I am a sojourner on the earth;
hide not your commandments from me!
Psalm 119:19 ESV
Having already referred to himself as God’s servant, the psalmist now calls himself a sojourner. In the ancient world, a sojourner was quite different from being a modern-day tourist. Today, we are able to go to the other side of the globe for only a week or two before returning back to our ordinary lives. For the ancients, however, long-distance travel also meant a lengthy time away from home, and being in a foreign land meant relying upon the hospitality of strangers. Sojourning a foreign land was serious and often risky endeavor. Yet notice the land of the psalmist’s sojourning: the earth. For the psalmist, even his home country is foreign to him because he does not belong to this world. His heart and his portion are in the kingdom of God. He longs for the treasure that thieves cannot steal and that moths cannot devour. He desires the presence of His God. Yet he is here, on earth and with a fallen, sin-marred body.
This ought to be the heart of each of God’s children. We are sojourners upon this earth because we raised to life “in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). We belong to another world, for in Christ we are new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). This fact is what makes worldliness such a danger to the life of a Christian. Making this world into our home is a rejection of our heavenly one. Peter warns us of this very thing: “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11). In Ephesians 2:2-3, Paul links together “the course of this world,” “the prince of the power of the air,” and “the passions of our flesh.” Both Satan without and our fleshly desires within scream for us to make ourselves comfortable here, to chase after this world’s pleasures. They plea for us to exchange the real for its cheap imitation.
The psalmist, sojourner that he is, sets his gaze upon God’s heavenly revelation to humanity: His Word. God’s commandments are a taste given to His people of their everlasting home. Like a soldier in a foreign field clings to his wife’s photo, we likewise should treasure and cherish God’s law. To have His commandments hidden from us is like being long in another land without any token of home nor of the way home. With the abundance of access to God’s Word that we have today, let us hear the psalmist’s homesick desperation for God’s commandments, and may we pray for a deepened love for Scripture and our eternal life in Christ.