This land is mine, Pilgrim

Since the Jewish people were aliens and sojourners in Egypt it is disturbing that they have  spared no energy asserting ownership of Canaan and are always ready to treat goyim (Gentiles) as second class citizens, in some cases as evil and without hope.  One does not sell another person’s property and residence is temporary.

Leviticus 25:23 addresses
[ ] no sale of the land and
[ ] the pilgrim status of the Israelite

‘The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.

Pilgrim profile owned

If anyone was going to say “this land is mine” without raising eyebrows it would be Abraham.  He, standing apart from his descendants in the 21st and century and in New Testament times, stated his position as pilgrim to a Canaanite family.

On the occasion of buying land for a cemetery

“I am a stranger and a sojourner among you; give me a burial site among you that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”

Genesis 23:4

The idea of the Israelite pilgrim is baked into song.   Pilgrim status is not  a secret.

A psalmist and his ancestors

“Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; Do not be silent at my tears; For I am a stranger with You, A sojourner like all my fathers.

Psalms 39:12

Ownership affirmed

We have thought that the status of Jerusalem was going to be a pattern for the cities and towns based on the choices and experiences of the patriarchs.

  • Abraham in Egypt and Canaan
  • Isaac and Jacob lived in tents in Canaan
  • Jacob took his family to live in Egypt

The apostolic vision of pilgrimage

The Alien Experience

In Acts 7:6 the entire family is acquainted with the foreigner experience.  In 7:29 Moses is on the run from Egypt.  In Ephesians 2 Paul addresses all believers as “no longer strangers or aliens” due to their faith in Christ.  This is equivalent to a sojourner (ger, גר) acquiring the rights  and obligations of a native-born person (an izrach אזרח). Peter also positions all believers as aliens and strangers, this world or age being their temporary home. 

When Peter calls his readers pilgrims it is a sweeping identification of God’s people in every age.  Who in a right frame of mind wants to be stuck in one little corner when the region, the planet, and the universe has unimaginable places to visit and govern? 

The promise of land to Abraham never seemed more relevant when dispersed Jews faced annihilation in the 20th century.  Iran continues to threaten the Jewish people and the ancestors of the Iranians were the only people (nation!) who turned the Jewish people into a mob with orders to plunder the Persian (ancient Iranians) people.

Esther 8:10-12 reminds us extreme reversals in God’s justice scheme.

He wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus, and sealed it with the king’s signet ring, and sent letters by couriers on horses, riding on steeds sired by the royal stud. 11) In them the king granted the Jews who were in each and every city the right to assemble and to defend their lives, to destroy, to kill and to annihilate the entire army of any people or province which might attack them, including children and women, and to plunder their spoil, 12) on one day in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month (that is, the month Adar).

Esther 8:10-12

Did the seven Caananite nations see themselves as first nations with inalienable rights and permanent homelands?

The owner meets the tenants

The beef with the status quo in New Testament times was clear from the beginning of the Messianic mission.  John’s work was a stinging rebuke of the contemporary talking points and Yeshua laid out a similar case towards the end of his life.  The parable of the landowner, the vineyard and the vinegrowers was a contributor to hostility that crested in our Lord’s passion.

The vineyard parable

“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey.

Matthew 21:33

The vineyard analogy is as old as Isaiah (chapter 5) and the measures by the owner stand out.

Isaiah 5:5-6 and a trash-worthy vineyard

5) “So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground. 6) “I will lay it waste; It will not be pruned or hoed, But briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.”

The response to the parable is surprising and ostrich-like. It is one thing to understand and another to agree and get in line behind the Owner.

Matthew 21:45

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them.

Matthew 21:45

The scenes of the parable (verses 34 to 41)

  • 34) When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce.
  • 35) The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third.
  • 36) Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them.
  • 37) But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
  • 38) But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’
  • 39) They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
  • 40) Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?”
  • 41) They said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.”

