Deal bountifully with your servant,
Open my eyes, that I may behold
I am a sojourner on the earth;
My soul is consumed with longing
You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones,
Take away from me scorn and contempt,
Even though princes sit plotting against me,
Your testimonies are my delight;
the are my counselors.
Our focus from now through this fall will be Psalm 119. We will follow the journey and posture of the psalmist as he wrote this prayer acrostic using the Hebrew alphabet. The psalmist is transparent and authentic. He knows his God – from the written Word, which has led him into relationship with Him. He knows his world. He knows his sin. He knows pain, brokenness, and struggle in life – and he talks about it. He knows doubt and questions and he lays them bare before God and his readers.
Today we are going to focus on a biblical concept mentioned in verse 19 – the fact that we are sojourners on the earth. Although not a simple spiritual concept, the definition of sojourner is simply, “an alien in a foreign land”.
We are sojourners
The writer of our text says, “I am a sojourner on the earth”. This is not just a personal note of his geographical state – it is a universal truth about God’s people since the beginning of time. Consider this:
- Adam and Eve were put out of the garden that was created for them into a land that they were never designed to live in. They were sent into a world that was shattered and broken by sin – not the way that it was created.
- In Genesis 15:13 God told Abram that his offspring would be sojourners – slaves for 400 years.
- In Exodus God’s people were sojourners wandering through the wilderness for 40 years.
- In Deuteronomy 10:19 and Leviticus 19:34, God told His people to love the sojourner because they were once sojourners in Egypt. It states that God loves the sojourner.
- In the New Testament, God’s people continued to be considered sojourners. 1 Peter is addressed to “elect exiles”. Peter further develops this thought in 1 Peter 2:9-13.
- All followers of Jesus Christ – both early first century and modern day- are biblically considered sojourners.
This is not your home! You may own properties and possess deeds to houses here , but you are not home. The psalmist experienced what the Hebrew patriarchs knew (Hebrews 11) – that to live on this earth is to be separated from God who is our home. We want to be where He is – and know Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12).
When you grasp the truth of being a sojourner, it will:
- shape your life.
- make you understand your life and this world.
- show you how to live.
- give you direction.
- give you purpose.
There are two temptations regarding this truth about being a sojourner:
Reject the idea. I will make the here and now my home. This is the fullness of my existence. I will make choices to make this life as comfortable and pleasurable as possible.
Escapism. You may distort this and try to merely hang on until you can finally leave this world. You can begin to see that life is no more than evils, trials, and storms and conclude that we simply have to endure in order to escape. You are so fixed on getting out of here that you don’t spend time, energy, money, or love on bringing renewal to this world. A sojourner is not someone who says, “I can’t wait to get out of here!” but rather says, “I can’t wait to be with God”.
This is not your home, but it is God’s world that He loves and He is making all things new. He has sent you, us, His Church into this world as light, salt, and reflections of His glory. He has sent you into your neighborhood, school, and vocation to reflect His hope! If you are not active in bringing renewal and blessing others, then you don’t understand what your job as a sojourner is – you don’t know why you are here.
Being a sojourner is not easy
In verses 22-23, the psalmist states that he is experiencing scorn, contempt, and powerful people plotting against him. He is crying out to God because it is hard to be a sojourner.
This scorn, contempt, and plotting are the experiences and reality of the psalmist. The earth is not his home and he is so aware of it. We should expect scorn and persecution – a taunting of the enemy. Our culture will scorn us because we do not value what they value. They may hold us in contempt and see us as dumb, simple minded, and archaic. They may see our rhythms as a waste of time. They may hate our concern for justice, life, and family and wish that we would simply mind our own business. They may hate these things about us and hold us in contempt – plotting hostile action against us – and actually feel that we are what is wrong with society. Let’s hear Jesus on this topic: John 15:18-21.
It is a blessing to be a sojourner
There is more to this passage than simply the fact that you are a sojourner and it won’t be easy. This text has more to do with how blessed we are to be a sojourner – a follower of God. The psalmist prays that God would take away the scorn, contempt, and plotting. However, His conclusion and declaration is that he is growing in a clear and passionate understanding and love. He is saying, “your grace is blessing me now!” (verses 22-24).
Look at the progression of thought in our text:
- Prayer, communication, relationship – verse 17
- Open my eyes to better understand the world, myself, and you – verse 18
- I understand my weakness and tendency to wander and sin – verse 21 and 10
- I resolve to meditate on your Word and your ways – verse 23b
- I have a confidence – as a sojourner – that there is something better both now (I experience delight right now) and coming – verse 24
The psalmist’s life is not defined by his hardships; it is defined by what he knows about God through His Word and relationship with Him. His life is good because God has loved him first and sought him. The sojourner praises God because he knows! There is delight, joy, happiness, growth, and relationship right now for the sojourner.
We are sojourners!
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing to discuss the implications of the message.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Psalm 119:17-24
How does our culture tend to view foreigners/sojourners/aliens?
As you consider the likely place of the Psalmist (in exile as a foreigner), ponder for a moment what life as an exile would be like.
In what ways have you either made this world (mainly its systems) your home or developed an escapist mindset toward your life?
Why do we tend to define some people by their hardships? How does the Psalmist war against this primary identity? How do you find yourself defined by your hardship and how does the Gospel give you a new identity?