battle, a race, a trap, a puzzle—and Jacob's metaphor was that of a pilgrimage. The patriarchs were pilgrims and strangers on the earth (Heb. 11:13-16), but so are all of God's people (1Chr 29:15; 1Pe 1:1-note; 1Pe 2:11-note). We agree with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that this world is not our home. Our time here is brief and temporary, and we're eagerly looking for our permanent home, the city of God in heaven. (Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament)
A W Tozer - If we are genuine, committed Christians, intent upon walking by faith with our Lord Jesus Christ, then we are continually confessing that we are pilgrims and that we are strangers! The Holy Spirit, who is the real author of this Letter to the Hebrews, uses the terms pilgrims and strangers to remind the early Christians that they were not yet at their final home. The message still reads the same today. Christian pilgrims are journeying by faith from an old city that is cursed and under threat of judgment to a blessed and celestial city where dwells Immanuel! (cf Heb 11:13, 14, 15, 16; 1Pe 2:11, 12-note; Rev 21:2-note)
Spurgeon - They owned that they were not at home here. Abraham never built a house; Isaac never lived anywhere but in a tent, and though Jacob tried to dwell in a settled habitation, he got into trouble through it, and he was bound still to be a tent dweller. The reason why they lived in tents was because they wanted to show to all around them that they did not belong to that country. There were great cities with walls that, as men said, reached to heaven, but they did not go to dwell in those cities. You remember that Lot did, yet he was glad enough to get out again—“saved, but so as through fire” (1 Cor 3:15)—but Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob kept away from other men, for they were commanded to dwell alone, and not to be numbered among the nations. Nor were they; they kept themselves apart from other people as strangers and sojourners here below, so, for that very reason, God is not ashamed to be called their God. Remember how David says to the Lord, “I am an alien with you, a sojourner like all my ancestors” (Psa 39:12). That is a very singular expression: “an alien with you.” Blessed be God that it is not “an alien to you,” but “an alien with you.” That is to say, God is a stranger here. It is His own world, and He made it, but when Christ, who is the Son of God, and the Creator of the world, came into it, “He came to his own, and his own did not receive him” (John 1:11). They soon made him feel that the only treatment that He would receive at their hands was this: “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and the inheritance will be ours” (Mark 12:7). There was no man who ever lived who was a truer man than was Christ the Lord, but there never was a man who was more unlike the rest of men. He was a homely man, a home-loving man to the last degree, yet He was never at home. This world was not His rest; He had nowhere even to lay His head, and what was true naturally was also true spiritually. This world offered Christ no rest whatsoever.
John MacArthur - Resting in God’s promises brings true satisfaction. I remember watching in horror and disgust as angry mobs swept through Los Angeles, killing people and setting thousands of buildings on fire. Under the cover of chaos, countless people ransacked and looted every store in sight. I saw entire families—moms, dads, and little children—loading their cars and trucks with anything they could steal.
That was the most graphic demonstration of lawlessness I’ve ever seen. It was as if they were saying, “I’m not satisfied with the way life’s treating me, so I’m entitled to grab everything I can—no matter who gets hurt in the process.”
Perhaps we don’t realize how selfish and restless the human heart can be until the restraints of law and order are lifted and people can do whatever they want without apparent consequences. Then suddenly the results of our godless “me first” society are seen for what they are. Instant gratification at any cost has become the motto of the day.
That’s in stark contrast to people of faith like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who trusted in God even when their circumstances were less than they might have expected. God promised them a magnificent land, but they never possessed it. They were, in fact, strangers and refugees in their own land. But that didn’t bother them because they looked forward to a better place—a heavenly city.
Their faith pleased God, and He was not ashamed to be called their God. What a wonderful testimonial! I pray that’s true of you. Don’t let earthbound hopes and dreams make you dissatisfied. Trust in God’s promises, and set your sights on your heavenly home. (Drawing Near)
BETWEEN THE ETERNITIES - In the television western Broken Trail, cowboy Prentice Ritter must provide words of comfort at the funeral of a friend. Uncomfortable in the situation, he quietly says, "we are all travelers in this world. From the sweet grass to the packing house, birth till death, we travel between the eternities."
In a sense, he was right. We are travelers --- pilgrims --- in a world that offers no lasting peace or rest. And while there is only one eternity, we travel between eternity past and eternity future, waiting for promises of a home and a hope that will last forever --- promises yet to be fulfilled.
In those times of struggle and despair when our pilgrimage of life is difficult, it it helpful to remember that though we are pilgrims who travel between the eternities, we have a Savior who is the Lord and Master of eternity. He has offered us the promise of life with Him forever and has secured that promise with His own sacrifice. This was the promise spoken of by the writer of Hebrews 11:13.
We are locked into the moments and hours and days of life, but we look ahead by faith in Christ. One day, we will experience the promises of eternity when faith will become sight as we see Him. That hope is what lifts us beyond life between the eternities to a joy that is eternal. --- Bill Crowder (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but Thou art mighty,
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
(Play Modernized Youtube Version)
For time and eternity,
Jesus is all we need.
PILGRIMS - As Christians, we need to think of ourselves as travelers who are just passing through this sinful world. We are not permanent residents, but pilgrims on a journey to a better land. Therefore, we need to “travel light,” not burdening ourselves with an undue attachment to the material things of life. The more we care for the luxuries and possessions of earth, the more difficult will be our journey to heaven. The story is told about some Christians who were traveling in the Middle East. They heard about a wise, devout, beloved, old believer, so they went out of their way to visit him. When they finally found him, they discovered that he was living in a simple hut. All he had inside was a rough cot, a chair, a table, and a battered stove for heating and cooking. The visitors were shocked to see how few possessions the man had, and one of them blurted out, “Well, where is your furniture?” The aged saint replied by gently asking, "Where is yours?” The visitor, sputtering a little, responded, “Why, at home, of course. I don’t carry it with me, I’m traveling.” “So am I,” the godly Christian replied. “So am I.” This man was practicing a basic principle of the Bible: Christians must center their affections on Christ, not on the temporal things of this earth. Material riches lose their value when compared to the riches of glory. To keep this world’s goods from becoming more important to us than obeying Christ, we need to ask ourselves, “Where is our furniture?” -D. C. Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
TRAMPS AND PILGRIMS - During the Great Depression of the early 1930s, many men became tramps. They hopped freight trains to travel from place to place, slept in empty boxcars, and earned a little money by doing seasonal jobs. When they couldn’t find a job, they resorted to begging. My mother was a "soft touch" for any such drifters who came to our door for food. They had lost the comfortable security of a home.
Like the tramp, a pilgrim may be without the comfort and protection of a home, but he knows where he is going. His hopes and aspirations are set upon a goal.
The Christian is to be that kind of pilgrim. In Hebrews we read about the heroes of the faith, who "confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Heb 11:13). They were able to live godly lives of faith because they looked forward to "a better, that is, a heavenly country" (Heb 11:16).
The Lord is preparing you and me for eternity, and everything we do is full of significance. Though this earth is not our permanent place of habitation, we are not aimless vagabonds. We are to be sojourners who live responsibly as we travel to our prepared destination. We have a heavenly Father who loves us and will welcome us into that home made ready by our Savior. —Herbert Vander Lugt (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
A few more watches keeping,
A few more foes to down,
As pilgrims brave we journey
To win the victor’s crown!
Don’t drive your stakes too deep.
We’re moving in the morning!
THE ULTIMATE PILGRIM - During the Cold War, I directed several study tours of Europe. Our itinerary took us from Amsterdam to Berlin, which meant that we had to go through Communist East Germany. At the border we had to show our passports, have our luggage examined, and let the guards check the bus. We waited about 3 hours for clearance. “Remember,” one official told me, “there is no American Consulate in East Germany, so do not lose your passports or entry papers.”
Talk about feeling unwanted! The message was clear: We’ll gladly take your money but we don’t want you. We felt the animosity until we left.
As a Christian, I sometimes feel that way about this world—that I just don’t belong. The Scripture makes it clear that as believers in Christ we are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb 11:13). We are citizens of a far better land (Heb 11:16). As much as we may love our native country, we’ll never feel totally at home down here—and we shouldn’t.
How do we cope with being pilgrims who are just passing through? By looking to Christ and following His example. He was also unwanted in this world. When He left His home in heaven to enter our humanity, He became the ultimate pilgrim. One day He will welcome us home.— by David C. Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but Thou art mighty,
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
The Christian life is a pilgrim journey,
not a sightseeing tour.
BY FAITH - Every day Lisa and David Holden asked God for a baby. She writes that they prayed "sometimes with bitter disappointment, sometimes with a confidence that seemed infallible, and sometimes with frustration and a hurt so deep it ached." Lisa finally conceived, and 4-year-old Peter now brightens their lives.
Lisa and David had close friends who also wanted children. They too prayed fervently about their situation. Eventually they decided to adopt but were told they were too old. Both couples prayed in faith. One request was granted; the other was denied.
