“And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.” – Gen. 47:9
Jacob, as he stands before Pharaoh upon entering Egypt, characterizes his 130 year life on earth as a “pilgrimage”. Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines a “pilgrimage” as: “a long journey, particularly a journey to some place deemed sacred and venerable, in order to pay devotion to the relics of some deceased saint.” We need to understand that our life on earth is a brief part of our journey to our true homeland, our journey to our Father’s house. We are just passing through this life during our pilgrimage so we need not become too attached to this world or set our roots too deep in the affections of our present, temporary situation.
Jacob characterized the days of his earthly pilgrimage as “few and evil”. In contrast to the eternity that we will spend in our eternal homeland, our brief earthly pilgrim journey is certainly but a few days. The culture of our homeland is characterized by the purity and holiness of Almighty God. In contrast with the godliness of his homeland, Jacob considered his earthly pilgrimage as evil, plagued by the sin of this world. The evil that we experience and witness around us makes us long for that perfect homeland where all will be peace and rest.
The Webster’s definition of a pilgrimage connects the pilgrim’s journey with a purpose of traveling to pay homage to a deceased saint. This is practiced in other religions, as their followers travel many miles to pay their respects, or even to worship, the dead remains of those men whom they respect. What makes the pilgrimage of God’s children unique is that we are traveling on a journey to our eternal, heavenly home, to pay honor to our Savior who died. In contrast to other dead persons who are sought in a pilgrimage, we are not traveling to look at the grave or the bones of our Lord Jesus. Rather what distinguishes Christianity from every other false religion is that the Destination of our pilgrimage journey was He that was dead but has arisen from the grave and is alive in our homeland today! “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore…” (Rev. 1:18).
We do not need to get too attached to the things of this world because this world is not our home. We rather should lay up treasures in heaven, which is our final permanent destination, rather than hoarding material goods here on earth (Matt. 6:19-21) that we will leave behind when our earthly pilgrimage runs its course. It has been said, correctly so, that since God’s children are just passing through this world, then we should “travel light”. There’s certainly nothing wrong with one providing a good living for one’s family, but we should be careful to not accumulate an abundance of “stuff” in this life that might hinder our mobility during our pilgrimage.
Jesus, as our pilgrim example, emphasized He had no permanent residence on earth: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” (Matt. 8:20). The disciples of Christ have the same plight here in this world, just as the Apostle Paul expressed: “we have no certain dwellingplace” (1 Cor. 4:11). God promises food and raiment for His children during their life (Matt. 6:25-34) but not shelter, which is considered the third basic necessity of life. Why? Because we’re just pilgrims passing through this world and not even Jesus had permanent shelter during His earthly life. Since we’re just pilgrims passing through, we don’t need to get too comfortable with our present state because we’re on a journey home.
The patriarchs of the Old Testament had the correct perspective that we must also implement during our brief, transitory journey here on earth. Speaking principally of Abraham and Sarah, but I believe also speaking of Abel, Enoch, and Noah as well, these saints had a heavenly perspective of a better country – their eternal, heavenly home land – that they sought while on their earthly pilgrimage. “13) 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. 14) For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country… 16) 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. 11:13-16) God has prepared a city for His children – a better, heavenly country – that will be the permanent residence of all His chosen family when their earthly pilgrimage reaches its final destination. These saints endured the struggles of their present journey with a mindset that looked beyond their pilgrimage and looked unto their destination – that better country of heaven.
Do the ungodly things that we see around us here in this world vex our righteous soul daily? It can be very disheartening to see all the sin of this world perpetuated every day around us. But take heart and be joyful dear child of God – this world is not your home! You do not fit in with this world because you are a citizen of another heavenly country and you’re just passing through this world on a brief pilgrimage! Let us keep our minds on our eternal, heavenly, better country to which we are traveling and not become distraught with the difficulties of our present journey because it won’t be long and then we’ll be “home at last”!
I’m but a wandering pilgrim here, This world is not my home;
I seek a rest beyond this sphere, A city yet to come.
Beyond the veil of faith I see, A calm and heavenly rest,
Where I shall be eternally, With saints and angels blest.
My journey thru this veil of tears, Is fraught with trials sore;
My heart is often filled with tears, As dangers hover o’er,
Tho’ thus oppressed with grievous cares, At times the Lord appears,
Delivers from the tempter’s snares, And drives away my fears.
Sometimes my pathway seems to lie, Thru deserts bleak and drear;
For want of sustenance I sigh, And death seems very near,
But soon I’ll reach that heavenly land, My journey will be o’er,
And with the ever blissful band I’ll dwell forever more.
(I’m But A Wand’ring Pilgrim, by Elder John R. Daily)
Originally published March 2017