Hebrews 11:13 “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.”
Death is scary for most people. Some years ago I watched congressional hearings on the use of stem cells from fetal tissue for research. Among those testifying were celebrities who suffered from conditions for which there was some hope to discover a cure through such research. I detected a certain sense of desperation in their pleas. I suspect their diseases made death a little more real, a little more frightening than it is for most. They were clinging to hope for this life as they made their case.
Past heroes of the faith like those referenced in Hebrews 11 may have feared death the closer it came, too. But they shared a different perspective. By faith they recognized this world is not our final home. We are like foreigners passing through—“aliens and strangers.” They demonstrated almost an eagerness as they looked ahead to the eternal future God had promised them. They welcomed what they saw. They offered a willing farewell to this life and embrace of the one to come.
It was clear to them that the life to come was far superior. “People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead they were longing for a better country– a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:14-16).
Most of us like to reminisce about the place where we grew up. Sentimental memories wash over us as we contemplate the good old days. Perhaps Abraham also had fond memories of the countries he had left: growing up in Ur of the Chaldees, or spending his middle years in Haran, where he buried his father.
But Abraham realized, as did his believing children after him, that he could no more find real happiness in his old haunts than in Canaan where he now lived. For him there was no plot of ground any place on the globe that could give him what he really longed for: the settled security of finally arriving home in heaven.
By faith we share Abraham’s perspective. It’s not this life that is worth straining to hold onto. This is not the place to invest all the best that we have. Our hearts belong to the heavenly home to come. There we can leave behind the foolishness that has marred our time here. There we will find a God who is not ashamed to be called our God. There he will throw his arm around us like a proud Father and boast, “That’s my son or daughter, and I’m his or her Dad.”
Home: by faith we know what it looks like. By faith we understand we haven’t reached it yet. By faith God will guide us until we are safely there.