The nations will walk by [the city’s] light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.
Before you reject this devotion as downright silly on the basis of its title, hang in there with me for a few moments. I believe there is a serious argument to be made for the notion that the Brandenburg Concertos, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the iPhone are candidates for the New Jerusalem.
“You created us with the potential to be creative, Lord. Here are some of the most glorious things we have made. We give them to you, acknowledging that they are the ultimate result of how you have made us. We offer them as gifts of worship.”
I base this argument on Revelation 21:24-26. There, it says, “the kings of the earth will bring their splendor in [the New Jerusalem]” (21:24). The Greek word translated here as “splendor” is doxa, which is usually rendered as “glory” (b in 21:23). That same word reappears two verses later, “The glory [doxa] and honor of the nations will be brought into [the city]” (21:26). To what does this refer? What glory? Which honor?
Some commentators argue that this refers to the worship offered by the nations and their kings to God. Though I agree to a point, I think this interpretation misses the true sense of the language here. If we look back at Isaiah 60, which is closely related to Revelation 21, we read that “the wealth of the seas will be brought to [God’s people], to [them] the riches of the nations will come” (Isa 60:5). The gates of Jerusalem will never be shut “so that people may bring you the wealth of the nations – their kings led in triumphal procession” (Isa 60:11). The wealth of nations will be offered to God and used to beautify his sanctuary (Isa 60:13). John does not use the same language to describe his vision, but when he speaks of the glory and honor of the nations being brought to the New Jerusalem, it’s likely that he describes something similar to what Isaiah saw centuries earlier.
Why would people bring their best things, the things that have brought them glory and honor, to the holy city? It lacks a temple, so they would not be brought for this purpose. Rather, it seems that bringing their very best to God is a way for the nations to worship God. It’s a way to subordinate the glory of human things to the ultimate glory of God. Yet, at the same time, the offering of the best human creations to God suggests that they have some eternal value. They matter to God, who is glorified and honored in receiving them.
I have asked myself what “glory” we might offer to God today. My mind quickly thought of what I believe to be some of the most amazing human creations: Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, and, yes, the iPhone. Okay, I’ll agree that this is a strange list. You don’t have to agree with my choices, of course. I would invite you to think of human creations that inspire you. But then, instead of marveling at these creations, think of what it would be like if we were to offer them to God. We would be saying, “You created us with the potential to be creative, Lord. Here are some of the most glorious things we have made. We give them to you, acknowledging that they are the ultimate result of how you have made us. We offer them as gifts of worship. We confess that their glory doesn’t even approach your own. But, still, these are our gifts. We ask you to be honored and glorified by them.”
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How does John’s vision of human glory being offered to God change your view of the New Jerusalem? How does it change your view of human life and the value of human creative efforts?
If you were to offer to God in worship the very best that you have made in your life, what would you offer? I’m not asking only about tangible things. Your best might be a well-functioning team or a classroom of students who are excited about learning. What might be the “glory” and “honor” that you would someday offer to God? How might you offer this in worship today?
Gracious God, even as a parent takes delight in a gift from a child, so you enjoy the gifts we offer you. One day, Lord, nations and kings will give you the best of human creations, so that you might be glorified. Help me to live with this mindset, to think of what I’m doing in life as an offering to you. May I give to you my very best, and may you delight in my offering.
To you be all the glory! Amen.