In Hebrews 11:11-note we read, "By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive." But in contrast, when the apostle Paul prayed that his unidentified "thorn in the flesh" be removed from him, the Lord responded, "My grace is sufficient for you" (2Co 12:9-note), and the "thorn" remained. Even Christ Himself prayed to His heavenly Father that the cup of agony awaiting Him at Calvary might be taken from Him, but He added, "Nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42).
O Lord, whether or not our deepest longings and most desperate prayers are granted, our faith is in You. Help us to desire Your will above all else. Amen. -- David C. Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
I prayed -- the answer long deferred
Brought not the thing I sought;
He answered better than my plea,
Yes, better than my thought
When God's answer is negative,
His reason is affirmative.
GOLDEN GODS - God had seized the attention of Pharaoh and the Egyptians with a series of plagues. Now they were dying to be rid of their Hebrew slaves. But God didn't want the Israelites to leave Egypt empty-handed. After all, they had 400 years of wages due them. So they asked their former masters for articles of silver, gold, and clothing, and they got them. Exodus 12:36 says that the Israelites "plundered the Egyptians."
It wasn't long, however, until God's people fell into idolatry. They used their gold to make a golden calf, which they worshiped while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving God's law (Ex 32:1 2 3 4). This tragic experience highlights the tension that Christians are required to maintain regarding their possessions. There is much in our society that we enjoy, but material things also pose grave dangers when we use them thoughtlessly. Os Guinness says that we are
"free to utilize"
"forbidden to idolize."
We are strangers and pilgrims on the earth (Hebrews 11:13), and we must not become so enamored with "the riches of Egypt" that we grow complacent and forget our true calling.
Are we using our material blessings to serve the Lord? Or have we become slaves to them?—Haddon W. Robinson (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
I have an old nature that noisily clamors
To satisfy empty desire;
But God in His goodness has sent me a Helper
Who whispers, "Your calling is higher."
Gold can be a helpful servant
but a cruel master
SEEING BACKWARDS - My husband and I rode the train backward from Grand Rapids to Chicago last summer. Sitting in seats that faced the rear of the train, all we could see was where we had been, not where we were going. Buildings, lakes, and trees flew by the window after we had passed them. I didn’t like it. I’d rather see where I’m going.
Sometimes we may feel that way about life too—wishing we could see ahead. We’d like to know how certain situations are going to turn out, how God is going to answer our prayers. But all we can know is where we’ve been. That is, if it were not for faith.
The “faith chapter” of the Bible, Hebrews 11, tells us about two realities that some people in Old Testament times could see by faith. It speaks of Noah, Abraham, and Sarah, who all died in faith, “having seen [the promises] afar off.” They “embraced them” and looked forward to “a better . . . heavenly country” (He 11:13,16). Besides the promise of heaven, He 11:27 tells us that by faith Moses could also see “Him who is invisible,” meaning Christ.
While we don’t know the outcome of today’s struggles, believers in Jesus can by faith see forward to where we’re going: We will have a heavenly home where we will live with Jesus forever. —Anne Cetas (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
The future is seen in the Bible—
This knowledge with us God has shared;
By faith we can see the invisible,
The glory that He has prepared.
The promise of heaven
is our eternal hope.
Outline From Family Times
I. Their confidence (He 11:13). “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them a far off were persuaded (assured) of them...”
II. Their witness (He 11:13). “...embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
III. Their goal (He 11:4). “For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country."
IV. Their discernment (He 11:15). “And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.”
V. Their security (He 11:16). “God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city.
Hebrews 11:14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. (NASB: Lockman)
Amplified: Now those people who talk as they did show plainly that they are in search of a fatherland (their own country). (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
NLT: And obviously people who talk like that are looking forward to a country they can call their own. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: Men who say that mean, of course, that their eyes are fixed upon their true home-land. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: For they who say such things as these declare plainly that they are seeking a fatherland.
Young's Literal: for those saying such things make manifest that they seek a country;
FOR THOSE WHO SAY SUCH THINGS MAKE IT CLEAR: hoi gar toiauta legontes (PAPMPN) emphanizousin (3PPAI):
- Hebrews 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
For - Explains that their confession as "strangers and exiles" (= "say such things" ~ "confessed" in Heb 11:13) indicated they were heavenly minded ("seeking a country of their own")
Lenski explains that...
With “for” the writer points out the fact that this negative confession of being nothing but strangers and pilgrims involves a great positive thought: For they saying such things keep indicating that they are earnestly seeking a fatherland
Make it clear - They emphasize. They emphatically tell the world that this world is not their home. Think of Jesus. Radical Christianity is "emphatic", but it is not confrontational or "in your face".
Make clear (1718)(emphanizo from en = in, into + phaino = show, make visible, make conspicuous) means to make visible, to lay something open to view (clear or plain) so all can see (Jn 14:22, cp Ex 33:13 = idea is "reveal Yourself to me", Mt 27:53, He 9:24).
To provide information so as to make clear, to explain or to inform (Acts 23:22, He 11:14, Jn 14:21 Isa 3:9).
To present evidence or bring charges as in a formal judicial report (Acts 24:1, 25:2, Esther 2:22)
NIDNTT writes that in secular Greek emphaniz...
is used basically in the sense of to manifest, exhibit, and passively to become visible. The word also connotes the ideas of making plain (Plato, Sophocles), declaring or explaining (Aristotle). The adjective emphanēs connotes the idea of visible, open, manifest.
Emphanizo - 10x in 8v - NAS = appear(1), appeared(1), brought charges(3), disclose(2), make...clear(1), notified(1), notify(1).
Matthew 27:53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.
John 14:21 "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, "Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?"
Comment: Judas has a resurrection, appearance in mind but Jesus is speaking about his self-revelation in believers when he and the Father come to reside in them. (cp use of emphanizo in Lxx of Ex 33:13).
William MacDonald writes: The real proof of one’s love to the Lord is obedience to His commandments. It is useless to talk about loving Him if we do not want to obey Him. In one sense, the Father loves all the world. But He has a special love for those who love His Son. Those are also loved by Christ, and He makes Himself known to them in a special way. The more we love the Savior, the better we shall know Him.
Acts 23:15 "Now therefore, you and the Council notify the commander to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case by a more thorough investigation; and we for our part are ready to slay him before he comes near the place."
Acts 23:22 So the commander let the young man go, instructing him, "Tell no one that you have notified me of these things."
Acts 24:1 After five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders, with an attorney named Tertullus, and they brought charges to the governor against Paul.
Acts 25:2 And the chief priests and the leading men of the Jews brought charges against Paul, and they were urging him,
Acts 25:15 and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him.
Hebrews 9:24-note For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;
Hebrews 11:14-note For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.
There are 3 uses in the non-apocryphal Septuagint - Ex 33:13, Esther 2:22, Isa 3:9.
Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know (Hebrew = yada; Lxx = emphanizo) Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” (Ex 33:13).
Comment: The sense of emphanizo in this OT use is that of making known or revealing the ways of God.
Ray Pritchard has the following comments on Hebrews 11:13-16...
This text tells us three important facts about why these people did what they did:
1) They understood that they would never be fully at home in the world. They saw themselves as “strangers” and “aliens.” They were like “resident aliens” in the world, living here but having their citizenship in heaven. Therefore, they were not dismayed when the promises weren’t fulfilled in their lifetime.
2) They openly confessed their faith in God. The text says they “admitted” they were strangers and aliens. I think this means that Noah told everyone why he was building the ark, even though he knew they would think he was nuts. And I think Abraham told everyone who asked why he was leaving Ur of the Chaldees for parts unknown. Living by faith means telling others who ask, “This is why I’m doing what I’m doing,” even though you know they will not understand. It means speaking up for God at work, in your classroom, in your neighborhood, and at your family reunion even though you know some people will laugh at you.
3) They never stopped looking forward to heaven. Abraham could have gone back to Ur, but he never did. The old life had no appeal for him. Noah could have stopped building the ark, but he didn’t. It was the same for David and the same for Daniel and the same for the people of faith throughout the Bible. They always went forward, never backward. They understood that when God calls a man, he calls him to a great adventure. He calls him to go forth into the unknown, to face hardship and difficulty, to venture forth in his name, and to do it with no guarantees about tomorrow.
This week we were reminded again of the story of Todd Beamer and the heroes of Flight 93 who on September 11, 2001, decided to fight back against terror even if they died in the process. When the time drew near to take action, these were Todd Beamer’s final recorded words: “God help me. Jesus help me. Are you ready? Let’s roll.” Then he dropped the phone and the men moved down the aisle to confront the hijackers. The operator heard some screams and then the line went dead. Ten minutes later the plane crashed into a field not far from Pittsburgh. Though everyone on board died, the hijackers’ dream of assaulting Washington, D.C. had been foiled. Todd Beamer was a Christian, and for him the choice was clear. Those who knew him said they weren’t surprised because that’s the sort of man he was. We all come again and again to moments when we have to decide whether or not to get personally involved. We have to decide whether or not we’ll move out of our comfort zone. Many times the outcome will not be certain. In those moments we must say, “God help me. Jesus help me. Are you ready? Let’s roll.” And down the aisle we go, ready to do what needs to be done, leaving everything else in the hands of God.
