Hebrews 11: 13-16
I do not intend to explain the meaning and context of this section but there are three references in it which impressed me. There were those who were, “strangers and sojourners on the earth”, there were those people who were seeking “their country” and, God “has prepared for them a city”. It is those three things which I want to speak about, and I would start by asking where you feel you are tonight. Do you feel you are a stranger and a sojourner on the earth? Are you seeking a country? Or do you feel that you have, and are enjoying, a place in a city that God has prepared for you?
Let us think of what we mean by the earth, when compared to references to a country and a city. A reference to the earth and those who are strangers and sojourners on it would give you a sense of a wilderness. It would give you a sense of an expanse such as we read of every day in the newspapers. It is an earth that is running dry of resource, an earth where there is unrest, and it is an earth which is ravaged by sin. The term would imply no boundaries for those things are common right across the world today. I would ask whether you are trying to find your place on that earth, whether you are wandering through the world seeking where you might fit in today. I feel the challenge of that myself because how easy it is in employment to try to find a place where you fit best and achieve the most. How attractive and how tempting it is to try to find a place in the entertainment and pastimes which men have created. How attractive and how tempting it is to try to find a place in them.
The children of Israel had been in Egypt and they had experienced what the earth was. They had worked their hardest, they had given everything, and they were made to work harder and harder whilst desiring earnestly to get out. They were strangers and sojourners, they did not have a place there. I would ask you whether you have a place, or are seeking a place, in that earth, that wilderness waste which is quickly running dry of the resource that it is able to provide, and which is so ravaged by sin and unrest? You might observe that God created it. That is absolutely right; God did create the earth, He also created the heavens, He created the vast immeasurable expanse of them. We referred to the stars earlier, and we were looking up at them last night and seeing myriads of them. How many more myriads there are which we cannot see. God created them. God is so great that He could do that; and God created the earth. He created the earth in such fine detail. It never ceases to amaze me, when I go to the seaside, how the sea washes to and fro with the tide in such a measured way. Occasionally, as we know, we will get a rough sea and the waters will break over the barriers, but when you think of the vastness and depth of the oceans, God is holding it all perfectly in balance.
How much greater it is though, God created Man. He formed Man after His own image, He breathed into him and gave him life. He gave him more intelligence than any other creature. Why did He do that? Think of the delight of God in having created the detail of the Garden of Eden, the plants and the animals, the weather conditions that were suited to it; all of these things God had set in absolute perfection. Everything was held in balance, and then He placed Man in His garden. What delight God must have had as He saw His creature Man in that environment. And yet, perhaps within twenty four hours, Man had disobeyed his God. Here is the beginning of the earth as we know it becoming waste, the beginning of man’s system unravelling as he desired to be independent of God, to do his own thing. When we look through the thousands of years that have transpired since then we can see why it is that the earth is as it is today. We can see why there were those that we have read of here, even in this time who were strangers and sojourners on the earth, not finding their place there but seeking a country. Dear friend, sin has ravaged every part of the earth upon which we stand and every man, woman and child who walks upon it; and I would ask whether you really appreciate that. Do you appreciate what it meant for God to look down upon those perfect surroundings and that creature that He had created perfect, and see disobedience. Man had turned his back upon God, tried to hide from God, tried to hide from his Creator. God had given him everything, and man still turned his back upon Him. You may say, 'How could that be?' But, if you have not acknowledged your disobedience, your sins, and have not turned to your Saviour you are in exactly the same position. God is providing you with everything, and maybe until now you have turned your back upon Him. Maybe you have known God, and you have had a relationship with God, and have your sins forgiven; but for now you have turned your back upon Him; and maybe you have not appreciated His blessing and are trying to find something better.
Next we come to those who were seeking a country. What a great point to come to. If you are wandering aimlessly across the world, if you are seeking in all the corners of the earth the satisfaction that you feel that it can provide for you, dear friend, there is a great point that you will (when you begin) come to seek God’s country. Why is that so good? There are some simple things that we know about countries. First of all they have a head of state, maybe a king. A country will have a currency; there is money that you will need to be able to spend there. It will have a language that you will need to be able to speak to be understood, and it will have cities.
What attracts you to God’s country? It has certain characteristics. This country has the King, who was able to create the heavens and the earth, was able to put Man into the garden; and He is the God who is so patient and so loving that He has created an environment that you can still come to despite man’s history of sin. Did God wipe man out of His plans in the Garden of Eden when he showed his disobedience? No. In His mercy and grace He has formed a country for us. It has a king, and the king is the Lord Jesus. He is the One who gives character to it; He is the One whose desires, whose love, whose authority, whose power are expressed throughout that kingdom. The Lord Jesus is the One whom God sent into this world to provide the answer to our sin. He came here and was rejected by man. How terrible the way that He had to go at the hands of man when He was here. Man showed his hatred toward Him and had no place for Him. There is another example of how different this country is to the world, for here was a King, the King of God’s perfect, sin-free country who had no place in man’s sin-ridden earth. Man seized Him and took Him to the cross. This is the Man who desired the very best for you, who has the same heart of love as God has, and was expressing it in His pathway here by coming into this world to save and serve man, whilst being rejected by those very persons He had come here for. Think of Him for a moment as He went to the cross and in the many things He did in serving man as He set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem. Think of that woman by Sychar’s well, He went out of His way to be with her, John 4. We spoke earlier of the Good Samaritan, making the time, Luke 10. The Lord Jesus made the time, He sat there by Sychar’s well, He spoke to that woman, He drew near to her, provided her with everything that she had need of; the satisfaction that she was so desperately seeking for. There she was at the well drawing water again and again; but the Lord Jesus was able to pour in something that was very special, a resource which this earth could not provide, a resource which is only available in God’s country, and a resource that is only available from the King.
