God Pleasing Faith, Faith Sojourners, Part II, Lesson 12, Hebrews 11:13-16
Hebrews 11:13-16, 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. 14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 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.
The study of this chapter from Godís word will bring to the Christian a profound understanding of his position before God.
With our first birth, our birth from our motherís womb, we came into this life with only an understanding of what we see and hear and smell and touch and taste.
And in that natural state we may successfully live and function.
The multitudes of the earth are happy with this arrangement.
However we learn from scripture that this life built around the senses is but a paltry and insignificant sample of the reality of God that lies before those who are given eyes that are equipped to see the streets of heaven.
We are told that the men and women of old who saw those streets, not near but afar off, all died not having received the promises but since God by faith gave them eyes to see, were persuaded of them and embraced them.
And because of this they placed themselves into a special category whereby those without God given eyes, saw them as pilgrims and strangers, men and women who did not fit into this world but were always looking for things that the men and women of this world were unable to see.
God calls them men and women of faith for they believed God and God saw to it that their focus was toward a better country, a heavenly country, a country with a city prepared for them by God.
God has been gathering his flock of believing sheep, for centuries but the constant of that flock is a dissatisfaction with the green pastures and still waters of this world because of what the flock sees afar off.
Because of this dissatisfaction Godís flock does not fit in with this world for the sheep of this world pursue a mission far different than the flock of God.
This has been true of men and women of faith forever for they understand that this is an evil world and there can be no accommodation with it nor an acceptance of it nor peace with it.
Those of faith cannot fit into it for those of faith live in a different world.
Those of faith live in the light of eternity but those of this world live for a short time, a life where death reigns.
We of faith know that God reigns and is taking out a people for his name but all people of that assemblage are people who believe God and please him by their faith.
They are people who desire to please the one who knows their every thought and every motive and every way.
Today we are witness to a great division taking place, whereby people of faith who have walked along the same way, the Bible way, are being separated from the people of the world who are rapidly departing traditional ways observed by the multitudes of past times.
People of faith, who continue to observe the ancient landmarks are becoming stranger and stranger to the people of the world as they depart quickly from those landmarks.
Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 13 when he likened the field of men to a field of wheat and tares.
The field was sown with good seed but while men slept the enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat.
At the beginning of growth the tares looked like the wheat and the householder forbade the servants to rid the field of tares lest the wheat be rooted up.
And wisely the householder said in Matthew 13:30, Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
This of course tells us of a truth that in the early stages of growth the tares resemble the wheat.
But given enough time the difference is obvious enough that the reapers will be able to gather first the tares to burn and then gather the wheat into the barn of safety.
Now people of faith have always been pilgrims and strangers but we are seeing today a magnification of that fact for as the tares grow near to harvest the wheat becomes stranger and stranger to lovers of tares who wish to place the tares in the barns and instead burn the wheat.
But as in days of old the wheat is to not despair for as the men and women of old continued to see the promises afar off we are to confess that we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
In other words we are not to hide our wheat-ness, we are not to hide among the tares but are to confess our condition among the tares.
This time of rapid change should be used as an opportunity to tell others about the country and the city that we seek.
We are to tell them that as wheat and tares are not planted to remain in the field but are to be gathered out of the field by a harvest whereby the wheat will go to the city of God but the tares will go to the place of burning.
We may be pressed to deny these things but the patriarchs confessed, they made it clear without compromise that they were not tares but wheat awaiting the harvest and the comforts of Godís home.
They embraced their differences for their differences were proclaimed to be by the Word of God which they had heard from above.
The Apostle Paul also embraced those differences for he lived a life given over to a longing to be in a better country.
For he compared in Phil. 3:19-21 men and women of faith, men and women who walk this earth with a heavenly vision with those whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.
And then he again taught of those of faith: whose conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
Paul used the word conversation to describe what is in heaven.
That word conversation means community or citizenship or homeland.
And if that is so, we are aliens to this world, coming from a different country, talking and acting apart from the inhabitants of this world.