How does God regard those who dare to risk it all for him? Verse 16 tells us two things:
1) He is not ashamed to be called their God.
That’s a stunning statement.
I don’t know of another verse like it in the Bible.
We have heard of “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” What about “The God of Ray Pritchard?” What about “The God of _______________?” (Put your own name in the blank.)
2) He has prepared a city for them.
He says to the world, “Take a look at him. That’s my boy. Take a look at her. She’s my daughter.” And then He says to His children when they trust Him, “Don’t worry about your future. I’m saving a place for you in heaven.” (Level Three Faith and How to Get There)
THAT THEY ARE SEEKING A COUNTRY OF THEIR OWN: hoti patrida epizetousin (3PPAI):
- He 11:16; 13:14; Ro 8:23, 24, 25; 2Co 4:18; 5:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7; Php 1:23
- Hebrews 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
They are seeking a country - Yes, they were seeking a "land" but ultimately they were seeking the Lord (and a life with Him).
Spurgeon applies the pattern of the patriarchs to believers...
Ah, but God’s people are not mindful of that country from whence they came out! They have opportunity to return; but they have no wish to return. May God’s grace always keep any of you from turning back; for it is to turn back unto perdition! Your faces are heavenward to-day; keep them so. Remember the doom of any that apostatize. It is impossible, “if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance.” “If the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” Lord, keep thy servants! Hold us up, and we shall be safe.
Steven Cole writes...
When you fall in love, you seek to be with your beloved because you desire her company. These are strong motivational words. I have seen young men in college, carrying a heavy academic load and working many hours to pay their bills. They don’t have a minute of spare time. Then, they fall in love. It’s simply amazing how suddenly they have hours every day to spend with this gorgeous creature! They seek her because of desire.
We are to seek heaven
because we desire to be with Jesus,
the lover of our souls.
If you are not rearranging your busy schedule so that you can seek the things above, where Christ is (Col. 3:1-note), you need to examine your heart. You may have left your first love for the Savior, who gave Himself to secure you as His bride.
Seeking (1934) (epizeteo from epi = intensifies meaning + zeteo = try to learn location of something, searching for) means to search or look for (people [Jesus] Lk 4:42). To seek in order to know describing an intellectual inquiry (Ac 19:39). To have a strong desire for and so to wish for (Mt 6:32, Lk 12:30 Ro 11:7). To desire (a sign = Mt 12:39, 16:4, Lk 11:29). Inquire of (Lxx = 2Ki 1:3). Seek a charge (Lxx = 2Sa 3:8)
Epizeteo - 13x in 12v - NAS = craves(1), eagerly seek(2), searched(1), searching(1), seek(2), seeking(3), seeks after(1), sought(1), want(1).
Matthew 6:32-note "For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
Matthew 12:39 But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet;
Matthew 16:4 "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah." And He left them and went away.
Luke 4:42 When day came, Jesus left and went to a secluded place; and the crowds were searching for Him, and came to Him and tried to keep Him from going away from them.
Luke 12:30 "For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things.
Acts 12:19 When Herod had searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and ordered that they be led away to execution. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and was spending time there.
Acts 13:7 who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.
Acts 19:39 "But if you want anything beyond this, it shall be settled in the lawful assembly.
Romans 11:7-note What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened;
Philippians 4:17-note Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.
Hebrews 11:14-note For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.
Hebrews 13:14-note For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.
Epizeteo - 13x in the non-apocryphal Septuagint - Jdg 6:29; 1Sa20:1; 2Sa3:8; 2Ki 1:2 3; 3:11; 8:8; 22:18; 2Chr 18:6; Esther 8:7; Isa 62:12; Hos 3:5; 5:15
Isaiah 62:12 And they will call them, “The holy people, the redeemed of the Lord”; And you will be called, “Sought out (Hebrew = daras = to seek, to inquire; Lxx = epizeteo), a city not forsaken.”
Comment: Note the three new names for those in Israel who in the future believe in the Messiah - Holy people (cp Ex 19:6, Dt 7:6). Redeemed of the Lord. Sought out. Compare parallel passage of "a city not forsaken" in Isaiah 62:4KJV where Hephzibah = “My delight is in her”; Beulah = “Married”. These terms signify restoration of her relationship with the Lord.
Hosea 3:5 Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek (Lxx = epizeteo) the Lord their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days (cp Jer 23:20)
Comment: See similar references in Dt. 4:30; Isa. 2:2; Micah 4:1. This passage is a prophecy of Israel's restoration, when the remnant will .Some would say this "David" refers to Messiah but other Scripture seems to teach David himself will reign over the 12 tribes in the Millennial kingdom. Of course Messiah will be King over King David for He alone is the "King of kings". References to this concept are found in Jer 30:9 33:15 16 17; Ezekiel 34:2324; 37:2425 with more indirect references in Isaiah 55:3 4 and Amos 9:11.
Hosea 5:15 I will go away and return to My place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek (Lxx = epizeteo) My face; In their affliction (Time of Jacob's distress) they will earnestly seek Me.
Comment: This will be fulfilled just prior to the return of their Messiah, in the time of Jacob's trouble, the Great Tribulation about which the Lord Jesus warned in Mt 24:21. Then they will respond according to Zech 12:10, and Da 12:10 ("Many will be purged, purified and refined...). Jesus Himself predicted this...
For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me UNTIL (expression of time) you say, 'BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'" (Mt 23:39)
Woods agrees writing that "The language (of Hos 5:15) would appear to reach into the Millennium, when the Israelites will indeed repent before God and seek his face (cf. Isa 1:10,11 2:14-23). (Gaebelein, F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament. Zondervan Publishing or computer version)
In Romans Paul pictures the believer's "seeking" this way...
And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly (apekdechomai in the present tense = this is the believer's mindset, our continual attitude which directs our consequent actions) for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved ("Past Tense Salvation" = Justification), but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly (same verb and tense as above) for it (Which motivates "Present Tense Salvation" = Sanctification). (Ro 8:23-note, Ro 8:24, 25-note)
They are not just seeking a better country, a heavenly one (He 11:16) but a better city...
For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. (He 13:14)
Country of their own - "A fatherland" (Wuest). Our "hometown" = the place where our father Father lives.
A T Robertson - Land of the fathers (patēr), one’s native land (Jn 4:44). Cf. our patriotic, patriotism.
Lenski - not just “country” (A.V.), nor “a country of their own,” but “fatherland,” where one’s native home is, where one really belongs and is entirely happy. There is much more in this word than is generally noted. Unlike children of this world, these persons cannot settle down in some earthly place as their “fatherland” and feel fully satisfied and content there. They are born of God, they are children of God, this earth is not their home, and, although they are compelled to stay here, they constantly speak only as strangers and pilgrims speak and always show by this, show even unconsciously, that they are seeking for a fatherland in which they really belong.
Barclay...In spite of everything these men never lost their vision and their hope. However long that hope might be in coming true, its light always shone in their eyes. However long the way might be, they never stopped tramping along it. Robert Louis Stevenson said: “It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive.” (Ed: And yet one day believers will arrive home! Hallelujah!) They never wearily gave up the journey; they lived in hope and died in expectation.
Spurgeon - If they were seeking a country, might they not have gone back to their own country from which they came out? No; true believers know nothing about going back. We are bound to go forward to the better land that is before us. Almighty grace will not permit the people of God to turn aside and find their rest anywhere else. We are bound for the kingdom and, by the grace of God, we shall not rest until we enter it, to go out no more forever.
Steven Cole has an interesting note on the patriarchs who were seeking a country of their own (i.e., a heavenly country He 11:16)...
A man encountered three young boys and asked them, “Do you want to go to heaven?” “Not me,” one said. The other was shocked. “You don’t want to go to heaven when you die?” “Oh, when I die? Yeah, sure!” the boy replied. “I thought you were getting up a group to go right now!”
Most of us probably share that boy’s feelings about heaven. Someday, it would be nice to go there, but at the moment, we’re not interested. It’s just too nice here on earth. Besides, if we were honest, we’d probably admit that heaven seems a bit boring. Gary Larson pictured this in a Far Side cartoon. A guy with wings, white robe, and a halo is sitting alone on a cloud, thinking, “wish I’d brought a magazine.”
But the author of Hebrews counters these disinterested views of heaven by showing that rather than settling in and feeling comfortable on earth, believers feel out of place here. They confess that they are “strangers and exiles on the earth” (He 11:13). And rather than viewing heaven as a nice extra thrown in after we enjoy the good life here below, he shows that believers long for heaven. “They desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (He 11:16). Our text teaches us that…
We who live and die according to faith are exiles on earth desiring a better country in heaven. The hymn writer, Henry Francis Lyte put it like this (in F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews [Eerdmans], p. 306):
It is not for me to be seeking my bliss
And building my hopes in a region like this;
I look for a city which hands have not piled
I pant for a country by sin undefiled.
