If ever a man had a right to feel homeless, it was Moses.
After being adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter as an infant, he spent most of his childhood separated from his family, his people, his culture. Then, as a young man, Moses was exiled out of Egypt and found himself setting up camp in yet another strange land. He was, without question, “a foreigner in a foreign land” (Exodus 2:22).
After God got Moses’ attention in the form of a spontaneously combusting bush, Moses headed back to Egypt. But this was no nostalgic journey back to the homeland. Instead, he was there to do a jailbreak of sorts for his fellow Israelites, who were living as slaves under the harsh rule of the Egyptians.
Once they’d made their break from Egypt, Moses again found himself homeless. But this time he wasn’t the only one without a forwarding address. He was in charge of several thousand people who quickly expressed their displeasure at their lack of four walls. For 40 years, they wandered through the wilderness, longing for a permanent place to call home.
Perhaps that’s why the opening lines of Psalm 90 hit me so powerfully, knowing they were penned by this reluctant vagrant:
Lord, through all the generations
you have been our home!
Before the mountains were born,
before you gave birth to the earth and the world,
from beginning to end, you are God.
When I was in my early 20s I bought a place of my own, and let’s just say it fell into the “has potential” category. When I arrived on the day of the closing, I was shocked to discover that the family who lived there hadn’t packed the majority of their things yet. I wasn’t even able to get into the house until five hours after the agreed-upon time. Complicating matters, I’d closed on my old place the same day, so everything needed to be unloaded that night.
At one moment, looking around at the filthy condo, still cluttered with the previous owners’ abandoned belongings, I despaired that this place would never feel like home. I took a breath and went from room to room, trying to size up what I was up against.
My despair melted into humility and gratitude at what I saw. When I peeked into the bathroom, I noticed my aunt, her sleeves rolled up, scrubbing the upstairs toilet. Two of my friends were in the guest room, unloading box after box of books (and never once complaining about the ridiculous book-to-person ratio). My mom’s head was deep in the oven, muscling off a decade of grime and grease. My dad was carrying my fold-out couch up the stairs—the one that was so heavy he’d previously sworn he’d never move it again. My uncle was removing garbage bags full of trash left by the old owners. Another friend was on her way to get dinner for the whole crew.
In that moment, I had a revelation. Home is not found in a place; it’s found in relationship. Even if I had nowhere to lay my head that night, I had home. It was written all over the faces of these people who loved me.
At the end of his life, Moses was instructed by God to climb Mount Nebo. From there God showed him the Promised Land—the home his people had been longing for so many years. The Israelites would be able to enter, but Moses would only get to see it from afar (Deuteronomy 32:48-52).
It seems heartbreaking to me, even a touch unfair, that this servant of God who had led the people so faithfully for decades wouldn’t be able to settle into this long-awaited homeland himself.
But Moses knew better. He’d already discovered his true home.
Eventually my condo did feel like home, thanks to the people who graced me on moving day and the ensuing days thereafter.
But I hope I never forget that home, real home, is more than a mailing address.
I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.