If you were looking for something about President Obama or the new U.S. budget or same-sex marriage (or healthcare reform, or some hopeless initiative to label GMOs in our food, or Korea, or anything related to the current geopolitical situation to get upset about [or to agree with]), you won’t find it here. As far as I’m concerned, there can be no transcendent, ultimate hope in a political nation.
Rather, we look to the second coming of Jesus . . . no, we long for that parousia. We place our firm hope — and this is no wispy wish! — in the future event, knowing by faith that all present joys will be magnified beyond belief, and all temporary struggles will be erased.
Aside: incidentally, one of the two or three primary “second coming” texts, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, was probably not intended as a focus of Paul’s message. It is a highly significant text, and not to be ignored, but neither does it constitute the main thrust of a letter that deals more in relationship and in walking/living Christianly.
So, what will the first day be like — that first “day” after Jesus’ return? (Days may not exist, as such, but they might not have existed during the creation of the world, either.) What might we imagine in terms of our own presence in that moment of all moments, that event to end all earthly events? How will it be for me? I have no idea, really, but I know, by faith, that my spirit’s awareness of God will eclipse all else.
I shared words from this favored song in the past and would like to do so again now, more completely and with commentary:
“Still, Still With Thee” (Harriet B. Stowe)
Still, still with Thee, when purple morning breaketh,
When the bird waketh, and the shadows flee;
Fairer than morning, lovelier than daylight,
Dawns the sweet consciousness, I am with Thee.
Alone with Thee, amid the mystic shadows,
The solemn hush of nature newly born;
Alone with Thee in breathless adoration,
In the calm dew and freshness of the morn.
As in the dawning o’er the waveless ocean
The image of the morning star doth rest,
So in the stillness Thou beholdest only
Thine image in the waters of my breast.
When sinks the soul, subdued by toil, to slumber,
Its closing eye looks up to Thee in prayer;
Sweet the repose beneath the wings o’ershading,
But sweeter still to wake and find Thee there.
So shall it be at last, in that bright morning,
When the soul waketh and life’s shadows flee;
O in that hour, fairer than daylight dawning,
Shall rise the glorious thought, I am with Thee.
One and Two: The first two stanzas, unified, poetically express the encounter of the eternal in terms of a resplendent, earthly daybreak. All the beauties of the dawning of a new day while in a natural surroundings are, however, eclipsed by the breathless adoration of our stunningly brilliant God.
Three: I didn’t previously know this stanza. Its message is a simpler, more confined, yet remarkably redemptive, one: The saved person is not even “seen” by God as himself … no, because of having put on Jesus Christ, what the holy, exacting God does see is the image of the spotless Lamb. If this soteriological truth were not present, all the poetic beauty in the world could not resolve the need for atonement, and this salvation-less situation would require our spiritual death to an eternal existence with God.
Four: as death appears imminent, and even potentially in the actual experience of dying, the believing soul casts his eyes in faith toward God. As a foreshadowing of the final rest, for the human who experiences the Lord’s protective peace, a certain rest may come. Yet a humanly experienced peace is neither satisfying nor absolute. The waking — the arising to a consciousness of a Presence like no other — this is the completion.
Five: there is no more lofty, no more finally fulfilling thought than to be with God forever. Come, Lord Jesus, and take Your bride home.
[This is an installment in the Monday Worship Music series. Find other, related posts through this link.]