In our day, our emphasis is far too much on the good life here and now, and not enough on the promised joys of heaven.
They are motivated more by collecting treasures on earth than by storing up treasures in heaven (Mt 6:19, 20-note). Our focus is on what Christ can do for us here and now. Heaven is a nice extra, but it does not govern how we live day to day. But, it should!
As we’ve seen, the first readers of this epistle were tempted, under the threat of persecution, to go back to their Jewish religion (cp He 10:38 39-note). The implication of our text in its context is that to go back to Judaism would be like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob going back to settle permanently in Mesopotamia. God had promised them a new country, the land of Canaan. But, being men of faith, they looked beyond that piece of real estate to the heavenly country that God had prepared for them. (Ed: They walked by faith not sight 2Co 5:7-note. They saw their present persecutions as momentary and light compared to their eternal weight of glory because they viewed their temporal circumstances with eternal vision. 2Co 4:17-note, 2Co 4:18-note).
They all died according to faith (the literal rendering of He 11:13-note). Faith was the dominant characteristic of their lives, right up to the point of death. None of them realized the promise of the land of Canaan, or the promise of innumerable descendants. They viewed themselves as strangers and exiles on earth. If they had doubted God’s promise (cp He 11:6-note), they could have gone back to their homeland. “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (He 11:16). And so the patriarchs all died well, “according to faith” in the yet unfulfilled, unseen promises of God. As such, they are examples of how to live and die according to faith as exiles on earth, while we pant after a better country in heaven (Desiring a Better Country).
Ed comment: How can one best imitate the examples of the patriarchs? The simple answer is by studying their lives so that we know what to imitate (See the exhortation in He 6:11, 12-note). Two excellent studies are available from Precept Ministries - the following links allow you to download the first lesson in each study to give you an example = (1) Genesis 12-25 -Study of Abraham - 6 lessons) (2) Genesis 24-36 - Study of Isaac and Jacob - 4 lessons) (Here are links to the complete study - Genesis Study on Abraham; Genesis Study on Isaac, Jacob & Esau)
Spurgeon comments on those who are seeking a better country which clearly implies they are patiently persevering in this present world which is not their home...
You remember Mr. Bunyan’s description of the two children, Passion and Patience. Passion would. have his best things now, and he had them; but he soon spoiled them, misused them, and abused them. But Patience would have his best things last; and, as Bunyan very prettily says, “There is nothing to come after the last.” Therefore, when Patience got his best things, they lasted on for ever and for ever. God, loves not the passion, but he loves the patience. “The husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it;” (Jas 5:7KJV) and I would fain imitate him. “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.” (Ps 62:5KJV-note) The worldly man lives in the present; but that is a poor way of living, worthy only of the beasts that perish...To God, there is no past, present, or future; He sees all at a single glance. And when a man comes to feel that
he is not living simply in today
which will so soon end,
but that he is living in the eternity
which will never end,
when he is rejoicing in the covenant, “ordered, in all things, and sure,” (2Sa 23:5KJV) made from before the foundation of the world,— when a man feels that he is living in the future as well as the present, that his vast estates are on the other side of Jordan, that his chief joy is up there where Christ sits at the right hand of God, and that his own heart has gone up there where his treasure is, for “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” (Mt 6:21-note) — when the affection is set, not upon things below, but upon things above (Col 3:2-note),— that is the man whom God loves, because he has learned how to live in God’s atmosphere, in God’s own eternity. He has risen above the beggarly elements of time and space. He is not circumscribed by almanacs, and days, and months, and years; his thoughts range right away from that glorious declaration, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love,” (Jer 31:3) to those endless, dateless periods when still the everlasting love of God shall be the constant delight of His people. I see, then, why it is written that “God, is not ashamed to be called their God,” (Heb 11:16) because they are content to live without having received the promises, but to keep on patiently waiting, with a holy, joyful confidence, till the hour of God’s gracious purpose shall arrive, and the promise shall be fulfilled. (Read the full sermon Hebrews 11:16 The Two Pivots)
Hebrews 11:15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. (NASB: Lockman)
Amplified: If they had been thinking with [homesick] remembrance of that country from which they were emigrants, they would have found constant opportunity to return to it. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
NLT: If they had meant the country they came from, they would have found a way to go back. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: If they had meant the particular country they had left behind, they had ample opportunity to return. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: And if indeed they had been remembering that country from which they had gone out, in that case they would have had constant opportunity to bend their way back again.
Young's Literal: and if, indeed, they had been mindful of that from which they came forth, they might have had an opportunity to return,
AND INDEED IF THEY HAD BEEN THINKING OF THAT COUNTRY FROM WHICH THEY WENT OUT: kai ei men ekeines emnemoneuon (3PIAI) aph es exebesan (3PAAI):
- Genesis 11:31; 12:10; 24:6-8; 31:18; 32:9-11
- Hebrews 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
If they had been thinking of that country - This emphasizes that the battle of whether we live in the world but not of the world is always in our mind. Lord, keep me seeking and setting my mind on things above (Col 3:1-note, Col 3:2-note).
A T Robertson on if...= Condition of second class (note [an] in conclusion) with the imperfect (not aorist) in both condition and conclusion. So it means: “If they had continued mindful, they would have kept on having” (linear action in both cases in past time).
Marvin Vincent - The meaning here is, that if, in their declaration (He 11:14) that they were seeking a country, they had called to mind the country from which they came out, they could have returned thither, so that it is evident that they did not mean that country.
Had been thinking of (3421) (mnemoneuo from mimnesko = to recall to one's mind) means to exercise memory, call something to mind, recollect, to pay attention to something and so to be warned. The idea is if they had “habitually remembered.”
Some things are best not remembered (compare this to Jesus' call to disciples not to keep looking backwards - see comments below on Lk 17:32, 9:62). The idea of the imperfect tense is to be in the habit of remembering and then remembering again, doing this over and over, again and again (which reminds one of the hearts of the children of Israel who longed for the leeks and garlic of Egypt, forgetting the bondage of Egypt! Look what they remembered in Nu 11:5! Leeks rather than the LORD! That is a sad substitute, an evil exchange! Are there any "leeks" in your/my life, forgetting [not remembering!] the bondage those "leeks" might bring?) their former country, the pagan land of Ur of the Chaldees (home of Abram), they could again and again have had opportunity (have is also in the imperfect tense) to return. There Abram and his family could have enjoyed the sensual comforts instead of the rough tent life (cp the call on all followers of Christ to live as aliens and strangers - 1Pe 2:11-note, cp 1Pe 1:1-note). How clear is this application to all those who have been called out of darkness and into His marvelous light (1Pe 2:9-note), and yet how insistent is the old, fallen flesh to seek to lure us back (Jas 1:14, 15-note) to the passing pleasures of "Egypt" (the world) (He 11:25-note), which itself is passing away (1Jn 2:17-note) as are even it's strong lusts which continually seek to seduce us to gratify self but which can never satisfy for true satisfaction and contentment comes only as we seek and surrender to the sweet will our Gentle Shepherd and Lord, Christ Jesus (Jn 14:27, 16:33, Php 4:6-note, Php 4:7-note, Php 4:11, 12-note, Php 4:13-note).
Luke 17:32 "Remember (present imperative = command calling for ready recall to be one's continual attitude. Keep this historical event constantly on the "front burner" of your mind!) Lot's wife.
Comment: Jesus is speaking to disciples, knowing that He is about to go to the Cross. (See Lk 17:22 - genuine followers, compare the name of the "disciples" in Acts 11:26 - note that the most common name for believers in Acts was "disciples" - 30x in 28 verses - eg look at the birth of the Church in Ac 6:1 2 7 9:1 13:52 Note the effect of the preaching of the Gospel - Acts 14:21 22 - some teach that "disciples" are a separate category of believers - What does God's Word teach? For a pithy, provocative study of what Scripture teaches consider Being a Disciple Counting the Real Cost) And so here Jesus warns the disciples to remember Ge 19:17, 26 which parallels His earlier pithy teaching in Luke 9:62 (where "looking" is in the present tense = continually looking back. We all "look back" at the world and our possessions occasionally but that is not our lifestyle - a believer's lifestyle is looking forward, fixing one's eyes on Jesus He 12:2-note, looking for the blessed hope Titus 2:13-note, loving the thought of His appearing 2Ti 4:8-note). What did Lot's wife decision reflect? Disobedience. And her disobedience was a manifestation of her lack of faith (see relationship between faith and obedience [cp "disobedient" to "unbelief"] in Hebrews 3:18, 19-note). And thus if a person professes to follow after Jesus and yet continually manifests a heart like Lot's wife, they are not genuine followers of Christ and Jesus Himself declares them not fit for the kingdom of God (Lk 9:62 - the phrase "kingdom of God" in this verse and the previous one Lk 9:60, 61 ["proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God"] is equivalent to or tantamount to salvation because the truly saved [born again] are the only ones who will "see the kingdom of God" as Jesus' explained to Nicodemus in John 3:3.).
