From the Garden to the City, Trees along the way
Matthew 6:13
 “For Thine is the Kingdom, Power and Glory - the New Jerusalem - Focus of Desire”

(c) Copyright 2005 Rev. Bill Versteeg

Our text this morning comes from a footnote in your bibles. When the Heidelberg Catechism was written, the research that is available today was not present. They only had some of the later manuscripts available, which included the phrase for thine is the kingdom power and glory, forever. Amen. Earlier manuscripts which our present bible is based on did not have that phrase. It was probably added later by a writer because of the practice of the church at that time to end the prayer with doxology. Notice one thing - this prayer that the Lord taught us starts with a request, a desire, a hunger, a thirst

Your Kingdom Come
and ends with a doxology
For yours is the Kingdom, power and Glory, forever.

Q & A 128

Q. What does your conclusion to this prayer mean?

A. "For yours is the kingdom
and the power
and the glory forever" means,

We have made all these requests of you
because, as our all-powerful king,
you not only want to,
but are able to give us all that is good;
and because your holy name,
and not we ourselves,
should receive all the praise, forever.

(Thanks to Peter and Perry for their input into this message on the Sermon interface Blog)

Before I dive into my 5 points this morning, let me make a comment about desire.

Spiritual desire is the marker of a healthy Christian. Where there is no desire for God, for his kingdom, there is no health just as when we lose our desire for food, we are unhealthy. Desire is a marker of a healthy Christian. And desire comes from two things. It starts with a spiritual taste - the simple truth is we do not desire something we have never had a taste of. And so Jesus said that a person must be born again in order to enter into the kingdom, they must have that first fruit of the Spirit of the living God, a foretaste of what is to come. Or they will never be hungry. The truth is, like a desire for Lutefisk, (rotten fish) is not natural to us, you have to be Norwegian, a desire for God is not natural to us, it must be developed by the power of the Spirit. Second, desire is a hunger and thirst. Like the women looking both directions in our art this morning, looking at the human kingdom, the human city with all its failings leaves us hungry for the kingdom, the city of God. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Having tasted and going without has one consequence - hunger, thirst, desire. Having tasted of living water, we often walk in the desert, and the consequence is thirst. Third, when it comes to desire, our greatest enemy is often the blessings that overwhelm our lives. The truth is, as CS Lewis would put it, we are happy to play in a mud puddle when we have been invited to come and play in the ocean. Our greatest enemy is not desiring enough. We kill our spiritual desire with substitutes and wonder why that closer walk with God is not something that we have.

My basic point is this - this the Lord’s prayer breaths a hunger for the Kingdom of God, a thirst for the New Jerusalem - which is my first point - the New Jerusalem represents the kingdom of God.

In the Old Testament, the people of Israel would regularly make pilgrimages to Jerusalem and as they traveled, they sang songs of ascent, songs that spoke of their hunger for that city, the place where their king was. And so in Psalm 84 these words of hunger

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD Almighty!
2 My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
(A place outside Jerusalem, dry, barren, a place of tears and pain)
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.
10 Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

Jerusalem was the place where their king ruled. A faithful Israelite knew that even though it was David who sat on the throne, it was the Lord Almighty who was behind David - there in Jerusalem, their Almighty King, the Lord, sat enthroned. The further they were away from the throne, the further they were away from the protection and the power of the divine one. Here in the Kingdom, in the city, justice was practiced, righteousness ruled. And so they longed for Jerusalem.

Here too, we hunger for the Kingdom, for we live in a world where the kingdom all too often is far away, we walk in the valley of Baca, where everything goes wrong, where Satan wins, where demons prevail, where principalities and powers rebel against the Lord and his anointed one. And when we live in this world where we need to be delivered from evil, aren’t you hungry. Aren’t you thirsty?

Second, Jerusalem was where the temple was, where the Ark of the covenant was, where God was enthroned between the cherubim. Jerusalem was the place where the sacrifices were made, the blood was sprinkled, where Israel knew things were right with God, where the presence of God was palpable. There the beauty of Glory was evident in the majesty of the temple built by Solomon. There prayers were asked and answered. Divine guidance was given.

One thing have I asked of the Lord
that will I seek after;
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in his temple.
(Psalm 27:4)

I am hungry for the presence of God. Are you thirsty too? One thing I discover in my busified life is that I am often to busy to pray, often to busy to ask God and receive answers, often to hurried and harried like Jacob to discover that God was in the struggles of my life and I did not know it. Are you hungry for the presence of God.

