“Sojourner-distinguished from a native citizen”
Our introduction to Abraham involves his leaving his home and all that is familiar in order to obey the Lord and go to a far country. From that point in we see him often as a pilgrim and referred to as a sojourner.
Lot is also described as a sojourner by the people of the city of Sodom. Lot had lived there for several years and raised a family among them and taken a position in the city’s leadership when God’s messengers arrived in Genesis 19. They told him the city was to be destroyed, and he and his family and whomever else he could bring with him should flee the city.
When Lot defied the men of the city in not giving the messengers from God over to them, they turned on him. They said,
“This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them.”
The word sojourn there means ” turn aside from the road (for a lodging or any other purpose), that is, sojourn (as a guest)”.
I find that interesting, Lot had turned aside from the road and remained in Sodom, but as long as he lived there and got involved in the city, he was always remembered as a stranger, a guest, not one of them.
When the time came to contradict the will of the people of Sodom his compromises with them, his sacrificing of a Godly lifestyle meant nothing to them. He had lost all influence and moral authority a long time ago.
Compare this with Abraham in Genesis 23. In Genesis 23 Abraham loses his dear wife and seeks a place to bury her. He knows he is a stranger in a foreign land and so seeks permission from the natives to purchase land to use for a burial site. Here, Abraham is not referred to as a sojourner, but refers to himself as a sojourner, he recognises his status. The word for sojourn here is a different one and means distinguished from a native citizen.
The people on this occasion call him a mighty prince and commit to giving him whatever piece of land he desires. The owner of the land wants to just give it to Abraham, but with integrity and sincerity Abraham insists on paying what it is worth.
How differently these two men behaved is significant for believers today for several reasons.
1. True pilgrims do not seek the world’s acceptance or favour. We live in a dangerous era of compromise, where the mantra of ‘be like them to win them’ offers all manner of doctrine and practice on the altar of acceptance in an attempt to please the lost. Churches have sought to reflect their communities to make them comfortable when they visit, rather than reflect Christ in order to highlight our need for a Saviour.
2. True pilgrims are often respected for courage of conviction. It is not universally true that you will one day find respect for standing for your convictions, it was not always so with Abraham. But I have often found that even people who disagree with me strongly often have a degree of respect because of consistency in standing for my beliefs. You may not win people to Christ by standing in opposition to this fallen world’s system, but you certainly will not exert the influence of salt and light by following the path of compromise and deceit.
3. True pilgrims know they are pilgrims. Abraham lived in a different era and his amassing of wealth is not something we should seek for ourselves. For our example we look to the New Testament disciples of Christ. God’s administration of His saints in the Old Testament varies to His administration of His saints today. He may see fit to bless some of His pilgrims with prosperity, but to whom much is give, much is required.
Christian, do you live like a stranger, a pilgrim? Is your life distinguished from the native citizens of this world? Does the investments of your time, energy, gifts and finances reflect a pilgrim of this world or one possessed by this world?
Don’t seek the world’s favour and methods in order to achieve the Lord’s work! Don’t settle for this world’s trinkets when God has something infinitely and eternally better in mind for you!
“By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”
(Heb 11:9-10, 13-16)