Let us think for a minute of the language in God’s country; what language does He use. Did the Lord express condemnation to that woman? He did not. He used words of immense wisdom; He was able to point out to her exactly where she was, and what she was seeking to find. He was able, in His love, the language of love, to point out where she could find exactly what she needed. It was a new language to her, she had never heard that language before. She may have been ridiculed in the city; she may have been mocked, but here were new words, and the first time she heard this language she understood it. What an effect it had. All she needed to hear were a few words and she knew God’s language, the language of love. She is able to go into the city using that language, saying, “Come, see a man who told me all things I had ever done: is not he the Christ?”, John 4: 29. Have you heard the language of love? Do you know the King, the One who is prepared to go out of His way to provide for your every need, and in providing for it would draw near to you and express to you words that only He could utter, His perfect love for you? “No one has greater love than this, that one should lay down his life for his friends”, John 15: 13. The Lord Jesus has done that for you. The King of this country gave His life. Think of that for a moment. He went to Golgotha, having been tried in the court, having been taken and led to the cross, to that hill. Those cruel nails were driven through His hands and through His feet.
A few weeks back my son and I were working in the front garden and dug some metal up; it was a Roman nail. I have often contemplated what those nails must have been like, but this confirmed to me the real horror of what the Lord Jesus went through, blunt square, thick, cruel nails were driven through the hands and the feet of the Lord Jesus. It actually happened. We often speak about it; maybe I contemplate it sometimes as a story, but think about the reality of those nails being driven through His hands and His feet. The horror, even greater, of that cross being lifted up into place, dropped into the hole which it was to stand in, the Lord Jesus already nailed to it, and then the tremendous injury that He suffered, every bone out of joint, Ps 22: 14. That actually happened. There He was upon the cross. The horror of those hours as He hung there! One robber on either side of Him, so justly meeting the punishment that was to be meted to them under the law, but the Lord Jesus there, a holy, perfect, righteous Man, the King of my country, who was there for my sake and for your sake. He had set His face steadfastly to go that way because of the sins that I had committed. Even just one of them was sufficient to lead Him that way to Jerusalem to be nailed to that cross and to hang there for those hours. To be ridiculed at the hands of men, to be spat upon and to have that crown of thorns placed upon his head. All of these things He endured for you and for me and to the end that this country we are speaking of may exist. It was in order that the boundaries may be put around it, and that everything within that country should be secured for God and be untainted by sin, that the language of love may be the only language. What a tremendous sacrifice He made for you and for me. Think of Him uttering that loud cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Matt 27: 46. Why did He say that? It was because the offering that the Lord Jesus was making was God’s offering. The holy and the righteous God, the only God, did not spare His own Son because His heart of love desired that He should have you for Himself - and that He should have your praise because He loves you so much. Think of His side being pierced and the blood and the water flowing out; everything given. It affects me that in His sacrifice absolutely everything was given, nothing was held back. He gave up a life which He loved, His body was taken and was cruelly nailed to that cross and even when He had died His side was pierced and the blood and the water flowed out. Everything was given, a sacrifice greater than any other. Everything has been provided in order that your sins and the stain of them may be entirely removed. I would urge you tonight to consider the wonder of that work. There is a lot recorded for us in detail in the Scriptures, in the Gospels, but also in the Psalms, as to the suffering of the Lord Jesus. Read them, because it has a wonderful effect as you read slowly and contemplate what the Lord Jesus endured for you and for me. The Lord Jesus carried the full weight of all of the sins that have ever been committed, with a desire in His heart that every man, woman and child should have faith in Him and should come to know relief from the guilt of their sin and to enter God’s country. The Lord Jesus suffered so greatly for us.
Thus, as I have put my faith and my trust in Him, I can now truly enjoy what it is to be in this country. No longer am I wandering. Why am I not wandering? Because I have a King who was prepared to die for me, a King who was prepared to give absolutely everything for me because He loved me so much. Would I want to be wandering upon the earth seeking satisfaction, seeking a place here, when my King, who I know is my Friend, has given everything for me and has created a country of which He wants me to be a citizen?
