They desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.
Hebrews 11 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval.
3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. 4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; 10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.
13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.
Today’s text begins saying: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. Other versions say: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. - Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. - Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. We often think of faith as something that is mystical or intangible, but actually faith has substance, it is reality; and offers evidence and proof. Like men of old, we gain approval by faith. Ephesians 2:8-10 says: By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. John 3:16 says: God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. It is only by faith; believing in Christ and the finished work of the cross that we are saved and gain God’s approval. None of us by our own works would be approved for salvation and eternal life. Romans 3:23 says: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The substance of our faith, the evidence, the proof of our faith, is that in response to God’s gift to us, we do the good works He prepared for us.
The text says: By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. In Genesis 1:3;6-7;9;11;14-16;20-22;24-27 it says: God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God said, “Let there be ]an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” God made the ]expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind… God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. There are many who look at all that exists and believe that what is did indeed come from nothing. They believe though that it was not God’s word that caused it to come into being. Instead they believe that everything we see, the magnitude and splendor of the universe; the intricacies of sub-atomic structure in living things, all happened by chance; by a series of random occurrences. Theirs is not faith, but rather theory, because there is no evidence, there is no proof, there is no way that it could be reality. Their theories violate the very science they hope to prove.
The text says: Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Psalm 14:1-3 says: The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. In our culture and society, there are many who would qualify as fools by the psalmist’s declaration. Our culture is increasingly becoming more corrupt. Rather than demonstrating faith by doing the good works of God, denying Him they do abdominal deeds. Still the Lord looks down to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. In Jeremiah 29:13-14 God says: You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will let Myself be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations… In Revelation 3:20 the Lord says: Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. Matthew 19:25-26 says: When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” It is possible only with faith.
As the world continues to become increasingly corrupt and darkened in its lack of faith, we who believe have the same promise as those spoken of in the text today. All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. We are aliens in this world. Our true residence is in the kingdom of heaven. Even as we are on earth; in the world, in Luke 17:21 Jesus says: “Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”
May the prayer Jesus taught us to pray be our prayer and our purpose.
‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. ‘Give us this day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’