And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from where they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.…
It may be said that all men have this desire for a better country. How is it, then, that it is the peculiar desire of those who are described to be heroic of faith? We shall find our answer by considering the nature of the true desire.
1. The true Christian's desire is for that which is sovereign in the better country, and that is character. This is the motto over the gate of that heavenly city: Within enters nothing "that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie." It is the pure desire for a better country that should be the supreme motive in the Christian's heart. It is a desire to be like our God. The Buddhist has a desire for the extinction of his personal consciousness so that he may be for ever at rest in Nirvana. The Mahammedan desires to reach his ideal paradise. The business man desires success in his business enterprises. But the Christian's desire is for character; and he who desires that desires truly the better country.
2. Then this must be a strong desire, not a mean, lazy, languid wish. The intensity of our desire is measured by an earnest striving, by vigorous working. The Christian shows the true desire to be like God by a living faith in His Son, and by thorough consecration to His service; by fervent prayer to God and by confidence in Christian friends. By these means we are to fit ourselves for the better country. Do you desire to cross the ocean? You enter the steamship and commit yourself to the care of the captain. Do men desire wealth? How they work for it, giving the best years of their life to its accumulation! Or fame? How they strive to attain it! Now, are you willing to work to enter that better country where character is the supreme good? Have you a great and strong desire, a steady and energetic reaching forward of the soul for a character that is ever true and pure?
3. Again, this must 'be an unselfish desire; a desire which seeks to benefit others as well as self. If a man simply wishes to go himself to this better country, he has not the true desire. He must seek to help others there. Right here is the origin of all missionary work. It is in a desire that the world may enter the heavenly country and have a right to the tree of life. This is the desire for a better country that God approves. This is the desire that Christ had, who tried to lift men to the highest and best life. A .desire for this true character will always be accompanied by a desire that all others may rejoice in the same noble character. This is the desire that discriminates character. It is first pure, then mighty, then unselfish. This is like the character of God, seeking to enrich and ennoble man. With this desire comes fortitude, whereby the Christian can stand strong against all foes. Nothing can trouble him then. Fear of death itself is swallowed up; for what is death to one who has this better country in view I It is this desire that builds up character. Show men lad with a strong purpose ever before him, and I will show you a life that will be crowned with success. It is here that the world has its strongest power over us for evil, in holding us back from the supreme desire for holiness. Out of this desire springs that earnest entreaty that will not let the Spirit go except it bless us. God chooses many ways to keep this motive supreme in our hearts. How often the disappointments and trials of life are used to lead us up to this desire! So the world itself, with all its sadness, its heartbreakings, its open graves, may lead us upward toward the sky.
(R. S. Storrs, D. D.)
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.