"Jerusalem the golden, with milk and honey blest—The promise of salvation, the place of peace and rest—We know not, oh, we know not what joys await us there: The radiancy of glory, the bliss beyond compare!
"O sweet and blessed country, the home of God's elect! O sweet and blessed country that faithful hearts expect! In mercy, Jesus, bring us to that eternal rest, With You and God the Father and Spirit, ever blest."
"We know not what joys await us there." As much as we long to be with our Lord and to be reunited with friends and family members who already live in His eternal presence, we really do not know what heaven will be like. Holy Scripture speaks of streets of gold, gates of pearl, and walls built on a foundation of precious stones. We may picture green pastures and still waters, enjoyed under the eternal care of our Good Shepherd, or an Eden restored where we will walk with God. Yet the joys that await us there are beyond our understanding, "But, as it is written, 'What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him'" (1 Corinthians 2:9).
How can we imagine a world without sin? What would it mean to live a life that is not bound by time? What can we grasp with our God-given, although limited, understanding? We know what God tells us in His Word about "the place of peace and rest." The apostle Paul longed to "depart and be with Christ, for that is far better" (Philippians 1:23b). To die, to fall asleep in Jesus, is to be "away from the body and to be at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8b). Our heavenly home provides "a Sabbath rest for the people of God" (Hebrews 4:9b). To be at rest and at home with the Lord—we can hardly imagine anything better—but there is more to come. When Jesus returns on the Last Day, the saints who died before us will be raised bodily from death, and we will all be transformed in glory to live in His presence.
We care for our earthly home, yet at the same time we understand that we are exiles here and we long for an eternal home that we know will be far better. It is a home prepared by our Lord Jesus, a home purchased by His blood shed on the cross and confirmed by the Holy Spirit, "who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it" (Ephesians 1:14a). The apostle Paul contrasts the earthly Jerusalem, which represents our former slavery to sin, with the heavenly city: "The Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother" (Galatians 4:26). "Jerusalem the golden" is a place we have never seen, but it is our hometown. Although we do not know everything about our future home, we know "what faithful hearts expect." The day will come when we will be at home, forever with the Lord. "Joys await us," and "bliss beyond compare!"
THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, keep me in Your care until I live in Your presence forever. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler. It is based on the hymn "Jerusalem the Golden," which is number 672 of the Lutheran Service Book.
1. Have you ever been to Jerusalem? What are your special memories of being there?
2. Why is Israel called the "home of God's elect!" in this hymn?
3. What do you expect the heavenly Jerusalem to be like?
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