The Journey: An Impossible Destination

September 17, 2017
Genesis 21:1-3; 22:1-14
Lindsay Small

A few weeks ago I took our kids to the MN state fair…

After a little while we made our way into the Miracle of Life Barn…only to find out that a calf was just about give birth. There were hundreds of people standing around watching this…with TV screens above with a closer view. A cow midwife was on hand to make sure everything went okay, and then…there was someone on a microphone giving color commentary.

You really have to see it to believe it. Once the calf was born…pretty cool…the color commentator said it was time to give the calf a name. They would solicit three names from the crowd…and then we would vote on the best one. So any suggestions? Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a hand go up next to me…only to realize that the hand belonged to my son Micah.

Yes, sir…your name suggestion please?! And with every ounce of his shyness squashed, Micah yelled “Bruce!!!”

And he won. (My parents visited the fair about 5 days later…they wanted to meet their grand calf…)

I don’t know what is in store for Bruce…I’m hoping for fields of clover…but that day Micah got a glimpse of the power of naming.

Names in the OT did not usually originate from a crowd suggestion and a vote… there was no commentator auctioning off names to the loudest cheer…

There was intentionality and care given to naming. Names were important. They pointed to who God is and who we are…

And they were important really from the very beginning, which is where we started last week…the creation story in Genesis 1.

So fast forward now in chapter 22…we’ve jumped over many names…Like Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel…there’s also been a flood…the tower of Babel…and in the the chapters leading up to the this text…

A patriarch has emerged. A man named Abraham…called at the age of 75…to move to a new land to help birth a new people.

And at the ripe old age of 100…Abraham and his wife Sarah did what they and everyone else thought was laughable…they had a son.

And they named him Isaac, which means “he laughs.”

Scholars debate the meaning of his name…does it point to the utter laughability of having a child at such a late age. Or does it point to the joy it must have brought them?

Or it is both?

Isaac, named for laughter, was Abraham and Sarah’s answer to decades of prayer and longing.

They laughed because he was finally here.

The test:

How I wish we could end here: Abraham and Sarah waited and waited. Isaac was born. And they laughed. The End.

But instead, we are led to chapter 22…one of the most difficult passages in the Bible.

A passage that raises more inquiry than answers. More question marks than periods.

It makes no sense. And no matter how I try to reconcile this text, there are elements that remain a mystery. There is no way to resolve it over the next three hours of this sermon…

Why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son?

Background:

Now by way of background, child sacrifice was at times practiced by neighboring nations. People believed that if they wanted the gods to give them something big…land, victory in war, etc…they had to sacrifice something. It was a way to earn the gods favor…and in order to do this, make the greatest sacrifice.

Many Old Testament passages expressly forbid this practice because at times it occurred even among the Israelites.

So perhaps God was asking the impossible of Abraham as a way of undoing the practice around him…of saying…this is going to end differently.

But we don’t get any sense that Abraham knew this as he set out on his journey…taking two servants and his son Isaac.

The text says the journey took three days. Three days. Can you imagine what they must have been like? The anguish in Abraham’s heart…every step leading him closer and closer to a destination he never wanted to reach.

Abraham was faced with an impossible choice: disobey God or lose the most important gift he had ever been given.

One foot in front of another…no more laughter…no more joy.

Of course the text leaves out this emotion, this anguish…and yet…you can almost hear it underneath the facts: a father is being asked to sacrifice his son.

Ishmael

This passage lies within a remarkably close orbit to another passage…that is strikingly similar (even though the one we’re looking at gets more air play).

Abraham had actually fathered a son before Isaac, a boy named Ishmael, which means “God hears.” His mother was a servant of Sarah’s named Hagar.

In Genesis 21, Ishmael and Hagar are sent away by Sarah…she wants them gone so that the blessing would fall solely on Isaac.

Abraham fretted over sending his son away, but God assured him all would be well.

And so he gave Hagar some food and water and sent them on their way. Again, the text is so matter of fact about it…and yet…you can hear the whispers of desperation underneath the facts.

