“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!
This morning, promptly at 6:24 am the ISS (International Space Station) reached its highest point in the night sky and I watched as it sped silently along its path over 200 miles overhead. Over the decades since its inception there has been much in the news about the billions of dollars and countless hours spent to build, populate and maintain this modern wonder.
But as I watched it speed across that star draped backdrop the thought came to my mind that the wallpaper behind the ISS was immeasurably more wonderful! Each point in the sky represented a star, quasar or galaxy more expansive, distant and energetic than the most brilliant human mind can comprehend.
Standing there I was lost in wonder alongside the psalmist who wrote, “What is humanity that You are mindful of them?” Yet wonder of ALL wonders, the ONE who created all this has come to us, redeemed us and promised us an eternal home far above and beyond the ISS or even the most distant star!
“They have become like us, knowing both evil and good. What if they reach out and take from the tree of life and live forever?”
These words from Genesis 3:22 tell us that to be made in the image of God is to be able to choose between good and evil. So why did God withdraw His offer to eat freely from the tree of life? God put a guard to the garden of Eden to keep us from it.
We demonstrated in that choice to eat from the forbidden tree that given the choice between good and evil we will choose evil. God did not remake us so we could only choose good. Or did He?
Yes! In saving us and remaking us in the image of Jesus the Son we are given, as Jeremiah put it, “a heart of flesh”. May we yield to the Spirit of God and let ourselves be remade, day by day, into someone who when given the choice, does what is right no matter what.