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Strangers and pilgrims (Part 1): Biblical examples

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Heb 11:13

Being a stranger means that I am not in sync with the world’s value system – it’s alien to me and I don’t belong here. A pilgrim is a person who is travelling towards a goal, not attracted or held down by the sights and sounds of things on the way.

Once a businessman checked in at a hotel in a city where he would be staying for 3 days. On entering his room, he started rearranging the furniture. Then he went out to the city for shopping. He returned with a large purchase of goods. Out of his shopping baskets, he took out several expensive paintings which he nailed on the walls of his hotel room. Then he installed a new desktop PC on the table of his hotel room. What would you call such a person? Mad? Foolish?

The Tabernacle in the OT was held down, not by foundations of concrete and steel nor by rocks and cement, but by brass pins (Exo 35:18; 38:20). These tent pegs reminded that it was temporarily stationed there and would be moved anytime that God pleases.

Men who lived in tents or as pilgrims

  • Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Heb 11:9)
  • Israelites in the wilderness. God instructed when and where to move.
  • Job: “When a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not return.” (Job 16:22)
  • Joseph and Mary: Travelled to Bethlehem, then to Egypt and then to Nazareth.
  • Apostle Paul travelled his whole life, considering all things as dung (Phil 3:8).

On the contrary, men and women who loved the world have been written in the Bible for our admonition (1 Cor 10:11):

But Lot’s wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. (Gen 19:26)

Lot’s wife might have suddenly remembered the new washing machine she had bought last week. She behaved as a citizen of earth.

“For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.” 2 Tim 4:10

Demas, previously mentioned as a co-worker of the Gospel (Col 4:14, Phil 24), later became a citizen of the world! It is possible to be on fire for the Lord and later backslide. So, the success of our ministry should not be a yardstick for spirituality.

Some men did not have a long time to travel in their Christian pilgrimage. The young man Stephen, the first Christian martyr mentioned in the Bible, Jim Elliot (28) – the missionary to Ecuador, David Brainerd (29) – the missionary to Native Americans and his cousin James Brainerd Taylor (27) are few such men. Their pilgrimage on earth was short yet sweet. They became martyrs, saints whom this world was not found worthy to hold back any longer!

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