“I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land! I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Remember the word that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, ‘The Lord your God is providing you a place of rest, and will give you this land.’
Joshua 1:13 NRSV
Abraham, formerly Abram, is the common patriarch of the Abrahamic religions. In Judaism, he is regarded as the founding father of the covenant of the pieces, the special relationship between the Jewish people and God; in Christianity, he is regarded as the prototype of all believers, Jewish or Gentile; and in Islam, he is viewed as a link in the chain of prophets that begins with Adam and ends with Muhammad.
In the book of Genesis, we find the story of how the Lord told Abram to make a pilgrimage to the Promised Land:
The Lord told Abram, “Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household, and go to the land I will show you.
I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing,
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you, I will curse,
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
So Abram left, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated, and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan and arrived there.
The term “pilgrimage” derives from the Latin word peregrinus, which means “resident alien” or “foreigner” and can also indicate “to journey over a long distance.” When we think about pilgrimage in the Bible, the first person that comes to mind is Abraham. His pilgrimage was uncommon in modern terms. Most of the holy locations had not yet earned their holy reputations. He lived before most of the world’s main religions were created and was the founder of Judaism. There were no prominent shrines to visit or saints to revere.
Abraham also brought his entire family and everything he owned. He did this because, unlike the modern pilgrim, he had no intention of returning from his journey.
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