Volume 47 | Number 3 | May–June 2019

Inglés Español

Living in a Strange Land

By Dr. H. T. Spence

Entering this series of articles concerning another prophetic perspective of the End Time, we must carefully acknowledge that the Bible is the only source of infallible Truth for man on this planet. Within this infallible revelation, God has revealed the path we are to tread; He also grants the light to find the path that we are to take. The Bible speaks of the precarious environment in which the Christian finds himself in this present evil world. From this precious book, we gain insight for living, either through principles revealed specifically for our times or patterns that bespeak the spiritual and moral climate of the days. This climate and age in which we live now is the burden of these articles.

The Strange Land

First, we must ask the question, “What is the strange land in which we find ourselves?” In type and shadow, the Bible speaks of three such strange lands. This article will prayerfully present the first two. Both are identified with the life of Moses, who was greatly concerned about being caught within these two lands. Egypt is the first of these strange lands in which Moses found himself. What does Egypt symbolize in the Bible? Before answering this question, we must carefully rehearse the history of how the Lord’s people were found in this land.

Joseph was sold into Egypt as a slave. Not too many years later, Jacob and his family came down into Egypt. Within some thirty years after their entrance (when a Pharaoh arose who knew not Joseph), a spirit of enmity began to be manifested against Jacob’s family. For over four hundred years, the Israelites came under bondage to this new Pharaoh and his successors.

Egypt in Scripture symbolizes the world, the world as a system away from God and opposed to Him. The topography of Egypt is most peculiar. It is comprised of two narrow strips of land that fall on both sides of the Nile River. Without this river, basically Egypt is a wilderness, a desert, a sterile land. Where very little rain falls, the land is in continual conflict between life and death. Its primary health is derived from the Nile River, which bears water and a rich silt as sustenance for the land. Without the overflow of these rich waters, the land would be desolate. Little did the Egyptians appreciate that the richness and nourishment of these waters came from the rains of a very far country (flowing from south to north, finally reaching Egypt).

The Egyptians do not look up for their blessings. They are constantly looking down upon their Nile, their god. Their god is their source of life and blessings. (In fact, it has only been within the past 160 years that men have professed to have finally found the source of the Nile—the feeder rivers of Lake Victoria. Will man ever find the actual source of the Nile?) The Egyptians did not know that the blessings flowing for thousands of miles were coming from a faraway country. From the Egyptians’ perspective, they were independent of the God of heaven; Egypt worshiped her river. The river came to her so constantly that she was practically independent of heaven’s rain (locally), yet heaven was the source of her supplied living (at a far distance).

Egypt worshiped the god of its river. This represents the spiritual state of our nature so far away from God. The world looks to the god of materialism, whose god is Satan. The world believes that all its blessings come from the god of this world. They worship a closed world system devoid of the God from above (truly from Whom all blessings flow).

Egypt was also noted as a powerful civilization. It built monuments and edifices of great magnitude confident they would exist eternally. These edifices testify with equal proportion what they believed about themselves. They believed their leaders could potentially live as long as these edifices existed. Thus, mummification became their hope of immortality, of living eternally, just as their great pyramids would survive the sands of time. But, these bodies did not live; they did not continue to exist. In fact, the erosion of the body came sooner than the erosion of the pyramids. Everything of Egypt is built on the dead. Even their literature (the Book of the Dead) speaks of this legacy. Truly, Egypt was a land that amidst its sterility and barrenness believed it would live forever. It never rose above the death that consumed it.

Egypt: The Commentary of This Fallen World

Our fallen world is Egypt, the land of death, a land dedicated to the monuments of the dead. Death is stamped everywhere throughout the very fabric of the world system. Egypt worshiped the creatures and not the Creator. It deified hundreds of beastly objects (the images of their own lusts) and debased itself in its worship and slavery of these deified objects. (All heathen worship is basically the deification of man’s own lusts and passions.) This hope of deification was the same bait the Devil used in the Garden of Eden promising, “Ye shall be as gods.” Man is ever craving for that which satisfies. Fallen men do not find satisfaction in God, so they look to the world—the world which they have created throughout their civilizations in philosophy, science, anthropology, medicine, etc. What God made in the beginning we now see that sin has warped and twisted, turning it all into what man has now made (even in his ecological “mother nature” promotions). Truly, this land is fallen, sterile, and barren without the belief in God. The world has become a world system of death and depravity.

