Hebrews 11:15, 16
And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from where they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.…
And truly if they had been mindful of that country, etc. These words, telling us how the patriarchs regarded the country which they had left and the country for which they looked, suggest to us that the Christian's attitude in this world is that of -
I. RESOLUTE RENUNCIATION OF THE THINGS WHICH ARE BEHIND. And truly if the patriarchs "had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to return." Though having no possession in Canaan, they did not wish to go back to Ur of the Chaldees. Though strangers in Canaan, they did not desire to return to their old home to seek for friendships there; for had they wished to do so, opportunities were not lacking for the realization of such a wish. There are at least two senses in which the Christian has renounced the things which are behind.
1. He has no desire to return to a life of worldliness or of sin. He could do so if he wished, but he is not disposed to do so. He has no relish for those pursuits and pleasures of this world, which are followed without any thought of the life and the world which lie beyond. And a life of sin is abhorrent to him. To go back to the old life would be to pass from light into darkness, from liberty into bondage, from noble unrest to seek for ignoble satisfactions, and the true Christian will not entertain such an idea.
2. He has no desire to return to the past season,'s and experiences of life. There may be times when he has a brief and unhealthy longing for the lost innocence of childhood, or for the too-fleeting enjoyments of youth, or for the recurrence of past opportunities which were neglected or only partially improved. There are, we conceive, few persons but at times have painfully felt such longings. But the calm, considerate desire of the Christian is not to go back to any of these things. His judgment assures him that if he could return to the past, or recall departed seasons and opportunities, he would probably make no better use of them than he has already done. Hence, like St. Paul, he endeavors to "forget those things which are behind."
II. EAGER DESIRE FOR THE THINGS WHICH ARE BEFORE. "But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city."
1. The object of their desire. "They desire a better country, that is, a heavenly." Heaven is better than the best of earthly countries or homes. It is better:
(1) In its society. The Christian will not feel himself a stranger there; for he will be with kindred spirits. Good people here are not always agreeable; but in heaven the society is always genial and refreshing.
(2) In its services. The service of God is delightful at present, though that which we render is very imperfect in its character, and often interrupted in its exercise, and very contracted in its sphere. But hereafter we shall consecrate our perfected powers to him, and "serve him day and night in his temple," without weariness and with joy unspeakable.
(3) In its enjoyments. "In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." The heavenly enjoyments are distinguished for their purity, their plenitude, and their perpetuity.
(4) In its security. Sickness, sorrow, death, and sin, the prolific parent of suffering, cannot enter heaven. Verily, the heavenly is a better country.
2. The propriety of their desire. They who have received the Divine call, as the patriarchs had and the sincere Christian has, should aim at the end of their calling; they should seek to realize it, and endeavor to act up to it. In seeking the better country Christians are doing so; "wherefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God." It is fitting that the children should long for their Father's house; "wherefore God is not ashamed of them," etc.
3. The blessedness of their desire. It will end in full fruition. The longing which is never satisfied is only a protracted pain. The longing for what is worthy, and which is lost in its fulfillment, issues in blessedness. Such is the desire of the Christian. "God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city." If God by his promises had kindled their hopes only to disappoint them, he might be "ashamed to be called their God." If he was their God and Father, yet provided no home for his children, he might be "ashamed to be called their God." But he has provided for the satisfaction of the hopes which he has awakened; and the home for which they long he has established. "He hath prepared for them a city." Since we are journeying homeward:
1. Let us not be much concerned for either the pleasures or the possessions of this world.
2. Let us not count it a strange thing if we have some discomforts on the way.
3. Let us yet dread death, for it is the gate of admission into the city which God hath prepared for his people. - W.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.