on Hebrews 11 :16
But now they desire a better - They all expected spiritual blessings, and a heavenly inheritance; they sought God as their portion, and in such a way and on such principles that he is not ashamed to be called their God; and he shows his affection for them by preparing for them a city, to wit, heaven, as themselves would seek no city on earth; which is certainly what the apostle has here in view. And from this it is evident that the patriarchs had a proper notion of the immortality of the soul, and expected a place of residence widely different from Canaan. Though to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the promises were made in which Canaan was so particularly included, yet God did not give them any inheritance in that country, no, not so much as to set a foot on; Acts 7:5. Therefore, if they had not understood the promises to belong to spiritual things, far from enduring, as seeing him who is invisible, they must have considered themselves deceived and mocked. The apostle therefore, with the highest propriety, attributes their whole conduct and expectation to faith.
on Hebrews 11 :16
But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly - That is, at the time referred to when they confessed that they were strangers and sojourners, they showed that they sought a better country than the one which they had left. They lived as if they had no expectation of a permanent residence on earth, and were looking to another world. The argument of the apostle here appears to be based upon what is apparent from the whole history, that they had a confident belief that the land of Canaan would be given to "their posterity," but as for "themselves" they had no expectation of permanently dwelling there, but looked to a home in the heavenly country. Hence, they formed no plans for conquest; they laid claim to no title in the soil; they made no purchases of farms for cultivation; they lived and died without owning any land except enough to bury their dead. All this appears as if they looked for a final home in a "better country, even a heavenly."
Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God - Since they had such an elevated aim, he was willing to speak of himself as their God and Friend. They acted as became his friends, and he was not ashamed of the relation which he sustained to them. The language to which the apostle evidently refers here is what is found in Exodus 3:6, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." We are not to suppose that God is ever "ashamed" of anything that he does. The meaning here is, that they had acted in such a manner that it was fit that he should show toward them the character of a Benefactor, Protector, and Friend.
For he hath prepared for them a city - Such as they had expected - a heavenly residence; Hebrews 11:10. There is evidently here a reference to heaven, represented as a city - the new Jerusalem - prepared for his people by God himself; compare the notes on Matthew 25:34. Thus, they obtained what they had looked for by faith. The wandering and unsettled patriarchs to whom the promise was made, and who showed all their lives that they regarded themselves as strangers and pilgrims, were admitted to the home of permanent rest, and their posterity was ultimately admitted to the possession of the promised land. Nothing could more certainly demonstrate that the patriarchs believed in a future state than this passage. They did not expect a permanent home on earth. They made no efforts to enter into the possession of the promised land themselves. They quietly and calmly waited for the time when God would give it to their posterity, and in the meantime for themselves they looked forward to their permanent home in the heavens.
Even in this early period of the world, therefore, there was the confident expectation of the future state; compare the notes on Matthew 22:32. We may remark, that the life of the patriarchs was, in all essential respects, such as we should lead. They looked forward to heaven; they sought no permanent possessions here; they regarded themselves as strangers and pilgrims on the earth. So should we be. In our more fixed and settled habits of life; in our quiet homes; in our residence in the land in which we were born, and in the society of old and tried friends, we should yet regard ourselves as "strangers and sojourners." We have here no fixed abode. The houses in which we dwell will soon be occupied by others; the paths in which we go will soon be trod by the feet of others; the fields which we cultivate will soon be plowed and sown and reaped by others. Others will read the books which we read; sit down at the tables where we sit; lie on the beds where we repose; occupy the chambers where we shall die, and from whence we shall be removed to our graves. If we have any permanent home, it is in heaven; and that we have, the faithful lives of the patriarchs teach us, and the unerring word of God everywhere assures us.
on Hebrews 11 :16
11:16 But they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly - This is a full convincing proof that the patriarchs had a revelation and a promise of eternal glory in heaven. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: seeing he hath prepared for them a city - Worthy of God to give.