Especially after Hagar runs out of food and water for Ishmael…and so she put him the bushes. And she went off and sat away from him…unable to watch him die…

Alone in the wilderness…with her son…whom she thought would surely die in this place.

In these two neighboring chapters…parents agonized, seemingly alone…but with impossible situations before them.

How is it that two sons are seemingly left for dead?

 —-

Yesterday I attended my 20th college reunion at North Park University…I know… its crazy to think that I graduated when I was 11…

During the breakfast, my former pastor from North Park Covenant Church, received the Distinguished Alumni Award. And after crediting all that he learned from this brown haired parishioner 20 years ago…he said this,

“Over the years I have learned that we are to look for Jesus in every situation… even the most impossible ones.”

And so when we think of Isaac on Mt. Moriah… And Ishmael in the desert of Beersheba…

We are reminded to look for Christ in these places too.

In Genesis 21, verse 17, “God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her: What is the matter? Do no be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

In Genesis 22, verse 11, “But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven: Abraham! Abraham! Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you hear God, because you have withheld me your son, you only son.

In these two unlikely places…God makes himself known.

In the middle of the dessert…GOD HEARS…Ishmael.

 And at the top of a mountain……GOD STOPS ABRAHAM…and brings his laughter back.

 Look for Jesus in all situations…even the most impossible ones.

The burden that followed you here…the relationship that is not healed…the dependency that you cannot seem to break…

Look for Christ…

The Christian life is not a life free of pain…it is one where we are promised to not go through the pain alone.

There will be tests…there will be trials…there will be loneliness… But God is right here with us…

There is a combination of impossibility and joy in God’s call. Of testing and providence. Of obedience and grace.

 But when I think of the lonely hill Abraham climbed with Isaac…I do see Christ.

Because, the Bible tells us that God had no good options.

That sin had grown too large to be reconciled by humans…

That the world had largely turned its back on God… and yet he was still committed to us. He still loved us. What should God do?

The answer comes in the form of another son: this time it was God’s son. A son who wandered alone in the dessert…

A son who walked up another hill…only to sacrifice himself out of love for the world.

God’s sentence of command to Abraham ends here in Genesis with a comma… and it is only completed with a period on the cross.

God will not ask anything of us that he himself is not willing to do. God will not ask us to go where he himself is not willing to go.

God makes the ultimate sacrifice of death of his son so that we could have life. Because ultimately, God is for life…for breath…for flourishing…

He promises both Ishmael and Isaac that they will father a great nation.

He promises to lead them away from desert places and into life abundant… And God promises us the same.

The passage ends with one more name: in verse 14: “So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide,” or Jehovah-Jirah.”

A name that reminds us of who God is: a God who provides in the midst of the most impossible circumstances.

The name is made more significant because of the road it took to get there… three days of a hellish existence for Abraham…but God provided.

There again, I see Christ…for on the third day he rose again from the dead. Questions still linger for me…in this text and in our world…

But in the midst of these questions…can we look for Jesus?

Knowing that in the end…no matter our name…Jehovah-Jirah is right beside us.

Renee Krueger
The Journey: God Said and God Saw

September 10, 2017
Genesis 1:1 - 2:4a
Lindsay Small

This morning is a new beginning of sorts. Summer travel is over…kids are settled
back in school…some of you have taken your kids to college…some discovering
a new life in retirement.

But whatever your stage in life, this Sunday serves as a second ‘new year’s day’
in the church. Often called Rally Day, or Kick-Off…our old church called it
Welcome Home Sunday…this is a day when we begin anew…

And what better place to do it than right at the very beginning…our series for this
season is called “The Journey.” And we will do exactly that…journey through
scripture. Starting today in Genesis 1 and traveling through the story of the
people of God.

Along the way, we will use this metaphor of journey to take inventory on where
we are in our own spiritual life. We will walk with those who walked before us…
and they will show us the way.