By the time our lives come on the scene of human history, we are both “born in sin and shapen in iniquity” and into this world system. The system of the world is allied to the principle of sin working within each heart. These two collaborate with one another. My life unconsciously becomes extremely interwoven with the system that this fallen mankind-world has made (through the thousands of years of the outworking of man’s sin from within). So, when we came to Christ, we came not only with our personal sins but also with our lives interwoven with the world system. The world was our life, our philosophy, our thinking. The world was our Egypt to whose river we sought its blessings to satisfy.

We never knew that the little blessings we were receiving in the natural world were coming from the God above and His mercy. Perhaps as children we thought such blessings were coming from our parents, or later, that the blessings were coming from sources like the government. As we grew older, perhaps we thought the benefits of life were coming from our own accomplishments and that which we had personally attained. We failed to ever see that what few blessings we were conscious of came from a far country. Carefully God permits such mercies to filter down through this world system to be a natural blessing, despite the plight of sin’s pervasiveness within the world system.

Egypt: The Environment of Our Birth

“How did the children of Israel get down into Egypt?” Exodus 1:1, “Every man and his household came with Jacob.” We entered this world’s power, lusts, and spiritual bondage through our natural father Adam. As with Jacob, Egypt (symbolically) was not the first land Adam occupied. Adam was first in Eden, where he was free to eat of all but one of the trees of the garden. In violating this one restriction, he had to leave the garden. It was outside the garden of Eden where all of Adam’s children were born—born into the place of bondage with him. Outside the garden was an estranged land from God, the only place man was permitted to live.

By invitation, Jacob came down into Egypt from Canaan at a time when Joseph had been elevated from slavery to his prime leadership. But within thirty years, a Pharaoh arose who knew not Joseph. For the next four hundred years, Joseph’s Egypt became a tyrannical land, a land of a Pharaoh that did not know Joseph, that did not know the God of Joseph, and brought the Israelites into great bondage and captivity, the bondage of death, the bondage of servitude. Thirteen times Egypt in the Old Testament is called “the house of bondage.”

When God found us, we were in Egypt. Note Ephesians 2:2, “Wherein in times past ye walked according to the course of this world [the age, or the segment of time within the world system].” We in sin were part of the world and walked according to the course of this world. We lived by the appetites of this world—by its desires, its enticements, its thinking and persuasion. We believed the land of Egypt was the paradise from which the god of this world fed us, even using the providences of God upon our undeserving lives. The god of this world took the credit for all nourishment and benefits of life we gained, just as the Nile took the credit. Yes, we walked according to Egypt’s god,

according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and [the fleshly desires] of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others (Eph. 2:2, 3).

We were part and parcel of this Egyptian world system. We never looked up. We always looked down (into the world) for the blessings to come, for the overflow of its system for our life. But then Ephesians states that “God, who is rich in mercy . . . hath quickened us together with Christ” (2:4, 5). It was while we were in the plight of not only our sins, but also the plight of our world, that God saved us.

Egypt: Now a Strange Land

Let us then note Galatians 1:3, 4:

Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.

The Christian must view the death of Christ as a twofold death of deliverance. It was not only for our sins that He gave Himself; He gave Himself also that He might deliver us from this present malignant, evil world system. Oh, dear reader, we must realize that Christ’s death for us was not only to save us from the problem of sin (and its great damage in our lives) but also to deliver us from this present evil world system. This world system is not in reference to the world God made, because God’s world is not evil. This system is the world that fallen man has taken from God and (over the years of fallen humanity) has re-created as a world he believes is without the necessity of God.

