Strangers And Sojourners
“ For I am a stranger with You, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.”
IF you read the whole verse, you will see that David used these words as an argument in prayer–“Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear unto my cry; hold not Your peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with You, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.” It is a grand thing to be able to argue with God in prayer! Faith grips the Angel of the Covenant, but it is by well-grounded arguments that we will wrestle with Him until we prevail. Expectancy puts in the wedge, but it is solid argument that drives it home. When we want to obtain any mercy from the Lord, we must support our plea by reasons drawn from His Nature, His promises and the experiences of His children as recorded in His Word. Martin Luther was a great master of this holy art of arguing with God in prayer, as was the Apostle Paul and, therefore, their supplications were not presented in vain. Let it be so with you, also, Beloved–besiege the Throne of Grace with the most powerful arguments you can find in the heavenly armory! Lay hold upon the arm of Omnipotence and say to the Lord, as wrestling Jacob did, “I will not let You go, unless You bless me.”
- It is, however, the argument that David used, rather than the prayer that he presented, upon which I want to talk to you at this time. So first, I ask you to notice that DAVID WAS A STRANGER AND A SOJOURNER, AS ALL HIS FATHERS HAD BEEN BEFORE HIM. A stranger is a person who is away from his home. And a sojourner is one who only stays in a certain place for a short time and then must be up and away. Such is a true Christian. In what respects is he a stranger?
First, he is a stranger in his position. He is not in his native land–he is a freeman of the New Jerusalem. He sings–
Im but a stranger here,
Heaven is my home!
Earth is a desert dreary,
Heaven is my home!
Dangers and sorrows stand
Round me on every hand–
Heaven is my fatherland,
Heaven is my home!"
While we are here in the body, we are absent from our nearest and dearest relatives. You know how Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father, who are in Heaven.” Our Elder Brother has gone Home before us to prepare the many mansions in His Father’s house for our eternal abiding place. Many of our Brothers and Sisters in Christ have already joined the general assembly and Church of the First-Born which are written in Heaven. ‘Tis true that we have many very dear relatives here, but they, also, are strangers here even as we are–pilgrims to the Celestial City that lies beyond theriver! Our true possessions are not here. We own no property in this world. We have had certain things lent to us for use while we are here, and we have to give an account of how we use them, but we must leave them all behind us when we go Home. We brought nothing into this world and we can carry nothing out of it. Our inheritance is above–an inheritance which is undefiled, and that fades not away–which we are to share with Christ, for we are joint-heirs of it with Him! Our treasure is where our heart is and both are now before the Throne of God on high in the keeping of Christ–unto whom we have committed them until that day when we shall be with Him where He is and shall behold His Glory! “Here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come."I know that there are tender associations connected with our earthly homes and loved ones, yet how often are the ashes of our family hearth quenched by the tears of grief while the black pall of mourning hangs over those who have been taken from us? Ah, no, this is not our home! Our native land, our true country is in the heavenly highlands where Jesus dwells! And we long for the time when He shall say to us, "Come up here.” Then, but not till then, shall we be at Home with the Lord!
Next, we are strangers, not only in position, but in character. When an Englishman crosses over to France, he is quickly recognized as a stranger and a foreigner. And a true Christian is not in any place long before it is discovered that he is of a different nationality from them by whom he is surrounded! His pedigree is not the same as that of worldlings–they are of their father, the devil, and they do his works–but he has been “born-again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which lives and abides forever.” God is now his Father, for He has “begotten him again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” His manners, too, as well as his pedigree, are not like those of worldlings. If an Englishman goes to the Continent and tries to pass himself off as a German or a Frenchman, he is soon detected. And, in a similar fashion, a true Christian reveals the fact that he is an alien in this world–his ways and manners and customs are not those of the men of the world who have their portion in this life. He has obeyed that great Apostolic command, “Be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind.” There is also something in a Christian’s speech which shows that he is a stranger in this world. He has a peculiar accent which the worldling cannot imitate. Even when a Christian speaks wrongly, he is speedily detected. Peter denied with an oath that he even knew Jesus of Nazareth, but those that stood by were not deceived by his swearing, for theysaid to him, “Surely you, also, are one of them, for your speech betrays you.”