We will also walk with artists who have illustrated the Journey. Through a
generous gifting from Third Reformed Church, we have artwork displayed in the
gallery to illustrate the scripture texts from each week.
And of course we want to invite you on a church-wide journey…around our
building…take a look at your passport…

So today is that day when we start the journey…after all, every journey has a
beginning…

Read Genesis 1

The first three words of the Bible are some of the most familiar words in scripture.
The words in and of themselves are familiar…but put them together in the correct
order…and you get one of the most famous prepositional phrases ever written:
In the beginning.

They are words that perhaps you have read over and over again…every time
you’ve committed to reading the Bible from cover to cover. Its nice to begin with
something familiar…

In the beginning.

We read these words and all at once we find ourselves transported back to the
garden of Eden…or at least our flannel graph version of Eden…where water,
land, and vegetation co-exist so perfectly on that light blue surface.

Or perhaps the creation story stirs more questions than answers for you…
wondering how it jives with your 10th grade science class.

And we quickly realize that we do not start at the beginning empty handed…but
with flannel graph in one hand and science textbook in another…

But I’m wondering if this morning we could put those both aside…

After all, none of these existed in ancient Israel.

We upload questions onto this text that it was never intended to answer…

Instead, the question it did intend to answer…with a huge exclamation point…
was the question of polytheism…

In other words…every tribe and nation that surrounded the Israelites believed in
a religion with many, many gods.

There were hundreds of them…in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Babylon…each had
their own set…

…each having their own dominion (vegetation, water, land, god of toenails…
there was a god for everything)…and they competed with one another for
prominence. These gods were incredibly demanding, selfish…and fickle as all
get out…

The Babylonians believed that the gods created humans, but then quickly
regretted the decision because they were too noisy.

These nations believe that gods battled, killed, and enslaved each other…and
humans were often caught in the middle.

This was the world that surrounded the Israelites…this was often the
temptation…the lure…there were times when the Israelites wanted to worship a
god of whatever it was…because everyone else was!

And so the creation account that we know was written PRIMARILY to beat back
all claims of many gods…

Because this story of creation stands in utter opposition to every other religion at
the time.

In the beginning…GOD.

One God…sovereign and powerful.

God says…and it happens.

And not just in one realm or the other…and not to compete with another or show
off in front of another.

In the beginning…God says…and it was.

The creation account in Genesis is written to declare that there is ONE GOD…
But there is another thing about this creation account. Something that sets it
above and apart from all others.

There is a repetition…a phrase that is used over and over…so simple and yet so
beautiful.

And God saw that it was good.

Seven Times.

God said…”let there be light, a dome, waters, vegetation…”

God said…and it was.

And after everything he said was…he took a step back.

The text says that he SAW what he had made…and declared it good.

Or in Hebrew…Tov.

Tov is one of the those words where the English translation only gets you so far.

Yes, good is a good translation. But when God sees that what he has made is
TOV…its bigger, deeper, and wider than our meaning of the word good.’

When you ask someone how their day is going, and they say, “good.” You get the
feeling that there is more to be had…that it could be better.

But TOV…tov is a word of completeness.

Tov means good…beautiful…delightful…working the way it was created to.

I called a friend of mine at Western Seminary this week. Our offices were
across from each other when I worked there a few years ago…and I loved
talking to her. Pam is type of person that everyone loves talking to…in part,
because she gives her affirmations in Hebrew. She says TOV…all the time.

So I said, Pam, I’m preaching on Creation. And she said, “Mmmm…Tov.”

I asked her about this word…tov. And she affirmed my inclination…when God
created the earth…he sees it and declares it tov…he finds it beautiful, lovely,
delightful…bursting with good-ness.

Everything God created in these first 25 verses of the Bible…he deems TOV…

And then after creating humanity, in verse 31…he deems it very TOV. Or Tov meod.
God created the world…and it was TOV.

This was the way it was supposed to be. Everything was tov: Creation, people,
relationships.

Everything in creation was working the way God intended. It was good and
beautiful. And God delighted in it.

