“Listen, O daughter. Consider and incline your ear; forget your own people also and your father’s house. So the King will greatly desire your beauty; because he is your Lord, worship him.” – Psalm 45:10-11*
God told Abraham to leave his country, family, and father’s house for “a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). Abraham and his wife Sarah obeyed, leaving Ur forever in order to travel to Canaan, the land of promise (12:5).
Sixty-five years later, Abraham’s servant went to Mesopotamia to find a wife for his master’s son Isaac (Genesis 24:10). He providentially found one in Rebekah the day he arrived (24:26-27). Not willing to depart with her the next day, her family asked if she was willing to leave home forever and go with this servant (24:58). Rebekah replied, “I will go” (24:58).
Returning to Israel after the deaths of her husband and two sons, Naomi told her daughter-in-law Ruth to go back to Moab (Ruth 1:15). Orpah had already departed (1:14-15). But Ruth replied, “Wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried” (1:16).
When Jesus asked his disciples to “follow me,” they obeyed immediately as they left their parents and livelihoods (Matthew 4:18-22, 9:9, 19:27). The apostle Paul later left the once-safe Jerusalem to preach the gospel on four missionary trips.
These people left homes, families, livelihoods, and nations forever in order to obey God. Their stories are prophetic of the relationship between Jesus Christ and his bride the church. Jesus dwells in heaven and where he is, we’re home (John 14:2-3). By faith, we desire a “heavenly country” rather than an earthly one (Hebrews 11:16). We wait for the New Jerusalem, “whose builder and maker is God” (11:10). Our natural homes and families no longer have a stranglehold on our hearts, so we declare ourselves “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (11:13).
We are called to be crucified with Christ, to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24, Galatians 2:20). This dying is really leaving, walking away from what we know in order to follow Christ into the unknown. Such “leaving” is always spiritual. However, sometimes it is also physical. God has asked many people since Bible times to leave their homes, families, and livelihoods to preach the gospel somewhere else. Some obeyed, some didn’t. After Jesus said he was the bread of life, many disciples “went back and walked with him no more” (John 6:66).
Few Christians today are willing to leave their homes and families for the gospel. Even fewer are willing to leave earth for heaven. They’re too comfortable here. The best example is sports. We like to support home and alma mater teams in local, regional, state, and national games. We also support home nations in the Olympics. I’ve lived in many places, so sports partisanship means nothing to me now. I care only about ethics. This isn’t true of some Christians. If Jesus asked them to preach the gospel to or stand with Christians on a rival team, they might say “no” and walk away. A Facebook friend once captioned a family image, “Train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6). Instead of reading the Bible, her children displayed NFL team shirts.
The bride of Christ consists of “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” (Revelation 7:9). Will we stop the worldly partisanship and support “Team Jesus”? Will we die to ourselves and cling to the family of God? Will we leave our natural homes and families for the sake of the gospel as we look forward to “the marriage supper of the Lamb” in heaven (19:9)? Will we “go into all the world” when Jesus asks us to (Mark 16:15)? Or will we walk away?
Jesus will test our devotion to him. Soon, the geo-political world that we know will no longer exist. In preparation for the anti-Christ, world leaders will redraw the maps. Jesus will make this earth too hot to handle. Only then will some Christians let it go and look upward for their redemption (Luke 21:28).
In “Fiddler on the Roof” (1971), Tevye asks his daughter Hodel how she can leave her home and family in order to follow her husband Perchik to a prison camp in Siberia. Hodel tells her father, “Oh, what a melancholy choice this is, wanting home, wanting him. Closing my heart to every hope but his, leaving the home I love. There where my heart has settled long ago, I must go, I must go. Who could imagine I’d be wandering so far from the home I love. Yet there with my love, I’m home.”
Can we say this of Jesus, our heavenly Bridegroom? He is returning to earth for such a bride.
Going home, I’m going home.
There is nothing to hold me here.
I’ve caught a glimpse of that heavenly land
Praise God, I am going home.
– “Going Home” (Bill and Gloria Gaither)
* All Scripture verses are NKJV, unless otherwise noted.