“Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God: for the day of the Lord is at hand: for the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests.” Zephaniah 1:7 KJV
“So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.” Matthew 22:10 KJV
Many of you have traveled, taken vacations, stayed in hotels, gone on a cruise, slept on trains, roamed the country in your RVs, and been away from your home for extended periods of time over the years. But, I think the most difficult thing is to be an overnight guest in someone else’s house!
Feelings and concerns come up because we’re the outsider in another’s territory and domain. We’re living in someone else’s world. In another’s space.
Just recently, I hopped on a plane in Florida by myself to visit with my sister in New York City for a week. Though I’m originally from New Jersey, so I’ve only spent day trips in the City over the years.
Everything I experienced on this trip was technically new to me. When I compared the two locations, nothing was the same. Nothing!
House in Florida vs. Co-op in the City. Palm trees, golf courses, and blue water vs. tall buildings, small cafés, and beautiful architecture. Sunshine vs. rain. Quiet single-family homes vs. crowded city streets. Driving vs. riding taxis, subways, and buses. Early birds vs. night owls. Peaceful silence vs. hectic, lively clamor. Lush landscapes, beautiful horizons, and awesome sunsets vs. Broadway’s glittering lights, the harbor’s spectacular skyline, and the City’s cultural aspects. A different world. Different sounds, different flavors, different noises, different feelings.
When we’re guests, everything we do takes longer. We don’t know where anything is and we don’t know the routine of the house. We’re not self-assured, because we’re off our schedule, even if it’s a laid-back one. We can’t find a thing, because nothing’s in its usual place. We carried some of our essential shampoo and bathroom stuff with us, but we have no room to lay it out properly; or time to organize it.
We don’t live here; we’re just visiting, so we don’t feel completely comfortable. We seem to tiptoe around trying to accommodate others and their schedules. While we can have a wonderful time, we don’t know our way around, so we need constant assistance. It’s disorienting and frustrating.
The majority of our belongings are at home…often we only have our traveling gear with us. It’s sufficient for the trip, but we long to have all our treasures. But those things are back home.
Since it’s not our home, we don’t have any of our normal responsibilities or chores. We try to help, but we don’t know how things work; we don’t know where things go, or where anything is located. We’re afraid we’ll mess up something, or break something. Perhaps we’ll let the family dog out when he’s supposed to stay in, or let the kitty cat in when she’s supposed to be out. We’d rather just leave the chores to the homeowner…we’ll be going back to our own home shortly anyway. It’s annoying to both of us to have to keep asking about everything.
Sometimes, we’re afraid to venture out of the house. Often, we don’t understand the language, or the subtle nuances of this place we’re visiting, so communication is very difficult. We look at the architecture, scenery, and people, in a new way, which is different from the way our host views them. We’ll hear sounds, smell fragrances, and see sights they don’t notice anymore. On the other hand, we don’t always see pitfalls, hazards, or things to avoid that a resident or local would see quickly. Traffic patterns, road signs, rules, and regulations may all be drastically new to us. We may react too slowly; or we may overreact. We’re naive…we’re unaccustomed to the area.
It would take longer than our visit to become used to our surroundings. We’re not living here, so we depend on the one who invited us for wisdom. To show us the ropes. Give us a crash course in living at their house, in their neighborhood, in their city, their state, their country, their world.
When we’re visiting, we have lots of downtime on our hands. So our host or hostess has planned all sorts of fun stuff for us to do, like tourists. Though we bond with new people and we’re willing to try new things; often, we feel compelled to tell them things like: “At my house, we eat at 5pm”, or “When I’m home, I go to bed at 10 pm.” Or, “I’ve never eaten Sushi before!” We feel we should justify ourselves, as if we’re only doing these unusual things because we’re visiting…we’re not at home!
We tend to eat improperly and develop stomach issues, because we’re “away!!” We don’t usually follow our exercise routine either, whether we’re on vacation or on a business trip, we’re away from home! Our stay here can be exhausting…we’re weary, but we can’t stop, we might miss something! We’re only here for a short time, so we’ve got to keep going to get in all the sights.
At each new sight, we’re thrilled and amazed with what we see, but cautious at the same time. It’s all different and thrilling, but we’re not sure we could “live with it!” Perhaps it’s too quiet, or too loud; too much activity, or too little. Too unlike home. We like it here, but we’re not sure we’d want to live here. It’s not our home! We may purchase a few souvenirs, (we want our memories) but we’re lonely for our “stuff,” our house, our neighborhood, our city, our state, our country, our world.