But we know that something happened…

The tov people of God stopped believing God was tov. They thought they could
become like God themselves. Eventually, they stopped living a tov life. They no
longer treated all of creation as if it was tov. Quickly, creation started to unravel.
Everything tov became very un-tov.

But here is the beautiful thing: God did not give up his dream of TOV. Once
creation started to unravel, God immediately set in motion a place for its
restoration.

God’s plan is for all un-tov ways to become tov again. When creation starts to
unravel, God enters with a plan of restoration…

A friend of ours named Nathan Albert, a man so nice they named him twice, has
written on the TOV work of restoration:

One of the ways God does this restoration is through his beloved people. We
have a task in process. God has been working to make a people, a nation, a tov
community that would not only bear God’s image, but also help make all of
creation tov.

Our call as people of God is to be a community where everything is good,
beautiful, and working the way it was created to.
We are to be tov in a world that desperately needs to get a glimpse of it; of
heaven on earth.

The problem is, there are many days when I do not really believe I am tov.
Much of what I see or scroll tells me that I am not good enough…that I am not
thin enough…or pretty enough…that I am not successful enough. That I am not
enough.

I do not see the image of God, I see the not-enoughness. Perhaps you fall into
the same trap…

And in the midst of untovedness…we turn away from God, thinking that he will
not want us in our un-tov states…

And perhaps without even realizing it, we then turn towards materialism, wealth,
and false measures of success…

…and all of sudden, we’re just like those Babylonians, constructing gods that
easily tire of us.

But the message of creation is one where TOV is proclaimed over and over…
every thing that is created…

And when God gets to humans…he creates us…IN HIS IMAGE.

Verse 27, “So God created humankind in his image,

in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.”

And when he had created humans, when he had created us…he took a few
steps back…And God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very
good. TOV ME-OD.

The Good News, the Tov News, is that we are created in God’s image.
And because we are loved by God, his greatest work of restoration lands solely
on us.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…Christ rescued us from
the un-tovness of the world and now presents us TOV in God’s sight. He
presents us as beautiful, delightful creatures…made in his image.

Because of Christ, the most tov-ness person who ever walked the earth, we are
good and beautiful in God’s sight…each and every one of us.

But the creation story does not end here…

Again, Nathan writes,

This is the impetus for living a tov life. We don’t do tov works so that we might be
accepted by God. We are accepted by God; therefore, we live a tov life.

If we try to gain God’s acceptance by living a tov life, we will become judgmental,
burnt out, give up on God because the standards are too high, or think that God
owes us because of our upstanding living. Instead, we must bathe in the fact that
God accepts us, calls us tov and because of this we live a tov life.

Paul reminds us that we are God’s workmanship, God’s masterpiece, a one of a
kind creation, and we have been created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which
God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10). We have been created to do
good works, tov works; deeds that are good and beautiful.

What might God be calling you to do today? What are ways you can participate
in restoring “TOV” to all creation?

And yet, here we are…with so much turmoil around us…the questions have been
circling in my mind: how do I preach the goodness of God’s creation in the midst
of hurricanes, forest fires, and flooding?

How do I offer the TOV news of God when I know that our minds and hearts are
with those who are in the path of the hurricane at this very moment?
I don’t know.

We are reminded this morning, and so many other mornings, that the world is so
very un-tov.

God’s creation is beautiful, but at times it is obviously not working the way it was
created to.

There is injustice, crime, hate, racism, sexism, and evil. There is famine and
natural disaster, war and pollution, death and disease.

But, the Gospel tells us that the world will be made tov again. Greens will be
greener, blues will be bluer. All things will be made new. The world will be tov
again.

The book of Revelation reminds of what is to come: “Look! God’s dwelling place
is now among the people, and God will dwell with them. They will be his people,
and God himself will be with them and be their God. 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.” (vv. 21:3-4)

Un-tov will pass away. Tov will be restored.

We know this is our future. We know this is God’s promise to us.

And so in this meantime…between creation and fulfillment…we remember…

We remember that because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection God views us
as tov. God always has and always will.

