The Worthiness of Wandering

Many of the main characters in the Biblical story, including Jesus, live in various types of “homelessness.” Consider:

But to the tribe of Levi Moses gave no inheritance; the Lord God of Israel is their inheritance, just as he said to them.

-Joshua 13:33

Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

-Matthew 8:18-20

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

-Hebrews 11:13-16

In each of these cases, obedience leads some of God’s people to wander far from home. The responsibility God gives them comes into direct conflict with the comfort and security others have built up, and in each case, the Levites, Jesus, Abraham, Sarah and all the heroes of Hebrews 11 choose God’s call.

We should learn to care about the type of homelessness that forces one to sleep on a park bench, but we should also learn to think theologically about these other kinds of homelessness and wandering.

The Levites don’t inherit a territory because of the ministry to which they have been called. Similarly, many pastors eventually leave the parsonage with no equity; many social workers choose little money to serve those with little money and never buy a home. Jesus has nowhere to call his home, because he has places to go. Likewise, numerous Christians accept homesickness, endless visa applications, culture shock, and language classes to go where God has directed them to serve (whether with a missions agency or with a housecleaning business). Abraham and Sarah moved when God called, not knowing where they would end up or why it had to be there, like so many today who move for work or school or to take care of family, knowing only that they’re trying to be faithful, not where it will lead. Those at the end of the chapter chose hardship over faithlessness, perhaps sacrificing the comfortable-looking lives of their colleagues to avoid the ungodly paths that could have gotten them there.

Comfort and security are some of the most exalted gods in the American Olympus, but many of the most faithful people in the Bible–such as the Levites, Abraham, Sarah, and most of all Jesus–call us to question their worth. Comfort and security are delightful gifts, but they make merciless gods; they can demand endless sacrifices from their devotees and often withhold the satisfaction they promised.

We have, on the other hand, this offer from the true God, who is “not ashamed to be called our God.” He is, in fact, the very God who came as Jesus Christ, who Himself chose to wander that we might have a home. In this time between the ages, when we have received King Jesus but are yet to enjoy His full and total reign, faithfulness will sometimes mean wandering; fruitfulness will sometimes require homelessness. Yet, in all this, God goes with us. Whatever “home” we sacrifice, we do so knowing there is a better home, stored up in heaven for us, and that this God we’ve followed into risk, scarcity, and the ends of the earth will bring it hither when He Himself arrives.

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