The joyful journey
Psalm 122: When they said, “Let’s go to the house of God,” my heart leaped for joy.
I know we like to take this verse and use it to describe people waking up on Sunday morning, thrilled at the prospect of going to church, but this psalm isn’t really about that at all. This is a song sung by pilgrims as they journey to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple there. From across the country God’s people set their faces toward Jerusalem to worship. The song writer describes the decision being made to make that journey: someone says, “Let’s make the trip to Jerusalem for the Passover this year.” The response is one of joy, “Yes, let’s do it!” Thus plans are made for that long journey, quite likely several days of walking, traveling up to Jerusalem. As they walk they sing, and this is one of their songs. While I’m okay with using the opening words of this psalm to celebrate our opportunity to attend worship services at a nearby church I think we somewhat shortchange the application of it. The journey described here isn’t necessarily a short drive bringing us to 9:45 Sunday School and 10:45 Worship. A better application is our journey to the New Jerusalem. That journey isn’t by land or sea, but through life. The best use of this passage for us is to see it as an expression of the joy of our walking together with God’s people through life and our anticipation of entering the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, at journey’s end.
Take Away: It’s a joy to serve the Lord as we journey through life.
Heaven will surely be worth it all
Psalm 84: These roads curve up the mountain, and at the last turn — Zion!
The psalmist is thinking about journeying to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple. Oh how the pilgrim looks forward to being in the Temple of God. He can’t help but think of how blest are those whose serve in that place day by day. However, there’s more than even that here. The song writer finds himself thinking about people who are living their lives in the Lord, journeying with him along the dusty roads and through the lonesome valleys of life. Not that there aren’t some blest times along the way because there are some “cool springs” that refresh the weary traveler. Then, there’s one last mountain to climb, one last curve to navigate; and then Zion comes into view. That “lonesome valley” journey is quickly forgotten as beautiful Zion is seen. What a powerful picture he’s painted. Today, I thank God for walking with me on my life journey. I thank him for the blessings of cool springs along the way and for his faithfulness to me even in the lonesome valleys. For me, and for most of us, the blessings far outnumber the trials. But whether or not that is true for you in particular we all have this hope: one of these days we’ll climb that last mountain and round the final curve and our Zion will come into view. As the old gospel song says, “Heaven will surely be worth it all.”
Take Away: We are a people with hope; hope both in this world and in the world to come.
What an invitation!
Revelation 4: Ascend and enter.
Having received messages for seven churches John looks upward to see an opening door providing an entrance into Heaven. He hears a voice, issuing to him a command and a word of permission. He’s been invited into Heaven and is immediately filled with a sense of deep worship as he finds himself gazing on the very Throne of God. Everything’s overwhelming and, as he tells us about it, human language fails him. There’s worship going on and we’re left with the feeling that this is business as usual at the Throne. Heavenly beings sing “Holy, holy, holy” and those with crowns of righteousness cast those crowns at the feet of the One seated on the Throne. What’s business as usual in Heaven is all too rare on this side of that door. I’ve had some wonderful moments of blessing, some too precious for me to write about. They haven’t come nearly often enough but when they have come I’ve tasted just enough to long for more. Still, I’ve received an invitation to that place. I don’t know when it is that I’ll hear “Ascend and enter” but I do know that that command and word of permission will come someday. I’m sure I won’t like the process of getting there, but once I do, it’ll be worth it all.
Take Away: We’ve received that wonderful invitation to “ascend and enter” so let’s live as invited people, preparing for that day.
Our number one motivation
2Corinthians 5: Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing.
Having described himself as a “clay jar” the Apostle is well aware of his inadequacies. The day’s coming, he says, when these “tents” (that is our earthly bodies) will shut down and be replaced by bodies of heavenly construction. The weaknesses we deal with every day even to the point that we come to think of them as ordinary and acceptable will be gone forever, replaced by that which is amazingly superior. Paul says that we get just a taste of what it will be like as we enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. As good as that is, it’s just a small sample of what’s coming. With such exciting prospects you’d think that that’s what Paul would think about all the time and that if he’s asked what motivates him his answer will focus on making the big move from the “tent to the palace.” Make no mistake; he likes thinking about it all. However, the big deal for him isn’t “exile or homecoming.” Rather, he declares, the big thing is pleasing God in all his life. His greatest motivation is the knowledge that there’s a way to live in this life that’s pleasing to God. There’s a possibility of standing before the Lord and hearing him say “well done.” For Paul, the big deal isn’t pie in the sky as much as it’s pleasing the Father in this life. Going to heaven is huge, no doubt about it. However, pleasing the Lord, our Creator and Master, according to Paul, is even bigger.
Take Away: When we live to please the Lord we’re living as we were designed to live.