As Johann Franck wrote

Jesus, priceless treasure
Source of purest pleasure,
Truest friend to me:
Long my heart hath panted,
`Til it well-nigh fainted,
Thirsting after Thee.
Thine I am,
O spotless Lamb,
I will suffer nought to hide Thee,
Ask for nought beside Thee.

Or as the Psalmist wrote (Psalm 42)

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
4 These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go with the multitude,
leading the procession to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
among the festive throng.

Third, Jerusalem was a place of security. You see, in the city, citizenship scrolls were kept. One of the reasons why in scripture we have these long lists of genealogies is because the people of Israel had in Jerusalem their names written on a scroll. And if their name was written on that scroll, then their place in the promised land was secure. They had an inheritance alone with the twelve tribes of Israel. As long as those scrolls were kept safe, their future in the land was guaranteed. There they could be assured again and again that they were safe with God.

How often I have visited with people and they wonder if they are safe with God. Assurance seems to be fleeting. They are people who have walked an entire life in faith, but as they come closer to death’s door, they start wondering - will God receive me? Will God accept me, imperfect sinful me? They hunger for assurance, they hunger for that hope that will carry them with confidence through deaths door. I can only remind them of the scroll and Hebrews 12

22 "But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel."

If only we all knew without a doubt that our names were written in heaven - how would our lives be different? Would we cling to the things of this world like we do? Would we grieve like we do when our loved ones go to be with the Lord? I must confess that when I visit with elderly people, I am usually the one who is blessed - for the very simple reason, they do not cling to this world as much as I do. Their hunger for heaven, their thirst for an eternal kingdom, a new Jerusalem becomes stronger and stronger as their grasp on life lets go. The psalmist penned words for them many years ago...

Whom have I in heaven but thee?
And there is nothing upon earth
that I desire besides thee.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion for ever.
(Psalm 73:25-26)

Now there is much more that could be said about the new Jerusalem, the eternal city whose builder and architect is God. What we have here will not endure, we are looking for a city that is to come. This final theme that I want to focus on this morning is that Jerusalem was also the place where Israel had it celebrations, it parties, its festivals celebrating the grace and provision of God. Whether it was the feast of the Passover, or the feast of Tabernacles also called Pentecost, or the many other feasts mentioned in scripture - Jerusalem was the place to be. You see, Jerusalem was the place where you put the hard work and struggle of life behind you and you came to celebrate. So it was on Pentecost, during the feast of Tabernacles that the church first feasted on the presence of God in the Spirit.

So to, heaven is pictured for us as a marriage banquet, the Supper of the Lamb, an eternal feast after the hard work of faith, running the race for the joy set before us, the church triumphant. Here the invitation is gracious and welcoming. The Spirit and the Bride say come. Whoever is thirsty, whoever is hungry, whoever desires the kingdom - let them come, whoever wants the free gift of the water of life, the eternal blessing, let them come.

And today we come to the feast with hungry hearts - looking forward to that final feast, and the church says, come. Come you who are hungry, come to the table of our Lord.

As Bernard of Clairvaux wrote:

Jesus, Thou joy of loving hearts
Thou fount of life, Thou light of men
From the best bliss that earth imparts
We turn unfilled to Thee again.
We turn unfilled to Thee again.




From the Garden to the City - Trees Along the Way
Immanuel CRC's Theme for 2006-2007
The complete Series

  1. Acts 10:34-48, text vs. 39 FROM THE GARDEN TO THE CITY:
    TREES ALONG THE WAY: Introduction

  2. Genesis 2:4-9, 15-17, 3:1-24 There was more than one Tree in the Garden

  3. Genesis 12:1-9 The Great Tree of Moreh

  4. Genesis 13:14-18, 18:1-5 The Evolution of the Presence of God

  5. Isaiah 6:1-13 Jesse's Stump (Advent #1)

  6. Isaiah 55 The Pine and the Myrtle

  7. Isaiah 11:1-5 Jesse's Shoot (Advent #4)

  8. Galatians 3:1-14 Those who Hang on Trees (Lent)

  9. Luke 19:28-40 The Trees Bowed Before Him! (Palm Sunday)

  10. Genesis 22, Mark 15:33-37 The Ram Caught in the Thicket (Good Friday)

  11. John 20:10-18 They Met Under the Trees in the Garden (Easter Morning)

  12. Acts 2:1-4, 42-47 Pentecost - the City has Arrived

  13. Matthew 6:13 (footnote)  “For Thine is the Kingdom, Power and Glory - the New Jerusalem - Focus of Desire”

  14. Revelation 17, 18 The Great Babylon

  15. Revelation 21 The Bride has Made herself Ready

  16. Revelation 22 The Tree Stands in the City

(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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