Sojourners and Exiles
April 30, 2020 | by: Stephen Sprague | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition for the word sojourn is “a temporary stay.” Thus the word sojourner refers to one who is temporarily staying somewhere. It is a word used in the Old Testament to refer to people of other nations who would live among the tribes of Israel, and as Israel and Judah were eventually exiled from the land because of the sin, to God’s people themselves. In the new testament it is used by Peter alongside the word exiles to refer to the church in this present age, post-ascension yet pre-return of Christ. Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:11, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”
It is clear that Peter does not believe that Christians are ever truly “home” in this life. Ed Clowney writes, “The freedom of God’s servants in this world is the freedom of aliens and transients. Those who belong to God as his people can have no abiding city here. Like Abraham, they are strangers and pilgrims, even while they live in the world which they will inherit at last” (Edmund Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter). Simply put – while we live, breath, work, grow, go to school, love, serve, etc. here in this life, we as God’s people are never truly home. We should always live with a devotion to serving the Lord and others here while keeping one eye on our true home, glory.
Our Heavenly Homeland
During these days of humans all over the earth being under stay-at-home orders and God’s people in many parts of the world being unable to gather together in person to worship and to receive the means of grace, this truth should be even more so on our minds. There is a beauty to the notion that every time we gather as a church, we are participating in a foretaste of heaven. We are trusting in God and his promises to us as we partake in them via word and sacrament. We are singing praises with the saints in our midst, and angels in heaven rejoice and praise the Lord alongside us. And we hear from God through his word, albeit through a herald – a messenger if you will. And yet God stills speaks to his people. This foretaste of glory gives us the spiritual nourishment, the grace, that we need to live as sojourners and exiles in this present evil age (Gal. 1:4).
I love the way the author of Hebrews writes of the exilic life of those who have faith in the promises of God. In Hebrews 11:13-16, he writes of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) who received the promise from God of the land that their descendants would dwell in, but never received. This was the promise that you see partially fulfilled in Israel entering the promised land, and yet, according to Hebrews, the true fulfillment lay outside of this present life. For they were “strangers and exiles on the earth.” Thus their home could never truly be here. He goes on to say, “If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” We, like Abraham, desire a better country, a heavenly city which God has prepared for us.
Our Heavenly Longing
What I do not want to communicate is the idea that I don’t long for the day when we can gather together again as a church body to worship the Lord. I pray for that every day. But in the midst of a pandemic which has kept us apart, I pray that you can keep your eyes on the promises of scripture, not just for this life but for the next. Let your longing to gather together with your family at Oak Hills begin to stretch beyond Oak Hills. Pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20) and long for the day when you can gather together with all the brothers and sisters in Christ that have gone on before us to be with Him. Long for the day when the trumpet will sound, and Christ will descend, and we will be lifted up to join them in the most beautiful of worship as we are brought into the presence of God. For it is in that day when we will at last find our true heavenly home.
- Pastor Stephen