The reality that God’s people are pilgrims on earth is something you can learn about in both the Old and New Testaments. It’s part of the Christian’s identity that he or she is a sojourner on earth. This world is not our ultimate home. We’re foreigners in a foreign land, so to speak, exiles and strangers here. Psalm 119:19 says it this way: I am a stranger on earth, do not hide your commands from me (NIV). Speaking of this reality, here are some excellent reflections by Charles Bridges on Psalm 119:19.
Such is the condition of the child of God – a stranger in the earth! …This has been ever the character, confession, and glory of the Lord’s people. …And was not this especially the character, not of David only, but of David’s Lord? Born at an inn – “having nowhere to lay His head” – suffering hunger – subsisting upon alms – neglected by His own -He “looked for some to take pity, but there was none, and for His comforters, but He found none” – might He not justly take up the confession, “I am a stranger in the earth?”
This verse exhibits the Christian in many most interesting points of view; distant from his proper home – without a fixed residence – with no particular interest in the world – and submitting to all the inconveniences of a stranger on his journey homewards. Such is his state!
And the word of God includes all that he needs – a guide, a guard, a companion – to direct, secure, and cheer his way. “When you go, it shall lead you; when you sleep, it shall keep you; and when you awake, it shall talk with you.” Most suitable then is the stranger’s prayer, “hide not Your commandments from me.” Acquaintance with the word of God supplies the place of friends and counselors. It furnishes light, joy, strength, food, armor, and whatever else he may need on his way homewards.
The pilgrim-spirit is the pulse of the soul. All of us are traveling to eternity. The worldling is at home in the earth – a pilgrim only by restraint. His heart would say, “It is good for me to be here. Let God dispose of heaven at His pleasure. I am content to have my “portion in this life.” The child of God is a stranger in the earth. Heaven is the country of his birth. His kindred, his inheritance, his Savior, his hope, his home – all is there. He is “a citizen of no insignificant city,” of “the heavenly Jerusalem.” He is therefore a pilgrim in affection, no less than in character. How cheering is the thought that “here we have no continuing city,” if in heart and soul we are “seeking one to come!”
We know, indeed, that we cannot – we would not – call this world our home, and that it is far better to be without it, than to have our portion in it. But do we never feel at home in the earth, thus forgetting our proper character, and our eternal prospects? Do we always live, speak, and act as “strangers in the earth;” in the midst of earthly enjoyments, sitting loose to them, as if our treasure was in heaven? Does our conversation in the society of the world savor of the home, where we profess to be going? Is the world gaining ascendancy in our affection? Let the cross of Calvary be the object of our daily contemplation – the ground of our constant “glorying;” and the world will then be to us as a “crucified” object.
And lastly, let us not forget, that we are looking forward, and making a progress towards a world, where none are strangers – where all are children of one family, dwelling in one eternal home. “In our Father’s house,” said our gracious Head, “are many mansions: I go to prepare a place for you.”
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015