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Strangers and Sojourners with God
“The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land. And if a man sell a dwelling house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; within a full year may he redeem it. And if it be not redeemed within the space of a full year, then the house that is in the walled city shall be established for ever to him that bought it throughout his generations: it shall not go out in the jubile. But the houses of the villages which have no wall round about them shall be counted as the fields of the country: they may be redeemed, and they shall go out in the jubile. Notwithstanding the cities of the Levites, and the houses of the cities of their possession, may the Levites redeem at any time. And if a man purchase of the Levites, then the house that was sold, and the city of his possession, shall go out in the year of jubile: for the houses of the cities of the Levites are their possession among the children of Israel. But the field of the suburbs of their cities may not be sold; for it is their perpetual possession.”
The year of jubilee was established by God at the time he gave the law to Israel on Mt. Sinai. As we have seen, it was distinctly a picture of God’s great grace in Christ, a picture of the salvation of God’s elect. The blowing of the jubilee trumpet was symbolic of the preaching of the gospel. Jubilee itself portrayed the grace and glory God promises to chosen sinners in Christ. As jubilee began on the Day of Atonement, the whole of God’s salvation comes to chosen sinners by and because of the atonement Christ made for our sins at Calvary.
All the blessings of grace and glory, all the blessings of God’s salvation, both in this world and in the world to come, are free gifts of God’s grace (Ephesians 1:3-6; 2 Timothy 1:9), gifts of God’s free grace bestowed upon chosen sinners through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7), and free gifts of grace bestowed upon sinners by the demands of God’s holy law (Romans 3:24-26).
Neither the blessings of grace that we enjoy now in the experience of salvation, nor the blessings of our God in heavenly glory depend upon, or are in any way determined by or conditioned upon our works. Salvation is, in its entirety, the gift of God.
We have seen in this chapter that in the year of jubilee all debts were immediately cancelled, all who had been in bondage were set free, every man who had lost his inheritance had it returned to him, and all the children of Israel were to keep a yearlong sabbath. That is exactly what Christ has done for us in salvation; and that is exactly what we shall enjoy in heavenly glory, because he redeemed us with his precious blood at Calvary.
Oh, poor soul, if you are yet laboring in bondage under sin’s dominion, hear the jubilee trumpet today, and go free! Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and walk in liberty!
Then, after giving the jubilee law and declaring what was to be done in the year of jubilee, the Lord God explains the reason why he gave such specific and strict laws about this great year of liberation beginning in verses 23 and 24. The Lord God established this Jubilee law, the Year of Jubilee, for the children of Israel as a perpetual reminder of the fact that they were strangers and sojourners together with him in this world.
“The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land.” (Leviticus 25:23-24)
After briefly mentioning the law of the kinsman redeemer in verses 25-28, he continues talking about houses and lands.
“And if a man sell a dwelling house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; within a full year may he redeem it. And if it be not redeemed within the space of a full year, then the house that is in the walled city shall be established for ever to him that bought it throughout his generations: it shall not go out in the jubilee. But the houses of the villages which have no wall round about them shall be counted as the fields of the country: they may be redeemed, and they shall go out in the jubilee. Notwithstanding the cities of the Levites, and the houses of the cities of their possession, may the Levites redeem at any time. And if a man purchase of the Levites, then the house that was sold, and the city of his possession, shall go out in the year of jubilee: for the houses of the cities of the Levites are their possession among the children of Israel. But the field of the suburbs of their cities may not be sold; for it is their perpetual possession.” (Leviticus 25:29-34)
As a ceremonial institution the year of jubilee completed the picture of the sabbatical laws of the Old Testament. The seventh day sabbath, seventh week sabbath, and the seventh year sabbath all spoke of the rest of faith in Christ (Matthew 11:28-30). These were all connected with the various institutions of divine worship on earth in the Mosaic age, portraying our present enjoyment of God’s grace and salvation in Christ.
The jubilee (50th year) sabbath was different. Though God commanded it, there is no record that Israel ever observed it. This sabbath portrayed that great sabbath that yet remains, the everlasting sabbath of eternal glory. It was God’s promise, in type to those who were strangers and sojourners with him, of a better sabbath beyond this veil of tears.
In verse 23 the Lord states emphatically, “The land shall not be sold forever.” Why? What was the purpose of this command? It was just this: — The land of Canaan represented our heavenly inheritance, the gift of God’s free grace in Christ, an inheritance that cannot be lost, forfeited, or destroyed, either by the fierceness of our foes nor by the failures of our flesh (Romans 11:29; Ecclesiastes 3:14).
Then, the Lord makes a specific exception. Look at verses 29-30.
“And if a man sell a dwelling house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; within a full year may he redeem it. And if it be not redeemed within the space of a full year, then the house that is in the walled city shall be established for ever to him that bought it throughout his generations: it shall not go out in the jubilee.”
In verses 31-34 he declares that the houses in the country villages and the houses of the Levites were to be counted as part and parcel with the land. Being built upon the ground, joined to the ground, they were counted one with the land. They could not be sold forever. The houses in the country villages, among the vines and fig trees, were considered one with the land. The houses of the Levites were, like the land, the Lord’s provision for the priestly tribe. Like the land itself, these could never be lost permanently.
