“I am a stranger in the earth: hide not thy commandments from me.”
Such is the condition of the child of God-a stranger in the earth! This confession, however, from a solitary wanderer would have had little comparative meaning. But in the mouth of one, who was probably surrounded with every sort of worldly enjoyment, it shows at once the vanity of “earth’s best joys,” and the heavenly tendency of the religion of the Bible. This has been ever the character, confession, and glory of the Lord’s people.* We “would not live always” (Job vii. 16); and gladly do we hear the warning voice, that reminds us to “arise and depart, for this is not our rest.” (Mic. ii. 10.) And was not this especially the character, not of David only, but of David’s Lord? Born at an inn (Luke, ii. 7)-not “having where to lay his head” (Matt. viii.20)-suffering hunger (Ib. xxi. 18)-subsisting upon alms (Luke, viii. 3)-neglected by his own (John i. 11)-he “looked for some to take pity, but there was none, and for his comforters, but he found none” (Psalm lxix. 20)-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 (Heb. xi. 9, 10)-without a fixed residence (1 Chron. xxix. 15)-with no particular interest in the world (Philip. Iii. 20)-and submitting to all the inconveniences of a stranger on his journey homewards. (Acts, xiv. 22. Heb. x. 34.) Such is his state! And the word of God includes all that he wants-a guide, a guard, a companion-to direct, secure, and cheer his way. “When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.” (Prov. vi. 22.) Most suitable then is the stranger’s prayer-“Hide not thy commandments from me.” Acquaintance with the word of God supplies the place of friends and counsellors. It furnishes light, joy, strength, food, armour, and whatever else he may need on his way homewards.
The pilgrim-spirit is the pulse of the soul. All of us are travelling 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.” (Ps. Xvii. 14. Comp. Luke, vi. 24; xii. 19, 20; xvi. 25.) The child of God is a stranger in the earth. Heaven is the country of his birth. (Gal. iv. 26.) His kindred (Eph. iii. 15)-his inheritance (Eph. 1. 3, 11, 6. Matt. xxv. 34)-his Saviour (John, xiv. 3. Col. iii. 1)-his hope (Philip. Iii. 20)-his home (2 Cor. v. 1-6)-all is there. He is “a citizen of no mean city,” of “the heavenly Jerusalem.” (Heb. xii. 22.) 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!” (Heb. xiii. 14.)
We know, indeed, that we cannot-we would not-call this world our home, and that it 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 savour of the home, whither 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. (Gal. vi. 14). 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.” (John, xiv. 2.)
*Abraham, Gen. xxiii. 4 Jacob, Gen. xlvii. 9. David, Ps. xxxix. 12. All, Heb. xi.13.