of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. – Hebrews 11:38

We have read in previous weeks about persecution and affliction, about the faithful and what they have suffered and will continue to endure for the sake of Christ. This verse lists more sufferings, addressing those who like John the Baptizer wandered in the wilderness and also those like Elijah and other prophets who hid in caves. But I want to focus on the very first phrase in this verse, “Of whom the world was not worthy.”

These, our hereos, were faithful to Christ even unto death. They stood firm and never wavered. They were steadfast. They trusted the Father, they leaned on Christ, they depended upon the Holy Spirit. They are heroes of the faith.

Often when it comes to hereos we are prone to think of them more highly than we ought to think, but here the Holy Scripture tell us that these faithful are to be highly revered. They followed Christ just as we should, and by their faith we learn that the world was not worthy of them.

This cursed, fallen world, sick and dying, waiting for redemption, this marred creation was trod upon by those who were freed from sin and the curse by their faith in Christ. The creation, earth, people, human kind – all of this is contained in the word “world” and to all of these and in relation to all of these, when it comes to those who are the beloved bride of Christ, the world simply cannot hold them in the high esteem of which they are worthy. This worth is not inherent by the way, but imputed as we trade our sin for Christ’s righteousness. It is because of what He has done that these are so honored.

It is truly hard to put this into words. This rag-tag band of believers who wandered the earth hiding in caves, destitute, afflicted, these were not the affluent that the world worships, they were not the movers and shakers that are the center of attention, they were not those thronged by adoring crowds. No. They seemed in fact unworthy of any attention. They were viewed as religious fanatics, nuts, strangers. The world truly believes that this would be a better place without the followers of Jesus Christ.

They found no place among men. Jesus Himself had no place to lay His head. The disciples were a band of travelers who gave their very lives for the Christ they knew and loved. Some died in Israel. Some in Rome. Some as far away as India and Spain. All but one died as a martyr, and even then, John the beloved was exiled to the prison island of Patmos.

Yet while the world hates and despises disciples of Jesus Christ, we see the blessings that go with them everywhere they go. As John Calvin points out in his commentary on Hebrews 11:38:

Wherever God’s servants come, they bring with them his blessing like the fragrance of a sweet odor. Thus the house of Potiphar was blessed for Joseph’s sake, (Genesis 39:5;) and Sodom would have been spared had ten righteous men been found in it. (Genesis 18:32.) Though then the world may cast out God’s servants as offscourings, it is yet to be regarded as one of its judgments that it cannot bear them; for there is ever accompanying them some blessing from God. Whenever the righteous are taken away from us, let us know that such events are presages of evil to us; for we are unworthy of having them with us, lest they should perish together with us.

Matthew Henry brings home the point that in truth we as believers, as members of this ever growing family of faith, we do not belong to this world! Here is what he said:

The world did not deserve such blessings; they did not know how to value them, nor how to use them. Wicked men! The righteous are not worthy to live in the world, and God declares the world is not worthy of them; and, though they widely differ in their judgment, they agree in this, that it is not fit that good men should have their rest in this world; and therefore God receives them out of it, to that world that is suitable to them, and yet far beyond the merit of all their services and sufferings.

We, as God’s elect, were made for heaven, and this world is not our home. We are but pilgrims here, passing through. Let us not ever become so attached to the things of this world that we lay up for ourselves treasures on earth to the neglect of laying up treasures in heaven. This world is passing away. Why, oh why do we chase after it with such vigor and lust? Why? What is so alluring about this fallen world? We, as God’s children, should know from the example here given that the world is not worthy of those who follow Christ.

Do not cling so tightly to the temporal things of this world that you miss the true blessing of being unfit to stay here.