v. 13. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
v. 14. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
v. 15. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
v. 16. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city.
The sacred writer here shows that his definition of faith applies well in the case of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob: These all died in keeping with their faith, although they had not become partakers of the promises, but had seen them from afar and hailed them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. As the patriarchs had believed during their lives, so they died in their faith, as it behooved men that had seen the day of the Lord, the coming salvation, from afar, through the promises of the Lord, Joh_8:56. They were so firmly persuaded that God would fulfill His word in every particular that they actually saw the fulfillment. They hailed the promises from afar, as people on board of a ship may wave recognition to a group of friends on shore. The fact that the Gospel-promises were not fulfilled while they lived, and that they did not see the Messiah in person, did not influence their faith. They cheerfully confessed and called themselves strangers and pilgrims here on earth, a fact for which their being sojourners in the Land of Promise was a type. See Gen_23:4; Gen_47:9; Psa_39:12; 1Pe_1:1; 1Pe_2:11.
This open confession of the patriarchs, as evidenced in their lives, is further discussed: For they that say such things plainly show that they are in search of a fatherland. The acknowledgment and confession of the patriarchs that they were strangers and sojourners here on earth, that this world was not their home country, made it very evident that the true homeland must be elsewhere, that they are eagerly awaiting their entrance into that promised place. They think of, have in view, and are making for, a land which they can call their own, which is their own by the gift of God. Their entire attitude agreed with this state of mind: And if, indeed, they had cherished memories of that land which they had left, they would have had opportunity to return; but now they aspire after a better one, which is the heavenly one. If at any time during their sojourn in Canaan and also in Egypt the patriarchs had had regrets on account of their having left Mesopotamia, if they had cherished fond memories of that earthly country from which Abraham had gone forth, if their sighing had concerned itself with a mere earthly paradise, then it would have been an easy matter for them to return to their former homeland. But it was not an earthly country that their faith was aspiring after with such eager sighing, but the promised heavenly land, the city whose possession was assured by virtue of the Messiah's merits. Thus the cordial relationship between God and them is brought out: Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. Because the faith of the patriarchs in the promises of God was so implicit, because they credited His promises even though they themselves did not actually become partakers of them while living here on earth, therefore God was not ashamed of them, did not hesitate to confess them, was willing to be called their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Exo_3:15. For this reason, also, He was preparing for them a city, the heavenly Jerusalem, the mansions above, which would in every way satisfy the hopes and expectations they had held all their lives, Joh_14:1-3. This is also the goal of the hopes, the expectation of the faith, of all believers to this day—Jerusalem, the city fair and high.