Joseph Herrin (05-13-2013)
• to banish (a person) from his or her native country.
• to withdraw (oneself) from residence in one’s native country.
• to withdraw (oneself) from allegiance to one’s country.
You have likely never heard a sermon on the subject of expatriates, nor read a Christian book on the topic. Yet it is one of the most pervasive themes throughout the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. From the moment God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden mankind has experienced displacement from the place that was once his home.
Then Yahweh God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” – therefore Yahweh God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim, and the flaming sword which turned every direction, to guard the way to the tree of life.
Eden was mankind’s first home on the Earth. It was a paradise, perfectly suitable for the first man and woman. Yet, due to sin, a paradisaical existence was no longer optimal for mankind. Men needed to toil, to sweat, and to suffer, in order that they might learn obedience and be taught righteousness.
As sin increased, men were driven further from their Edenic origin. Toil increased, and a life of ease and comfort were further withdrawn. After Adam and Eve were driven out of Eden, their son Cain murdered his brother. As a result Cain was driven further into exile from mankind’s original home.
You shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth [in perpetual exile, a degraded outcast]. Then Cain said to the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, You have driven me out this day from the face of the land, and from Your face I will be hidden; and I will be a fugitive and a vagabond and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me. And the Lord said to him, “Therefore, if anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord set a mark or sign upon Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him. So Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod [wandering], east of Eden.
The concept of being a wanderer on the earth is closely connected to the theme of being an expatriate. Throughout the Scriptures, those who were driven from their homes, or directed to leave their homes by God, became wanderers. Many of them lived in tents, having no permanent place in this earth. When Cain was driven out from the vicinity of Eden, he became a wanderer. Many English Bibles state that “Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod.” This is a poor translation, however. The word “Nod” means “wandering.” Young’s Literal translation of the Bible provides a more accurate interpretation.
And Cain goeth out from before Jehovah, and dwelleth in the land, moving about east of Eden.
[Young’s Literal Translation]
Being an expatriate and a wanderer is not just a life appointed to those who sin flagrantly against the will of Yahweh. Eight chapters after the account of Cain’s expatriation we read of the first example of expatriation as obedience.
Now Yahweh said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you… So Abram went forth as Yahweh had spoken to him… And Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan.
Abraham did not settle in the land of Canaan. He built no house there, and the only land he purchased was for use as a burial ground. Abraham was a wanderer over the face of the earth. Abraham described his experience in the following manner.
And it came about, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house…
So pervasive is the experience of leaving one’s home and wandering the earth among the saints of both Old and New Testaments, that finding godly men and women who settled in one place becomes the exception, rather than the norm. The book of Genesis closes with the story of Joseph. It is the longest single story in this opening book of Scripture. Joseph’s preparation for promotion began at the age of seventeen when his father sent him away from his home to go find his brothers who were tending their father’s sheep.
And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock in Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “I will go.” Then he said to him, “Go now and see about the welfare of your brothers and the welfare of the flock; and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron…
A jewel of revelation is uncovered when one looks at the meaning of the name “Hebron.” Hebron means “place of association.” Joseph dwelt with his father Israel in Hebron. Joseph was the favorite son of his father, and his father delighted to keep Joseph nearby. Yet a time came when Israel sent Joseph away. Israel did not know that it would be twenty-two years before he would see his son again. For twenty-two years Joseph lived the life of an expatriate. He lived in a foreign land, among a foreign people, who spoke a strange tongue.
A common denominator among those who are expatriates in the Bible is that they experience more trials, and greater hardship, than those who remain at home enjoying the comforts that settled living affords. Joseph was sold as a slave, and later was falsely accused and imprisoned. The first thirteen years of his experience in Egypt were sorrowful, yet they were crucial for his development as a son whom Yahweh could elevate to a position of honor.
The second book of the Bible brings us the story of Moses. Moses, although a Hebrew, was raised as an Egyptian, in the home of Pharaoh’s daughter. Egypt became home for Moses until the age of forty. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, describes Moses’ life in the following manner:
And it was at this time that Moses was born; and he was lovely in the sight of God; and he was nurtured three months in his father’s home. And after he had been exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter took him away, and nurtured him as her own son. And Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds.
Moses, like Joseph, was appointed for great purposes. Because of this, he too needed to be formed and fashioned to bear the power and authority Yahweh determined for him. At the age of forty Moses had to flee Egypt. He fled across the wilderness to the land of Midian where he dwelt as an alien and stranger for the next forty years of his life.
Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came to draw water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. Then the shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock. When they came to Reuel their father, he said, “Why have you come back so soon today?” So they said, “An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds; and what is more, he even drew the water for us and watered the flock.” And he said to his daughters, “Where is he then? Why is it that you have left the man behind? Invite him to have something to eat.”Then Moses was content to live with the man, and he gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses. And she bore him a son. He called his name Gershom (Geershom), for he said, “I have been a stranger (geer) in a foreign land.”
So influential was this experience of living in exile to Moses, that he named his firstborn son to bear testimony of his expatriation.
Gershom: from 1644 (garash) a primitive root; to drive out from a possession; especially to expatriate or divorce.
[Source: Strong’s Concordance]
At the end of forty years of living the life of a stranger in the wilderness of Midian, Yahweh appointed Moses to lead the entire nation of Israel to a similar experience. Instead of individuals being expatriated, and wandering about as strangers in a foreign land, we see an entire nation of people being called of God to partake of this way of life. For forty years the children of Israel numbering 600,000 men, besides women and children, experienced a life of wandering in foreign lands. They lived in tents, having no permanent place in the earth. These experiences were necessary to prepare them for the high calling Yahweh had appointed to them. Israel was to be a holy people, Yahweh’s representatives upon the earth, entrusted with the oracles of God.
This experience of leaving one’s homeland, and laying aside any permanent possession in the earth, living as a stranger among a foreign culture, has been used repeatedly by Yahweh to shape men and women for His holy purposes. We can discern part of the effect that such a life has upon mankind from the following passage of Scripture.
In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end.
Those who yield their lives to be directed by Yahweh; those who lay aside earthly possessions; those who give up homes and lands to go wherever the Spirit of Yahweh would lead them, experience things their fathers did not know. They become far more dependent upon Yahweh. Even their daily bread becomes an object of much concern.
Those who live settled lives can plant crops. They can erect barns. They can store up provision for days of need. Yet, those who wander about, following Yahweh wherever He leads them, are often unable to do the same. Yahweh becomes the source of provision for those who are aliens and strangers in the earth. He provided manna from heaven and water from the rock while the nation of Israel wandered for forty years in the wilderness. In all this time, Yahweh’s provision did not fail.
Those who follow Yahshua as His disciples are instructed to look to the Father for their provision with the same calm assurance as one would have who anticipates that the Sun will rise in the morning. The birds do not plant seed, nor gather crops into barns, yet every day Yahweh feeds them. The flowers of the field do not spin, nor sew, but they are arrayed far better then Solomon in his splendor. Yahshua taught His disciples to maintain a constancy of devotion and trust toward His Father in heaven. He instructed them to pray, “Give us this day, our daily bread.”
This daily dependence upon the Father for basic necessities encourages humility in the hearts of men and women. Knowing that each day a person is dependent upon the Father for the necessities of life is a safeguard against pride and willful sin. The man or woman who walks in daily dependence upon the Father’s care and provision will not easily forget Him. In the book of Proverbs it is recorded:
Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, lest I be full and deny You and say, “Who is Yahweh?” Or lest I be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.
The person who leaves the stability and comfort of their home to follow wherever Yahweh leads them is more conscious of His presence, and their dependence upon Him. Many more examples could be given. I could speak of Jacob, who spent twenty-one years in a foreign land serving his father-in-law Laban; of David who lived as a vagabond and wanderer for many years, pursued by a jealous king, forced to live in caves, and to seek refuge in foreign lands; of Elijah and Elisha, both of whom were wandering prophets, moved about at the impulse of Yahweh; of Judah and Jerusalem, and men like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, who were appointed to endure seventy years in the land of Babylon. Indeed, the life of the alien and stranger were so important in Yahweh’s work among mankind that He instructed Moses to establish laws that would give special consideration to this segment of the population who dwelt among them all their days.
And you shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry…
“You shall not pervert the justice due an alien or an orphan, nor take a widow’s garment in pledge.”
Thus says Yahweh…, “Do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow.”
Why do you suppose Yahweh includes the alien and stranger in the same category as the widow and the orphan? Is it not because all three are vulnerable and must look to God to care for them?
One can live the life of an expatriate, or an alien and stranger in the land, without having to travel to a foreign country. Consider the example of the sons of Jonadab whose testimony is recorded in the book of Jeremiah. Yahweh wanted to demonstrate something to the prophet Jeremiah, so He instructed Jeremiah to invite the men of the family of the Rechabites, the sons of Jonadab, to a room and set wine before them and entreat them to drink.