The reason of all this is because there is an essential difference between the nature of aworldling–the worldling is of the earth, earthy. But the Christian is no longer a mere natural man, for he has had a higher and spiritual Nature imparted to him! Indeed, he has been made a partaker of the Divine Nature! The worldling seeks the things of the world, but the spiritual man seeks the things of the Spirit. That which came down from Heaven returns back to Heaven and, just as fire seeks the sun, the great central source of light and heat, so the new spirit within the Christian seeks God, Christ, the Holy Spirit and things eternal, heavenly, and Divine! I say again that there is an essential difference between the nature of a Christian and the nature of a worldling–you cannot make a true Christian into a worldling and you cannot make a worldling into a Christian! A natural man must be born-again before he can become a Christian–and then he will not be the same man that he was before, but a new creature in Christ Jesus!
Further, being strangers in this world, we must expect to be treated as strangers by the world. Worldlings cannotunderstand us, just as the people in a foreign country cannot understand an Englishman who can only speak his native language. He is a stranger in a strange land and so is a Christian in this world. When the Lord Jesus Christ was upon this earth, the great mass of the people could not comprehend Him–He was a stranger in the very world which He had made! And the world knows us not because it knew Him not–and the more we are like He, the less will the world to able to comprehend us. The carnal mind knows not the things of the Spirit “because they are spiritually discerned.” We must not marvel, therefore, Beloved, if our motives are misconstrued and our words wrested and twisted–and we are slandered and abused. We are like the pilgrims passing through Vanity Fair–and if we did not receive such treatment as they received, we might begin to suspect that we had become like the citizens of that country and were no longer pilgrims bound to Zion!
Further, we are in our hearts, strangers to the world. Wherever a true Englishman wanders, his heart always turnstowards his native land and he says–
England, with all your faults, I love you still”–
and when once again he sees the hoary cliffs of old Albion, his heart leaps within him, for he is glad to be back in the dear homeland! I have traveled through many lands and I can appreciate their beauties, but, after all, “there’s no place like home!” So is it with the Christian. He has various interests and occupations here and he seeks to be a blessing in the land where he is for a while, a sojourner, but his heart is with Christ in Heaven–and he can never be fully satisfied until he is there, too! An Englishman abroad is often hard to please. He, thinks, sometimes very foolishly, that there is nothing as good as what he has in his fair island home! But a Christian knows that heavenly things are infinitely preferable to thethings of earth! He has long since learned that there is nothing here to satisfy his immortal spirit and his heart is always anticipating the time when he shall be at Home with his Lord and find in Him all that his capacious soul can wish.
Certainly, Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we ought to be strangers to the world in our conversation. When we are ina foreign country, we are very cautious where we go, for we do not feel as safe as when we are in our own land where we certain whether they are cheating us and, certainly, the Christian in this world has many who are attempting to cheat him–not merely for time, but for eternity, too! That arch-rogue, Satan, is plotting against him every day and all Satan’s legions are constantly seeking to rob him of his holiness or of his peace of mind–or in some way or other to lead him astray. So be on your guard, Christian, as you journey through this foreign land! You are in an enemy’s country, a foe may be lurking behind every hedge, a fiery dart may be shot at you from every bush! Keep your sword unsheathed, ever have ready for use that two-edged “sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God,” and hold as with a death-grip the great “shield of faith wherewith you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” The great adversary of your soul will attack you just at the moment when you think yourself most secure, so “be sober, be vigilant”–always obey your Master’s command–“What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” Strangers in a foreign land should have their wits on the alert and Christians in this world should have their graces in active exercise! If they do not, they will bitterly regret their folly and sin.
Yet further, we are strangers as to our supplies. When we go on the Continent, we do not expect the people livingthere–the hotel-keepers, shop-keepers, and so on, to pay the cost of our travels, board and lodging, and to buy for us anything that takes our fancy! No, we take with us as much money as we think we shall need, or drafts that we can cash at a foreign bank. And if we find that we have not sufficient funds, we send to England for more, for we are absolutely dependent upon our home supplies. Just so is it in spiritual matters with the Christian–he knows that he must not look for a single lump of coal from earth’s mines to keep alight the fire of his piety–he must depend upon God for everything. Like the Israelites, he is in a howling wilderness that can yield him no supplies of corn–and his bread must drop from Heaven day by day, or he will starve. He is in an desert not watered by any river where he can quench his thirst–all he has to drink must flow from the struck Rock, Christ Jesus. Everything he has must come directly from his God! His eyes must always be lifted up to the hills, from where comes his help–his help comes from the Lord, who made the heavens and the earth!
