Some mornings it’s like eating the biggest steak with all the trimmings and then gorging yourself on the richest of desserts. You sit back and you are full — like really, really full. That’s this morning as I feasted on all of Isaiah 53 AND all of Hebrews 11. Whew! I’m stuffed! Almost too much to digest.
But there is one after flavor above the rest that lingers. The reminder of a homeland, a country, and a city.
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 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 for them a city.
(Hebrews 11:13-16 ESV)
Abraham, Isa ac, Jacob, and Sarah. All pilgrims because of promise. Going but knowing. Leaving only because of believing. Living in tents because they were looking forward to a city with a sure foundation (11:8-12). Yet, they all died not having received the things promised. Yet, all commended of God because they all died in faith. And faith, as I learned in my KJV days, is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (11:1). All had their eye on the prize.
Seeking a homeland. By faith knowing their native place wasn’t their now place. Their fatherland was to be realized in a future land. The country of their allegiance was a kingdom to come. Thus, they “accepted the fact that they were transients in this world” (11:13 MSG).
Desiring a better country. Literally, stretching one’s self out in order to touch or grasp a more useful, a more advantageous, a more excellent country. A separate location from where they woke up each morning. An unearthly place in which they were sure they would wake up some morning. A heavenly country. An eternal place of belonging. A place where every tear would be wiped away from their eyes, where death shall be no more, “neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore” (Rev. 21:4).
Seeking a homeland, desiring a better country, sure that God has prepared for them a city. A city designed and built by God Himself (11:10). A city created by the One who created them. A city where everything has been made ready for the many He would purpose to redeem. A city though unknown here and now, would feel like home the moment they entered there and then. A city worth seeking. A final landing place worth desiring. Even, if only realized by faith.
For, with such seekers and such desirers, God is not ashamed to be called their God.
A homeland. A country. A city. Worth dying for. For they comprise our citizenship, our true identity, our substantive hope of realizing all who we were created, and re-created to be. Worth living for — if only by faith.
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.
(Hebrews 11:6 ESV)
By His grace. For His glory.