God brought a trusting man named Abram from Ur to a place He would call the Promised Land.
He said, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land for I am giving it to you.” (Genesis 13:14-17)
Abram asked God how he could know that he would gain possession of it, so God cut a covenant with him and said, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not reached its full measure.” (Genesis 15:13-16)
God revealed to Abraham that His plan for his descendants would include suffering in a land not their own. They would be mistreated strangers who would not take possession of the Promised Land right away. But the fulfillment would come. And Abraham believed that God would do what He promised.
After Abraham showed the Lord that he would hold nothing back from Him, not even Isaac, the promised son God had blessed him with after many long years of waiting, God declared, “Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” (Genesis 22:17-18)
God's promise to Abraham included blessing all the nations through his offspring.
When Sarah died, Abraham went to the Hittites. “I am an alien and a stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site so I can bury my dead.” (Genesis 23:4)
This purchased cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre (Hebron) would become the burial site for Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, and Jacob (Genesis 49:31, 50:13). A resting place for the patriarchs and their wives who believed that this Promised Land would one day become the home of their people. A people God intended to bless in order for all the nations on earth to be blessed.
Abraham's servant found a wife for Isaac in Haran: Rebekah who was willing to leave her home and travel to the Land of Promise. Her father and brother blessed her saying, “Our sister, may you increase to thousands upon thousands; may your offspring possess the gates of their enemies.” (Genesis 24:60)
And while Rebekah struggled with barrenness as her mother-in-law Sarah had before her, she did eventually give birth to twin boys. Isaac spoke God's promise to Jacob before he traveled to Haran both to escape from Esau and to find a wife: “May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now live as an alien, the land God gave to Abraham.” (Genesis 28:3-4)
Then God Himself promised to bring Jacob back to the Promised Land. “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:15)
Jacob's 11th son Joseph, who through God's sovereign plan went ahead of his family to Egypt and saved them from the devastating 7 year famine, secured a sheltered place for them in the land of Goshen. God assured Jacob in his old age as he traveled to Egypt with his 66 family members, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you and I will surely bring you back again.” (Genesis 46:3-4)
In Goshen, the Israelites remained separated from the Egyptians and their numbers increased greatly.
When Joseph was 110, he told his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear a oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid and then you must carry my bones up from this place.” (Genesis 50:24-25)
Did the generations after Joseph and his brothers continue to believe that they would one day return? After they were made slaves and mistreated by a Pharaoh who feared that they were becoming too powerful. Did they hold on to hope that one day God would deliver them and allow them to return to the Promised Land?
Even if it appeared that way, God had not forgotten them. He was faithful to rescue them from their misery, according to his prophecy to Abraham that his descendants would be enslaved for 400 years.
At that time, God spoke to the fearful man he had chosen named Moses: “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, 'The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittities, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.'” (Exodus 3:16-17)
God's mighty hand brought them out of Egypt and “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath.” (Exodus 13:19)
Because of the Israelites' disbelief that God could conquer the Canaanites in the Promised Land, they had to wander in the desert for forty years. After Moses' death, Joshua led the next generation into the land, where they conquered and divided. “And Joseph's bones, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver (Genesis 33:19) from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. This became the inheritance of Joseph's descendents.” (Joshua 24:32)
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God...They admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one.” (Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-16)
Longing for home.
Strangers, aliens, foreigners, refugees.
Linking up with Velvet Ashes this week on the theme of "Home."
(Great posts there--I'd encourage you to check them out)
(Great posts there--I'd encourage you to check them out)