I’ve often put the various places I’ve lived on a comparative scale of desirability. I’ve lived in cities, on an island, in the mountains, and in the foothills. Every place where I’ve lived has had its own unique beauty and appeal, and its own particular downsides.
In the Old Covenant, the land of Israel had its various geographical locations, together with all of the accompanying pros and cons. One might suspect that every one of God’s people would have wanted to live in Jerusalem, since it was the city of the great king. However, this was not so. After the city was rebuilt and made habitable again in the days of Nehemiah, many of the people refused to return and live there.
The refusal of the people to move to Jerusalem was owed, in part, to the fact that the people had become comfortable where they were. They had little interest in being fully concerned with the work of the Lord that occurred in Jerusalem. The rulers went up to govern in the judicial courts. Several of the Levites returned there to do the priestly work at the temple precinct. Other Levites stayed behind to continue the priestly work in other parts of Israel.
But many of the people remained outside the city because of a desire for worldly comfort. Surely, more spiritual commitment was expected from the inhabitants of Jerusalem than from other inhabitants of Israel. Matthew Henry explained the failure of those who refused to seek habitation in the city of God, when he wrote: “Those who care not for being holy themselves are shy of dwelling in a holy city; they would not dwell in the New Jerusalem itself for that reason, but would wish to have a continuing city here upon earth.”
Jerusalem foreshadows the city of God that He has prepared for His people in the hereafter. The writer of Hebrews picks up on this spiritual typology of Jerusalem when he writes, “Here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come” (13:14). Abraham, the father of believers, teaches us the principle of seeking after a dwelling place in the heavenly city—even while he dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob in the land of promise (11:9).
God has prepared a heavenly city for His people. He has done so on account of the fact that “He is not ashamed to be called our God” (Hebrews 11:16). We ought to be a people who long to dwell with the God who has prepared and secured a city for us through the saving work of His Son. Jesus is the building of the heavenly Jerusalem by His death and resurrection. No matter where we live in this life, we are pilgrims pressing on to the city that has the firmest of foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Written by Nick Batzig