Posted by: Billy Marsh | August 2, 2007

III. Sojourners: Hebrews 11:15 (B) Don’t Look Back

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Although the meaning of Heb 11:15 is intended to display and impart the hope of heaven in the same fashion as that of those believers in its context, the application of the verse has various dynamics. One of them in particular I have already mentioned in that there are actual “lands” we all have left in some shape or form in order to heed the call and command of God. This point alone has many counterparts all throughout the NT that I wanted to elaborate on in conjunction with another application that deals primarily with departure from sin.

I remember seeing this poster for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace when the movie first came out back when I was a junior in high school on various t-shirts, movie theaters, and promotional materials. I thought it was quite powerful and nostalgic. This picture of young Anakin Skywalker with his future identity, Darth Vader in the backdrop, was entitled “Don’t Look Back“. If you’re not familiar with the Star Wars drama, the root of Anakin’s downfall into darkness and the Dark side of the Force was planted in the fact that he never overcame the fear and loss of leaving and losing his mother. His abrupt upheaval from her, only to return to her moments before her death, left unremovable scars and paved the way for his seduction to be consumed by evil. It all began by looking back, not letting go, and not setting his sights on what laid ahead.

To my own disadvantage, I am just now reading John Bunyan’s classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress. However, already in the first pages I see how Bunyan has illustrated the great need not to be “thinking of that land” from which we have gone out, so that we not give ourselves the opportunity nor temptation to return. He communicates this message clearly in the relationship between Obstinate, Pliable, and Christian. Obstinate tried to turn Christian back early on in his journey to the Eternal City leaving behind the City of Destruction. However, Pliable decided forsake Obstinate’s temptation and walked on with Christian little while and ways longer until they came into trouble at the Slough of Despond. At that time, Pliable returned home in despair and fear attempting to bring Christian along with him. However, Christian, with his whole being set on reaching the Celestial City, would not stray from the straight and narrow and continued to press on. In the same fashion as the OT patriarchs, prophets, and priests, Christian longed for a better country, one where God is not ashamed to be called their God (Heb 11:16).

Jesus himself issued forth the same warning and plea in the Gospels. In the famous passage where Christ responds to someone requesting to follow him announcing that the Creator of the world has no land of his own, Jesus delivers a hard truth. PlowingWhen the third person says, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home,” Jesus replies, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God (Lk 9:57-62).” We must be ready to tread away and walk steadfastly with the Lord through the harvest fields wherever he may lead. The Christian faith is best characterized by labor not leisure.

The Apostle Paul, who often uses the imagery of a race, staying on course, and journeying to depict the Christian life writes in Phil 3:13-14, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul had a dark and burdening past. And, he was very aware of this fact. However, as mentioned only few verses later, Paul lived in the reality that he was a new creation in Christ, a citizen of heaven (Phil 3:20).

Another easy application of this verse is in relation to the battle of sin in one’s life. The Bible speaks of fleeing sinful activity (1 Cor 6:18, 10:14; 1 Tim 6:11; 2 Tim 2:22; Jam 4:7). Dwelling upon a sinful past can only lead to a return to unholy habits and deeds. One cannot flee evil and wickedness by looking back. A clear example of this is the fate of Lot’s wife. Gen 19:26 recounts the event telling, “But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” We all must refuse to look back upon the Sodom and Gomorrah of our lives and take hope and full joy and satisfaction in the newness of life that Christ has purchased for us in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension on High. Unecessary burdens will make the journey too hard and too long. We must remember Jesus’ words, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matt 11:29-30).

So, what shall we fix our eyes on instead of the past and what lies behind us? Jesus! And, to be in the place where he is also (Jn 14:1-5). The Sojourner mentality looks to Jesus and longs to be with him eternally.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

~ Hebrews 12:1-2 ~

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Responses

  1. […] Billy Marsh continues his series on Hebrews 11 by reminding us from Heb 11:15 that Sojourners Don’t Look Back. […]


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