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Nomadland is Not New

by Richard Bergstrom

Posted: May 21, 2021

It's in the Bible…

The following article is a follow-up to last week's article by Leona Bergstrom, "Reflections on Nomadland" (the movie). This week, Richard, takes an historical perspective. Links to Bible passages will take you to, where you can view the broader context, change translations, listen to an audio version, and find other resources.

Nomadic living is by far not a new concept. After all, the Bible is replete with examples of nomads, beginning with Cain, who, after murdering his brother Abel was condemned to a life as a “restless wanderer on the earth” (Genesis 4:10-16).

Then there was Abraham, who, when called by God to “go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. He made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country. He lived in a tent, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise (Hebrews 11:8-9).

Moses lost his place in Pharoah’s court after murdering an Egyptian and spent the next 40 years as a nomad tending sheep in the land of Midian. When God met him at the burning bush, he returned to Egypt to lead his people out of captivity. But due to their lack of faith to enter the promised land, they ended up wandering in the wilderness for the next 40 years. They were the quintessential nomads of their day. Yet even in their wanderings, they experienced God’s faithful provision through the daily supply of manna and quail to sustain them.

There are plenty of other examples of nomads in the Scriptures, and even God describes Himself as such when he says, in I Chronicles 17:5-6, “…for I have not dwelt in a house since the day that I brought up Israel to this day, but I have gone from tent to tent and from one dwelling place to another. In all places where I have walked with all Israel, have I spoken a word with any of the judges of Israel whom I commanded to shepherd my people, saying ‘Why have you not build for me a house of cedar?’ ” Under Solomon, the temple became the designated dwelling place of the Most High for Israel.

Finally, Jesus himself lived a mostly nomadic life, and in Matthew 8:20 declared that “the foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 

Like the character Fern in Nomadland, these nomadic people weren’t necessarily homeless, but they were “houseless,” lacking a permanent structure in which to dwell.

As Christians, we are reminded in the Scriptures that we are all nomads on this earth. It is not, after all, our permanent home or dwelling place. Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:20 that “our citizenship is in heaven.” Peter calls us “sojourners and exiles” (I Peter 2:14). And Hebrews reminds us that “…here we have no lasting city, but we seek a city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).

As the old gospel hymn reminds us, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through, my treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue, the angels beckon me from heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home, in this world anymore.”

Thankfully, Jesus reminds us in John 14 that his “Father’s house has many rooms…” and that he has prepared a place for us, and that he will come back and take us with him….” 

So take heart, my friend, whatever your status in this life, for you’ve “got a mansion, just over the hilltop, in that bright land where you’ll never grow old.”

Search all articles by Richard Bergstrom

Richard Bergstrom is president of ChurchHealthRe-Ignite in Edmonds, Washington

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Posted: May 21, 2021

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