Before being called by God, Abraham was living in Ur, a fairly advanced city in the middle of Mesopotamia (which means “among the waters”). He left the land he’d always known to go live in tents in the Neguev (which means “dry”). God promised him that his family would inherit what we call the Promised Land… about 400 years after Abraham was dead! The only land Abraham owned was a burial plot for his wife.
The author of Hebrews writes:
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and 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
I guess I came to appreciate these verses and others like them when I was living in Argentina. I needed to live as an immigrant to understand what the Bible says about us being “strangers and exiles.” Those verses prepared me for returning to the United States, helping me to understand that I was still called to live as a foreigner, even in the country where I was born.
Just as Abraham wasn’t to spend his days longing for Ur, so our attention is not to be on the country where we live. We don’t focus on our old homeland; we set our eyes on the city that God is preparing for us. Christians are called to be very patriotic, but not for the land where we were born. We are to be fervent patriots of a place we’ve never been.
When we live like that, focusing on what lies ahead and not where we are or where we’ve come from, then God will not be ashamed to be called our God. When we understand that we are citizens of heaven, when we grasp that we’re “just a passin’ through,” then we will be the church that God will be proud to recognize as His people.
Let’s make it clear by our lives that we are seeking a homeland, that we desire a better country, that we are on our way to the city that God is preparing for us.
– Tim Archer, Herald of Truth Ministries