[And] those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Have you ever spent an extended time away from home? Perhaps you were away at school, or on a long business trip, or serving in the armed services. If so, you know how it feels to live as a kind of exile and how much exiles long for home.
The theme of exile and return runs through the Old Testament prophets, right into the New Testament. Beginning with the Assyrian defeat of the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C., and expanded when Babylon overthrew Judah in 587 B.C., God’s people were scattered throughout the world. They longed for the day when the Lord would gather them again to himself in the Promised Land.
Many people throughout the world today experience literal exile. But even if we are not actual refugees, we can nevertheless relate to the sense of being separated from our true home, that is, from the Lord and his kingdom. Like the Jews in centuries past, we yearn for the day when we will be gathered into God’s presence with all of his people, when God will establish his justice on earth, when his peace will embrace the whole world.
In the meanwhile, though we live as refugees we catch a glimpse of our homeland. When we gather for joyful worship, we experience something of the future. When we come to the Lord’s Supper to be renewed in his grace, we get a taste of the life that is to come. When we see the oppressed set free in our world, we sample the justice of God’s future. Thus we are renewed so that we might live with hope in a world so filled with despair.
Moreover, as people of such distinctive hope, we are inspired and empowered to live today by our vision of God’s future. We pray to the Father as Jesus taught us, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And we allow this prayer to shape our lives wherever we are: in our offices and stores, in our studios and conference rooms, in our churches and cities, in our homes and schools.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When you think of your future with the Lord, what do you envision? How do you feel?
When have you experienced something of “heaven on earth”?
How might the vision of God’s future inspire you to act differently today?
Gracious God, even as your people longed to be reunited to you, so we long to know you better. We cling to the hope that, one day, we will see you face to face. What a glorious day that will be!
In that hope, we seek to live for you each day. Help us to share this hope with others, not in a naïve way, but with confidence that points people to you. Help us to live out this hope in every square inch of life.
May we learn, Lord, to take greater delight in the times when we get a glimpse of the future. Help us to take more joy when we gather with your people for worship. May we be filled with joyful expectation when we receive your Supper. May we rejoice when your justice and righteousness prevail in our world, when your grace transforms hearts and lives, institutions and communities.
Thank you, dear Lord, for the future you have planned for us. How good and gracious you are! Amen.