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Pilgrims and Strangers in the Earth

“For I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were”- Psalm 39:12b

We are still such very young people, my dear readers. I do not include myself in that number anymore. I have long ago put away those things which I enjoyed as a child or as a very young man in my adolescent years. However, when one grows older he remembers the days of his youth. He reflects upon the ways, and the mysteries and wondrous dealings of his covenant God. He sees that his life is that of a stranger on the earth, with no abiding place here.

Thus David saw things m their proper perspective in his trials and sorrows. Every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Our days are but a handbreadth. They are thus made by the Lord! He has measured them off in his good pleasure. And well may we pray with David, “Lord make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is, that I may know how frail I am.” We live by faith and not by sight. Young people must also live by faith in God. We must not live by gaiety and frills merely. That is sinking sand. When the problems of life must be met squarely we need the Word of God, the promises of God to the believers. We must then be reminded that our basic position must be that we are “strangers” and “sojourners” on the earth. This world is not really our home, all that we strive for as a goal in life. We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

Our position in the world is a new relationship to God. We are sons and daughters of God. We are not the servants which are doomed to sin, death and hell. We are free! In the court of God we were pronounced free, righteous before God, and heirs of everlasting life. That makes us a “stranger with Thee”! If God were not our God, Who has called us from this present world, we would not be strangers here. The term stranger is worthy of a little study, a little word-study. It means that one is from another land; it means to be outlandish. It is derived from the term “extraneous,” one who is from the outside. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were such people in the land of Canaan. They are also called “pilgrims,” that is; those who were passing through. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were passing through the land of Canaan. In addition to “strangers” and “pilgrims” they are also called “sojourn­ers.” They only stayed a day. They lived a day at a time. They did not put their tent stakes deep into the ground. And they were content to dwell in tents or tabernacles. For they lived in faith. The faith of these patriarchs dealt with the “things hoped for.” The land of Canaan was a land of promise, nothing more.

This life of these pilgrim fathers was a pattern of the life of all the heirs of the promise. They are footsteps in which we are to walk as the spiritual children of Abraham. David, the king, was such a child of father Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They are steps which these fathers made “in faith.” What a life of patience this was for them! The land never belonged to them during their lifetime. They all died without receiving the promise. It seems that God is letting them down; that the promise of the Lord fails and falls out. God did not keep His Word, so it seems. It was pitching the tent then in Gerar and then in Beer-Sheba. It was digging wells for water for their sheep and cattle, and all the while the envious Philistines were filling up these wells, which were found and dug in faith. Even the very wells bore names which were the expression of faith and hope in God, clinging to the promise that they would inherit the land. Well may David say, “for I am a stranger with thee and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.”

And thus our life, too, in our day and age must be that of a stranger. We live also as a “stranger with thee.” We are really not at home here. The catechism classes are begun, the schools have opened their doors, and we work for the future in every way. We presently will be married, have a home (not merely a house), and rear children, but only for this world and this life. Really, we must bear in mind that the world passeth away, and the lusts thereof. We must not seek treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust corrupts, and where thieves break through and steal. We must seek treas­ures in the heavens. That is our promised land. We are here, strangers and pilgrims for Christ’s sake.

While I am writing about being pilgrims and strangers I must most earnestly remind you that you will need a fellow-pilgrim for a husband or wife, or the near friend to whom you confide your cares and sorrows. Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are. He that will be a friend of this world shall be accounted an enemy of God. That is what the Bible teaches very clearly in James 4:4. Tell me who you have chosen for a wife and I will tell you who you are: whether you are a pilgrim and a stranger in the earth as were all your fathers.

I have just concluded a little conver­sation on the telephone with a divorced “person.” She informed me as the highest gem of wisdom that times have changed in the last fifty years, and that now divorce was a solution to the difficulties of sinful relationships in marriage. Do not listen to this kind of talk which is one of the earmarks of Satan’s children. And remember, fellow-pilgrim that evil communications (talk) corrupt good morals. We must needs run this our pilgrim-race with much patience and prayer. We will need to struggle through the great trials of Isaac until we come to the place called “Rehoboth,” that is, room. We must come till we are at peace in a broad place. We must not be overcome in the battle, but must manfully fight against Satan and our flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit until we finally have come to the complete victory.

Yes, in this pilgrim journey we often feel the chastisements of the Lord. They are from the loving heart of our heavenly Father. But they are grievous while present. We must be exercised thereby, and walk more resolutely as pilgrims with God. David had enemies for this very purpose. And these corrections of the Lord were for his profit. David affirms that he will take heed to his ways that he sin not with his tongue; he will keep his mouth with a bridle, while the wicked are before him. For the wicked do not understand the life of this pilgrim in his inner life and yearnings. They do not know the secret of the Lord which is with those who love Him. What it means to be a stranger with God the world does not understand.

Yes, every man is vanity. But they that trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion. They walk on in their pilgrim’s walk till at length they come to Zion. Young people, be a stranger in the earth as all your fathers were.