Hear the parable of the pilgrim.
Down the path walks a lonely traveler. He is a pilgrim and stranger in the country through which he sojourns. He is not a citizen there. He was not born there and does not have family there; he does not know the language and is ignorant of the customs. His citizenship lies in a distant city. There he is comfortable. There he has family. There is home.
And that is where he is heading. The reason why he walks the lonely road is to reach his final resting place at home.
But between where he stands now and his final destination is a long, difficult path. The way he must walk runs through a waste-howling wilderness, a dry and thirsty land where no water is. High above the sun beats down with unbearable heat. The wind blows across the barren landscape throwing dust in the eyes of any passerby. The path winds through treacherous, uneven terrain, down into deep ravines and up steep cliffs. Lurking along the path are ravenous wolves, roaring lions, and subtle serpents. Thieves wait in ambush.
The pilgrim is acquainted with all this. He is keenly aware of the difficulties of his present course. But he also knows that this is the only way that leads home. And so he puts one foot in front of the other.
But walking this path is taxing. At the end of each day, the pilgrim is worn out. By nightfall he is ready to fall over, and yet the fear of attack in the night makes him sleep restlessly so that he rises early the next morning to continue on his way. After a few days of this, he is spent.
And then, after six days of toil and struggle, he comes to an oasis. He can hardly believe his eyes! Is it a mirage? Has the heat gone to his head? No, it is real! He falls to his knees on a carpet of rich, green grass. He drinks deeply out of a quiet stream. He eats his fill of the bountiful fruits. He washes himself of the dust and filth in a pool of refreshing water. He stretches his weary frame under the shade of a large tree. He sleeps peacefully without fear of predators and enemies. In that oasis, he rests.
When he awakes from his slumber the next day, he finds that he is refreshed and reinvigorated. He is ready to continue on his journey, ready to walk the difficult way, ready to do battle with the enemies. He fills his bag with food and his bottle with water, laces up his sandals, takes his staff in hand, and continues on.
In the strength that he received at the oasis, the pilgrim is able to go on for another week. At the end of that week he is again tired and worn. But again he comes to an oasis. And in that oasis, he rests, is refreshed, and strengthened to go on for another week.
On and on he travels, from one oasis to another, until at last he stands before the gates over which is written the name of his city: “The Better Country.”
He is home.
This is the parable of the pilgrim, but what of the meaning?
The pilgrim is the child of God (Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 1:1; 2:11). The waste-howling wilderness is his life in the midst of a fallen, sin-cursed world (Deut. 32:10; Ps. 63:1). The home to which he travels is heaven (Heb. 11:14-16).
And what of the oasis?
The oasis is the Sabbath day, set apart by God and filled with the precious blessing of rest, rest that is a foretaste of the everlasting Sabbath, rest that is enjoyed only in the way of keeping this day holy.
Are you weary, pilgrim?
Despise not the day of rest!
This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa.