“Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.”
A pilgrim is a person who travels through foreign lands; specifically one who journeys to some sacred place in the performance of a vow or to obtain some form of Divine blessing.
The pilgrim of my text is the child of God, traveling through the world to the heavenly Canaan. Yes, he has taken a vow, and expects some form of Divine blessing. Moreover, he is traveling through this present world to the country of his second birth.
The spiritual pilgrim is a visionary.
And his vision is the New Jerusalem, the New world of God’s pleasures that is coming.
He knows that the old world is fast passing away. By the Word of the Lord that old world is on the way to its final burning, and out of this burning the New world will appear. And the pilgrim knows that he will have his portion in that New world.
Therefore, he has his heart, soul and mind on the New world.
This present world has no charm for him; in fact, he hates this present world. He knows that the character of this present world is the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.
And so we hear his chant: Do not detain me, for I am going where the streams of life are ever flowing. Whatever you do, do not detain me: I can tarry, I can tarry but a day!
You cannot even say that his heart and soul are set on the present heaven where God is seated on His throne, and the angels and the souls of men made righteous are singing and making music.
No, his heart is set on the world that is coming, the world that will stand unto all eternity.
This pilgrim has another name, and it is closely related to the name “pilgrim.” In fact, some of our modern languages have translated the last word of my text: “strangership.”
That other name is “stranger.” And it is really another aspect of the name pilgrim.
A pilgrim is necessarily also a stranger.
It relates to his contact with the present world.
He is strange to the Ways of this world in which we live. He does not fit here at all.
You see, he is born from God and from heaven. That is, he is regenerated. His root is different, and so his life is different.
Oh, it does not mean that he fails in his vocation and calling. Not at all. His endeavor is to be the best in his class. He wants to be the best carpenter around, or brick layer, or mason. He wants to do his job well. He knows that God wants him to be in this world for a spell, and to do all things for God’s sake, and to do them well. And so he farms, does carpenter work, clerks in stores, works in an office, etc. And he desires to excel.
But here is the point: all through his work-a-day life, he has his eye on God, on heaven, on the glory of God’s Name, on the revelation of that Name in Christ Jesus the Lord.
Yes, he possesses a wife, but as not possessing; he possesses land and houses and money, but as not possessing.
For he is a stranger here.
His life is God, heaven, and eternity.
Finally, there is a third word in this connection which we must look at. It is in close connection to the other two names: pilgrim and stranger. That third name is “sojourner.”
That name indicates that because of the fact that he is a pilgrim and stranger, he sojourns in this world. And that word means that he lives “alongside” the world. It means that he is spiritually entirely different from this world.
The life of this present world is wholly corrupt, as indicated above. It is full of the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.
Hence, he lives alongside.
That quality of our pilgrim was plainly shown by the great sojourners Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God purposely sent these three men into the world in order to be a constant reminder to His church throughout all the ages that we are going where the streams of life are ever flowing.
These three men did not own a house, ever. They lived in tabernacles, that is, in tents. For 100, 180, and 147 years respectively.
There they go: up and down Palestine, sometimes a little while in Egypt, but ever dwelling in tabernacles. Alongside the world.
All they ever owned was a burying place for themselves and their wives.
And they are the types of all God’s beloved people of all the ages.
In the world, but not of the world.
Do you see our pilgrim, stranger, sojourner?
Listen, he sings his songs.
He is the happiest man alive. His happiness is the only happiness in this Godforsaken world. You may hear laughter in the world, and hear of pleasure and joy, but it is not true. Believe it not. Even in their joy they taste the bitterness of death. I have tasted it myself.
Let us listen to his songs.
Thy statutes have been my songs in the home of my pilgrimage.
What are they? They are the same as God’s mercies, salvation, word, judgments, law, precepts, testimonies, commandments or name! I have taken the foregoing from the verses immediately preceding, and a verse or two further. Psalm 119 extols the Lord because of His wonderful law and word.
You know, there is such a thing as the law of God. Or the Word of God.
As soon as God created a moral, rational, ethical being, He also created a law, a word for him. And if that creature lived according to that law or word, he would be wonderfully happy and content. Look at Adam and Eve, as they are strolling in the beautiful garden of Eden. They love God and His law.
But as soon as you depart from that law or word there is horror for you, Listen to the verse preceding my text: “Horror hath taken hold upon me, because of the wicked that forsake Thy law!” But how about our singing pilgrim? Is he not a sinner like unto the rest?
Yes, but here I must say two things. First, he is born again. I believe I told you that already. Well, that means that in the depth of his heart he loves the law of God again, as also His Word. And through the further operation of God’s grace and Spirit, he attempts every day to live according to that law and Word, even though every night he lies in the dust and cries: O God, be merciful to me, the sinner! And, second, this singing pilgrim looks at the statutes of God and His Word, through the prism of the Cross of Calvary. And therefore he sings his merry song. He knows that God has forgiven him all his transgressions, and prepared for him an everlasting righteousness in Jesus the Lord.
David sang his tune in the Old Testament for he saw Jehovah and the blood of the innocents. And far off he saw also the Messiah.
We sing this song looking back of the blood of The Innocent, namely, Jesus, our beloved Redeemer.
I’ve heard them singing: I will sing of my Redeemer!
And so our singing pilgrim goes on his way, ever singing the songs of redemption and salvation. God’s law is sweet to him, sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.
Wonder what makes him sing so sweetly!
What is the motive, what is the main thrust of his song?
I will try and tell you.
The sweetest chord of his music, the sweetest strains of his singing is this: he loves God.
You see, beloved reader, you cannot separate God’s statutes and His Word from God Himself.
God’s statutes are a reflection of the sweetness of God’s inmost heart.
Did you not hear the fathers say: The law of God is fulfilled in just one word, namely, love?
There is your answer. This pilgrim loves the Lord, and therefore he loves His statutes.
That love of God is spread abroad in his heart at the moment of his regeneration, and that same love came to his consciousness in the moment of his conversion. And that love of God is ever his portion here on earth.
You may kill him; you may fix him on the stake; you may torture him in the chamber of horrors: but he will never cease to love God. And in his dying breath he will say: Lord, forgive them: they know not what they do! He is taught such by the sweetness of the love of God.
And so our pilgrim is singing, although I must add one more element. His voice often breaks while he is singing.
And the reason is, first, because he is still a sinner.
And the second reason is that he is still so far from his Home.
He longs for God, and yearns for heaven, and thirsts for the companionship of the rest of the church and the holy angels of God.
But he will keep on singing, until God will say: Come higher, up, My dear child! Your place is now ready!
And then the tears are wiped away!
I wrote the foregoing as a sort of epitaph for our brother Bern Lubbers.
He sang the songs of David on his plow and harrow. His song was in tune with heaven.
But suddenly God said to him: It is enough! Come home!
His song is now perfect, for he sings in heaven! Amen.