We live in the world by the world system. We live in the world by the powers of those who have created the world system. Christ died to deliver us from this present evil world. Why is that important? In John 17:15, Christ with great clarity in His prayer to the Father declared, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” What is this evil? The evil which is in the world.

Why is it imperative to be delivered from this present world? Because, once Christ saves us, this world becomes strange to us. Before our glorious New Birth, we were at home in this evil world; we felt comfortable in it; we did its bidding; we lived for its pleasures; we desired and lusted after it. But when Christ saved us, the first thing He did (after the Father forgave us of our sins and reconciled us unto Himself) was the unique miracle of delivering us from this present evil world. The word here for delivered is a word that means “to remove from, to pluck out of its power.”

Is this deliverance possible without our being taken to heaven immediately? It may stagger the mind how much we use the world system: bank accounts, cars, gasoline, money the government has printed, insurance, medicine, groceries, laboring in the work force, etc. Is it possible to exist outside of the world system? I greatly doubt it. However, is there a possibility that God can deliver us out of this present world while at the same time we live for Him within this world system?

When Christ came to this world, He told His disciples, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). These words were uttered before His prayer of John 17. He declared in this preface verse that in the world we will have tribulation, but to be of good cheer (of good courage) for He has overcome the world. Christ paid taxes; Christ partook of food of the world system. Christ entered a temple that was made or reconstructed through the mind of an Idumean called Herod. So, what does this truth mean? How can the Christian live in the land of Egypt, but not be of it?

Once we become a Christian, things must radically change. We cannot live the way we used to live; we cannot live according to this world with the Christian heart we have. Since our conversion, the present evil world system has become a strange land to us. A strange land is one that I do not like anymore; I do not want it for my life. Though caught in this world, this world should be a strange land to me as a Christian.

Although Exodus records Moses’ life, Hebrews 11 reveals the choices Moses made when he came “to years” (or when Moses came to a full consciousness of the world he was in). Moses was “40 years old” when he came to years (Acts 7:23). The apostle declares in Hebrews 11:24, “By faith Moses, when he was come to years.” His decisions took place in Egypt, the place where he grew up, where he was educated, and the place that potentially was preparing him to be their next leader. But, “When he was come to years,” he “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” This choice concerns the pride of life (the pride of bios, Gr.) of what he was, and what he had accumulated in life. “Moses, who are you?” “I am Pharaoh’s daughter’s son.” “That’s a great honor; that’s a great title.”

Additionally, he “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” This final phrase addresses the lust of the flesh. “Esteeming the reproach of Christ [Messiah] greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.”

Finally, he made a decision addressing the lust of the eyes. This deified land of Egypt had made a river its god. But, oh, what the Pharaohs had made this land to be—the accomplishments, the beauty, the splendor, the glory of the land! Nevertheless, Moses came to a time in his life that he had to make an important decision in the light of the pride of life, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes found in the world of Egypt (1 John 2:15–17).

The story continues in Hebrews 11:27, “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king [an insight only revealed in the New Testament]: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” This was when Moses was 40, not 80 years old. He “forsook Egypt.” It is very clear (in the original Greek) that Moses was going to leave this land and never return. It was truly a final ruling choice by this dear man. When a person becomes a Christian, this is what he must do. He must forsake the land of which he was born—the land system, the world system. He must turn away from that which has denounced God and created a life system without God.

Leaving Egypt

One of the great failures today in the religious Christian environment of America and the world is that Christians do not believe that there must be a full forsaking of this land. Is it possible to know the truth of sins forgiven without being delivered from the present world? We are not suggesting isolation, but the Christian must know how to live in the world without being of the world. And the Bible is the only source that will reveal to us how to do this. You will not find it in nature; you will not find it in your heart. The Holy Spirit must reveal how our beloved Lord lived on this planet, in perfection, and without sin. His life proved that one can be in this fallen world and not be of it. The Christian does not have to continue as a product of the world. As Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 7:31, “And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.”