Then I set before the men of the house of the Rechabites pitchers full of wine, and cups; and I said to them, “Drink wine!” But they said, “We will not drink wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, ‘You shall not drink wine, you or your sons, forever. And you shall not build a house, and you shall not sow seed, and you shall not plant a vineyard or own one; but in tents you shall dwell all your days, that you may live many days in the land where you sojourn.’ And we have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, in all that he commanded us, not to drink wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, or our daughters, nor to build ourselves houses to dwell in; and we do not have vineyard or field or seed. We have only dwelt in tents, and have obeyed, and have done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us.”
How odd the lives of these men and their families must have looked to the other inhabitants of the land! The majority of the Israelites in the land were dwelling in houses. They had fields and vineyards. They lived settled, comfortable lives. This family, however, lived the nomadic life of bedouins. They could have lived like the majority of those around them, but they heeded the counsel of their father who yearned for his descendants to not forsake the ways of Yahweh, nor to forget the One who had brought them into the land. They chose obedience over comfort, the life of a wanderer over conformity to the ways of the people they dwelt among.
Yahweh found delight in this family, and their willingness to live set apart lives unto Him. He declared a blessing upon this family that is recorded only twice in Scripture.
Then Jeremiah said to the house of the Rechabites, “Thus says Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Because you have obeyed the command of Jonadab your father, kept all his commands, and done according to all that he commanded you; therefore thus says Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel, “Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before Me always.”’”
The expatriate experience is not limited to the Old Testament. It is observed throughout the New Testament as well. Yahshua continues to call men and women to leave their homes, their possessions, and their settled way of life, and to follow Him as aliens and strangers in this world. Yahweh continues to call His people to live as aliens and strangers in the midst of a society that is at ease.
I Peter 1:1-2
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit…
I Peter 2:11
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul…
The church expanded and prospered after the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost. It was centered in Jerusalem, and was made up mostly of Jews who lived in and around the city. Yahweh once more chose the expatriate life for His people. He used persecution against the followers of Messiah to scatter the church, sending them across Judea and Samaria and throughout the Roman Empire.
And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
Yahweh continues to mold and fashion sons and daughters for high callings, both in this age and in the ages to come. He uses the same methods, and calls His people to the same type of experiences, that He has always utilized to prepare a remnant for ruling and reigning.
And Peter said, “Behold, we have left our own homes, and followed You.” And [Yahshua] said to them, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.”
And a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Yahshua said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” And another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But Yahshua said to him, “Follow Me; and allow the dead to bury their own dead.”
Yahshua continues to call men and women to leave their fathers and mothers, and to give up homes and lands, that they might follow Him. Those who have read the testimony of my life know that this has been my experience. The Spirit is testifying that this must be the experience of many others who would rule and reign with Christ in the age to come.
Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
That this type of life is rare among those who profess to be Christians today is not due to God having changed the way He molds and shapes sons and daughters, nor is it due to the cost of Christian discipleship being less than it was 2,000 years ago. It can be attributed to the generally low state of spiritual life among God’s people. There are very few who are yielding their lives to the direction of the Spirit of Christ. The vast majority of men and women in the church are choosing the course of their own life. Their soul is leading the way. They refuse to hand over the reins of their life to the Son of God. Yahshua has always given the same invitation:
Then Yahshua said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.”
Yahshua said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
Like Abraham, the father of faith, the invitation is set before the sons and daughters of God today to leave their homes and their comfortable lives to follow the Spirit of God wherever He would lead them. There is a remnant who are answering the call, and more will follow in the coming days. Yet it will ever be a small portion of the body of Christ who accept this invitation.
To set oneself apart from the world, to become an expatriate in spirit, embracing the life of an alien and a stranger in this world, will always lead a person to a greater sense of vulnerability. The security of home, of a familiar culture, of a sense of place in this world, are laid aside and a dependency upon God the Father is embraced. Fears must be overcome. Covetousness, idolatry, a desire to be accepted, and the comfort of belonging someplace, or to some group, must be set aside that one may follow the Spirit of Christ wherever He would lead.
In coming posts I will share the experiences of some who are accepting this call. These ones stand out from the crowd of Christian confessors today. They are following God into experiences that are beyond the normal experience of the comfortable, no-cost, Christianity that is proclaimed in myriads of churches. These ones are seeing the hand of God move in extraordinary ways as He proves His faithfulness to care for those whose hearts are wholly devoted to Him.
II Chronicles 16:9
For the eyes of Yahweh move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.
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