Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend
“I Can Only Imagine”
Exodus 24:15-18 (NIV)
When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, 16 and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. 17 To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.18 Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
As I read the text above, one single question came to mind: “What was it like on that mountain!?” Moses went up to meet God on behalf of the people. Other than how long he was there, the scene’s appearance from outside, and what Moses brought down when he disembarked, we know little about what happened up there. What we do know is that Moses met God.
Can you imagine… standing in the presence of God? Can you imagine what it’s like to be, as the song goes, “surrounded by [God’s] glory”? What would that feel like? What would be your response? For now, we can only imagine. But one day, when God calls us home, we won’t have to imagine anymore. Halleluiah! And we have a greater invitation than Moses did at that time. Now, God’s people will not merely behold God for a time, receiving a covenant that will one day be superseded by something greater. Instead, we will be welcomed into the new heavens and earth as partakers in an eternal covenant. We will receive perfect bodies and hearts and live forever in communion with God and one another in an incorruptible world. Now, what will that be like? I am overjoyed just thinking about it!
One spiritual discipline I’ve come to value over the years, about which I shared earlier this week, is exercising my imagination in musings about the world to come. We don’t know much about that world, but we know enough about God to know it’s good. When we spend time thinking about life eternal and the day we will see God face-to-face, we find encouragement to press on in difficult times, hope for another day, and a joy in the face of despair. We find power, amid draining distraction, to keep our eyes on the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price (Matt. 13:44-46), worth the exchange of all we have and all we are.
One literary work that helped me begin imagine the world to come is C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce. While imperfectly groping at something mysterious and unsearchable, it highlights truths about our eternity with God through a fictional story about people making their journey to the other side.
For your encouragement today, I offer Lewis’ words:
They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say “Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences”: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin.
‘…[In heaven,] what happens to [the Saved] is best described as the opposite of a mirage. What seemed, when they entered it, to be a vale of misery turns out, when they look back, to have been a well; and where present experience saw only salt deserts, memory truthfully records that the pools were full of water.’
And the words of the Apostle John:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. (Revelation 21:3-7)
One day we will see God face to face, and then the new world will come in fullness. I can hardly wait! How about you?
Prayer: Creator and Redeemer, in an overflow of joy You created the world and in a display of love You redeemed it. You graciously call me Your own and delight in relationship with me. I am so grateful. Help me today to remember that one day I will be with You and see You face-to-face. Help me to find comfort in knowing that one day all that is good in life and the world will remain and all the hurts and brokenness will fade away. This is what You have promised and I trust in You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: 2 Corinthians 3-4