And, to close this part of the subject, the Christian is a stranger as to the short duration of his sojourn in this world.Thank God we are not to be here long. Though the days of our pilgrimage should be seventy, or eighty, or even 90 years, how swiftly they come to an end! No weaver’s shuttle flies so fast as does the life of man–and the Christian who dies the soonest is all the earlier in Heaven! The worker for Christ who gets his service finished first, receives his reward the sooner. [It is remarkable that this Sermon, taken in the regular order of the unpublished manuscripts, should be first available for reading on the last Sabbath in January, just 19 years after Mr. Spurgeon’s Home-going at Mentone, a little before midnight on January 31st, 1892, at the age of fifty-seven! The Sermon intended for reading that day, #2241, Volume 38–A STANZA OF DELIVERANCE, was the second of only two which the beloved preacher had been able to revise during his last long illness. The other one was #2237, Volume 38–GRATITUDE FOR DELIVERANCE FROM THE GRAVE–Read/download both sermons, free of charge, at http://www.spurgeongems.org.] Instead of dreadingDeath, and bidding him depart from us, we might rather beckon him to come for us! Come quickly, blessed messenger, to summon us to the Presence of the King! Come, chariot of fire and horses of fire, and take the servant of the Lord to be forever with his gracious Master and Savior! Of course, I am saying all this in complete subservience to the will of God. He knows the best time and way to end our earthly service and, after all, it matters not when and how we go Home to Heaven! And if we “are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord,” we “shall not prevent (or have any preference over) them which are asleep. For the Lord, Himself, shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
II. Now, secondly, notice that DAVID WAS A STRANGER WITH GOD–and so is the true Christian. The worldling is a stranger to God–and there is an eternal differencebetween the two!
What is the meaning of the sentence, “I am a stranger with You”? I think it means, first, that although we are strangers in the world, we are constantly under God. “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and His ears are open unto their cry.” Beloved, you are always under GodHe searches you, tries you and sees ifthere is any wicked way in you–and leads you in the way everlasting. You are all constantly under Gods protectingeyes. You know what He said of old concerning His vineyard–“I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.” Further, you are continually under God"I will guide youwith My eyes.“ You are also always under God. "Like as a father pities his children, so the Lord pitiesthem that fear Him.” You, too, are never absent from God. One of the Lord’s most precious names isJehovah-Jireh, which means, “The Lord will see, or provide.” And you are perpetually under God’s delighting eyes. Hesays to you, “You shall no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall your land any more be termed Desolate: but you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land, Beulah, for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.”
Further, that sentence means that although we are strangers in the world, we enjoy peculiar fellowship with God.The Apostle John says, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” We are not strangers toGod, for, like Enoch, we walk with God in hallowed and intimate union and communion. He has told us some of His greatest secrets, for “the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will show them His Covenant.” He has given us the high privilege of dwelling in the secret place of the Most High and abiding under the shadow of the Almighty! He has brought us into His banqueting house and His banner over us has been love. And we have had such rapturous fellowship with Him that we understand what Paul meant when he said that he was “caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”
The sentence “I am a stranger with You,” also means that, although we are strangers in the world, God, too, is astranger. It is passing strange, yet is it strangely true that God is a stranger in His own world! Here is His handiwork all around us, most fair and beautiful, yet the fool says in his heart, “There is no God,” and proves himself to be a fool by saying it! Here are signs on every hand of the working of God’s gracious Providence–mysterious but wondrously wise–yet worldlings cannot see any traces of the finger or mind or heart of God, for He is a stranger to them! And as God is a stranger here, we need not marvel that we, who are His children, are also strangers on the earth–
Behold what wondrous Grace
The Father has bestowed
On sinners of a mortal race,
To call them sons of God!
Tis no surprising thing
That we should be unknown–
The Jewish world knew not their King,
I think I see my gracious Lord and Master wandering through this world as a Stranger, “despised and rejected of men; a Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief–spit upon, scourged, hounded out from among men and, at last crucified "outside the gate.” Then, when we “go forth unto Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach,” we are strangers with Him and what higher honor than that can any of us ever desire? “The disciple is not above his Master, nor the servant above his Lord. It is enough for the disciple that he is as his Master, and the servant as his Lord.”
There is another thought that I must not leave out. It is this. Though we are strangers in the world, we are with Christ all the while. Where is the true Christian’s life? Paul answers the question in writing to the Colossians–“If you then are risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead and your life is His with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in Glory.” Christ is the Christian’s All-in-All, so what can there be belonging to the Christian that is left here on earth? Why, nothing at all that need trouble us for a moment for, “God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ, (by Grace you are saved) and has raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Representatively,
we are in Heaven even now–and where our Head is, there will all the members of His
mystical body be gathered in due time.
