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 cemeteryGenesis 23:4
“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.”
The idea of the Israelite pilgrim is baked into song. Pilgrim status is not a secret.
A psalmist and his ancestorsPsalms 39:12
“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.
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
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 parableMatthew 21:33
“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.
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 21:45Matthew 21:45
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them.
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”.