March 26, the Sixteenth Day of Lent
March 26, 2011 § Leave a comment
All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. 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 city for them.
Today, we will look at the entire thought contained in vs. 13-16. We have examined individual aspects of this section of Scripture in previous days, but today we will look at the full statement. Seeing as how this statement is “bookended” on either side by accounts of events within lives of the patriarchs, we can observe that the author of Hebrews draws attention to this statement. He specifically points out part of the “why” behind their faith-empowered behavior.
Verse 16 contains the answer: “But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland.” As we discussed over the past couple of days, we think of our homeland as the fulfillment of God’s promises and the completion of His story; this is where we seek to live our lives, and we anticipate living there when Christ returns and completes His kingdom. The author of Hebrews is telling his audience that these patriarchs had experienced a qualitative shift in what they considered “home” to be. Home no longer was a place on a map; rather, home became the fulfillment of God’s promises and His kingdom coming to earth. They held this belief even though they did not get to see it fulfilled; this is how they could agree to live as foreigners and nomads. They understood that God’s heavenly kingdom realized stands far superior to any “home” that they could carve out for themselves; and so, anticipating God keeping his promise for future generations, they lived out their days a strangers in a strange land.
Matthew Henry, in his timeless commentary, speaks of the role that faith plays in making this understanding possible: “Faith can lay hold of blessings at a great distance; can make them present; can love them and rejoice in them, though strangers; as saints, whose home is heaven; as pilgrims, travelling toward their home. By faith, [the patriarchs] overcame the terrors of death, and bid a cheerful farewell to this world, and to all the comforts and crosses of it.” These words can also apply to us.
As we journey through Lent together, may we set our eyes upon our heavenly homeland.
“Dear Lord, all too often I see myself in terms of my physical location; I place my hopes and dreams, my victories and defeats, in where I am. Please change my understanding of what it means to belong. Help me look at heaven and anticipate Your coming; until then, enable me to live as Your child in a world that desperately needs you. Amen.”