Then we have the currency of this country. This is the grace and the mercy that He so freely gives. How often I fail. How often I slip from the standard, but there is everything there in God’s love, His mercy, and His grace that makes this whole system, this whole economy work, because He knows me, He knows me better than I know myself and He knows you better than you know yourself. He has provided the wherewithal for you to be part of His country and to be at home there without a sense of guilt, without a sense of worry but to be restful there. How tremendous this is.
We read, and this shows His love for us again, that, “God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God; for he has prepared for them a city”. All these things we are speaking of are not haphazard; God has a great plan. I am often affected by that; we look at situations and we wonder at them, and maybe in our lives we go from one twist to another twist to another, and we think, 'where is all this going?' Maybe in my relationship with my Saviour, maybe from my side, I drift in and out of the enjoyment of it. Dear friends, maybe you are seeking a place somewhere upon this earth; maybe you have found your place in the country, but you feel there is some further enjoyment you are missing. There is great comfort for you and for me in knowing that God has a plan, He has a great plan. Not a plan like man’s plans which are written down and they have their deadlines and people responsible for doing this and that and generally they run late or fail, but God has a plan which He has had from the beginning. Here we have read of a city which God has prepared, not will prepare. We are not talking about a country or a city that God will build, this is all done. The Lord Jesus has paid the price, everything has been set in place and now we have a city. The city is where the King lives. We have a King whose character marks the country, whose language is shared across the country, whose currency is used across the country, but then in the city we have where the King lives. If you go to London and you see Buckingham Palace, you see where the Queen lives, and you see the thousands of tourists who go to see where the Queen lives. In God’s city there is a place where the King lives. Also in the city there is every resource available to you. You have everything laid on. If you live in a house in the outskirts of the city or away in the country, maybe there are some resources that you do not have ‘on tap’, but in God’s city He has every resource, right there and available for your every need. It is also God’s showpiece and there will be a time that we read of in the Revelation when that holy city, New Jerusalem, will descend (Rev 3: 12), and we have a whole chapter there that speaks of the glory of that city. It is tremendous, from the detail of the measurements to the precious stones, all of these things, we have the detail of them all laid out for us, Rev 21. That is because God has prepared a city, and it is the city that He wants you to live in and He wants me to live in. He does not want you to be at a distance from your King; He does not want you to be looking for resource: He wants the resources that you have need of to be right there and available to you. He wants your heart and your affections to be overwhelmed by the glory of the King and the glory of the messages that the King would give to you.
So what resources do we have? We have great resource in our hands: we have the Scriptures. We have the Holy Spirit who is available for every spiritual need, from the most simple of our needs to the very greatest of them. The Holy Spirit is there and will provide everything that we have need of. Dear friends, in the city, if you are living there, if that is your life, if in every aspect of your life you feel the need of your Saviour, the One who has done so much for you, He will provide everything that you have need of in every circumstance. However simple, however great, whether it is at school, at home, whether we are playing, whether we are working, whether we are speaking to somebody and do not know what to say. If in a fleeting moment we turn to the Spirit and ask for His help the resource will be right there. Everything is provided for us for our every need.
We have to do, in that city, with the Lord Jesus upon His throne. His throne, as we know, is at the right hand of God. He has ascended, having broken the power of death by Himself. The Son of God, having entered into heaven, is now there ascended on high. Do you have to make an appointment? Absolutely not. Do you have to wait for an appropriate moment to find the right thing to say? Absolutely not. He is there, and my King is as prepared to speak to you as He is to speak to anybody else across the whole face of the earth who desires to be in His country, to live in His city. He will speak to you at any moment about anything in any way. What a comfort that is. Sometimes we may feel that we are coming up against a brick wall, maybe we do not know where to turn next, maybe we are struggling with something that surely everyone else would find, to be simple, but there is One who is not only my King, but I can truly say, He is my Friend. In that circumstance He is the One who I would turn to because I know that He knows the answer. He knows the end from the beginning in every circumstance I may struggle with, He is right there with the answer for me. Maybe sometimes I will be tested, maybe sometimes I have to wait for His answer, but if I stick with Him, He will provide it.
These things are tremendous. I would ask the question again, are you trying to find a place as a stranger and a sojourner on the earth? I would urge you to look for your country, look for the country that has the King who was prepared to die for just one of your sins, for one of your acts of disobedience - perhaps when you were told to do something and you did not. That is a sin and God was prepared to give His only begotten Son to die for you for that one sin. What great love! Do you have your place in that country? If you do, do you have the enjoyment of being in the city where you can converse with the King, where you can offer the praise which He desires and is so rightly due, where you can draw near to Him in your every moment of trial? And where the Holy Spirit is there available to you, for every moment, for every need, that the fountain of living water that the woman in John 4 came to experience, might spring up into eternal life in yourexperience. Not just now, but finally, when the Lord Jesus will return and everyone who has put their faith and trust in Him will be taken to be with Him, that currency and that language of love will continue eternally. We spoke earlier about the language we will use in eternity, maybe we will call it ‘Love’, for it is that which speaks for everything that God has done for you and for me.
I would urge you to turn to Him tonight in the very simplest of ways and make Him your Friend. For His Name’s sake.
12th November 2006