The life of the early settlers must have been rough and tough – all horses and carts, no running water or electricity, and sitting on chairs that would give you splinters! However, there’s something romantic about the days of the Afrikaner trekkers, and those American wagon trains, not to mention the free settlers in Australia. Yes, surely everyone has to stop at some time and put down roots. People must settle somewhere even if you’ve just disembarked a convict ship from Britain to the Australian penal colony. One version of The Wild Colonial Boy contains the words, ‘At the early age of sixteen years, Jack left his native home, and to Australia’s sunny shores he was inclined to roam.’ One can only imagine that if he had been an early settler and not a bushranger we might be singing a different song about him. Outlaws are nomads and nomadism began with Cain. However, it ends with Christ.
Is it a good thing to settle down in far flung places and to colonise empty spaces? It’s true that Jesus said, ‘The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head’ Matthew 8:20b. And it’s true that our father Abraham ‘went out, not knowing where he was going… dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God’ Hebrews 11:8b&9b. And didn’t Jesus speak of that same city with foundations, where He went on to say to His people, ‘In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so I would not have told you. I go to prepare a place for you’? John 14:2. That word ‘mansions,’ though sometimes translated ‘rooms,’ means dwellings. Wouldn’t you like to be an early settler in this place? If you think we live in luxury compared to the early settlers, then you cannot imagine what it’s going to be like in the city of God! ‘But as it is written: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ 1 Corinthians 2:9. This residence is not some single room in a block of council flats in some social housing scheme. Therefore, doesn’t ‘mansion’ fit better here than any idea of a frugal pioneering homestead? And what about the ‘pioneering spirit’ of the early settlers, still seen today when whole communities pull together in fire or flood? ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Thus the early settlers by necessity.
But back to Abraham. Abraham wasn’t promised a seat upon a cloud up in the sky somewhere. God promised him the earth! ‘God promised Abraham and his descendants that He would give them the world’ Roman 4:13 (CEV). Says Albert Barnes, ‘In this passage the world, or the entire earth, is regarded as the estate to which reference is made.’ Thus, Abraham, father of the faithful, was the ‘early settler’ for Christians. He staked his claim in the Christ to come, the One who said, ‘The meek shall inherit the earth’ (Matthew 5:5). And, just as your body will be renewed in the Resurrection, so will this earth. ‘The creation itself will also be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God’ Romans 8:21. And, ‘Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells’ 2 Peter 3:13. Therefore, stake your claim in Christ so that you can be an early settler on the new earth. ‘For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come’ Hebrews 13:14.