No lasting city.

May 26, 2008

For some years now, this verse has been such a balm (in a different way than Acts 20:24 has been) to some heartache or another: “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” (Hebrews 13:14)

& Hebrews 11 has been a passage that I’ve returned to again & again to pore over, pray over, cry over, & rejoice over. What a cloud of witnesses (Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses . . .). What encouragement & strength gleaned from the lessons of their lives. What a testimony to the faithfulness of God, the very same God who calls me to walk by faith & in faith today.

I take heart from the example of Abraham, who obeyed & “went out, not knowing where he was going . . . for he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer & builder is God” (vv. 8-10); from the example of Sarah who “considered Him faithful who had promised,” even in things that were humanly impossible (vv. 11-12); from the example of Moses, who “refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin . . . consider[ing] the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt . . .” (vv. 23-26); & from the example of others, who “were made strong out of weakness . . . were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life . . . suffered mocking & flogging . . .” (vv. 32-28).

All of these in Hebrews 11 did one thing in common. One thing they did commended them: they looked on God with eyes of faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.” (Hebrews 11:1-2)

They took God at His word, even when things visible did not necessarily affirm His word or His promises. They “considered Him faithful who had promised” (v. 11), “died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them & greeted them from afar” (v. 13), & “endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (v. 27).

Their sights were set on God. Nothing else mattered. It didn’t matter if circumstances did not make His Word likely. It didn’t matter if human reason argued against the fulfillment of His promises. It didn’t matter what happened to them here. Here was not where their lasting city was anyway. Here was not where their treasure was stored anyway.

After their years here, they reached their lasting city. They reached the place of their rest. They reached where their heart was, where their treasured was laid up.

It is on this basis — this rich history of what God has done in the lives of His weak, embattled people — that we are exhorted to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder & prefecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

These wandered the earth as pilgrims & as foreigners, citizens of a more lasting city. In the moments when I feel like a wanderer, I’m reminded that others have journeyed much farther & have faced greater trials & heartaches. This isn’t to diminish my aches but to put even the smallest aches into perspective & to magnify the God of faithfulness, the God of grace sufficient, who sovereignly led His people in all kinds of different circumstances throughout the ages.

Let us, too, acknowledge that we are “strangers & exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone 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 for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)

Excerpt from a hymn written by Fanny Crosby, a blind believer:

All along my pilgrim journey, Savior, let me walk with Thee . . .
Lead me through the vale of shadows, bear me over life’s fitful sea;
Then the gate of life eternal may I enter, Lord, with Thee.
Close to Thee, close to Thee, close to Thee, close to Thee,
Then the gate of life eternal may I enter, Lord, with Thee.

Let’s sing with her until our faith gives way to sight, until our wanderings lead us Home: Close to Thee, close to Thee.

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3 Responses to “No lasting city.”

  1. atakeo Says:

    You make me stopped thinking of the world, cos the world is just a street . We are “Populus Dei in via” the people of God on the way to the gate of Lord.
    Deo Gratias, God Bless You.

  2. moonchoi Says:

    I love reading your blog, Tia. I might’ve told you that before but really, what you blog about challenges me a lot but also gives me such great hope and encouragement. Praise God. 🙂

  3. tia Says:

    Aw, I’m glad. Really, praise God.

    Moon, I’ll see you in a weeeek (well, 8 days to be exact :] hehe).


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