But the houses of the walled cities were looked upon differently. They could be bought and sold repeatedly. Why? Because the land of Canaan was the heritage of redemption and grace by covenant promise. It was a grant of redemption (v. 24). But the walled cities of the land and the houses built upon the walls that men had erected were the works of men. And the works of men, no matter how noble and impressive, have nothing to do with the gifts of grace!
Strangers and Sojourners
Now, go back to verse 23. Here, the Lord ascribes another reason why the land was not to be sold forever. — “The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.”
Though the land of Canaan was typical of our eternal inheritance with Christ, it was still but an earthly parcel of ground. It was no more permanent than any other part of the earth; and the Lord God reminded Israel of this by declaring that so long as they lived on the earth, they were but strangers and sojourners; but most importantly, they were strangers and sojourners with him. Let us learn this lesson and learn it well. Oh, may God the Holy Spirit write it upon our hearts! You and I, child of God, are strangers and sojourners with God in this world. — “Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were” (Psalm 39:12).
We are pilgrims passing through the earth, but for a brief time. Here, we have no abiding city. Everything here is temporary. Everything in that land to which we go is permanent and eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18 - 5:1; Hebrews 11:8-10).
God’s people are strangers in this world. A stranger is a person who is away from home and away from his homeland. A sojourner is one who is moving through one place on his way to another. That is exactly our position in this world.
I’m but a stranger here,
Heaven is my home:
Earth is a desert drear—
Heaven is my home.
Dangers and sorrows stand
Round me on every hand,
Heaven is my fatherland—
Heaven is my home
Our Father is there. Our Elder Brother is there. Most of our family is there. Our inheritance is there. Soon, we shall be there.
A stranger is one who never quite fits in with the crowd around him. He can never really be comfortable in their company; and they are not comfortable in his. — “The world knoweth us not.”
That may seem a little sad to those who neither know us, nor our God and Savior. We are strangers and sojourners in this world; but that is not the end of the statement. The Lord God says, “ye are strangers and sojourners with me.” We are strangers and sojourners with God our Savior. That means that we are always under our heavenly Father’s watchful eye, omnipotent protection, and tender care. We are ever in the company of our God and Savior. We live in Christ and with Christ, but more: — Christ is our Life (Philippians 4:4-7; Colossians 3:1-3; Ephesians 2:4-5).
At the end of John 13, God the Holy Spirit tells us of the conversation our Lord Jesus had with Peter about his fall, the fall that would occur that very night, as the Savior was about to be crucified in Peter’s place, bearing his sins in his own body under the wrath of God.
“Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake. Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.” (John 13:36-38)
Read right on. Ignore the chapter break. As soon as the Savior told Peter plainly how horribly he would fall, he gave him this word of sweet, sweet, indescribably sweet assurance…
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3)
When I Fall
It is a great mercy of our God that we commonly fail to appreciate, a mercy for which none of us are sufficiently thankful, that the Lord God graciously hedges us about with strong restraints of providence and omnipotent grace, keeping his people from those grave, outward sins, that give Zion’s enemies occasion to blaspheme the name our God and mock his gospel. He plants his fear deep in the heart, and causes a well of living water to flow through the soul, and keeps us (for the most part) from great acts of iniquity in our outward lives. How we ought to thank him for this great mercy every day, every hour, every moment!
Yes, it is true, sometimes that man who has found grace in the eyes of the Lord, as Noah did, will be found in a drunken stupor, with his shame uncovered, in naked sin before the reprobate; and the reprobate will have a hey-day exposing the shame. Sometimes a godly man of great faith, like righteous, just Lot, will choose to pitch his tent toward Sodom and choose to stay in the chosen place of wickedness. Sometimes the mighty Samson will lay his head in Delilah’s lap. It has happened that a man after God’s own heart has committed adultery and even murder. Sometimes even the wisest man upon the earth will bow to the will of a wicked wife and worship at the altar of an idol, as Solomon did. Once in a while a great preacher, like Peter, will deny the Lord Jesus. Sometimes the most soundly orthodox and most useful and used preacher will shave his head and take a Jewish vow, like the Apostle Paul did.
Such sad falls do occur. They are plainly recorded in Holy Scripture for our learning and admonition; but they are not common occurrences. For the most part, God’s saints in this world are graciously kept from such outward displays of iniquity and sin by the restraint of his grace and the restraints of his providence!
Having said that, I must hasten to declare that, though we are usually kept from grave and gross outward wickedness, the righteous do fall; and all who are righteous know that they fall seven times in a day. — “A just man falleth seven times” (Proverbs 24:16). — “Seven times!” That is to say, “In the totality of his being, in all that he is and does, the righteous man, the just continually falls!”
With that said, let us hear the words of God’s prophet Micah. — “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD [shall be] a light unto me.” (Micah 7:8)
My Refuge Still
Yes, I do fall. How I lament that fact and wish it were not so. I fall seven times in a day. My life is a constant series of falls! — A constant mass of failure and sin! But when I fall, Christ is my Refuge still. Even in the midst of all our falling, failure, and sin, still our God, the Holy Lord God, the triune Jehovah, declares to his Israel, “Ye are strangers and sojourners with me!” We are strangers and sojourners; but we walk in good company. We are strangers and sojourners with God our Savior. Let his name be praised forever!
“I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue, LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am. Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah. Surely every man walketh in a vain show: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them. And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee. Deliver me from all my transgressions: make me not the reproach of the foolish. I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it. Remove thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of thine hand. When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Selah. Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were. O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.” (Psalm 39)