Which will give opportunity as Peter wrote in I Peter 3:15, to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
But that question only goes to pilgrims and strangers who walk in faith and evidence a separation from the citizens of this world.
That question goes to those who:
On Jordanís stormy banks they
It goes on to those who say:
I am bound for the promised land,
When I shall reach that happy place,
What better message to tell of Godís promise of heaven by those who claim his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Godís grace is given to spread abroad from mouths as ours so that many will join us as pilgrims journeying toward that city whose builder and maker is God.
And notice in our passage that these pilgrims take no mind of that country from whence they came for by faith they know of a better country and are equipped to go there.
Jesus spoke of those not equipped, not fit for that country in:
Luke 9:62, And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
That word fit means he is not of a sort to go to that country for he is not fitted with faith for without this fitting of God a man is an alien to the things of God.
He may desire to be fitted but his desire will fade and he will be mindful of that country from whence he came.
Remember Lotís wife who left her home, her things, her friends, her ways, her two married daughters, but her heart was still in Sodom for she was mindful of that country from whence she came.
Lotís wife was satisfied in Sodom for she had not the eyes of faith which would have revealed to her a better country.
She longed for her home, perhaps newly renovated with all the modern gadgets, stainless steel appliances, granite counter tops, oak floors and spacious bed and bathroom suites.
She saw her whole being, her Sodom dream, being destroyed for without faith that is all she could see.
But those of faith, those with eyes to see better things endure hardships, endure adversities and sufferings for they know that what is afar off will soon be near.
Those of faith center their whole being on things above and know not to waste time on loving the world, nor the things of the world.
For those of faith know that all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world.
And they know they walk on slippery paths of this world: for the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but they also know that he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.
Paul the Apostle spoke of those of faith as new creatures, where old things are passed away and all things become new.
Jesus told Nicodemus, Ye must be born again.
Nicodemus, your first birth was of the earth, earthy, but ye must be born of the Spirit and gain new eyes to see.
Paul spoke of the old becoming new, and Jesus spoke of new life and Chapter 11 continues teaching believers that there will be a separation from our old life and from the world that we once knew.
And that world, so alluring, filled with the glitter and comforts and sophistications of modern life beckons to all those without faith.
But faith alone reveals that the glitter and comforts and sophistications of modern life are but for a moment compared to the eternal city of God.
And verse 16 tells us of this city for it is of a better country not of this earth but heavenly.
It is a prepared city, a desired city built by God who is not ashamed to be called our God.
This world is a world where the curse of sin reigns but Godís city is a world without sin.
It is a city without death, a city without sorrow, a city without pain and therefore a city where the professions of doctor or nurse will no longer be known.
No undertakers will be needed, no police or armed forces will be there nor will there be a need for security systems or locks or keys or even computers.
No ipads, no smart phones, no kindles, no televisions, not even a bank or ATM.
And no Supreme Court to issue edicts, for God is supreme and needs no counsel, nor will you hear any congressmen bloviating.
Much that we know of on this earth will not be there but we are told by God that when Abraham looked for a city whose builder and maker was God he would see a heaven beautiful beyond anything we could imagine.
See the golden streets, the walls and gates of sparkling gems and water so clear it was called the water of life.
But these things are simply a frame around the most glorious sight of all for God himself will dwell there.
I love to ponder the words of Revelation 21:1-8 which opens the window of heaven just a bit to the people of faith:
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. 6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. 7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
God is careful to tell us who will be there for only those who believe God, only those who have faith in God will be there.
These are the ones whom God is not ashamed to be called their God for they are the ones who desire to be with their beloved Savior who gave himself opening the door to heaven to sinners like you and like me.
Sinners who by faith are risen with Christ and therefore like Abraham are to seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God.
Abraham who looked for that city did indeed set his affection on things above, not on things of the earth.
Jonathan Edwards in his sermon titled, ďThe Christian PilgrimĒ from The Works of Jonathan Edwards has this to say about things above.
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, anything else, but that which is our proper end, and true happiness?