As I came to the second church to preach Sunday this dog was waiting. I preached from Exodus chapters 1-40 emphasizing the fact that only a few of the thousands who were freed from slavery in Egypt actually entered the land they had been promised, “flowing with milk and honey.
Having preached on this subject at two services I was discouraged because it seemed that no one really understood or accepted the idea that Christianity is a journey and that eternal rest is the result of a faith that chooses to follow Jesus Christ over a lifetime.
Leaving this second church the dog was still there. As I approached her I noticed her right front leg seemed to be injured or broken and that she was skinny as a rail. I tried to go to her but she just ran and hid from me. I made the 10 mile trip into town twice to get food, water, a collar, lead and even rope to capture her. After several hours I finally and with sorrow and concern for her well-being abandoned my efforts. I left messages with animal control and sadly drove away.
This morning, during a time in prayer I understood. I was disheartened after the first service and even more after the second. In that dog God was showing me that the problem was not my preaching or the Word of God. The problem was their running away and hiding from the Truth which had the power to set them free!
Today I am still saddened and grieve because of their rejection. But I am amazed at how God, understanding my need, was showing me in a way I would never forget that how He feels WITH ME the sorrow of rejected grace.
This afternoon I paused to consider the things of God along this Journey of Faith. I asked God to speak to me what He wanted me to hear. I opened to Isaiah 35. Wonderful words! But it was vs. 8-10 were His word for me.
“And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there. Lions will not lurk along its course, nor any other ferocious beasts. Only the redeemed will walk on it. Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorry and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.”
Today, this day those who belong to God are travelling down that road with all the promises God has made here for those who travel The Way. We are not headed to an earthly city but a heavenly city whose founder and Creator are God Himself. As we travel that road day by day we do not need to fear all the things that those around us fear. We need not fear the terror by night nor the war by day, the crimes around us. No for along this Way we are watched over by the Holy One. That is why in Isaiah 35:8 it is called the “Highway of Holiness.” God Himself is there. He is the very one who said, “I will Never leave you nor forsake you.” and “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
“I am going to prepare a place for you. And when it is ready, I will come again…” These words from John 14 spoken by our Lord Jesus on the night before He was crucified are shrouded in mystery. Where did He go? What is He doing to prepare that place? Why is it taking so long?
I discovered part of the answer this morning while reading from the Song of Solomon. In this love story between a woman and her lover, the Church has understood from ages past that it is an allegory of Christ Jesus and His Bride, the Church. In this story the bridegroom is gone for lengths of time and while He is gone the bride awaits. There is more in this story than I can write here but here is where John 14, Song of Solomon and the book of Revelation come together to shed light.
In Revelation the “new Jerusalem” is described as a place where the streets are made of pure gold that you can see through. Obviously this is allegorical language and gold usually represents the product of fiery trials that refine the gold. Revelation and the gospel accounts make it clear that to be a follower of Christ will mean just that. Paul says to Timothy, “All who live godly in Christ Jesus SHALL suffer persecution.”
So where is Jesus and what is He doing to prepare those streets of pure gold? He is orchestrating the circumstances of our lives to work to purify us through all sorts of circumstances. How this works can be seen in more detail by examining the lives of the saints and the patriarchs.
SO, in light of all this, when the way is dark and your beloved bridegroom seems far away, lift up your head and look up for your redemption is at hand. He will not wait one moment longer than necessary so that the times you are now in will result in the perfection of your beauty for all eternity!
“The Lord says, “Come away! Flee from Babylon in the land of the north, for I have scattered you to the four winds. Come away, people of Zion, you who are exiled in Babylon!”” Zephaniah 2:6-7
The people of Judah were exiled for 70 years to Babylon because of their stiff neck and willful disobedience to the God who had delivered them many centuries before.
Reading this anew I felt that this describes the life of Christian discipleship. We, like all people cling to our rebel behavior. We don’t recognize it because it looks different from those “terrible sinners” out there. But like the people of God of old we too are exiled away from the New Jerusalem, We too are exiled from that land for the duration of our years on the earth (about 70!). It is God’s desire for us to use our time here to live within the culture and among the people we are exiled, learn their “language”, be among them so that some of them too may become people of God.
“The Lord says, ‘Shout and rejoice, O beautiful Jerusalem, for I am coming to live among you.'” The time will come when we live where the “knowledge of the glory of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the bottom of the sea”. That time has not come yet.
Let us live out our years of exile being God’s people, following God’s ways among those who are foreigners to God’s ways as we wait patiently for the SECOND coming of Jesus when we return from exile to our true home!