From the Garden to the City,
Trees along the way
(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
Q & A 128
(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.
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
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
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
Or as the Psalmist wrote (Psalm 42)
As the deer pants for streams of
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?
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
the Garden to the City - Trees Along the Way
(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.