GOD brought his people out of Egypt. Forty years they wandered in the wilderness before they could enter the promised land. During this time, that people were “the church in the wilderness.” Acts 7:38. They were out of Egypt, but not yet in their own land; therefore they had no country where they were. They were only strangers and pilgrims there. Their only country was the one to which they were going.
Now of Christ, and in him of all Christians, it is written, “Out of Egypt have I called my son.” Matthew 2:15. Christ was out of Egypt, but he was not in his own land; therefore he had no country, no kingdom where he was: “My kingdom is not of this world.” He was a stranger and a pilgrim, between Egypt and the promised land.
Christians are the sons of God. John 1:12; 1 John 3:2. They are called out of Egypt; for “Out of Egypt have I called my son.” Christians are out of Egypt, but not yet in the promised land, not yet in their own land; therefore Christians have no country, no kingdom, where they are. Christians are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
You may say, “Israel should not have remained in the wilderness all that time.” That is true. But they must necessarily be in the wilderness some portion of time; because the wilderness lay between them and the promised land, and they must needs pass through it to get to their own land. And being out of Egypt, and not yet in their own land, it is essentially true that in this interval they had no country and no kingdom where they were; but were strangers in that land, and pilgrims passing through to their own land.
It is true, however, that Israel of old, the ancient “church in the wilderness,” should not have remained in the wilderness forty years. They should not have wandered in the wilderness at all: they should have gone straight onward from Egypt, from the Red Sea, to the promised land. All this delay and wandering was solely because they “in their hearts turned back again into Egypt.” Acts 7:39. Bodily, outwardly, professedly, formally, they were out of Egypt. But in heart they were yet in Egypt. And being in heart yet in Egypt, they were ever longing to be there in the body also: the flesh-pots of Egypt were the great object of their desire; and they were ever ready to cry, “Let us make us a captain and go back to Egypt.” It was their longing and their failure to be separated in heart as well as bodily from that country, that kept them forty years wandering in the wilderness.
Likewise it has been this same thing that has kept the professed Christian church wandering up and down and round and round in the wilderness of this world so long since the time when first “out of Egypt” God called these his sons. From the days of the apostles till this hour the great difficulty and lack in the lives of Christians has been that, though professing to be Christians, and in this professing to have come out of Egypt, they have yet in heart been ever inclined toward Egypt. The flesh-pots of Egypt, the things of the country from which they profess to have “come out,” have ever had for them a stronger attraction than has the country to which they profess to be going.
These Christians in the United States profess to be “strangers and pilgrims on the earth,” merely passing through this country to that “better country.” Yet in practice they take just as much interest in trying to “run things” in this country as though this country was their own, and the only one they ever expect to see. Their profession and their practice do not in any sense agree. If a few of these same “Christian citizens” of the United States were to make a tour of Europe, where they would be strangers and pilgrims, they would not count themselves citizens of the countries through which they passed. And however important and agitating were the affairs of those countries to those who were citizens there, yet these tourists—these strangers and pilgrims—would not consider these affairs to be of sufficient concern to them to require more than a mere passing notice. And if these folks were really inconvenienced by some occurrences in the countries through which they were passing, they would bear it gracefully under the comfort that as they did not belong there, it could not last long for they would soon be out of it.
That is the way these “Christian citizens” would act and consider matters if they were to become for a little time “pilgrims and strangers in Europe.” Now they profess and proclaim, and sing, that they are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Why then do they not act thus in this country on the earth, when they know full well that they would act precisely that way in any country in Europe? Is it not perfectly plain that a pilgrimage in Europe would be to them a much more real thing, than is pilgrimage on the earth which they profess and proclaim, and of which they sing?
But any “Christian” to whom earthly things are more real than are heavenly things—even his Christianity is not real. Any “Christian” to whom a pilgrimage in Europe would be more substantial and practical, than is his pilgrimage on the earth, is not in fact a pilgrim on the earth at all. His professing it, his proclaiming it, and his signing it, are all a fraud.
“Out of Egypt have I called my Son.” Christians are the sons of God. They are therefore out of Egypt. But, through out of Egypt, they are not yet in “their own land.” Therefore they are strangers and pilgrims on the earth, they are without a country in this world, and are active citizens nowhere but in heaven. “Our citizenship is in heaven.”
A. T. J.