III. Now, lastly, IF WE ARE STRANGERS AND SOJOURNERS HERE, WHAT THEN?
First, it is clear that we must have a home somewhere. “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests,” and shallthe immortal spirit of man have no home? God forbid! We could not be called strangers and sojourners unless we had a native land somewhere! A man who is an alien in one country, is a citizen of another, so we who are strangers and sojourners here, are citizens of a better country, even a heavenly!–
There is a happy land,
Far, far away"–
which is my true Home and there, in God’s good time, I know that I shall be–
No more a stranger or a guest,
But like a child at home!"
Do you think God would make us so dissatisfied with this world if He did not mean to satisfy us with another and a better one? Surely not! The very fact that we are strangers and sojourners upon the earth proves that we have a country of our own that is very different from this wilderness-world through which we are passing!
This being the case, it is not surprising that we sometimes long to get Home. We ought not to long for Heaven fromany lazy motives. A good workman may be so tired with heavy toil that he eagerly looks forward to Saturday night so that he may enjoy his Sabbath rest and renew his strength for fresh service on the morrow. And you and I, Beloved, though we are not tired of it, and we shall be glad when our rest day comes. ThankGod, it is not to be six days' work, and then one day’s rest, but it is to be a rest that shall know no end–a rest in untiring service! “There remains therefore a rest (a Sabbatismos, an eternal keeping of Sabbath) to the people of God.” I saidthat it is not surprising that we sometimes long to get Home. You would not think that a boy loved his home if he never longed for the holidays to come. I recollect that when I was at boarding-school, I made an Almanac with a square for every day and I blotted out each one as it went by–and sometimes I blotted it out the night before so that I might seem to have fewer days at school! And, Christian, you, also, may rejoice as the days of your school training here pass, for, as each one flits by, you are “a day’s march nearer Home.”–
Though in a foreign land,
We are not far from home.
And nearer to our Home above
We every moment come."
Do you not also think, dear Friends, that the fact that we are strangers here should make us treat one another well?And surely, if the worldling knew Christians better, he would treat them better. They are strangers to you, Man, but they are God’s strangers! They are royal personages incognito, princes of the blood imperial travelling through this world totheir wondrous palaces above! But let us who are fellow pilgrims and strangers help one another all we can. If you are in Switzerland, or up the Rhine, and have got into some difficulty or trouble, if you see an Englishman coming, you feel pretty sure that your fellow countryman will do what he can to help you. It should be so with Christians! We are strangers in this world, so let us aid one another all we can. We are soldiers in an enemy’s country, so back to back and shoulder to shoulder let us face the foes that are all around us! Though we are strangers to the world, we are not strangers to God, so let us not be strangers to one another, but let us be of one heart and mind, walking in love, even as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us.
Then, next, surely we ought never to envy the lot of sinners. I never grudge horses their corn or the swine their husksand hog-wash. Then why should I envy sinners? I remember David’s words, “Fret not yourself because of evildoers, neither be you envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.” When a friend once gave Martin Luther a large sum of money, he stood at the Church door and gave it all away to the poor because, he said, he had made up his mind to have his portion in the next world–and not in this. There is nothing in the sinner’s lot, either here or hereafter, that you and I have any cause to envy!
And let us never murmur at our own lot–
The road may be rough, but it cannot be long!
There are you, my poor Brother or Sister, fretting about what you will do in six months' time, worrying about the rent, the fire, food, the clothing and I know not what! Yet it may be that before even this year ends, your head may be wearing the crown and your fingers sweeping the golden harp strings, and you yourself–
Far from this world of grief and sin,
With God eternally shut in!"
And if you are still here for a while, the Lord will provide for you–so cast all your care upon Him who cares for you!
So, lastly, what an easy thing it should be for a Christian to die! He is a stranger with God even here, but he will bewith God, and not as a stranger up there! He has been with God in life, and God will be with him in death–
Strangers into life we come,
And dying is but going Home."
And going Home is not hard work. Going Home is not a thing to be dreaded–rather should we sing in joyous anticipation of it, as so many of our dear Brothers and Sisters have done when they have actually reached the hour of their Homegoing!
Yet, alas, there are some here who may well dread their Home-going, for they are strangers to God, “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” O Soul, if that is your condition, do not remain a stranger to God a moment longer! Repent of your sin and trust God to forgive it for Jesus sake! “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” And then, though you will be a stranger, here, you will not be stranger up there where He is! God bless you, for Christ’s sake! Amen.