"Not Our Home"
by Jonathan and Emily Martin
Today we will be dissecting “Not Our Home,” a song by Jonathan and Emily Martin. These wedded worshipers have been singing and leading together since they met in college and their passion is to write songs that restate the eternal truths of the Bible in a way that resonates with our hearts today.
We are foreigners, we are travelers
To a country of our own
We are citizens of Heaven
Waiting for our King to come
Jonathan: I’m Jonathan Martin and this is my wife
Emily: Emily Martin
Jonathan: and we are worship leaders and songwriters. We have a ministry together called The Word in Worship and we believe God’s Word is beautiful and powerful and life-giving and helpful. We basically just write songs out of what God’s teaching us in His word and get to share those with different churches.
Oh, this is not our home
Oh, we’re headed for the kingdom
Jonathan: I was reading a biography about Martyn Lloyd Jones, a pastor. I was reading a sermon excerpt of his in that biography and he was talking about our faith and Christianity as a whole--how we often see it as just a part of our lives instead of being the main theme of our lives, and how the writers of the Bible and the early founders of our faith and even the Puritans kind of talked about their [faith] being the main theme of their lives--and that they were nothing more than just travelers here. And like the Israelites, they saw themselves as kind of making an exodus from this world onto what God has for them.
We are making our exodus out of this world of sin and death
We are making our exodus into the life that He’s promised
Jonathan: In the meantime they have just a holy mission of God to be ambassadors while they're here. Hebrews 11 is the chapter of the hall of faith and he’s taking a break for a second and he’s talking about those people saying those “who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” [Hebrews 11:14-16, English Standard Version] That was probably the main scripture along with that sermon that inspired the song.
[sample of demo]
We are ambassadors, we are ministers
Reconciling God and men
Jonathan: I go through different seasons of songwriting and I had been in a season where I had been trying to write some songs and so it was on my mind. I was sitting in bed at 10:30 at night, not planning to write a song, when I read the sermon. I scared Emily because I jumped out of the bed so fast and just went to the piano and it was one of those songs that within 10-20 minutes I had most of the song written. It just kind of all came at once after reading that sermon and some other things I had been reading. That is not normal but that is what happened for this song.
[sample of demo]
Oh, this is not our home
Oh, we say we rejoice in what’s to come
To live is Christ...
Jonathan: The piano was easiest to get to at that time but I do like to write on the piano because from a music theory standpoint I feel like I know what I’m doing a little bit more than I do on the guitar. So sometimes I’ll write on piano and then transfer it over to the guitar.
[sample of demo]
Oh, this is not our home
Emily: I really love this song because I feel like it captures the everyday groan of our walk as believers of trying to be faithful and cultivate faithfulness while we’re here waiting on Jesus to come back.
Jonathan: I think a lot of people, because of the tempo and meter of the song, see it as more upbeat. But I mean it both as a groan and also a celebration. I like how whenever you approach this theme depending on where you’re at it might be a little bit hard to sing. Because the truth is I think we often want this to be our home and we spend so much of our time and our life making this our home that there could be a little bit of a groan in the reminder that this is not our home. But then also it could be a bit of a celebration like during an election year it might be an awesome thing to sing and remember.
We are making our exodus
Out of this world of sin and death
Michael: One of the things I found compelling about this song was how the music at the end of the chorus seems to hang around unresolved. In musical terms, our ear expects choruses to end on the notes that start the song, sometimes called the one chord or simply “the one”. I asked Jonathan about where that feature of the song came from.
Jonathan: You know, I haven’t necessarily thought about that much. That was just how I was hearing it in my head. I would make up some really profound thing that it really lifted me to think about the kingdom, but no, I think it was just the way I was hearing it so that’s the chord that came out.
Emily: I kind of remember when you were writing it that it felt like it kept it going, like it had a journeying feel. It just didn’t feel right to go to one until the song was over since the whole song is about a journey. I kind of vaguely remember us talking about that when you were writing it but it just didn’t feel like it was time.
Jonathan: Not time for the one yet.