We dare not let the world control our lives; we dare not allow it to affect our judgments in life; we dare not let it declare the philosophy of how we are to live. Christians have so many problems because they do not, in their hearts, leave the world. They want their sins to be forgiven through Christ, but they do not want to be delivered or “plucked out” of the power of this present evil world. Christians must come to a point every day that they realize this world is not their home. We must be careful what our eyes are attracted to. We must be careful what our heart is enticed by. We must be careful what our families desire of this world system—its dress, its cosmetics, its jewelry, its trinkets made just to entice us. Later it was said of the children of Israel that they would not obey Moses, “but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt” (Acts 7:39).

When Moses left Egypt, forsaking Egypt with the intent to never return, he fled to the “land of Midian: and he sat down by a well” (Exod. 2:15). Moses left a land in which he had become a stranger, to then become a stranger in another strange land. We read in Exodus 2:22, “and she [Zipporah] bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.” Now here, what land is Moses talking about? When his son was born, Moses was no longer in Egypt. In fact, when he left Egypt, he was like Abraham—he did not know where he was going. When a person becomes a Christian, this is the way he starts out. He does not know: “What am I going to do next? I have always lived life this way. I have always done this. Am I to continue in this? Am I to give up my job? Is the job going to affect my walk with God? Am I going to need to move to find a place that will now help me as a Christian?” Yes, when we become a Christian, we enter an unknown sphere.

So, what did Moses do? The providence of God led him to the land of Midian. Midian is in the wilderness. Midian is somewhat on the way to Canaan. Canaan is God’s appointed land; Canaan is not the life of the world in me; it is the life of Christ in His full, plenary living.

But Moses went to a different land than Egypt. The Levitical law surprisingly permits an Israelite to marry a Midianitish woman. When Moses came to this new land, the people were not warm to him; they did not embrace him. Though not recognizing him, they did let him remain in their land. The Midianite Jethro gave him one of his daughters, Zipporah. The two married, but it was evident that Moses was discontent and unhappy. Leaving a strange land, he came to a strange land. Here in this second land Moses made the statement in the naming of his first son: “I have been a stranger in a strange land.”

Was it God’s will for Moses to marry Zipporah? He did not seek God’s counsel when he went there. He was on the run; he did not know where to go. He came to this place where a man took him in, yet there was an awkwardness and a strangeness. Thus, we ask the question: “When Moses speaks of ‘a strange land,’ is he speaking of Egypt, or of Midian, or both?” “I have been a stranger in Egypt, and I have been a stranger here.” Moses is a stranger in a strange land. He is far from any true home. He is far from his own people. He has become a refugee among foreigners.

Then Moses has a second son. We do not read of him in Exodus 2. It is not until Moses and the children of Israel arrive at Mount Sinai, that Jethro brings Zipporah and now the two sons of Moses with him. Here we learn a second son had been born that Moses named Eliezer, meaning “my God helps.” It is important to see that although Moses viewed himself as a stranger in a strange land, he still believed that God was helping him.

Another Strange Land

Once the Christian has been born again, God must take the thirst, the appetite, and the desire of the world out of him. But, do such things leave the heart immediately? We are strangers in a strange land. It is not just Egypt that should be strange to us, but this land with Jethro, this land with Zipporah—this land of Midian is not the final land we long for.

There is going to come a day in every Christian’s life when carnality begins to rise in the heart. The Christian must remember that the flesh principle within his heart is an ally to Egypt. It is not Egypt, but it is an ally with and a spy for the spirit of Egypt. Carnality only begins to be revealed within us right after our New Birth; carnality is that power within us which draws the Christian back to Egypt.

In the Book of Deuteronomy, the remedy for carnality is circumcision of the heart (30:6). In the Book of Joshua, when that covering of the flesh of the seed (the secret seed of man) is cut away, it is called “the reproach of Egypt” (Josh. 5:9). When this flesh principle, this old man, this desire begins to rise in the heart, the true convert will cry out as in Romans 7:24, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Yes, the true Christian cries out, “I don’t want this! I don’t want to live in this land! I’m not in Egypt anymore, but I’m not in the land where God wants me to be.” Even carnality is a strange land to a Christian.

