“Strangers and Pilgrims on the Earth”
“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. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 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.”
A. W. Pink wrote, “The figure of the ‘stranger’ applied to the child of God here on earth, is very pertinent and full. The analogies between one who is in a foreign country and the Christian in this world, are marked and numerous.—In a strange land one is not appreciated for his birth, but is avoided (John 15:19).—The habits, ways, language are strange to him (1 Peter 4:4).—He has to be content with a stranger’s fare (1 Timothy 6:8).—He needs to be careful not to give offense to the government (Colossians 4:5.)—He has to continually enquire his way (Psalm 5:8).—Unless he conforms to the ways of that foreign country, he is easily identified (Matthew 26:73).—He is often assailed with homesickness, for his heart is not where his body is (Philippians 1:23).”
Seeking A Country
The Holy Spirit draws his own conclusion to this confession.—"For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country" (v. 14). The word translated “country” would be better translated “Fatherland.” Heaven is our Fatherland, the land where our Father dwells, the land he possesses as his own and for his children. The Fatherland is the land where the children want to live, have a right to live, and seek to live.
A Choice Made
Because they were strangers and pilgrims in the earth, they chose not to go back to Chaldea. "And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned." (v. 15).
Chaldea, the land from which they had come, was never very far away. There were no obstacles to prevent them from returning. But they were never inclined to return. Abraham made his servant take an oath, swearing that he would do nothing to induce Isaac to return to that pagan land. Though Jacob did once sojourn there, he did not and could not stay. His God would not allow it. Why? Because they looked for their happiness and satisfaction somewhere else.
What do these things tell us about God’s people in this world? How do they apply to us? Spiritually, believers today are precisely like those people. Many who profess faith in Christ do depart from him. But when the Lord Jesus asked his disciples, “Will ye also go away,” Peter answered for all. “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:65-69). We “desire a better country.”
All who know God, all who live by faith desire, yearn for, and pant after a better country, a heavenly country. We long for a country where everything is better! A heavenly country! Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called our God: for he has prepared for us a city.
Here is the inconceivable greatness and glory of our Fatherland. It is a land prepared specifically for us, the people of God’s peculiar love. In preparing this land for us and bringing us home to it, the Lord God fully answers all the hopes, expectations and desires that are aroused in our hearts and minds by him calling himself our God and us his people. When we are at last brought home to glory, we will, beholding that which we now only see afar off, say, “Now I understand what he meant when he said, ‘I will be their God, and they shall be my people!’”
Traveling to Another Country
Almost every year I travel to a foreign country preaching the gospel of Christ. I have crossed the borders of our nation north, south, east, and west many times. Whenever you leave this country and cross into another, three things are required. (1) You must have a birth certificate to prove your citizenship. (2) You must have a visa from the country receiving you. (3) You must have a clean record, no criminal record.
Soon I will leave this land of sorrow and sin. I hope to enter into the bliss and glory of heaven. I hope to stand forever accepted as a citizen of the New Jerusalem. Here is the basis of my hope.
I have a birth certificate. The Lord God has given me a new nature (2 Cor. 5:17). There is in me a new man, created of God in righteousness and true holiness.
I have a visa. I have a right to enter into heaven itself by the blood of Christ, because I am washed in his blood and robed in his righteousness (Col. 1:12). God says, "It must be perfect to be accepted," and in Christ I am perfect! He has made me perfectly righteous before God!
And I have a clear record. The Lord Jesus Christ has purged away all my sins with his own precious blood. Therefore God will never charge me with any sin (Rom. 4:8). When I stand before God and he searches the books for iniquity and sin under my name, he will find none (Jer. 50:20). DO YOU HAVE WHAT GOD REQUIRES
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