(4) A fourth spiritual desire is found in Rom. 10:1, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." This was no natural desire, but a real burden upon his heart begotten by the Spirit of God. Think of his love for them as expressed in Rom. 9:1-3, "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing witness with me, in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed (anathema) from Christ for my brethren's sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh' (R.V.). Alford translates it, 'I was wishing had it been possible," and of the word anathema, "It never denotes simply exclusion or excommunication, but always devotion to perdition - a curse.' This expression of his self-sacrificing desire reveals to us that deep love burning in his soul for his own people the Jews. This reminds us of Moses in Ex, 32:32, 'Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin-; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written." Such was the love of these two men of God for their unbelieving brethren in the flesh, that they were willing, if it were possible (utterly impossible, Rom. 8:1-39), to be lost if these could be saved. Bengel said, "It is not easy to estimate the measure of love in a Moses and a Paul. For our limited reason does not grasp it, as the child cannot comprehend the courage of warriors." The desire in the soul of Paul to see men saved was such that he hazarded his life (2 Cor, 11:22-33) and ultimately laid it down. From the moment he was apprehended on the Damascus road by the glorified Lord, the great ambition and desire of his soul was the glory of Christ and the salvation of men. The Jews, his brethren according to the flesh cried out on one occasion, "Away with such a fellow from the earth; for it is not fit that he should live" (Acts 22:22). That same cry fell on the ears of his Lord and Master (John 19:15), "Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him."
The Lord wept over the city of Jerusalem and on the cross prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do' (Luke 23:34). Paul drank deeply of the spirit of his Master. WE think of Stephen as he was being stoned to death (Acts 7:60). HE cried with a loud voice, 'Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.' Think of the many martyrs who chose death rather than dishonour the Lord and quit preaching the gospel to sinners. Love to Christ and the burning desire to see sinners saved cost them life itself. In Rev. 2:10 we have these comforting and encouraging words spoken by the Lord of the churches to the suffering saints in Smyrna "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.' We are not likely to experience martyrdom, but the Lord grant tc us the spirit of the martyr, faithfulness to Himself and the message He has committed to us. The fields are white already to harvest "He that winneth souls is wise, or he that is wise winneth souls' (Prov. 11:30).
(5) The fifth of these spiritual desires is found in Heb. 11:16 where we read, "But now they desire a better country, that is an heavenly ... for He hath prepared for them a city." That city is mentioned in verse 10, "A city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." I believe it is the heavenly Jerusalem mentioned in Heb. 12:22, Rev. 3:12; the new Jerusalem, Rev 21:2- 1 0, Rev. 22:19. Faith enabled them to look beyond the earthly inheritance, Canaan, to that better land, the heavenly; the desire for the heavenly in contrast to the earthly. It reminds us of Paul's exhortation to the saints in Colosse, "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Col. 3:2). May the Lord give us grace to lift our desires above the beggarly elements of the present evil world and have our hearts set upon things above. Think of the words of that lovely hymn:
I'm but a stranger here;
Heaven is my home!
Earth is a desert drear;
Heaven is my home;
Danger and sorrow stand,-
Round me on every hand,-
Heaven is my fatherland,
Heaven is my home!
There are other spiritual desires, some expressed in the word of God and others not. In contrast to the unclothed state, death, Paul writes in 2 Cor. 5:2, "For in this we groan earnestly desiring (or longing) to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.' In Phil. 1:23 Paul has the desire, "to depart, and be with Christ; for it is very far better" (R.V.). In 2 Cor. 5:8 we read, 'Absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord" (R.V.). One of these days we shall hear the marshalling shout and be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. What a blessed hope! As we journey through this wilderness scene here below, may the Lord give us to know what it is to enjoy a little of heaven (Deut. 11:21) until we see Him face to face.