“And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of my years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage” (Gen. 47:9).
The word here translated “pilgrimage” is from a term meaning to sojourn. It denotes that there are things about life that are kept in proper perspective. A pilgrimage involves a beginning and an ending destination in a place that is not home. Consider three thoughts about this pilgrim life.
Each Day is a Step. Jacob spoke of “the days of the years of my pilgrimage” and “the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage” (Gen. 47:9). Hence, each day in a life is a step on this pilgrim journey. The Bible often uses the metaphor of walking to describe living one’s life. It is written in the Psalms, “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord” (Ps. 119:1). Paul wrote, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Eph. 4:1). John wrote, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). As each step leads to the end of the journey then each day leads to the end of the pilgrimage.
Every Difficulty is viewed with the End in Mind. Jacob continued to say, “few and evil have the days of my years of my life been” (Gen. 47:9). Truly, the faithful know that the path of their life is described as “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:14). Peter wrote to Christians who were suffering for righteousness’ sake, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12). Paul wrote of the Christian walk, “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)” (2 Cor. 5:6-7). The end of the pilgrimage makes all the struggle worth it.
Eternal Destination for the Faithful is Heaven. While there are thousands of people who have walked earthly pilgrimages to specific geographical locations, there is but one destination for the pilgrimage of the faithful. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb. 11:13). This point closes with the words, “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:16). This life is temporary like a pilgrimage and leads to the great resting place of the soul: heaven. Being strangers and pilgrims here leads the faithful to long to be in that eternal rest (cf. Heb. 4:9, 11).
“And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).
Jesus showed here by using the scriptures from Moses on down through the history of the prophets that there were inspired statements that foretold of his coming and his work. When one begins reading the Bible starting at Moses (as people often start in Genesis in the New Year to read the Bible through in a year) he finds that there are some fundamental things to be seen as background material to an entire year’s reading of the Bible. Consider three things found to be important from the book of Genesis.
Material World’s Origin. Genesis chapters one and two give answer to some basis questions that men ask. Some of these questions are “Where did the universe come from?”, “What is the place of mankind in the world?”, etc. The very first passage addresses the questions of time, cause, force, space and matter. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). The first three days give the habitations for the next three days created objects. The mind of intelligence is clearly at work here. It is stated in the Psalms, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. He gathered the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” (Ps. 33:6-9). All of nature seen through special revelation of the Bible declares the glory of God (cf. Ps. 19).
Man’s Free Moral Agency. The nature of man is clearly declared in the book of Genesis. Mankind is made in the image of God (cf. Gen. 1:26-27). The dual nature of man is clearly manifested in that the body was formed from the dust and became a living being (cf. Gen. 2:9). Jesus gave testimony to the dual nature of man when he said, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). God also gave man the right to choose his own course of living. Moses also wrote concerning man, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:16-17). The sovereignty of God did not mean that man had to choose the will of God. Man is given the power to choose. God’s love and the loyalty to him would not be forced.
Manifestation of the Problem of Sin. The third chapter of Genesis shows how sin came into the world. “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Gen. 3:1). Here is the agency of Satan deceiving the woman to entice her to eat what was forbidden (cf. Gen. 3:2-6). Sin truly comes as James wrote, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14-15). The record of Genesis shows those words to be historically true. Genesis is fundamental to Bible study.
“And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. . . . And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city” (Gen. 11:1, 6-8).
The divine record of the confusing of the languages due to the purpose of building a city and a tower for making “a name” (Gen. 11:4) for themselves shows some interesting details about the power of a common language. The principles of this power can be seen in the importance of knowing the word of God and the blessings from it. Consider three principles of this power.
The Power of Understanding. The text specifically states concerning the confounding of the languages that its purpose was that “they may not understand one another’s speech” (Gen. 11:7). Understanding is an essential product of a common language. If one cannot understand what another is saying, then confusion arises and no edification. Moses wrote concerning the curses that would befall the nation if it disobeyed the Lord, “The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand;” (Deut. 28:49). The nation of Israel would be held captive by more than the power of military might. They would be held captive by the power of a lack of understanding of what is being said around them. Anyone who has ever visited a place whose language is not his own native language knows how helpless one becomes if he does not know the language.
The Power of Unity. Having one language and one speech (cf. Gen. 11:1) was a means toward the unity of the people. Moses wrote of the Lord’s word, “Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language” (Gen. 11:6). Unity was achieved from understanding and conforming to that understanding. Consider the words of Paul about unity. “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). While Paul is not specifically addressing a common language like Greek, English, etc., he is addressing the importance of a common communication that produces and maintains unity. Hence, the principle of holding to division of teachings can never produce a unity of people.
The Power of Utility. A common language was a tool that made useful the activities of men. Moses again wrote, “this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (Gen. 11:6). Clear communication produces a utilitarian effect. Consider how frustrating it is when a project is hindered by poor or ineffective communication. The construction of the city and tower ended with the scattering of the people to regions where they would hold to their own language. The miraculous power of speaking in the different tongues or languages brought about the understanding and unity of converts (cf. Acts 2:8-41). All languages become spirituality useful when in the one faith (cf. Eph. 4:5).