Wednesday, 13 March 2019
But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:16
The author now begins a new thought concerning Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with, “But now.” It is a contrasting thought to what he just said about the fact that if they wished to, they could have returned to the country from which they had come out. Rather than that though, “they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.”
Instead of an inheritance in an earthly country, their hearts, minds, and future affections are set on what God has promised for man, not on what man currently has, or can, possess. Earlier in Hebrews, the author spoke of entering God’s promised rest. This was to be, in type, Canaan. However, it is seen that Canaan was only typical of a spiritual reality. In Hebrews 4:3, speaking to his audience who are in various places (and who continue on in various times since the letter was written), it says, “For we who have believed do enter that rest.”
What was thought to be the obtaining of God’s rest through entrance into Canaan is actually the entering of God’s rest through belief in God’s Son. By faith in Messiah, one enters into God’s promised rest. This is what is again being relayed here. Canaan, the promised inheritance for Abraham’s descendants, is only given in type and shadow of the “heavenly country.”
As these men lived in faith of something they did not possess, and as that thing which was promised was only typical of heaven, then the promise must stand for any who look forward to God’s promises by faith as well. And so it is. This will be made explicit in the final verse of the chapter. For now though, and because of their faith in this promise, the author says, “Therefore.”
It is based on these things, which have been spoken of, that he says, “God is not ashamed to be called their God.” The word signifies being surnamed. The patrimony of God rests upon the individual, without any hint of shame or embarrassment by Him, because of their faith in Him and His promises. This is why God said to Moses of them in Exodus 3:6, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” This is so clear in God’s mind that “He has prepared a city for them.”
There is no doubt that this is speaking of the restored paradise where God will dwell with man. It is known as “the New Jerusalem” in the book of Revelation. These men of God looked back on the story of their first father, Adam, having understood that he –
1) was created (Hebrew11:3),
2) fell and was cursed along with the earth (as is implied in the need for an offering as seen in Hebrews 11:4), and
3) was assured of the promise of restoration at some point (as is implied in the translation of Enoch in Hebrews 11:5).
Each of these was understood from the early Genesis account, but they are lined up in the words of the author in a manner which reveals these truths in Hebrews. These men knew the story of these beginnings, they grasped the meaning behind them, and they looked forward in anticipation of seeing the plan come to its fruition. Thus, they walked as strangers and sojourners, awaiting the fulfillment of the promises. A city is prepared for them, and it is available to any and all who will come by faith.
Life application: This verse tells us that our faith in, and anticipation of, a greater home – a better country than the one in which we live – is also a point which truly pleases God. When we put all of our time in the pleasures of this world even after God has promised something so much greater, we show a lack of faith in His promises. Look ahead to what God has planned and have faith that what is ahead is infinitely more wonderful than the temporary pleasures of this world.
Thank You, Lord, for the wonderful promises of a greater life to come. These are found in the same word which tells us of Jesus making access to that life possible. We believe in Jesus, but surely we are limited in our ability to see beyond our current circumstances, and so give our souls a fresh filling of Your Spirit of promise so that we can rejoice, without fear or trepidation, in the promises of the life yet to come. Amen!