Theme: Acting like a Pilgrim
In this week’s lessons we look at what it means to be a pilgrim, whose true home is not in this world, but in heaven.
Scripture: Psalm 120:1-7
In the Middle Ages, war ravaged Europe, culminating in the horrors of the Thirty Years War, which ended in 1648. The Encyclopedia Britannica lists 278 wars in the centuries between 1480 and the end of World War II. One hundred thirty-five of these were international. Speaking of World War II, the Britannica says,
Wars showed a slight tendency to decrease in length during the modern period, but in all other aspects they tended to increase in magnitude. There were more battles, more participants, larger forces, larger numbers of casualties, more extensive areas of occupation and mechanization resulting in much heavier economic costs. The costs of the Thirty Year’ War of the 17th century were very great. World War II, however, was greater in all these respects than other war in history.1
Approximately thirty million people perished in World War I. People were horrified. But within a quarter of a century World War II was fought in the same amphitheater by the same parties and for much the same reasons. It resulted in the loss of sixty million lives while the costs quadrupled from an estimated $340 billion to an estimated $1 trillion.
Since World War II there have been “at least 12 limited wars in the world, 39 political assassinations, 48 personal revolts, 74 rebellions for independence, 1162 social revolutions, either political, economic, racial, or religious,” wrote US News and World Report in the December 25, 1967, issue. By now the totals obviously need to be increased in each category.
What about Meshech and Kedar, which the psalmist mentions in verse 5? They are names of peoples. Meshech is mentioned by the historian Herodotus, who says that in his day the people of this name lived in the province of Pontus in northern Turkey.2 Later they pushed north and east of the Black Sea into the Caucasus, Kazakhstan and the Ukraine. Kedar was a son of Ishmael (Gen. 25:13) and refers to a wild Arab tribe of the desert (Isa. 21:16, 17; Jer. 49:28, 29).3 These two peoples were located so far apart geographically that they can only be taken here as “a general term for the heathen.”4 No one person could have lived among both. They are examples of warlike tribes, among whom the singers of Psalm 120 had no true home.
Do you know that to be true of yourself? That you have no lasting or real home here and that your real home is in heaven? If that is not true of you, you are not a Christian. If it is true but you just do not know that it is true, then, although you may be a Christian, you are not a pilgrim. The Apostle Peter is speaking to you when he writes, “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such godly lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:11, 12).
An old camp song says,
This world is not my home; I’m just a passin’ through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.
It is not very good poetry, but those old hymns often contained strong truths and this is one of them. It reminds us that if we are Christians, this world is not our real home. We cannot settle down in Meshech or be at home in Kedar. So why are you trying to do it? If you are, stop trying to conform to this world’s lies and ways of life. Put on your hiking shoes. Strap your pack to your back. Say goodbye to your sins, and start marching to Zion. The King of Glory is waiting for you.
1Encyclopedia Britannica, 1959, s.v. “war.”
2Herodotus, Histories, III, 94; VII, 78. Meshech is also found in Genesis 10:2, 23; 1 Chronicles 1:5, 17; and Ezekiel 27:13; 32:26; 38:2, 3; and 39:1.
3Kedar is also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 1:29; Song of Songs 1:5; Isaiah 42:11; Jeremiah 2:10; and Ezekiel 27:21.
4Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150: A Commentary on Books III-V of the Psalms (Leicester, England, and Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1975), pp. 430, 431.
What were Meshech and Kedar, and what do they represent?
Identify the difference between being a Christian and a Christian pilgrim. Can it be said of you that you are one and not the other?
Reflection: How comfortable are you with the world’s ways of life?
Key Point: …if we are Christians, this world is not our real home.
Prayer: Pray that God will give you more of the eternal perspective of your home in heaven.