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The author of the book of Hebrews tells us that, though Abraham did not take possession of the land God had promised him in his lifetime, he understood what God's promise really meant: "By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; . . . For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Hebrews 11:9-10).
Abraham trusted God and looked forward to the city that is to come—the New Jerusalem.
Abraham's heart was set on the City of God, a city that is built, designed, and founded by God Himself. By God's grace, Abraham knew he could never be satisfied with just an earthly city, even the earthly city of Jerusalem given to his descendants. Instead, he trusted God and looked forward to the city that is to come—the New Jerusalem.
There are three things about the earthly city of Jerusalem that teach us about the real City of God that will one day come down from heaven.
First, Jerusalem was the city where God dwelled with His people. When David made Jerusalem the capital of his kingdom, he brought the ark of the covenant to the City of David. David's overriding desire was to be in God's presence at all times, and the ark was where God's presence resided (see 2 Samuel 6). Thus, Jerusalem became the city where God dwelled with His people, just as it will be in the New Jerusalem. Only, God will dwell with His people in fullness.
Second, the earthly Jerusalem was a temporary city with a life full of conditional promises. More than a thousand years after David founded the city, Jerusalem rejected God by crucifying His Messiah, ceasing to be the earthly example of God's life and blessing. In contrast, the New Jerusalem is a permanent city with the unconditional promise of eternal life in God's presence and overflowing blessings that never leave.
Third, God's people may or may not show up for worship in the earthly Jerusalem, but in the New Jerusalem, believers will worship Him day and night. In the earthly Jerusalem, the hearts of God's people sought after worldly pleasures, but in the New Jerusalem, His true followers will be delighted in Him always.
One day, all of us who know Jesus will be gathered together to see the City of God with our own eyes. Until then, may we each be like Abraham and live by faith, not sight.
Prayer: Lord, may I have faith like Abraham to trust in You and Your promises and live my life in light of Your coming Kingdom. Thank You for calling me out of darkness and into Your presence. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Hebrews 11:10).