We remember that all people are good, beautiful, and can work the way God
created them to work.

We remember that we were created in God’s image to continue his work of
restoration and peace.

We remember that we each have a part to play in God’s plan to bring about a tov
creation.

And God sees his people…remembering, restoring, toving…and he sees that it is
very good.

Renee Krueger
At the Water's Edge: Faith Worth Betting On

September 3, 2017
Revelation 22:1-7
Nate Schipper

This morning we head to the border.  Not a literal border of entities or “On the Border” the restaurant– well unless someone wants to go to lunch after the service…  We are on the border figuratively between summer and fall, vacation and school – I’m sorry to say teachers and students! 

We are also heading to the border between our summer sermon series “At the Water’s Edge,” and our fall series, “The Journey: from fear to faith.”  Our summer series has taken us to numerous biblical stories that are near, on, or involving water.  In each story we were reminded that Water was a symbol of life- that it preserved life for God’s people through the plagues and the parting of the Red sea, spared Moses’ Life and sustained the Widow, it healed the life of Naaman, and symbolized Justice for Amos.  We have been, like Jesus, baptized into a life with God through water, and promised that Christ will be with us no matter what storms of life we must endure.  Water is a symbol of power and destruction, but more importantly a symbol of life: Cleansing, purifying and sustaining. 

So this morning we conclude our summer series At the Water’s Edge in the place our Christian bible concludes.  The book of revelation serves as a border – a border between the already nature of God’s kingdom and the not yet nature of God’s kingdom here on earth.  The book of revelation is a vision the disciple John has on the island of Patmos.  It is here that John has a vision, experiences a revelation of God’s kingdom as it is already occurring, in his earthly experience.  In the celtic tradition this is called a “Thin Place,” a place where disparity between heaven and earth collapses.  I’m sure some of you have experienced a time like this in your life.  John takes this experiences and writes it down in the form of a letter to seven churches in Asia Minor, this letter is the book of Revelation.

Our reading from Revelation this morning is in the very last chapter of the book, chapter 22, and comes in the context of John describing the heavenly city that will descend upon the earth in the end.  He describes the heavenly city with much detail and imagery but I don’t want us to get lost and miss the main point.  Lets open our bibles to Revelation 22 verse 1-7.

Read Revelation 22:1-7

This is a beautiful image is it not!?  Water as bright as crystal and clear as glass flowing from the throne of God providing water for trees that serve to nourish and heal the land.  A river that flows down the middle of the street with these tree’s that bear fruit in each season, the throne of God in the middle with the people of God seeing God face to face!  No light will be necessary because God will be their light.  This passage is just a small portion of the eternal city, the heavenly city that we find in Revelation 21 and 22.

John’s Revelation would have been in sharp contrast to the reality the seven churches receivinghis letter were living through.  You see there is always this temptation to read Revelation purely as a description of what will happen at the end of time.  But Revelation is a book of Hope that was written as a commentary on the current context of John’s first century readers.  Just like Old Testament prophecy had an element of future hope, they more importantly served as message of hope or correction for a people who were lost and in pain or scared or disobedient.

At the heart of Revelation and at the heart of our passage from this morning we have an image that can easily be overlooked.  We can miss this image amidst all the other images and details.  If you can remember one thing from Revelation, if you remember ONE thing from this sermon I would want it to be this: In the heavenly realms, right now, Jesus is on the throne of God and one day he will be ruling on earth as He already is in heaven. 

The message John shares with his first century readers and with us today is that there will come a day when the rulers of this world will bow, the powers of darkness will vanish, the nations of this world will be healed, and Jesus Christ will reign on earth as he already does in heaven. It is the Christian message of hope- REVELATION IS ABOUT HOPE.

The first century readers needed hope.  You see those first century readers were living under the rule and oppression of the Roman Empire.  The emperor at the time, Nero, was in charge and demanded that all of his citizens, all those who were under his rule, worship him alone and when Nero felt threatened, Nero reacted, and he reacted violently.  So when this rag tag community of Jews started proclaiming Jesus was Lord rather than Ceaser was Lord, Nero was pissed.  Nero found reasons to persecute Christians for nearly anything.  In fact, some historians have said that during Roman festivals Nero would tar Christians and burn them for light in the wee hours of the night.

