Tuesday, 12 March 2019
And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. Hebrews 11:15
This continues to speak of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as Sarah – “And they.” The author now makes an obvious point concerning their status as sojourners, strangers, and pilgrims by saying, “if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out.”
It was Abraham who had been called, and so the words also speak of the choice of both Isaac and Jacob – being of the same stock of Abraham – and pursuing a course that Abraham also could have pursued, as if an inherited right. The land from which Abraham was called was Ur of the Chaldeans. If these men found their status as strangers highly unappealing, they could have simply headed back to where Abraham came from. As it says, “they would have had opportunity to return.”
It was certainly a much less arduous thing to head back to Ur than it would have been to continue as strangers, bearing with that state all of the difficulties which arise as strangers, but they were looking beyond their current state to a promise which extended beyond their personal, temporary, but difficult situations. Instead, they looked to the promise which lay beyond their own years of pilgrimage.
Even more than four hundred years later, the same opportunity could have existed for the people of Israel, after having entered into and subdued Canaan. Joshua 24 leaves the possibility open for them. First, they were provided the history –
“Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods. 3 Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac. 4 To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau.” Joshua 24:2-4
Later in the chapter, Joshua tells them that the home and station of Abraham was still open to them, but that his hope was not found in that ancestral inheritance –
“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15
The obvious connection that the author of Hebrews is making is that of a life of living by faith in Christ as opposed to a return to a life of deeds under the law. He has spoken of this continuously throughout the epistle, and he is showing that those of past times chose the promise found in Messiah over the circumstances in which they existed in whichever dispensation they lived. From the beginning, and through each dispensation before Christ, people of faith anticipated the coming of the promise found in Messiah. Now, how much more should the people of God continue to live in faithful anticipation of the promises found in the Messiah who has come!
Life application: Have you ever noticed how immigrants who can’t speak a word of the native language, and who even come with nothing but the shirt on their back, often establish a business, drive around in better cars than their neighbors, and send their children to private schools – all within a short time?
Wang Chung could arrive from China, spend a few months in anxiety and sadness, and return home to a safer existence, but something inside of him is stronger than the bonds he cut when he left home. The opportunity to return is there, but the motivation for a better life in a new land is stronger than the desire to look back.
Such should be the case with every believer in Jesus. We have been called out of the world of sin and death and into His kingdom of righteousness. Instead of wallowing in the past and looking back to the previous life of whatever bound us, we need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Those who had the most to gain often make the best converts. When someone leaves behind a life of drugs, alcoholism, or some other major sin, they tend to rise far above those around them who have become complacent in their salvation. They have their eyes on a better life in this world and eternal rewards in the next.
If you feel your Christian walk is floundering, look back to where you were before you met Christ. If there isn’t a time that is striking and memorable, look at those whose lives were changed and emulate their positive steps. Just as the foreigner excels and receives reward based on his hard work and dedication, so the Christian will excel and receive a greater reward based on his devotion to Christ. Don’t think of the country you left with a desire to return, but look to Jesus and His glory.
Lord, keep us from looking back now that our hands are on the plow. Instead, give us the heart’s desire to work towards the rewards of the eternal life that we already possess in Christ, and to revel in the blessing that comes from a faithful walk with You. May our lives be a pleasing sacrifice all our days – to Your honor alone. Amen.