Life is a Pilgrimage

“And Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty.’” (Genesis 47:9a)

On the tour of Holy Land that I was recently on, our tour guide spoke frequently about pilgrimage, that is, how God takes us places. For example, God took Abraham on a pilgrimage from Haran to the land of Canaan. In doing so, God placed His chosen people, the Jews, at the geographical crossroads of the ancient world. Major overland trade routes from Europe, Asia and Africa converged in this place. Trade caravans from Egypt, Rome and Persia passed through this area. Every major army of the ancient world—Greek, Roman, Assyrian, Babylonian and Egyptian—marched through this land. As a result, people from all over the world brushed up against this particular people who lived their lives in relationship with a single all-powerful God who loved them and whom they worshiped and loved in return. Because God took Abraham on a pilgrimage, the Jewish people truly became “… a light for the Gentiles, that [His] salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6b).In our theme verse for today, Jacob describes his life as a pilgrimage. It is common to think of life as a journey, but a pilgrimage is a journey with a particular purpose: to go to a special place to connect on a deeper level with God. Our life-pilgrimages are guided by God, not us, so we may not know where we are going or understand the reason for the journey. We leave the itinerary up to Him.

View from the top of Tel Megiddo. Ancient major highways from Africa, Asia and Europe converge here.
View from the top of Tel Megiddo. Ancient major highways from Africa, Asia and Europe converge here.

But we are very intentional about stepping forward into wherever God takes us because we know that God “wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). We do not know how God will use our lives to help others, but we do know that God is gracious, loving, compassionate, merciful and righteous. And we know that more than 2,000 years ago, God Himself went on a pilgrimage. Leaving behind the comfort, glory, power and privilege of heaven, God the Son became an ordinary, humble human being who journeyed through a perfect human life lived for us. Jesus’ pilgrimage took him up the slope of Calvary with the heavy weight of a cross beam on his shoulders. On that lonely, barren hill outside the city wall of Jerusalem, Jesus suffered and died a horrible sinner’s death for us. As Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea 100 meters away, it looked like Jesus’ pilgrimage had ended in failure. But that failure was Jesus’ greatest victory and His weakness was His greatest strength. For God the Father surprised the world by raising Jesus from the dead and Jesus continues His pilgrimage by journeying with us wherever we go. And so we continue our pilgrimage, going wherever God calls us to go, knowing that the One who travels with us loves us and has a great purpose in mind for each human life lived here on earth.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for taking me on a pilgrimage. Draw me close and by Your Spirit help me to trust you more fully so that your purposes can be live out in me. Amen.

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