And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from where they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.…
I. THE STATE OF SOUL HERE SPECIFIED. "They desire. That word denotes an ardent longing for the possession of something which we have not now, but which we may come ultimately to call our own, and when used as here to designate the attitude of a believing soul toward heaven, it is to be noted that it is a positive thing. It is not to be confounded With that dislike of the evils of the present life which is frequently mistaken for it. It is something altogether different from the mere absence of the desire to live, which many foolishly take to be a virtue. One may be repelled from earth without being attracted to heaven, and, indeed, the feelings of many more than himself were described by Voltaire when he said: "I hate life, but I dread death"; yet in neither of these emotions have we anything of that element of positive longing in which desire consists. Similarly we must not suppose that we can use that term to designate that submission to the inevitable which makes a man say, that if he must leave this world, though he would greatly prefer to stay in it, he would rather go to heaven than hell. Even true Christian resignation is not desire. We may bow to the will of God out of reverence to Him, and in the faith that it will somehow be ultimately for the best, and yet there may be no desire that, irrespective of its issue, the thing submitted to should come upon us. Unlike Paul (Philippians 1:23), we have a desire to remain with our friends and our work, but if God so wills we are resigned to depart. Here, there is submission without desire, h. feeling quite compatible with great enjoyment, and activity in the present life, and yet so much stronger than these as to be evermore rising above them and triumphing over them.
II. THE OBJECT TOWARDS WHICH" THIS STATE OF HEART IS DIRECTED. "The better land, that is, the heavenly." I waive altogether such curious questions as those which relate to the locality of heaven. The language of the apostle does not imply that this world is not a goodly land. True, it is sometimes likened to a wilderness, but then it is a wilderness in which God has made streams to flow for us from the rock, and manna to fall for us from the heavens, and through which He is guiding us by the pillar-cloud of His providence and His Spirit. The Christian is happy in this world. What then, to him, are the best things in this world? 'They are those in which he has the most of Christ, and they may be summed up under these three classes: Christian ordinances, Christian fellowship, and Christian work. In heaven we shall have all these in a higher degree than we have them here, and without the alloy with which they are here mingled, or the drawbacks to which they are here subjected.
III. THE INFLUENCE OF THIS DESIRE ON THOSE WHO CHERISH IT. "They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." That confession has a threefold influence.
1. It keeps those who make it from regarding the things of this life as supreme. They do not build themselves into the world, or bound all their aims by the horizon of time.
2. It sustains the Christian under present afflictions. He is willing to put up with privation now, because he knows there is something better in store for him.
3. It gives consolation in bereavement, and joy in death.
(W. M. Taylor, 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.