A TEST OF
THOUGHT - Jesus' call to remember Lot's wife conveys a serious, sobering warning to all who would seek to follow Him. In a sense His charge to "Remember Lot's wife" serves as a test of the bent or direction of our heart - Is our heart generally going in a world-ward or a God-ward direction? (Note: The latter refers to direction, not perfection...at least in this present life!) Are we genuine followers of Christ, truly disciples, (Jn 8:31) or are we like those who wanted the physical bread from Christ but did not desire the Bread from heaven and whose actions of turning back and departing indicated the true condition of their heart (uncircumcised - see Circumcision Of the Heart) (Jn 6:66)?
If we are true followers of Christ, we will be like the Patriarchs of old, who did not seek to go back to the "fleshpots of Egypt" as many of their descendants desired. In flying there is what is called the point of no return. When the airplane has reached that point it cannot go back. Beloved when we have truly become followers of Christ, we have reached the point of no return. Earth is no longer our destination. We are pressing on to heaven. It is always too soon to quit following Jesus. And yet the truth is none of us could follow Him unless we were enabled to do so by His grace and His Spirit! (cp the truth of Php 2:13-note which enables the us to fulfill the command of Php 2:12-note and persevere to the end - Mt 10:22 24:13 Heb 3:6-note Heb 3:14-note).
One side note - As we make a habitual practice to remember the truth of God's Word (truths like the tragic outcome of Lot's wife - cp 1Co 10:5, 6, 11 - take a moment and read this entire sobering section 1Co 10:1-13, 14), we are in a sense practicing a form of "meditation", mulling His truth over and over in our heart and mind. This is the essence of Biblical Meditation, a seemingly lost discipline in the modern church, but one for which God promises incredible spiritual blessings a truth which by itself should strongly motivate us to practice pondering! (Joshua 1:8-note, Ps 1:1-note, Ps 1:2-note, Ps 1:3-note). And as we seek to remember God's Word (especially choosing to memorize it), we are laying the groundwork to be able then to meditate on it. (Compare the association of remember and meditate in Ps 63:6).
THEY WOULD HAVE HAD OPPORTUNITY TO RETURN: eichon (3PIAI) an kairon anakampsai (AAN):
- Hebrews 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
They would have had - The imperfect tense pictures them as over and over, again and again having opportunities to "back slide" so to speak. Beloved the same is true of NT believers. There are many opportunities to go back into the garbage pail of the fallen, God hating world.
Opportunity to return - God does not force us into heaven. But if we are not looking forward to our true home, we will encounter plenty of opportunities to involve ourselves in this present but passing world.
Spurgeon - The people of God were not forced to continue because they could not return. If they had been mindful of the place from where they came, they might have found opportunities to return. Frequent opportunities came in their way. There was communication kept up between them and the old family house at Paddan-Aram. They had news concerning the family house. More than that, there were messages exchanged; servants were sometimes sent. There was also a natural relationship kept up. Did not Rebekah come from there? And Jacob, one of the patriarchs, was driven to go down into the land, but he could not stay there. He was always restless until at last he stole a march upon Laban and came back to the proper life, the life that he had chosen—the life that God had commanded him to live—of a pilgrim and stranger in the land of promise. You see, then, they had many opportunities to have returned, to have settled down comfortably and tilled the ground, which their fathers did before them. But they continued to follow the uncomfortable life of wanderers of the weary foot, who dwell in tents, who own no plot of land. They were aliens in the country that God had given them by promise. True pilgrims never think of going back; they know that, whatever difficulties and trials lie ahead of them, there are far greater ones in “that land from which they went out.” Bunyan’s Christian was quite resolved not to go back to the City of Destruction whatever perils he might have to face on his way to the Celestial City.
Opportunity (2540)(kairos) means a point of time or period of time, time, period, frequently with the implication of being especially fit for something and without emphasis on precise chronology. It means a moment or period as especially appropriate the right, proper, favorable time (at the right time).
The "bent" of the hearts of the patriarchs was toward heaven not earth!
Anakampto - 4x in 4v - Mt 2:12; Lk 10:6; Acts 18:21; Heb 11:15
Matthew 2:12 And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.
Luke 10:6 "If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.
A T Robertson - The peace in that case will bend back with blessing upon the one who spoke it.
Acts 18:21 but taking leave of them and saying, "I will return to you again if God wills," he set sail from Ephesus.
Hebrews 11:15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.
A T Robertson - Continual hankering would have found a way. Cf. the Israelites in the wilderness yearning after Egypt.
Anakampto - 9x in the non-apocryphal Septuagint - Ex 32:27; 2Sa 1:22; 8:13; 1Kgs 12:20; 1Chr 19:5; Job 39:4; Jer 3:1; 15:5; Zech 9:8
Steven Cole applies these truths about the patriarchs forward focus to motivate and encourage his vacillating Hebrew readers noting that
The author is writing to people who were encountering hardships in their new life as Christians (Ed: Or least those who professed to be Christians). They were tempted to go back to their old religion. So he points out that the patriarchs could have returned to Mesopotamia if they had been looking for an earthly inheritance. The living conditions in their former homeland were probably far more developed than in the land of Canaan. If they had returned, their family and friends would have welcomed them with open arms, whereas in Canaan, they were kept at a distance. But they endured the hardships and didn’t go back because they were seeking a better country, that is, a heavenly one. (He 11:16) True, Abraham sent his servant back to the old country to get a bride for Isaac. But he sternly warned the servant not to take Isaac back there (Ge 24:6, 8). Jacob fled to the old country for 20 years to escape from Esau’s murderous intentions. But it was never his true homeland. He told Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my own country” (Ge 30:25).
The application is that as believers, we must make a break from our old life and from the world. We live in the world, but we cannot be of the world (John 17:14, 15, 16, 17, 18). Often, like Ur of the Chaldees, the world (kosmos) is sophisticated and modern (Ed: And resolutely, intractably anti-God!). The church seems old fashioned and out of touch with the latest trends. Therefore when we face hardships because of our faith, we may be tempted to go back to the world. But to do so would be to turn away from God’s promises in Christ (cp Jn 6:66, 1Jn 2:19, 2Jn 1:9, Mt 24:13).
Hebrews 11:16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. (NASB: Lockman)
Amplified: But the truth is that they were yearning for and aspiring to a better and more desirable country, that is, a heavenly [one]. For that reason God is not ashamed to be called their God [even to be surnamed their God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob], for He has prepared a city for them. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
NLT: But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a heavenly city for them. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: No, the fact is that they longed for a better country altogether, nothing less than a heavenly one. And because of this faith of theirs, God is not ashamed to be called their God for in sober truth he has prepared for them a city in Heaven. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: But now as the case stands, they are reaching out in their desires for a better, that is, a heavenly one, because of which God is not ashamed of them to be surnamed their God, for He prepared for them a city.
Young's Literal: but now they long for a better, that is, an heavenly, wherefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God, for He did prepare for them a city.
BUT AS IT IS, THEY DESIRE A BETTER COUNTRY THAT IS A HEAVENLY ONE: nun de kreittonos oregontai (3PPMI) tout estin (3SPAI) epouraniou:
- He 11:14; 12:22
- Hebrews 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
But as it is - The idea is “as the case now stands.” (Wuest)
Better - 13x in 12v in Hebrews - Heb 1:4; 6:9; 7:19, 22; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:16, 35, 40; 12:24
Desire (3713) (oregomai used only in middle voice of verb orego) literally means to stretch out especially with one's hands, to snatch, to reach out for. It pictures one stretching one’s self out in order to touch or to grasp something. Metaphorically oregomai means to desire something, to covet, to long after, to try to gain, to be ambitious. Oregomai pictures a runner lunging for the finish line.
Marvin Vincent - Originally to stretch forth, to reach after. Here it implies not only desiring but seeking after.
W E Vine - The verb oregomai, “desire,” literally means to stretch out the hand, to reach after, expressive of eager desire....A stronger word, epekteinomai (epekteino), to stretch forward, is used in Php 3:13-note
The present tense indicates this was the way the Abraham (Sarah), Isaac and Jacob continually lived life - with this "other worldly" mindset.
In addition oregomai is in the middle voice which describes action initiated by the subject who then participates in the action. It conveys a reflexive sense which could be translated they stretched themselves out for a better country.
