These faithful that we have been studying, looking at their lives, their faith and the fruit it bore, we have seen them step out and go where they were called in obedience. We see that they did not look back, but always pressed on moving forward in their faith. They knew God could be and should be trusted and so they did not hesitate, doubt, or fear. They followed God.
As they applied their faith and obeyed, even in moving to a new land and waiting for God‘s promises to be fulfilled they were faithful to death. How is it that they were able to truly take God at His Word to the point where they went to a strange land, at times not even knowing where God was calling them, without looking back or longing for the way things used to be? The answer to that question is heaven.
Yes, even while traveling to a new earthly location they still had in mind that God made promises that transcended this world. For all that this Promised Land was to be, for all that God told them about His plans for the land and the people, they saw the Land for what it was. Too many see the Promised Land as the end of the journey. After the Exodus and the conquest, the arrival at the Promised Land is the end of the story – promises fulfilled. But Abraham and these others saw past the earthly land. They knew that the land was just a type, just a picture, a foreshadowing of what was to come.
They by faith longed for a better, a heavenly country. They knew that everything on this earth is passing away. The beauty that proclaims the glory of God, the grandeur, the majesty of the created world – it all points to something better. Something heavenly. A country not marred by sin or the curse.
Imagine this world with no sin or curse. Talk about Paradise. The sad truth is that because of our sin in Adam the world itself is cursed and groans waiting for salvation. This fallen world will be replaced by a better, heavenly country.
Longing for Heaven
It says here that they ―desire‖ this heavenly country. The term means to try and grab something just out of reach. Heaven is just beyond our reach isn‘t it? We cannot reach it or grab it or obtain it on our own. But we can desire it! The Spirit puts within our hearts that desire for the promise of a better place.
Heaven should be so ingrained in our thinking, so good, so glorious, that we really do have a hard time admitting that many people will never make it to heaven. How many false religions exist that promise heaven without Christ? And yet, without Jesus there is no heaven. Without Him there is no way to the Father. Without Him there is no better country.
These longed for heaven. They yearned and hungered for it. For a place free of sin and death, sorrow and suffering. It was an all consuming craving for something better.
Do we long for heaven? Do we desire to reach out and grab this better place, this heavenly country, this place untouched by sin? Jesus promised us everlasting life in heaven if we repent and trust Him. If we believe the gospel and obey it, because of His sinless life and substitutionary death, heaven can be ours as part of our inheritance in Him.
So often in the Bible desire is seen negatively as lust, a craving for self fulfillment. Here though, this desire for heaven is a good and God honoring desire. He wants to us to want heaven. David stated in the Psalms his longing for being in God‘s presence. “One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4). Paul stated in Philippians that he was hard pressed in desiring at once to go be with the Lord and yet also desiring to stay and minister to the church. His desire for heaven, for God‘s presence, was strong, for he said it was a ―far better‖ desire (Philippians 1:23).
Do we long for heaven? Have we laid up your treasures there so that our heart is set on being in God’s presence? Are we driven to hope for heaven, a better country, to dwell in the house of the Lord?
God is not ashamed to be called their God
Because of this desire, this driving passion for a heavenly country, God is not ashamed to be called their God. He identifies with them. He wants His people to want to be with Him. God wants us to want to be with Him. Do we live each day with an eye toward heaven? Longing for heaven. Waiting patiently, yet yearning earnestly for heaven?
In the Covenant with Abraham, God made specific promises that Abraham never saw fulfilled. Yet Abraham trusted God and walked with Him. Because of his faith, Abraham was counted righteous before God. This relationship of faith and dependence led to the point that Abraham was willing to give up even the promises he had seen fulfilled. Think about this. With the praise given to these faithful men and women by God when they did not see promises fulfilled we have to see also that they had some promises brought to fruition in their lifetime.
Abraham saw the promise of his son Isaac being born. This was a promise he watched unfold. And yet his faith was such that when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22) to Him on the mountain, Abraham asked no questions, shared no doubts, revealed no fear. His faith was such that he obeyed. He took Isaac, tied him to the altar, and raised the knife to offer him to God as God had asked.
As the angel stopped him and provided a ram in the bushes we see this faith – a faith in God that led to unquestioned obedience, even if it meant losing the fulfillment of a promise already given. How much more is God pleased to be associated with those who trust Him when they have not even seen the fulfillment of the promise? That is why, as they trusted Him, He was not ashamed to be known as their God. He refers to Himself throughout Scripture as the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
He has prepared a place for them
Ultimately we see the result of this faith and God‘s promise in the place that He has prepared for us. Just as Abraham and the others knew that the Promised Land was a shadow of heaven, so to we know that Jesus is preparing a place for us. A heavenly city, the New Jerusalem. Jesus stated it this way:
Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father‘s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know. Thomas said to Him, ―Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?‖ Jesus said to him, ―I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
The disciples were troubled. They had just had Jesus wash their feet in the upper room. They knew Jesus was talking about being betrayed by one of them (Judas) and also being denied by Peter. He was talking about dying. They were troubled. His answer to this was straightforward. Don‘t be troubled. Have faith. Trust God. Trust Me. I am going to prepare a place for you and I will come back for you to bring you to this place so that we can be together.
There is the joy of heaven. It is not the Promised Land, the glory of creation perfected, no sin or sorrow. No, it is a better place, a heavenly country, because when we are there we are there with Jesus. Face to face, never apart, walking, talking, abiding with Jesus.
The glory of heaven is not a glory of grandeur, majesty, and the perfection that will surround us. The true glory of heaven is the eternal presence of Christ. We will be with Him, the One who gave Himself for us and prepared this place for us so that we could indeed live with Him forever.
He is preparing a place for us. We belong to Him. We have an eternal home. He has showed us the Way, as in fact He is the Way. Knowing Him is having eternal life. We need not be troubled by this world. One day all this will be gone and we will be with Jesus.
Do you long for heaven? Do you long to be with the One who died to redeem you, to save you, to sanctify you, and to fellowship with you in this better country, this heavenly country, forever? Have faith in God. He will do what He has promised, and as the hymn states, ―just one glimpse of Him in glory will the toils of life repay!