And especially, our loved ones. Our way of doing things. Our pace. Our lifestyle. This stuff and this place were created for our host. We want to go back to the place that was created for us by us. Our hearts are there.
When the visit is over, we can’t wait to get home!!
Church, this is how we’ll feel when our visit to Earth is over! It was great, but our home is in Heaven. This world is not our home…we’re guests here. It feels strange, we feel like foreigners. We’re just traveling through. Like nomads. “Our bodies are like tents that we live in here on earth. But when these tents are destroyed, we know that God will give each of us a place to live. These homes will not be buildings that someone has made, but they are in heaven and will last forever. While we are here on earth, we sigh because we want to live in that heavenly home.” (2 Cor. 5:1 &2, CEV)
Church, are you sighing? Are you waiting? Are you cherishing our blessed hope? Are you ready? Are those around you ready, too?
The Message words it this way “…When the time comes we’ll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming.” 2 Cor. 5
Since this world is not our home. We’re uncomfortable here.
John 17:15 & 16 (CEV) says, “Father, I don’t ask you to take my followers out of this world, but keep them safe from the evil one. They don’t belong to this world…”
We’re outsiders in another’s territory and domain. It would take longer than our stay on Earth was meant to be, for us to become used to our surroundings. We must depend on Jesus for wisdom, since He has overcome the world. We must keep asking Him to show us around. We’re dependent on His direction. Without Him, we’re lost in a strange place. It’s okay for us to ask, because we’re just guests. We aren’t expected to know our way around this place.
“Don’t love the world or anything that belongs to the world. If you love the world, you cannot love the Father.” 1 John 2:15 (CEV)
The Scripture says in 1 Tim. 6:7 (CEV), “We didn’t bring anything into this world, and we won’t take anything with us when we leave.” No souvenirs. Nothing lasts forever here. God’s prepared a place for us. Heaven is a better place. We’ll see Jesus there. We long to go home. The home He created for us.
1 Peter 2:11 (CEV) says, “Dear friends, you are foreigners and strangers on this earth. So I beg you not to surrender to these desires that fight against you.”
1 Cor. 29:15 says, “We are only foreigners living here on earth for a while, just as our ancestors were. And we will soon be gone, like a shadow that suddenly disappears.” In Lev. 25:23 (CEV) God says, “…It all belongs to me—it isn’t your land and you only live there for a little while.”
Psalm 39:12 (CEV) says, “Listen, Lord, to my prayer! My eyes are flooded with tears, as I pray to you. I am merely a stranger visiting in your home as my ancestor’s did.” Psalms 119:19 (CEV) says, “ I live here as a stranger. Don’t keep me from knowing your commands.”
The Bible teaches in Hebrews 11:13-16 (CEV), “Every one of those people died. But they still had faith, even though they had not received what they had been promised. They were glad just to see these things from far away, and they agreed that they were only strangers and foreigners on this earth. When people talk this way, it is clear that they are looking for a place to call their own. If they had been talking about the land where they had once lived, they could have gone back at any time. But they were looking forward to a better home in heaven. That’s why God wasn’t ashamed for them to call him their God. He even built a city for them.”
God’s built us a city.
John 17:25 (CEV) says, “Good Father, the people of this world don’t know you…”
1 John 5:4 in the Message says, “Every God-begotten person conquers the world’s ways. The conquering power that brings the world to its knees is our faith. The person who wins over the world’s ways is simply the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God.”
“On this earth, we don’t have a city that lasts forever, but we are waiting for such a city.” Hebrews 13:14 (CEV)
We desire Heaven while walking on this earth, because our hearts are there. We’ve laid up treasure there. Too many earthly treasures here will weigh us down. We’ve packed up eternal treasures and sent them to our new home in Heaven, so only our traveling clothes are needed for now. In a little while, God will call us home, until then, our tents are good enough.
Rise above the earth. Come up, live higher. We’re kings and priests; meant to live in the spiritual realm. Bring another guest with you to the wedding feast. Go out and compel them to come in. See the world from God’s perspective: We’re the outsiders in someone else’s territory and domain. As C.S. Lewis put it, Christians on the earth live in “enemy occupied territory.” Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1943), 36.
In New York City, I got homesick for the sunshine. As Christians, we get homesick for the Son, too. Anxious to get home.
While we’re here, we must tell others about the Heavenly home waiting for us. We must make sure others are going home with us. Don’t get too comfortable here, we’re only guests.