Opportunity to Return
William V. Beasley
Four heros of faith (Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob) were in the mind of the Hebrew writer when he wrote: "And if indeed they had been mindful of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return" (Heb. 11:15). Since Abraham was the first to receive the promises (Gen. 12: 1ff) and since we know more about his life, we will write far more of him than of the others. Much that we write would also apply, in principle, to the others. We will attempt to make some spiritual applications of Hebrews 11:15 to ones living today.
Abraham was first called when he was in Mesopotamia (Acts 7:2-5), and the call and promises were repeated in Haran (Gen. 12:15). Why did Abraham in his distress (and there were distressful situations, as we shall see) not become discouraged, throw up his hands it! despair and say, "I'm going home"? He was not "mindful" (he did not let his mind be full of the remembrances) of Mesopotamia and/or Haran. Fullness of mind controls one's actions (Prov. 23:7; Matt. 12:34b). If Abraham had been mindful he would have had opportunity to return when: (1) God refused to accept Ishmael (Gen. 17:15-18); (2) He thought it necessary to lie to King Abimelech (Gen. 20:1-3,11-13); (3) He had to send Hagar and Ishmael away (Gen. 21:8-11); (4) He was commanded to offer Isaac as a burnt offering (Gen. 22:1ff); (5) He felt, although the land was to be his descendants, he must purchase land to bury Sarah (Gen. 23). Any or all of these, would have given the opportunity to return if. . . Why wasn't Abraham mindful the land from whence he had come? Abraham understood that he was a stranger and a pilgrim (Heb. 11:13; Gen. 23:4; 47:9) in search of a better country (Heb. 11:14,16). He also understood his relationship with God (Heb. 11:16; Exod. 3:6,15-16; Matt. 22:32).
There are many areas of life where not being mindful of the place from whence one has come goes a long way toward being successful:
Marriage: The young husband who is mindful of all the things he used to do with his money is likely to resent present responsibilities . . . and to have opportunity to return. A young bride who calls too often to remembrance how easy it seemed to be for Mom and Dad to buy that new dress, shoes, etc. is opening the door of opportunity to return.
College: Students who are mindful of their free-time, dating, TV, etc. before college may be on their way out of college and back to home. Of course, they will learn that working for a living also interferes with one's free-time.
Conversion to Christ: When one obeys the gospel of Christ, he will be mindful of whence he has come, have: (1) Opportunity to return to the world. "Oh, just to sleep till noon again on Sunday." Basic human desires do not change when one is born anew. The sex appeal in commercials (toothpaste, tobacco, tanning lotion, etc.) will still be appealing. In fact, the Devil may work even harder now . . . working to get that one back. (2) Opportunity to return to denominationalism. Most of the people who are converted from denominationalism have fond, pleasant memories of their association with the _______________________ church. They need to take their mind's eye off their former association and look to Christ. If mindful, there will be opportunity to return. Back in the early '60s a young man, a Methodist ministerial student, learned the truth of the gospel, and after weeks of Bible study (looking for a loophole) and soul-searching obeyed the gospel. One week to the day after his burial in water (Rom. 6:3-4) his lifeless body was. buried in the sandy soil of south Florida. Some weeks later his father and step-mother were immersed by C.L. Overturn (I believe) and, for some time, they attended services at the Nebraska Avenue church of Christ (Tampa, Florida). They were mindful. . . They resented Bible doctrine (no authority for instrumental music [Eph. 5:19], "one body" [Eph. 4:4; 1:22-231, etc.), the lower social class ("Sister _______ chews gum during services"), and it irritated them when others asked about their absences. They drifted to the Christian Church for a short time and then back to the Methodist Church; they were mindful. (3) Opportunities to return to the social gospel. It is all to common in large cities to receive calls at the meeting house from members of the Lord's church asking about special programs for young people, teens, elderly, etc. If they were ever truly converted to Christ, it is now evident that they have returned to placing the social above the spiritual (see Jn. 6:1-14, 26f).
How can we keep from being mindful of the country (world, denominationalism, social gospel, etc.) from whence we have come? We need to learn, as did Abraham, that we are pilgrims and strangers (1 Pet. 1:1; 2:11) and accept this concept emotionally as well as intellectually. One lady had the right idea (from a misunderstanding of the Scriptures). The expression, "it came to pass" is found over 300 times in the Bible, and simply means, "It happened" or "It occurred." She understood (actually, misunderstood) it to mean, "It came that it might one day pass." We, too, need to seeking for a better country/city (Phil. 3:13-14; 1 Pet. 1:4). We also need to understand and appreciate fully our relationship with the Heavenly Father and Jesus, the Savior (Heb. 8:8-12; Jer. 31:31f).
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 14, p. 430