And as we pass along
we will call to all
join our band of vagabonds
Emily: We wrote this song in kind of an interesting time in our ministry and a really cool one actually because we had just gone back into full-time ministry as a family with our child, Judah. Of any of the times in our ministry when we’ve been on the road it was probably the heaviest season of travel for us. We were maybe home five days a month. During this particular season of our ministry we felt very vagabond-like so it was fun to be thinking about this concept in our heart while we were literally on the road so much. And I like it too because it has a less tidy connotation to it. You don’t think of vagabonds as going on this super-expensive, cool trip--you think of someone who’s in a perpetual state of travel. The Israelites would just pitch their tent and until the Lord lifted the pillar of smoke they stayed there and then they moved and it just was just consistently in that stage of life just waiting on Him and it was definitely gypsy-like. Not glamorous.
Jonathan: When I was writing the song I was really inspired by Martyn Lloyd Jones and the picture that he presented of the Israelites moving from Egypt into the Promised Land: how they truly were travelers and this big group of vagabonds--people who weren’t just travelling but were living in a state of travel. Plus Emily and I both are big fans of Bethany Dillon, I don’t know if you know her music. She had used that word in one of her songs and I think I probably stole it from her a little bit.
So run like a vagabond, carry the flame
Run for the children and run for the slaves
Hold it up high with a message of faith
Don't ever stop moving on
Just run like a vagabond
Jonathan: I just like the descriptiveness of that [term] and then just inviting people to join in on that journey.
Emily: Having so many people always ask, “how do you guys deal with all this travel?” and, “how does Judah do with all this travel?” and just feel so united as a couple of what God had called us to in that season and seeing the fruit. It was a little unconventional but God did so many sweet things in that year of being on the road so perpetually. It’s so funny because when you box everything up it’s more of a pain to move it and unpack it but it’s amazing how little you live on on a daily basis when most of your things are packed up. When you just have what you need to cook and dress--all of the basics--it’s kind of a fun and funny state to be in.
To live is is Christ, to die is gain
And though the journey may feel long
We’ll make the most of everyday
Until He takes us home.
Jonathan: You don’t hear a lot of songs like “I’ll Fly Away” for our generation. Looking toward heaven and celebrating in the fact that this is not our home and so I think that would be our hope and aim--that it would get our eyes off of ourself and off of the familiarity of things around us and this world and really remember and be kingdom-minded. This really is not our home and we’re not looking to invest all of ourselves into worldly, earthly things but that we also want to invest in kingdom things.
Emily: I think it's just an encouraging thing to hear the body of Christ singing this song and declaring what we’re headed towards and what’s coming and just connecting ourselves with the people of God even in the Old Testament just as being an extension of that story. I think it’s a unique thing to get to sing together as a body of Christ. I mean it kind of is our whole story: being on this perpetual exodus in God’s story. It’s cool to get to sing that together.
Michael: The fact of the matter is we spend a lot of time and energy making this world our home. We might not ever buy a house but we do buy things that make our life more comfortable--more permanent. That’s not to say that making such accommodations is bad, but those who follow Jesus will do well to remember His words, “Foxes have dens, and the birds in the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” [Matthew 8:20, New English Translation] Our hope and our comfort lies in the future kingdom: prepared, guarded and established by Jesus.
If you want to learn more about Martyn Lloyd Jones visit MLJtrust.org. There the Martyn Lloyd Jones Trust has a massive catalogue of audio files available for free download. My best guess as to the sermon Jonathan read is “Not Ashamed to be Called Their God.”
Jonathan and Emily Martin have some new things coming up this year. They just launched a brand new website at thewordinworship.com which has their music, chord sheets, instrumental tracks and all kinds of fancy merchandise. They’ll be releasing new music soon and because of a new partnership with Lifeway Songs, you can also look forward to new devotional books which will accompany and further elaborate on their music.
Next time, “Praise God” by Todd Wright
VITALS is emotionally supported by Grace Church of Ocala. Visit VTLS.org for full episode transcripts and more information about the show and the music featured here. If you enjoyed this episode visit VTLS.org/support for ideas on how you keep the lights on in the Vitals studio. Financial supporters can listen to my full, unedited interview with Jonathan and Emily which includes the story about how they met and more about their writing process for $1 a month.