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Pilgrimage: Spiritual Background and Meaning

Christ is journeying towards us. A pilgrimage is a symbol in action, an essential part of life and living. It represents the journey of the Christian life from earth to heaven. The image of walking is frequently used by the saints. Walking involves an image of the Church on pilgrimage, a metaphor for life. During the glory of European civilization, medieval pilgrimages were very popular. It was not like going on an ordinary holiday. Pilgrimages often took years. Divine warning preceded, but was unheeded.

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As a consequence, multitudes were consumed by affliction. When Israel repented and turned to their God, they saw and experienced that the God of Israel possessed Divine power, and in mercy exercised it on behalf of His people.

Life is a Pilgrimage — So Embrace the Journey | Carl McColman

Triumphs and victories were multiplied unto them. Would a Christian know how it will go with him in the world? For a little time sorrow, and again for a little time joy. Sorrow, when they feel bereft of Him and His gracious presence, joy, when they rest assured that He is with them. What prospects Christians have in this world with Christ as their leader, He has made abundantly clear by a multitude of unmistakable and faithful declarations. In his pilgrimage, then, the Christian will not lack any good thing. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. See also John, Chapter He calls them to a more glorious heritance than that to which the Israelites attained.

The pilgrimage of Israel was drawing to a close. We think of them now as encamped for the last time on the plains of Moab. When they strike their tents again, it will be to march toward the Jordan to enter the Promised Land.


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As we see them in their present position, we regard them as an illustration of the Christian approaching the end of his earthly pilgrimage. The Christian as he draws near to the end of his pilgrimage is cheered by delightful prospects. From the present encampment the Israelites could behold the land promised to their fathers.

They looked forward to rest from their toils and wanderings. The Christian nearing home anticipates rest from sin and sorrow, from toils and trials, from doubt and dread.

Ere long he shall rest from his labors. For a long, long time the noblest of the Israelites had been animated by the hope of the possession of Canaan. Now the hope is on the point of fulfillment. As he nears the end of his pilgrimage, the realization of this precious hope comes into clear and ever clearer view. Now most brilliant and blessed are his prospects. Again, as the Christian draws near to the end of his pilgrimage, he realizes also the great need of preparation for the new state into which he is about to enter.


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In the last encampment, the Israelites realized that much preparatory work had to be done before they could advance to the crossing of the Jordan and to the possession of Canaan. This preparatory work is narrated in the last eleven chapters of the Book of Numbers and the Book of Deuteronomy. Moses completed his work as legislator for them, gave them directions as to the conquest and division of the land, and took great pains to guard them against apostasy, to confirm them in their covenant relation to God, and to strengthen their loyalty to Him.

Finally came the repetition of the Law in three addresses to the people who had been born in the wilderness, and had not heard the original promulgation of the Law; the appointment of Joshua as his successor; his Song and final blessing.

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To Joshua was now entrusted the task of settling the people of the Lord in the Land of Promise. How much had to be done in a short time! And so, as the Christian approaches the end of his earthly career, the progress of his preparation for heaven is often manifest and marked. How busy he will be to set his house in order, to prepare for his departure! His increasing meetness for his inheritance may be observed in the beautiful ripening of his character. Finally, the Christian as he draws near to the end of his pilgrimage is still subjected to trials and difficulties.

While encamped in Moab, and before entering the Promised Land, Israel experienced perilous temptations, painful separations, and dreadful difficulties. Perilous temptations. Israel was subjected to perilous temptations, arising from their association with idolatrous peoples and practices, to which many of them yielded.

The Christian, likewise is sorely tempted and tried by the multifarious idolatry of the world, even while having the heavenly Canaan within his view. Painful separations.

Their great liberator and leader, Moses, died there in the land of Moab, and Israel wept for him thirty days. May we not think that other Israelites also were summoned, causing painful separations? So the Christian pilgrim before he ends his earthly course often experiences painful separations. The dear partner of his life, and perhaps several dear children, are summoned home before him, leaving him to finish his pilgrimage alone in weariness and sorrow.

The end of the pilgrimage always involves separations, and very often trying ones.

The Christian Life as Pilgrimage

Dreadful difficulties. Jordan had to be crossed before the Israelites could enter Canaan. But such is not its character to the Christian. With that prototype as the background, this paper has been prepared under the following headings: 1. The Beginning. The Way. The Leader. The End. The Beginning Everything earthly must have a beginning, without which nothing would be.

He will not break The word He spake. He will not leave us, nor forsake, Nor take His Spirit from us. The Prospects of the Christian Pilgrim How the souls of the Israelites must have been stimulated to endure the trials and privations of the desert life through which they passed by the thought of reaching the Land of Promise, Canaan. Chart and compass come from Thee: Jesus, Savior, pilot me. So it was then, so it is now, and ever will be.

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