In the face of such opposition, in the face of such persecution you can imagine how those first century Christians might have responded.  Some churches tried to hold fast and stay faithful, some compromised their conviction that Jesus was Lord and tried to bow to Nero and Jesus, while others abandoned the faith all together.  Amidst such oppression – where would the church find Hope?  How would they remain faithful in the face of persecution?

The faithful had lost hope and were discouraged.

Those who compromised the faith with Politics were confused.

Those who abandoned the faith were lost, they needed rescue, they needed spiritual healing.

Have you been there before?

Have you lost hope that the moral fabric that held this country together for decades is unravelling?  Have you lost hope that the church in America can ever be a beacon of light to the world?  Have you lost hope in the common Christmas card line, “Peace on Earth?

Have you ever wondered if we have compromised our faith in Christ for political ideologies?  Have you ever wondered if the church has compromised? 

Have you abandoned the faith you held so dear as a child?  Have you abandoned your faith in the institution of the church? 

John’s prophesy was clear: I know you are scared. I know you are afraid.  I know you are filled with doubt.  I know there are principalities and rulers at work in this world that steal your hope, that steal life.

But I saw a vision and the vision was clear.  The one we call Lord, the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, the one they persecuted and crucified, Jesus Christ is alive and one day he will be on the throne on earth as he is in heaven.  This Jesus is worth betting your life on.  He is a horse worth betting on.

Anyone here watch the big “fight,” last weekend?  Many of you may be like me until a couple days before last Saturday’s big fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.  Mayweather – an undefeated boxer took on McGregor an Ultimate fighter – mixed martial artist and boxer all in one in the “Ultimate fight” last weekend.  Mayweather was so confident that the day before the fight he tried to make a 400k bet on himself!  He had such faith, such conviction that he would win he was willing to bet on himself!

John too had a lot of faith.  He had faith in Jesus!  But my question for you is how could John speak with such assurance and conviction amidst so much doubt and fear, amidst so much persecution?  How could he speak a vision that he knew could cost him his life?

First, the revelation John experienced and witnessed on the Island of Patmos was congruent with the Old Testament prophesy that he as a jewish Christian would have known intimately.  Consider the heart of our text this morning- a river flowing down through the middle of the street from the throne of God with tree’s lining it’s edges for the healing of the nations.  This image is nearly the same image that the prophet Ezekiel received when the people of God were in exile in Babylon.  Open your bibles to Ezekiel 47 – this is too good not to check out.  This is a prophecy that Ezekiel offered to the people of God after the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, the people of God were lost, and hope was at a premium.

Ezekiel 47:1 – “Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar.”

The temple is the place that God dwells.  In John’s revelation there will be no need for a temple but the temple is congruent with the throne in Revelation.  The water of life flows from the presence of God. 

From verse 1 to verse 6 the prophet describes this water getting deeper and deeper, expanding from a trickle at the throne of God to a river flowing so fast one can not swim across it.  We pick up in verse 7.

Vs 7-8 As I came back, I saw on the bank of the river a great many trees on the one side and on the other. 8 He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the sea, the sea of stagnant waters, the water will become fresh.

The sea of stagnant waters is the dead sea.  The place where it is so hot and so salty that NO form of life can exist there.  I was afforded the opportunity to visit that place last year and I will never forget the commination of heat, smell, and salty water in my life.  The basin of the Dead Sea is the living symbol today and in the first century of it’s namesake – death.  But there will come a day when the life giving water of God will come and make even the most deadliest of places alive again.   Let’s read on.