TDNT writes that...orégō means “to reach out,” “to reach for.” It is used figuratively for 1. intellectual or spiritual striving, either generally, e.g., for fellowship, or philosophically, e.g., rational or irrational aspiration, or, in Philo, homesickness for the world of ideas; and 2. physical craving, e.g., for nourishment. (Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Eerdmans)
NIDNTT commenting on the secular Greek use says...Like the noun orexis (Plato onwards) it denotes striving (a) of the heart and mind, (b) of bodily desire (relatively seldom). The Stoics gave it the special sense of a striving of the soul, following on a deliberate decision of the will guided by human reason. When the power and discipline of reason are removed the striving becomes desire (epithumia). The highest ideal of life is striving in conformity with one’s own self (kata physin). Philo sees in orexis the soul’s homesickness for the world of ideas. It speaks of the desire of faith for a better and heavenly homeland, i.e. a home with God. This desire does not come from immanent impulses in man or from his essential nature but from response to God’s promise (He 11:9, 13, 15). It manifests itself in utter reliance upon the promise and the obedience of faith (He 11:8, 17). This means that it is no inner emotional feeling divorced from reality. It brings the will into line with a goal given by God which is expressed in the real things of this world. (Brown, Colin, Editor. New International Dictionary of NT Theology. 1986. Zondervan )
A derivative orexis describes this consuming, passionate desire (specifically sexual desire) gone awry in Ro 1:27-note where men seek after men (even blatantly parking their vehicles in local parks in hopes a "consenting" party will stop by). Turn this desire 180 degrees the other way and you can see how intense the picture is that writer of Hebrews is trying to convey regarding the patriarchs desire for heaven, the home of their faithful covenant keeping God. Lord give me "oregomai" type desire for my better heavenly "hometown" deep within my innermost being.
Oregomai - 3x in the NT - Here in Heb 11:16 and twice in First Timothy. Notice that the context determines how legitimate is the stretching and reaching.
Comment: Webster's 1828 dictionary defines aspire as "To desire with eagerness; to pant after an object, great, noble or spiritual; followed by to or after; as to aspire to a crown, or after immortality."
John MacArthur offers an excellent analysis: The first (oregomai) means “to reach out after.” It describes external action, not internal motive. The second (epithumeo) means “a strong passion,” and refers to an inward desire. Taken together, these two words aptly describe the type of man who belongs in the ministry—one who outwardly pursues it because he is driven by a strong internal desire. (MacArthur, J.: The MacArthur Study Bible Nashville: Word)
1Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing (stretching themselves out to touch it, to grasp it -$$$! The present tense pictures this as their [context refers to false teachers but applicable to anyone who loves manna more than God] habitual practice. They spend their lives grasping for money and miss the greatest prize of all, abundant life in Christ Jesus!) for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang.
D Edmond Hiebert comments: The connotation in ‘the love of money’ (philaguria) is not the acquisition of wealth in order that it may be used in prodigal expenditure but rather the miserly accumulation and hoarding of money for the very love of it. That which should be a means to support life is made the end of life itself....The Christian faith which they once professed has become displaced by their love for money as the chief goal of their lives. Added to this fateful negative loss is the positive damage of self-inflicted sorrow, “and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” In their eagerness to pluck the fair flower of wealth they have pierced and wounded themselves with its sharp, unsuspected thorns. A condemning conscience assails them and destroys their happiness, while they suffer under their poignant disillusionment. (1Timothy Everyman's Bible Commentaries) (Anything by Hiebert is superb and recommended).
John MacArthur: Gold has replaced God for these apostates (See discussion of apostasy), who have turned away from pursuing the things of God in favor of money. (The MacArthur Study Bible Nashville: Word)
Thomas Constable: Paul pictured a person wandering from the narrow path of truth as he pursues money. He gets caught in thorns that pierce his skin and cause him great pain (cf. Mt 13:22). (Hebrews Commentary)
Patrick Fairbairn: The sentiment is, that there is no kind of evil to which the love of money may not lead men, when once it fairly takes hold of them. (Pastoral Epistles - Comments on 1Ti 6:10)
Thomas Watson asks...
Are we heavenly in our affections? Do we set our affections on the kingdom of heaven? Col 3:2-note. If we are heavenly, we despise all things below—in comparison with the kingdom of God; we look upon the world but as a beautiful prison; and we cannot be much in love with our fetters, though they are made of gold. Our hearts are in heaven. A stranger may be in a foreign land to gather up debts owing him—but he desires to be in his own kingdom and nation: so we are here awhile as in a strange land—but our desire is chiefly after the kingdom of heaven, where we shall be forever. The world is the place of a saint's abode, not his delight. Is it thus with us? Do we, like the patriarchs of old, desire a better country? Heb 11:16. This is the temper of a true saint, his affections are set on the kingdom of God: his anchor is cast in heaven, and he is carried there with the sails of desire.... There needs be no exhortation for us to set our hearts on things below. How is the curse of the serpent upon most men! " (Lords Prayer)
Puritan writer John Owen encourages us...
Fix your affections upon the things that are above, and this will enable you to mortify sin (Col 3:5-note). Heavenly things are blessed and suitable objects—God Himself, in His beauty and glory; the Lord Jesus Christ, who is 'altogether lovely,' the 'chief of ten thousand'; grace and glory; and the blessed promises of the Gospel.
Were our affections filled, taken up, and possessed with these things, as it is our duty that they should be—and it is our happiness when they are—what access could sin, with its painted pleasures, with its sugared poisons, with its envenomed baits, have into our souls? How should we loathe all sin's proposals, and say unto them,
"Away with you, you abominable thing!"
For what are the vain, transitory pleasures of sin—in comparison to the heavenly glories (Ed: the better country, the prepared city) which are proposed unto us?
ILLUSTRATION OF DESIRING THE WRONG COUNTRY - An article in a San Francisco newspaper reported that a young man who once found a $5 bill on the street resolved that from that time on he would never lift his eyes while walking. The paper went on to say that over the years he accumulated, among other things, 29,516 buttons, 54,172 pins, 12 cents, a bent back, and a miserly disposition. But he also lost something—the glory of sunlight, the radiance of the stars, the smiles of friends, and the freshness of blue skies. I’m afraid that some Christians are like that man. While they may not walk around staring at the sidewalk, they are so engrossed with the things of this life that they give little attention to spiritual and eternal values. Perhaps they’ve gotten a taste of some fleeting pleasure offered by the world and they’ve been spending all their time pursuing it (Eccl 1:14, 12:1, 8, 13,14). But that is dangerous. When God’s children, who are “seated...with Him in the heavenly places,” (Ep 2:6) give their affection and attention to a world that is passing away (1Jn 2:8,17 1Co 7:31 Jas 1:10,11 4:14 1Pe 1:24 4:7), they lose the upward look. Their perspective becomes distorted, and they fail to bask in heaven’s sunlight. Taken up with the baubles of this world, they become beaten down by the lusts of this world and end up as defeated, delinquent Christians. Some like Demas who loved this present world (2Ti 4:10) proved by their love of this world where their true love lay! Our temporal affections give a definite clue to our eternal destiny. Do not be deceived! Buttons, pins, and pennies, but no treasures laid up in heaven. The apostle Paul would advise you to , “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” To live for the things of this world is to miss life’s best. Let’s set our sights on the heights!
CORN IN THE BARNYARD - In his book Hurrying Big for Little Reasons, Ronald Meredith spoke of a quiet spring night when the silence was broken by the sound of wild geese flying. “I ran to the house,” Meredith comments, “and breathlessly announced the excitement I felt. What is to compare with wild geese across the moon? It might have ended there, except for the sight of our tame mallards on the pond. They heard the wild call they had once known. The honking out of the night sent little arrows of prompting deep into their wild yesterdays. Their wings fluttered a feeble response. The urge to fly—to take their place in the sky for which God had made them—was sounding in those feathered breasts, but they never raised from the water. The matter had been settled long ago. The corn of the barnyard was too tempting!
AN EAGLE IN THE BARNYARD - The Scottish preacher John McNeill liked to tell about an eagle that had been captured when it was quite young. The farmer who snared the bird put a restraint on it so it couldn’t fly, and then he turned it loose to roam in the barnyard. It wasn’t long till the eagle began to act like the chickens, scratching and pecking at the ground. This bird that once soared high in the heavens seemed satisfied to live the barnyard life of the lowly hen. One day the farmer was visited by a shepherd who came down from the mountains where the eagles lived. Seeing the eagle, the shepherd said to the farmer, “What a shame to keep that bird hobbled here in your barnyard! Why don’t you let it go?” The farmer agreed, so they cut off the restraint. But the eagle continued to wander around, scratching and pecking as before. The shepherd picked it up and set it on a high stone wall. For the first time in months, the eagle saw the grand expanse of blue sky and the glowing sun. Then it spread its wings and with a leap soared off into a tremendous spiral flight, up and up and up. At last it was acting like an eagle again. Perhaps you have let yourself be comfortable in the barnyard of the world—refusing to claim your lofty position as God’s child. He wants you to live in a higher realm. Confess your sins, and “seek those things which are above.” You will soon be longing to rise above the mundane things of this world. Like the eagle, it’s not too late to soar to greater heights again.
