Tramps or Travellers
The moment Rebecca made her decision to leave her father’s house she became a traveller to another country. The way before her was long and arduous but her heart was set on reaching her goal. She knew that beyond the earthly journey she was also, by God’s higher call, on a spiritual pilgrimage to the heavenly world. Therefore, her life was now guided by the fixed star of a higher purpose. That was inherent in her faith.
Part of the land through which Rebecca journeyed, along the fringe of the Syrian desert, was the haunt of many aimless wanderers. Many lived a nomadic life there, ever looking for some pleasant spot where to pitch their tents for a while.
There also, some loitered, beguiled by those mirages which so often tantalise the unwary. Rebecca might have seen those little oasis, and those illusions which as the prophet tells us, so much resemble pools of water. But the land of her desire lay beyond the great waste. And for her there was no tarrying.
As of old, the Arab still wanders in the desert. And figuratively speaking, so do many others besides. The world we live in, as our Lord reminds us, is indeed a desert place. Here many wander without aim or hope, intrigued by false dreams and ever looking for that elusive place or thing which may yield a momentary pleasure.
Many live with no worthy end in view, unaware that they were created to travel in God’s way that in so doing they might at last enjoy Him for ever. But, alas, man who was made to travel in God’s path is become an aimless wanderer. Like another, he pitches his tent toward a city which is destined to destruction.
It is not so long since some preached that our world was to become a paradise. Man himself was to change it into a place of rest and safety. But how suddenly has this fond dream faded. The brave new world of our dreams is now a place of violent storms and unpredictable perils.
Many are in the grip of fear. We want to escape somewhere – ‘away from it all.’ Many would fain leave this world for another and a safer place. A physical journey to a distant star might relieve the insufferable tension of living in a cataclysmic age and world.
Yet few seem to know that what we are trying to escape from is ourselves, and that even if it were possible for us to leap into another world we would still have to reckon with our own sin and conscience with fear and with God and His inescapable judgment. In the words of a famous poet ‘we can leave everything and everybody except ourselves.’
A mere physical leap out of our imperilled world into another would leave us exactly where we are and as we are. There is only one hope for us! There is only one way in which we can be rescued from our sad plight. It is that we leap out of ourselves into the safety which is in Christ and within His Kingdom.
Supposing we were told of a happy world somewhere beyond this universe, we could only wistfully sigh, knowing that we could never get there. The way is inconceivably long and we are not sure in what direction it lies. And even supposing God had provided a way into that far off world we could still only dream of it, if we were so enfeebled and helpless that we could not possibly take the journey there.
Now the wonderful thing is that beyond this universe there is such a world. Not only so; but God has also provided a way that unerringly leads to it. And there are those, once powerless and helpless, to whom He has given the power to travel thither and who know that they are going to arrive there without fail.
This is not a theological dream but a glorious reality. Indeed, it is something which happens when we trust our souls to Christ. Listen to the words of Jesus Christ.
‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’ He might have said in other words, ‘I, in myself, am heaven. I am the way there, and I am the life to enable men to reach that blessed place.’
These are high but sound claims which have been verified in the experience of countless men and women. It happens every day. We mentioned already how the offices of Christ as Prophet, Priest and King, stand related to our eternal salvation. He is the King whose kingdom is ‘full of glory’ and where the inhabitant shall never say, ‘I am sick.’
He is the great High Priest Who, through the shedding of His blood and His death on the Cross, opened a pathway for us into that lovely world. He is that safe and golden ladder which God let down from that perfect world into ours that we may travel thither. He is also the Prophet by Whose life-giving word the dead are quickened and endued with unfailing life and power to enable them to reach the heavenly country.
‘They shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint,’ Christ is therefore ‘the power of God and the wisdom of God.’ He calls Himself the true end or the ‘good part.’ He is the way, and the life He gives is as empowering as it is eternal.
In contrast to this sure and perfect way of salvation ‘the wisdom of this world’ is seen in all its wearisome and empty characteristics. Human systems of thought often present us with some hypothetical end to live for, some ideal to aim at, or something high and noble which we ‘ought’ to follow. But we perish on the rock of human helplessness and on the rock of our own unconscious antagonism to the very ideals which we profess to admire.
There is no way to translate these ideals into reality. We have no moral or spiritual power to reach the goal. This is the persistent predicament of all moral theory. It is ever bedevilled in our inability and sin. What we ought to do, we cannot do.
This is a form of despair from which the true Christian is set free. It was Paul who said: ‘The good that I would I cannot do because evil is present with me.’ But with the next breath, and as a new man in Christ, he could ‘thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.’
And why did he, in this particular context, so fervently thank God?
It is because he knew that by a continual work of grace the law of sin which warred in his members and which so often arrested his spiritual progress must yield to the greater power of God working in his heart. He knew that as his justification through Christ’s righteousness was an accomplished fact his sanctification would reach the same level of perfection.
‘He which hath begun a good work in you will perform until the day of Jesus Christ.’ Of himself and of all who stand in this grace he could say - ’We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us,’ We are, in other words, going to arrive. ‘They go from strength, everyone of them in Zion appeareth before God.’