VS 9-12 9 Wherever the river goes,[b] every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes. 10 People will stand fishing beside the sea[c] from En-gedi to En-eglaim; it will be a place for the spreading of nets; its fish will be of a great many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. 11 But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. 12 On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”

The tree’s that bear fruit in every month and who’s leaves are for the healing of the nations.  A vision of abundance, sustenance, and healing.  It’s the mission of God at work, it’s the mission of the church in it’s fullness.  The water of life that flows from the temple, from the throne of God is for the restoration of the earth, for the restoration of humanity back to God! 

Ezekiel and John have a smiliar vision because it’s the same vision that God has had since the beginning of time!  God’s desire has always been for life!  Jesus Christ the living water can bring life to the deadliest part of our existence.  God’s desire has always been that this water is not just for the people inside the temple but that it waters the entire world- for the healing of the nations!  God’s desire is that the people of God will bear witness to this, that Israel will return to Jerusalem and be a light to the world for Ezekiel, and that the seven churches in the first century will bear witness to this, and that we today the church of the 21st century church will bear witness to Jesus Christ power to bring life out of the most deadliest of situations. 

John could speak with conviction and assurance because his prophesy, his vision, the revelation passed down to him aligned with the vision of Ezekial, but it was also given to him by Jesus.  How could he speak with such assurance – because he knew Jesus was worth betting his life on.  John had faith in Jesus!  John had this faith because:

John was there when Jesus told him to cast his net on the other side of the boat and they caught a great many fish.

John was there when Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethaisada

John was there when Jesus forgave the Samaritan woman at the well

John was in the boat when Jesus walked on water

John at the last supper when Jesus washed their feet.

John was there when they arrested Jesus, and John was the only Disciple who was there when the roman soldier speared Jesus side and saw blood and water discharge

John was there when they wrapped his body and rolled the stone in front of the grave

And John was the first disciple there when they found the tomb empty and John was there when they saw Jesus resurrected body and he witnessed Jesus ascending to heaven.

John saw first hand what Jesus could do here on earth and believed what Jesus revealed to him would come to be.  He was sure that this would come to be because he had faith in Jesus. 

NOW HE IS pleading with those first century Christians under the oppression of the roman empire, and he is pleading with us- JESUS IS a horse worth backing, Jesus is worth betting on, because I have seen him, and I can testify that he has changed my life and the lives of many others and he can change your life too. 

It was a message of HOPE.  It was the Christian conviction despite the current brokenness, despite principalities and powers at work in this world, despite the fact that hurricanes destroy cities like Houston, Monsoons destroy Southern Asia, despite famines that destroy communities in Southern Sudan, even though Ballistic Missals are launched into the Pacific Ocean, DESPITE ALL THIS, John says – there will be a day, a time when the Kingdom of God is present in all it’s fullness here on earth as it is in heaven.

This hope is not just some naïve hope that this will happen in the future.  It is the conviction that it will happen and we are given the opportunity to take part in it today.   Scott Hoeze says:

Hope is what animates us precisely to begin leaning into and living toward exactly the vision for abundant flourishing that John sketches in his vision. Hope is what gives us the steel and the grit to soldier on for the truth, to preach the Gospel, to denounce that which Christ died to end and anything that will not have a place in the New Creation.

Hope is what lead:

Mother Thereasa to bathe lepers in Cacultta

Martin Luther King JF to walk bridge in Selma

Western Seminary to start a soup kitchen in downtown Holland.

Our missionaries Adriann and Bernardeth to Start Medical treatment centers in remote villages in Nicarauga.

RCA volunteers to respond to Hurricane Harvey with hands on help in Houston.

US, Fellowship church, To dream that one day NO kid at WO will go to school hungry

Christian Hope is the faith that Jesus is Reigning in Heaven and one day will reign on Earth.

Are you willing to live into such hope? Are you willing to bet your life on Jesus?

Let’s be a people that trust that God’s kingdom truly will come on earth as it is in heaven. 

Whether we like it or not that will be the end of the story.  In the end it will be Jesus on the throne here on earth and he will:

Take away the sin of the world

Take away all our pain

Take away all our suffering

Take away all our doubt

In the end it will be Jesus on the throne, but that END will really be JUST THE BEGINNING!

Renee Krueger