These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them…
The people of God are strangers and pilgrims.
1. In respect of their station, the place of their abode. While they are in the world they are in a strange country; while they are present in the world they are far from home. The world is a strange country, and their habitations in it, how much soever their own in civil respects, are but as inns in that journey homeward. The world is a strange country to the people of God, and the men of the world are men of a strange language, strange customs, strange laws, far differing from that of their own country.
2. In respect of their design, their motion, it is still homewards. This strange country likes them not, nor they it; they are travelling towards another, that which is, that which they account, their home, that better country, that heavenly country, that city prepared for them, that city whose builder and maker is God.
3. In respect of their enjoyments. They are but accommodated here like strangers. Much would be a burden, a hindrance to them in their journey; they have more in hopes than hand. Their treasure, their crown, their glory is at home, their Father's house; till they come there they are strangers.
4. In respect of their usage. They are not known in the world, and so are often coarsely used. In this strange country they meet with few friends, but many injuries. Their habit, language, practices, must be after their own country fashion, such as become heaven; now this being contrary to the world, meets with opposition, scorn, reproaches, hatred.
5. In respect of their continuance. Their abode on earth is but short. They dwell but as Abraham in tabernacles (ver. 9), in tents, moveable dwellings, quickly, easily removed; no dwelling that has a foundation, that is lasting, durable, till at home (ver. 10).
6. In respect of their relations. Their dearest relations are in another country. Their Father, their Husband, their Elder Brother, their dearest Friend, their Comforter, and the far greatest part of their brethren and fellow-members, are all in heaven.
Use 1. Reproof of those who profess themselves to be the people of God, and yet live not like His people; live on earth as though earth was their home, and mind heaven as little as they mind a strange country; suffer their thoughts, affections, endeavours, to be so taken up with the earth, and the things of it, as though the world were all the home they expect; instead of being strangers to the world, are strangers to the thoughts of, to the employments of, to the endeavours for heaven; rise up early, &c., to lay up treasure on earth, and lap up their hearts and souls with it.
Use 2. Exhortation to the people of God. You are strangers and pilgrims, oh endeavour to live as strangers. You expect to die in the faith, oh live then as you may so die.
(1) Be not familiar with the world. Let the pleasures, the carnal interests of it, be strange things to you (1 Peter 2:12; Romans 12:2).
(2) Be patient under sufferings, under the affronts, reproaches, hard usages you meet with from the world. It is the portion of strangers. Expect no vindication till in your own country.
(3) Be content with what things you enjoy. Though it seem small or poor, it is enough for a stranger. More would be a burden to you, and travellers should avoid burdens, if they long to be at home.
(4) Set not your hearts upon anything here below, Remember, while you are on earth, you are but in an inn. Mind the things here below as in transitu; use them as though ye used them not.
(5) Make haste home. Make no longer stay than needs must in this strange country. Make straight steps to your feet; disburden yourselves of worldly cares, projects, fleshly lusts, that weight that does so easily beset you. What you have to do here, do it with all your might, that you may be fit for home. Despatch, make haste; remember whither you are going, and to whom. Your Father expects you; the Bridegroom thinks long till you come, He that will delight in you for ever.
(6) Be not too fearful of death. It is a sleep now; Christ's death did change the property of it? and will a pilgrim, a weary traveller, be afraid of sleep?
(D. Clarkson, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.