Horace Greeley, writing for the New York Tribune, once told his readers:
“Go West, young man. Go West and grow up with the country.”
At that time the country was, indeed, growing and expanding westward with the belief that it was mandated by heaven. The history books call that belief, “Manifest Destiny.” Migrating westward was certainly an integral part of American history and the development of the nation. Those who dreamt of California’s gold and the open land of the prairie played an integral part in the expansion of the United States. Even today, there are still those who heed the advice of Mr. Greeley and head west. But with all due respect to Mr. Greeley, the Scripture seems to take issue with his admonishment to head west? Here’s what we mean:
“And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there.” (Genesis 11:2)
This is referring to the building of what would become Babylon. Notice they journeyed “from the east” which meant they were heading toward the west. In Hebrew, the word for “west” is מערב ma’arav and is derived from the root word, ערב arav which means “to mix.” The connection between the two is this: the sun sets in the west and at sunset, darkness mixes with light; day mingles with night. Spiritually speaking, mixing light with darkness is forbidden to believers. Paul put it this way:
“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)
The point is, as believers, we’re not to mix with unbelievers and, so it would seem, we’re not to “go west.” In Scripture, the West or heading west is emblematic of moving away from God’s instructions, in order to mix with philosophies that are not pure, but mixed. As His people, we are called to return to Him and to His ways. Metaphorically speaking, we are to head “east” which, in Hebrew, denotes something ancient or that which was established a long time ago; in other words, back to the way it was supposed to be from the beginning.
Understanding what the west is from a biblical point of view, it should come as no surprise that western culture is considered by many to be corrupt, failing and on the verge of collapse. Like it or not, there is merit to that view. For example, in the 1800s, the motto for many a pioneer was, “California or Bust.” Today, the view among most Americas is, “California is Busted.” Frankly that is what we should expect from any society that migrates away from the truth of God’s Word. Perhaps recognizing this is why so many of God’s people have a desire to “head east” – to move back toward the entirety of God’s Word. Eventually and in God’s own time, that attraction to the Word will culminate in an attraction to the land that God gave to Abraham and to his seed. What begins in our heart will permeate our mind and, one day, will manifest with our feet.
With all due respect, Mr. Greeley, the time has come to abandon the allure of the West and begin to head east – to go back to what God intended for us from the beginning. The time has come to return to our Father and to His ways.