The Unashamed God

Meditation on Hebrews 11:16

But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

I want very much for God to say to me what he said about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “I am not ashamed to be called your God.” As risky as it sounds, does this not really mean that God might actually be “proud” to be called my God? Maybe he would say, “Not only am I not ashamed to be called your God, I am proud to be called your God.” Possibly “not ashamed” might only mean, “I am pleased to be called your God.” But it seems that “not ashamed” is really an understatement for “proud.”

So I would really like to know what would make God proud to be called my God. Fortunately this wonderful possibility is surrounded (in Hebrews 11:16) by reasons: one before and one after.

Take the one after first: “God is not ashamed to be called their God, because he has prepared for them a city.” The first reason he gives why he is not ashamed to be called their God is that he has done something for them. He made them a city—the heavenly city “whose architect and builder is God” (verse 10). So the first reason he is not ashamed to be called their God is that he has worked for them. Not the other way around. He did not say: “I am not ashamed to be called their God, because they made for me a city.” He made something for them. That’s the starting point. The pride of God in being our God is rooted first in something he has done for us, not vice versa.

Now consider the reason he gives in the front. It goes like this: “They desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.” “Therefore” signals that a reason has just been given for why he is not ashamed. The reason is their desire. They desire a better country—that is, a better country than the earthly one they live in, namely a heavenly one. This is the same as saying they desire heaven, or they desire the city God has made for them.

So two things make God unashamed to be called our God: he has prepared something great for us, and we desire it above all that is on the earth. So why is he proud to be the God of people who desire his city more than all the world? Because their desire calls attention to the superior worth of what God offers over what the world offers.

In other words, the reason God is proud to be our God is not because we have accomplished something so great. But because he has accomplished something great and we desire it. There is nothing to brag about in desiring. It’s like getting hungry when you are shown a delicious meal. That is what the city of God is like.

What a city it is!—no pollution, no graffiti, no trash, no peeling paint or rotting garages, no dead grass or broken bottles, no harsh street talk, no in-your-face confrontations, no domestic strife or violence, no dangers in the night, no arson or lying or stealing or killing, no vandalism and no ugliness. The city of God will be perfect, because God will be in it. He will walk in it and talk in it and manifest himself in every part of it. All that is good and beautiful and holy and peaceful and true and happy will be there, because God will be there. Perfect justice will be there, and recompense a thousandfold for every pain suffered in obedience to Christ. And it will never deteriorate. In fact, it will shine brighter and brighter as eternity stretches out into unending ages of increasing joy.

When we desire this city more than we desire all that this world can give, God is not ashamed to be called our God. When we make much of all he promises to be for us, he is proud to be our God. This is good news. God loves to magnify his work for us, not ours for him. Granted, it’s humbling. But if you want mercy more than you want merit, it’s good news.

So open your eyes to the better country and the city of God, and let yourself desire it with all your heart. God will not be ashamed to be called your God.

With my eyes on the prize,

John Piper

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