If the Christian is honest, there will be moments where that Midian influence rises, and the heart will respond, “I don’t want this! I don’t like this! I want to have a victorious life! I want to be completely free from the power of sin in my life as well as free from the power of the world!” If such a man never comes to deliverance from the Midianite influence, he will be this miserable man. This is where Moses now found himself. Did he want to be there? Did he have in his mind that “I’m going to stop over here in Midian land, but I don’t want this to be my final home. It is just a stopover.” When we were unsaved, we had no consciousness of an old man, or the flesh, because we did not have Christ in us. Therefore, there was no war, there was no battle within. But once Christ enters the heart at the New Birth, we begin to see this carnality for the first time: “I am saved; I have been forgiven of my sins; but I don’t like this arrangement. Surely, this is not the fullness of the Christian life.”

On a personal note: A few months after I was saved and was in this battle, I went to my father and asked him, “Dad, is this the best it will ever be? Am I going to have to live this way, with this war all the days of my life?” (In growing up I never saw this war with my father, at least I was not conscious of it.) He responded, “No, Son, this is not the way it is supposed to be, but you will have to go through this battle, this land, to get to the land of Canaan. To enter the land here on earth in a life with Christ, you will have to be delivered from this wilderness life.”

I learned that day that Egypt is not the only strange land to a Christian; Midian’s land of carnality is a strange land to a Christian as well. If your heart is hungry for the fullness of God, and for the heavenly land on earth, you will long, you will desire for it to become the land of your inheritance, your rest. There may be a stopover in Midian; however, if we fail to respond to God’s call unto holiness, we probably will remain in the miserable Midian wilderness for the rest of our lives.

The deeper working of grace is a calling. If God had not called Moses, he would have never left. Although we may say he never physically entered Canaan, his heart was living there. The same was true for Caleb and Joshua—their hearts were in the land! Sad will be the day if we lose that consciousness in carnality that “I am a stranger to this land of Midian.” If we do, we have made the choice for Christ to leave Egypt only to settle in the wilderness. The cry comes from the Christian: “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24b). If we settle down in the carnal state, we will end up in 1 Corinthians 3, where there is no longer any burden to wrestle, or to cry, but where “there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions,” where Paul asks, “Are ye not carnal, and walk as men?”

Truly, every Christian, right after leaving Egypt comes to this in his life. Perhaps, such an individual was never told of the hope of deliverance from the wilderness. Nevertheless, God is still with the carnal Christian. Is that a paradox? How can you make it through the confrontation and the battle of the flesh without God bringing manna, leading through a cloud, through trumpets, and the presence of the Tabernacle? Yes, the Christian, in looking back over his ups and downs, ins and outs, backslidings and comings back to God, sees just as many miracles in the wilderness of his life, and yet he does not want his Christian life to be that way. He does not want to live in that carnality. Even out of Egypt there can be another land in which the Christian is a stranger as well, but God is there to help him through his struggles.


May God help us as Christians never to try to fit in with the Egyptian world system, or even in the Midian world of carnality. May we never try to accommodate either of these lands with the Christian life. We pray every day for our Christian brethren working in the business world. They are in it, but God forbid they ever get so tied up in it that the world controls them. Since Christ saved us, we are strangers living in a strange land. This world is not our home; we are just passing through. The powers of carnality are still a link to the old land. May we see the principles and the patterns of God’s singular revelation to the planet Earth; may we gain both insight and the power to live as a stranger in this strange land. And may the agony, may the wretched feeling of the carnal life cause us to cry, “Lord, You have to deliver me out of this land, too!”

We are at an hour now where Christianity no longer preaches a radical change—a radical change where old things of the flesh pass away (2 Cor. 5:17), and all things of God become new. Though we are in the world, we do not have to be of the world. To this world we will be a perpetual stranger in its strange land. May we also be delivered from living in the wilderness of carnality, for that too should be a strange land to all Christians.