Read: John 14:1-3; Isaiah 35:1-10
One thing I have heard over and over during these months of spending more time at home is that almost everyone has watched more movies than they customarily did before the pandemic struck. That made me think. What is my favorite non-seasonal movie? The one that I've seen so many times that I start smiling even before I hear the lines that always make me laugh. Yes, it is the same one where I tear up even before the sentimental or sad scenes play out. Here's a clue. It came out in 1941, and it was directed by Howard Hawks? Give up? It is "SERGEANT YORK." There are so many things I love about that old classic movie. There are beautiful depictions of repentance and simple faith, but for today, I'd like to think about one very special scene that reminds me of the beauty of using our imaginations so that we experience joy.
Picture it. The year is 1917 or possibly 1918. Alvin York was with Gracie Williams, the girl he would one day marry. They were on the land where, one day, their home would stand. He was walking with her, showing her where the various rooms would be, excitedly describing the fact that they would have real glass in the windows and curtains too. He was telling Gracie that he would put a pump inside so she wouldn't have to carry water. Her excitement grew as she imagined all that Alvin had planned for their future. Then she spoke the line I love. She was so happy because they would have all this in only two or three years. It is at this point in the movie that the couple was interrupted, and Alvin York was told that the pastor wanted to speak with him. The picturing and imagining had to stop for the day, but Gracie, not deterred, asked her Alvin if he would tell her again all that he had planned for their future. Something he said he would do. Such joy they had as they thought about what was to come, even though none of it could yet be seen.
Like Gracie Williams, we too have been told about a place that has been planned and prepared for us, John 14:1-3. Someday, the very One Who planned and designed both the earth on which we live and the place we have not yet seen will come for us, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. At that time, there will be a gathering together of God's people, both those who are alive and those who have died prior to the moment that Jesus brings us together in the air. I know that there are differing views concerning the timing of end times events, but the most important truth is that God has given us enough information so we can enjoy thinking about the wonders He has in store for us. What about the promise that we will be in His presence, Revelation 22:1-6; Isaiah 65:17-25.
Are there mysteries? Things we can't fully understand? Yes, but imagine the things we read in these verses. There is an awesome place where God will reign as King. Each one who is resting in Jesus' completed work of salvation, John 19:30 will be with Him forever, Revelation 22:3-6.
Isaiah 35:1-10 tells us about other exciting things that we can imagine. In verses 1-2, we are told about the beauty of God's kingdom. I love flowers; so, this picture of their untarnished beauty thrills me. We get a mere foretaste of what it might be like when we enjoy both the wildflowers and the ones we so carefully tend in our own yards. What might the display of God's handiwork in His perfect kingdom look like?
Verses 5-6 thrill us with an amazing picture we have not yet seen. The elimination of those things that so often limit us here. What will it be like for those who haven't walked to leap? Or, how joyful will it be for those who have not yet heard anything to hear the Savior say well done? What about the blind no longer having the limitations of not seeing the intricate beauty God has created? What about those whose pain has been so severe? Imagine the joy of moving freely without so much as a twinge? Jesus, when He was here on earth the first time, gave us a sneak peek when He healed those the Father directed Him to make whole. We read their stories and wonder how their lives were changed by Jesus' word or touch. With those stories in mind, imagine what it will be like to have no diagnosis of cancer or auto-immune disease. No virus that might sicken or kill. Oh, the joy of thinking about that certainty.
Verse 7 helps us to imagine the restoration of the unfruitful places that are a part of living in this world. We have begun to experience the real need for rain here. The grass has become very dry and matted, and even though my husband has watered them well, some of the roses have dried before they could even open. Imagine a place of unmarred beauty and fruitfulness for plants, landscape and animals and for us too. I don't know how that will play out for us, but there is nothing God can't do; so, I know He can bring beauty into each broken place in our lives, Luke 1:37. Dreams that are unfulfilled here that have caused fissures in our hearts will somehow become places where we will see God's sweetness and faithfulness. I don't know what means God will use, but barrenness and brokenness will not be a part of what He has prepared for us.
Verses 8-10 paint a beautiful picture for us. God has a prepared place for us where there will be no wickedness. Imagine no news of sorrow or impending doom. No wicked plans or wasps and hornets waiting to sting us. No wonder we will be singing and experiencing everlasting joy. Occasionally, we receive an earthly glimpse of such joy, but we all know as sweet as it is, the joy is but for a moment. Imagine unending bliss. Who will be enjoying all of this? Isaiah 35:10 identifies this blessed group as those the Lord has ransomed.
In 1 Peter 1:18-20, we read about the One Who paid the ransom and what was given as payment. Jesus, the only One Who was worthy to pay our debts has made provision for us through His death on the cross. Imagine Someone loving you so much that He, of His own volition, would die for you. It was no accident. The same One Who spoke about a planned place for us died so we could be with Him for eternity. No wonder verses 3-4 of Isaiah 35 encourage us to speak about God's kingdom in order to strengthen each other. The joy comes as we remember His love.
The song says it well:
IF THAT ISN’T LOVE
He left the splendor of heaven, Knowing His destiny
Was the lonely hill of Golgotha, There to lay down His life for me
If that isn't love the ocean is dry, There're no stars in the sky, And the sparrow can't fly!
If that isn't love then heaven's a myth, There's no feeling like this, If that isn't love