SEEKING A BETTER COUNTRY (from D L Moody - read his entire encouraging book entitled HEAVEN) - What has been, and is now, one of the strongest feelings in the human heart? Is it not to find some better place, some lovelier spot, than we have now? It is for this that men are seeking everywhere; and they can have it if they will; but instead of looking down, they must look up to find it. As men grow in knowledge, they vie with each other more and more in making their homes attractive, but the brightest home on earth is but an empty barn, compared with the mansions in the skies.
What is it that we look for at the decline and close of life? Is it not some sheltered place, some quiet spot, where, if we cannot have constant rest, we may at least have a foretaste of the rest that is to be? What was it that led Columbus, not knowing what would be his fate, across the unsailed western seas, if it were not the hope of finding a better country? This it was that sustained the hearts of the Pilgrim Fathers, driven from their native land by persecution, as they faced an iron-bound, savage coast, with an unexplored territory beyond. They were cheered and upheld by the hope of reaching a free and fruitful country, where they could be at rest and worship God in peace.
Somewhat similar is the Christian's hope of heaven, only it is not an undiscovered country, and in attractions cannot be compared with anything we know on earth. Perhaps nothing but the shortness of our range of sight keeps us from seeing the celestial gates all open to us, and nothing but the deafness of our ears prevents our hearing the joyful ringing of the bells of heaven. There are constant sounds around us that we cannot hear, and the sky is studded with bright worlds that our eyes have never seen. Little as we know about this bright and radiant land, there are glimpses of its beauty that come to us now and then.
"We may not know how sweet its balmy air,
How bright and fair its flowers;
We may not hear the songs that echo there,
Through these enchanted bowers.
"The city's shining towers we may not see
With our dim earthly vision,
For Death, the silent warder, keeps the key
That opes the gates Elysian.
"But sometimes when adown the western sky
A fiery sunset lingers,
Its golden gate swings inward noiselessly,
Unlocked by unseen fingers.
"And while they stand a moment half ajar,
Gleams from the inner glory
Stream brightly through the azure vault afar,
And half reveal the story."
It is said by travelers that in climbing the Alps the houses of far distant villages can be seen with great distinctness, so that sometimes the number of panes of glass in a church window can be counted. The distance looks so short that the place to which the traveler is journeying appears almost at hand, but after hours and hours of climbing it seems no nearer yet. This is because of the clearness of the atmosphere. By perseverance, however, the place is reached at last, and the tired traveler finds rest. So sometimes we dwell in high altitudes of grace; heaven seems very near, and the hills of Beulah are in full view. At other times the clouds and fogs caused by suffering and sin cut off our sight. We are just as near heaven in the one case as we are in the other, and we are just as sure of gaining it if we only keep in the path that Christ has pointed out.
I have read that on the shores of the Adriatic sea the wives of fishermen, whose husbands have gone far out upon the deep, are in the habit of going down to the sea-shore at night and singing with their sweet voices the first verse of some beautiful hymn. After they have sung it they listen until they hear brought on the wind, across the sea, the second verse sung by their brave husbands as they are tossed by the gale--and both are happy.
Perhaps, if we would listen, we too might hear on this storm-tossed world of ours, some sound, some whisper, borne from afar to tell us there is a Heaven which is our home; and when we sing our hymns upon the shores of the earth, perhaps we may hear their sweet echoes breaking in music upon the sands of time, and cheering the hearts of those who are pilgrims and strangers along the way. Yes, we need to look up--out, beyond this low earth, and to build higher in our thoughts and actions, even here!
You know, when a man is going up in a balloon, he takes in sand as ballast, and when he wants to mount a little higher, he throws out some of it, and then he will mount a little higher; he throws out a little more ballast, and he mounts still higher; and the more he throws out the higher he gets, and so the more we have to throw out of the things of this world the nearer we get to God.
In England I was told of a lady who had been bedridden for years. She was one of those saints whom God polishes up for the kingdom; for I believe there are many saints in this world whom we never hear about; we never see their names heralded through the press; they live very near the Master; they live very near heaven; and I think it takes a great deal more grace to suffer God's will than it does to do it; and if a person lies on a bed of sickness, and suffers cheerfully, it is just as acceptable to God as if they went out and worked in His vineyard.
Now this lady was of those saints. She said that for a long time she used to have a great deal of pleasure in watching a bird that came to make its nest near her window. One year it came to make its nest, and it began to build so low down she was afraid something would happen to the young; and every day that she saw that bird busy at work making its nest, she kept saying, "O bird, build higher!"
She could see that the bird was likely to come to grief and disappointment. At last the bird got its nest done, and laid its eggs and hatched its young; and every morning the lady looked out to see if the nest was there, and she saw the old bird bringing food for the little ones, and she took a great deal of pleasure looking at it. But one morning she awoke, looked out, and she saw nothing but feathers scattered all around, and she said: "Ah, the cat has got the old bird and all her young." It would have been a kindness to have torn that nest down. That is what God does for us very often--just snatches things away before it is too late. Now, I think that is what we want to say to professing Christians--if you build for time you will be disappointed. God says: Build up yonder. It is a good deal better to have life with Christ in God than anywhere else. I would rather have my life hid with Christ in God than be in Eden as Adam was. Adam might have remained in Paradise for 16,000 years, and then fallen, but if our life is hid in Christ, how safe!
THOUGHTS OF HOME
O Lord, 'twas Thine to labor and wear the thorns for me;
Thou sharest all my sorrows; Thou knowest what 'twill be
To see the Father's glory, to hear Thy welcome there,
Where never cross or burden remains for us to bear.
I seem to pace the glittering street, and hear the harps of gold,
The echo of the new song that never groweth old;
I hear Thy praise, Lord Jesus, my Life, my Lord, my King,
Until my worn heart pineth the strains of heaven to sing.
Safe in the better country my loved ones I shall find,
And some in that bright multitude I feared were left behind;
Then loud shall sound our praises within the jasper wall,
As cherubim and seraphim before the Holiest fall.
With folded wings, expectant, the angel bands will come
To listen to the tale of grace that wooed the children home;
And sitting at Thy feet, Lord, my joyful lips shall tell
How much He hath forgiven, Who "doeth all things well."
Thou blessed Spirit, cheering this valley land for me,
With glimpses of the glory of that which soon shall be;
Each harpstring, dull and broken, Thy gentle breath awaits;
Then let me sing of JESUS up to the golden gates.
THEREFORE GOD IS NOT ASHAMED TO BE CALLED THEIR GOD FOR HE HAS PREPARED A CITY FOR THEM: dio ouk epaischunetai (3SPPI) autous o theos theos epikaleisthai (PPN) auton hetoimasen (3SAAI) gar autois polin:
- He 2:11
- Ge 17:7,8; Exodus 3:6,15; Isaiah 41:8, 9, 10; Jer 31:1; Mt 22:31,32; Mk 12:26; Lk 20:37; Acts 7:32
- He 11:10; 13:14; Mt 25:34; Lk 12:32; Php 3:20
- Hebrews 11 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries
Therefore (term of conclusion - always asks "What is it there for?") - Because they were looking for a heavenly country which reflected their God seeking heart (Heb 11:6), God was not ashamed.
Marvin Vincent explains it this way...Because they have commended themselves to God by their faith, so that he acknowledges them as his own. Comp. He 2:11-note; Mk. 8:28, 38; Ro 1:16-note; 2Ti 1:8-note, 2Ti 1:16-note.
Spurgeon actually based in sermon on these conjunctions therefore (wherefore in KJV) and for...I have been looking into this text very earnestly, and trying to find out exactly what was the meaning of the Holy Spirit in it; and I think I have discovered a due in two words which it contains; first, “Wherefore”: “Wherefore God is not ashamed. to be called their God;”— and next, “for”: “For he hath prepared for them a city.” As a door hangs upon two hinges, so my golden text turns upon these two pivots, “wherefore” and “for.”...the Lord was not ashamed to be called his people’s God because they had faith in Him....“These all died in faith.” If a man believes in God, trusts Him,— believes that His promise is true, and that He will keep it,— believes that God’s command is right, and therefore ought to be obeyed,— God is never ashamed to be called that man’s God. He is not the God of unbelievers, for they act contrary to His will. They set up their own will in opposition to his; many of them even doubt his existence, they deny his power, they distrust his love; wherefore, he is not called their God; but when a man comes to trust God, and to accept his Word, from that moment God sees in that man the work of his grace, which is very precious in his eyes, and he is not ashamed to be called that man’s God. (Read the full sermon Hebrews 11:16 The Two Pivots)
Wuest - God is not ashamed to be called their God, because they have commended themselves to God by their faith.
Spurgeon - If a man believes in God, trusts him—believes that His promise is true and that He will keep it, believes that God’s command is right and therefore ought to be obeyed—God is never ashamed to be called that man’s God. He is not the God of unbelievers, for they act contrary to His will. They set up their own will in opposition to His; many of them even doubt His existence, they deny His power, they distrust his love; therefore, He is not called their God. But when a man comes to trust God, and to accept His Word, from that moment God sees in that man the work of His grace, which is very precious in His eyes, and He is not ashamed to be called that man’s God. I see, then, why it is written that “God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God”: because they are content to live without having received the promises, but to keep on patiently waiting, with a holy, joyful confidence, until the hour of God’s gracious purpose shall arrive, and the promise shall be fulfilled.
