Strangers in the Land

Guest Author: Sarah Martin During our ten years of marriage, my husband and I have lived in four states and seven different residences.  We have worked with four different congregations.  With each change, there is always a time of transition, a time of “settling in”.  As such, there is a period when you are “out”, so to speak; and this serves as a fitting example of the temporary nature of things.  Nothing on earth lasts forever.  While we may change jobs, change houses, change communities – we should never become so “settled” into the world that we cease to live according to our calling.  Our mission here is not to seek out own own comfort, but to glorify the kingdom of God.  Let us remember Paul’s message to the church at Corinth, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers . . . For you are the temple of the living God . . . Therefore, ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord’” (II Corinthians 6:14, 16-17).

This theme of separateness permeates the scriptures; as time and time again, men and women are called from their worldly existence to become pillars of Godly faith.  Although God spoke to others before him, Abraham was the first to be called to leave all that he knew.  Genesis 12:1-3:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

By obeying the word of the Lord, Abraham would receive a great blessing.  He would have descendants more numerous than the stars; yet, he would never possess the land himself.  Faith’s hall of fame, as it has come to be known, speaks of the descendants of Abraham as having “died in faith . . . confess[ing] that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).  In fact, it would be 400 years before the exodus from Egypt and another 40 years before the Israelites would even begin to conquer Canaan.

Yet, even after their deliverance, God still expected His people to remain separate.  He commanded Moses in Deuteronomy 7:2-4:

“and when the LORD your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them andutterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. 4 For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods . . .”

God issued this warning because He sought to preserve the holiness and faith of His people; and, the consequences of Israel’s disobedience are cataloged throughout the pages of scripture.  Sin’s influence on the human heart is devastating.  Even the most devout believer can be drawn away when surrounded by unholy influences: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

The world is at war with God, because it serves Satan.  While we were sinners we “were without Christ . . . and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).  Having been washed in the blood of Christ we have God, and are now strangers in the world.  We are like Rahab who turned from an idolatrous culture to acknowledge the one true God.  In living daily for Christ, we are like Ruth who made a new home with a people of true faith.

As we have so often heard, we are to be “in the world, not of the world”.  We clearly must be a part of this world in order to win souls to Christ.  But, we are called to be apart from the ungodly thoughts and activities that still prevail; “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (I John 2:15).  Our hearts must meditate on “whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report” (Philippians 4:8).  Moreover, our meditation and study of God’s word must manifest itself in godly conduct in an ungodly world.

Like the descendants of Abraham, who by faith lived as strangers, let us be but strangers in this land for a short time.  We too are seeking a better homeland than this old world.  It is a “heavenly country” that God has prepared for us so that now “our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 11:16, Philippians 3:20).

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