Not mine but yours

Passion for the land is easily misplaced.  Land can easily become a thing in the rearview mirror. It is true that at some point residence becomes permanent but not in the absence of a faith with purely political, geographic, and physical produce. Memory can be as short as a lifetime but pinning ones spiritual and physical security on a particular piece of earth is shortsighted and wickedly resistant. Residence in the Holy Land will change again apart from Jewish ideas of ownership and promise. Ultimately, when that change comes everyone, Gentiles and Jews, will confess, “This land is Yours, King of the nations”.

GOPaper lions and capers stop

The centuries of trying to keep segments of society blind, homeless, destructively employed or unemployed, out of the halls of power do not need pardon or forgiveness,  only a speedy and public end.  A nation that shed blood for the right to call Black men “boys” must confess that (a) the perfume they have been spraying everywhere masks reality and (b) admit that  they in the shed and cannot find the toilet paper.  The seemingly endless capers of toothless lions bragging about defeating ants and commiserating about not finding health care for all, and not seeing homes for all under the spacious skies, does roll to an abrupt halt.

Impartial counsel is beyond most leaders.   It takes a great deal of discipline to establish excellence, a great deal of humiliation to achieve superiority, and a great deal of optic disability to create a culture of lies.  The state defines the limits of what people can say and where they can say those things.   Just because people are talking about excellence, superiority and deception does not mean that they have taken the medicine.

Remember Mitt Romney “Trump’s a fraud” or Ted Cruz’s savage denunciation of the orange threat, other senators expressions of disgust with the 45th president?  It is going to give you whiplash if what politicians say tops your list of things to feed your joy and safety.  Please remember too the watchmen – religious leaders – who said nothing or the wrong things about the corrupt use of power, the thefts, the trashing of trust in public service, and the divisions sown by the 45th president and his party.

The whole European narrative of persecution, flight, discovery of new lands, settlements and pioneer genius has been a smelly concoction that kills both the ones telling it and the ones who are essential to the story. “Go, paper lions” I say, “and park your capers where the sun shines a lot or not”.

What weapons are prospering?

Even in the world of wolves Christ’s lambs are secure.  The gates of Hades do not prevail so it bears explaining that we are concerned about weapons formed against us.  Many books we read twist and warp the glorious gospel and we do not notice that we have drifted.  Someone in your/my circle will betray you/me.  Is that Isaiah 54:17 saying a genuine boast by the church in the face of obvious debility and death or is it the quiet and humble confidence of the individual?

Heritage and Righteousness

No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.

Isaiah 54:17

From barren to fertile

Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord.

Isaiah 54:1

What the future looks like

And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.

Isaiah 54:12

A promise of invincibility or invulnerability is inconsistent with individual Christian faith. Every day has evil or adverse conditions that affect us.

Persecution and Opposition

That there is both persecution  and opposition aimed at believers and sometimes at specific groups is not debatable. The promise of 54:17 is that the weapons formed do not prosper. Between the extremes of birth and burial death and a host of setbacks haunt us. Is prosperity freedom from illness, a life of wealth, or is it that in spite of life’s common difficulties that God does not allow them to overcome us?

If there were documentation and not just casual witnesses to miracles like raising the dead, healing of fatal diseases, or of financial rescue we would find that doctrinal purity was not causal. Miracles in the Bible occur whether or not people have the correct views of the kingdom of God. The failure of weapons formed to hurt us depends on God’s grace.

We ignore a host of realities that are essential to the understanding of 54:17.

Reality is bigger than the pipe dream

Isaiah 54:11

O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires.

Isaiah 54:11

The entity addressed is neither invulnerable nor invincible. The experience of this lady included being called the following.

  • The barren (vs. 1)
  • The forsaken (vs. 6 )
  • The spiritually grieved (vs. 6)
  • The comfortless (vs. 11)
  • The afflicted (vs. 11)
  • The tempest-tossed (vs. 11)

Did the founding fathers of the United States cross the ocean in cowardice and were there believers left in their homelands?

When the books mislead and the familiar betrays we must affirm God’s love and stand boldly as “more than conqueror”.  Tracking weapons will be tiring.  Their effect cannot be denied.  In fact if God opens our eyes to the conflict around us we will be shocked to see how many weapons there are and amazed when we realize how often we refuse the protection of his wings.