Ashamed (1870)(epaischunomai [word study] from epi = upon or used to intensify the meaning of the following word + aischunomai from aischos = disfigurement & then disgrace) means to experience a painful feeling or sense of loss of status because of some particular event or activity. It describes one's consciousness of guilt or of exposure or the fear of embarrassment that one's expectations may prove false. Epaischunomai is associated with being afraid, feeling shame which prevents one from doing something, a reluctance to say or do something because of fear of humiliation, experiencing a lack of courage to stand up for something or feeling shame because of what has been done.
Epaischunomai - 11x in NAS - Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Ro 1:16; 6:21; 2Ti 1:8, 12, 16; Heb 2:11; 11:16. In Septuagint 3x - Ps 118:6, Job 34:19, Is 1:29
God is not ashamed of them to be called their God - God referred to Himself as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Ex 3:6; cf. Ge 28:13; Ge 32:9 Mt 22:32). This is a significant covenant formula whereby an individual or a people identified with God and He with them (cf. Lev 26:12).
Lenski explains what it means that God was not ashamed...What this means is explained: God “prepared for them a city.” These patriarchs God acknowledges as His children, and so He prepared a city for them, this heavenly city being their true, eternal fatherland. The final word “a city” takes us back to Heb 11:10 where we are told that Abraham kept waiting for this wonderful city. It is now entirely clear from the explanation given in Heb 11:13-16.
To be called their God - Marvin Vincent writes...Lit. to be surnamed. Comp. Acts 4:36; 10:5, 18, 32. God was called the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. See Ex. 3:6.
John Piper - I want very much for God to say of me what he said of Abraham and the other heroes of faith in Hebrews 11: “I am not ashamed to be called your God” (Hebrews 11:16). As risky as it sounds, does this not really mean God might actually be “proud” to be called my God? Maybe he would say, “Not only am I not ashamed to be called your God, I am proud to be called your God.” Possibly “not ashamed” might only mean, “I am pleased to be called your God.” But it seems that “not ashamed” is really an understatement for “proud.”
So I would really like to know what would make God proud to be called my God. Fortunately this wonderful possibility is surrounded (in Hebrews 11:16) by reasons: one before and one after.
Take the one behind first: “God is not ashamed to be called their God, [for] he has prepared for them a city.” The first reason he gives why he is not ashamed to be called their God is that he has done something for them. He made them a city—the heavenly city “whose architect and builder is God” (verse 10). So the first reason he is not ashamed to be called their God is that he has worked for them. Not the other way around. He did not say: “I am not ashamed to be called their God because they made for me a city.” He made something for them. That’s the starting point. The pride of God in being our God is rooted first in something he has done for us, not vice versa.
Now consider the reason he gives in front—in the first part of Hebrews 11:16. It goes like this: “They desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God” (emphasis added). The word “therefore” signals that a reason has just been given for why he is not ashamed. The reason is their desire. They desire a better country—that is, a better country than the earthly one they live in; namely, a heavenly one. This is the same as saying they desire heaven, or they desire the city God has made for them.
So two things make God unashamed to be called our God. He has prepared something great for us, and we desire it above all that is on the earth. So why is he proud to be the God of people who desire his city more than all the world? Because our desire calls attention to the superior worth of what God offers over what the world offers.
In other words, the reason God is proud to be our God is not because we have accomplished something so great. But because he has accomplished something great, and we desire it. There is nothing to brag about in desiring. It’s like getting hungry when you are shown a delicious meal. That is what the city of God is like.
What a city it is! No pollution, no graffiti, no trash, no peeling paint or rotting garages, no dead grass or broken bottles, no harsh street talk, no in-your-face confrontations, no domestic strife or violence, no dangers in the night, no arson or lying or stealing or killing, no vandalism, and no ugliness. The city of God will be perfect because God will be in it. He will walk in it and talk in it and manifest himself in every part of it. All that is good and beautiful and holy and peaceful and true and happy will be there because God will be there. Perfect justice will be there, and recompense a thousandfold for every pain suffered in obedience to Christ. And it will never deteriorate. In fact, it will shine brighter and brighter as eternity stretches out into unending ages of increasing joy.
When we desire this city more than we desire all that this world can give, God is not ashamed to be called our God. When we make much of all he promises to be for us, he is proud to be our God. This is good news. God loves to magnify his work for us, not ours for him. Granted, it’s humbling. But if you want mercy more than you want merit, it’s good news.
So open your eyes to the better country and the city of God, and let yourself desire it with all your heart. God will not be ashamed to be called your God. (Taste and See)
Steven Cole's offers some practical implications of desiring a better country...a heavenly one...
We as strangers and exiles on this earth have the opportunity to tell others about our homeland...As Paul explained (Php 3:19-note, Php 3:20-note), we are not like those “whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” Rather, “our citizenship is in heaven”! Since we come from a different country, we talk and act differently than the natives of this world do. When they observe that we are different, we should be ready to tell them why (1Pe 3:15-note). Tell them about God’s promise of heaven for all that believe in Christ, so that they can join us as pilgrims journeying toward our new country in heaven.....
We who live and die according to faith seek and desire a better country in heaven, prepared by God for us (He 11:16).
There are four aspects of He 11:16 that I can only touch on briefly: the better country; the prepared city; the desire that seeks; and, our God who is not ashamed.
The better country is heaven - We cannot answer many of our questions about heaven, but we can know for certain that it will be far better than the best existence that we can imagine on this earth. Every problem that we face on this earth is the result of the fall of the human race into sin. In heaven, there will be no curse, no death, no sorrow, and no pain (Rev 21:4-note). Think of all of the businesses and jobs that will not be needed in heaven! No doctors or nurses, no police or armed forces, no locksmiths or keys, no need for anti-virus for your computer!
Heaven will be beautiful beyond our imagination. Golden streets, walls and gates made out of precious stones, and the clear river of the water of life flowing through it are mere earthly pictures to give us a dim idea of how magnificent it will be. But the best part of heaven is that God Himself will dwell among us as His people (Rev. 21:3-note)! There will be no need of sun or moon, because the glory of God will illumine it all the time.
The prepared city is for us - The better country and the prepared city are the same thing, viewed from different perspectives. This is the heavenly city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (He 11:10-note; He 12:22-note), “made ready as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2-note). Many Christians envision heaven as a beautiful country estate, secluded in privacy from all neighbors. But the Bible pictures heaven as a city! We think of cities as dirty, polluted, crowded, run-down places, with graffiti defacing everything. But the heavenly city will be pristine and indescribably beautiful. Earthly cities are dangerous, because of the high crime rate. But the heavenly city will be with-out sin. In earthly cities, you have to put up with difficult neighbors and rude strangers. But the heavenly city will be a place of close, sweet fellowship with those filled with the love of Christ. Since it will be an eternal city, we will never be pressed for time! Since God prepared it for us (the same word, prepared, is in John 14:2, 3), it will be perfectly suited to all of our needs.
The God who is not ashamed of us is our God. Because these patriarchs desired the heavenly country, “Therefore, God is not ashamed of them [lit.], to be called their God.” The idea of God being ashamed is startling! It is a figure of speech, using the negative to mean the positive, that God is pleased to be called their God. But even this is startling! When God appeared to Moses at the burning bush, He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Ex 3:6; see Mt. 22:32). Even though these men were far from perfect, God was pleased to be identified with them. In fact, God is most often called the God of Jacob, who was the least exemplary of the three (Bruce, p. 307).
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. [Then he applies these glorious truths] And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1Jn 3:1-note, 1Jn 3:2-note, 1Jn 3:3-note)
Jonathan Edwards has a wonderful sermon titled, “The Christian Pilgrim). I put this quote under the glass on my desk, so that I can think on it often (p. 244):
God is the highest good of the reasonable creature; and the enjoyment of him is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied.-- To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops; but God is the ocean.--Therefore it becomes us to spend this life only as a journey towards heaven, as it becomes us to make the seeking of our highest end and proper good, the whole work of our lives; to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labor for, or set our hearts on, any thing else, but that which is our proper end, and true happiness?
Ask God to open your eyes to the beauty of the better country, which is heaven. Ask Him to fill your vision with the beauty of Jesus, so that with the psalmist (Ps. 73:25-note, Ps 73:26-note), you can testify,
Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Discussion Questions - 1. What is worldliness? How can we avoid it? 2. Where is the balance between being distinct from the world, and yet relating to the world enough to be a witness? 3. How can we develop a deeper desire for heaven? 4. What does it mean (practically) to “seek the things above” (Col. 3:1-note, Col 3:2-note, Col 3:3, 4-note)? (Index to Pastor Steven Cole's sermons by Bible book - Highly Recommended - They read much like a verse by verse commentary)