The Holy City (2)

“The angel who talked to me held in his hand a gold measuring stick to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. When he measured it, he found it was a square, as wide as it was long. In fact, its length and width and height were each 1,400 miles. Then he measured the walls and found them to be 216 feet thick (according to the human standard used by the angel). The wall was made of jasper, and the city was pure gold, as clear as glass.”
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭21:15-18‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The New Jerusalem was some place! It was a cube, each side being 1,400 miles long, though possibly open at the top (we know it had a base because we read about the foundations in the last verse). In the conversation between John and the angel, it became apparent that the angel had a “gold measuring stick” in his hand. John saw that it was made of gold, signifying something true and calibrated to be exactly correct. In the natural it would have taken a very long time to measure the three dimensions with a portable ruler. But in John’s vision it would have taken no time at all. The angel also measured the thickness of the walls, and found them to be 216 feet. John wrote an aside here, pointing out that the measurements were “to the human standard”. In other words, the New Jerusalem will be bigger and more substantial than anything we could ever imagine. We will probably never be able to explore its limits when we get there. Rather sadly, I calculated that the volume of the walls alone would be over 250 cubic kilometres. A mind boggling feat of engineering. But nothing to our amazing Creator God! But it gets even more wonderful. The wall is made of jasper. No concrete structure this. Jasper is a semi-precious stone, much valued by the ancient Israelites, especially if green. It featured as the last stone in the High Priest’s breastplate, as described in Exodus 28:20, “The fourth row will contain a blue-green beryl, an onyx, and a green jasper. All these stones will be set in gold filigree.” The type of jasper favoured by the Israelites was very translucent, so the Holy City would have glowed with its inner light, lit up by the glory of God. But also twinkling away as light penetrated and reflected off its surfaces. Perhaps the jasper John saw was so pure that it behaved almost like diamonds.

Inside the city, John could see that it was made of gold. Pure gold. But it was a special variation of the precious metal, because it was “as clear as glass”. The mineralogy behind the Holy City was of a kind unknown on Planet Earth. Perhaps this was how the earthly jasper and gold should have been before the impact of sin and wickedness warped and twisted God’s original creation.

We pilgrims will notice that the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, is something special because God is living within it. And it will be amazing to be able to join Him there. But God lives within each one of us through faith right now. Jesus said to His disciples, as recorded in John 14:23, “… All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.” The God-experience within us is only bounded by our faith and humanity. He is always wanting to do more through us, if only we had the faith to let Him. That same power that could create the Holy City out of jasper and gold is available to each one of us today. I am always impressed and challenged by Ephesians 3:20, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Tapping into God’s “mighty power”starts with a living, breathing relationship with Him, taking small steps of faith. And before long we will find out that we are accomplishing much for Him. Notice the word that Paul includes in this verse. “Infinitely”. That’s quite a lot! There is no limit to what God can do.

Dear Father God. We confess our lack of faith and our timidity, when it comes to doing great things for You. Please help us, we pray. Amen.

The Love of Money

Give me an eagerness for your laws 
rather than a love for money! 
Turn my eyes from worthless things, 
and give me life through your word.
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭119:36-37‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Aah! The love of money. It is only a matter of time before it emerges from the dark recesses within a person’s heart. I suppose there is a spectrum, from the money-dominated Scrooge, gloating over his piles of cash, through to a money-denying monk living a life of austerity in a bare cell. But we are all on that spectrum somewhere. Money has its uses of course – it lubricates the wheels of life in our secular and materialistic societies, and we need it to survive – but it can dominate our thinking. If we let it.

The Psalmist sees the danger of a life with a pecuniary focus. He sees the importance of dwelling in a place of eternal currency rather than in a world populated by “worthless things“. It is interesting that the Revelation picture of the new Jerusalem includes so many precious jewels, pearls and gold. What is considered of value in today’s world will be considered building materials in the world to come. Ubiquitous items of little value when compared to our Almighty God. 

But for the pilgrim working his way through this life, what is the correct balance between money and God? Jesus could see the dangers of getting this wrong, and taught that the service of both at the same time was impossible. He said in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” The key is in the use of the word He used to describe how we see and use money – “enslaved”. The Psalmist was trying to get to a place of the correct balance, where money would be used but not worshipped. A place where the value of money would be eclipsed by our great and glorious God and His Word. 

The pilgrim of course needs money to make his way through this life. But he must not succumb to the temptation to acquire more and more glittering temporal objects, call it “stuff” if you like, at the expense of the eternal jewels in God’s Word. The one will be left behind when we pass the Great Divide. The other will be waiting for us on the other side. Let us join the Psalmist in declaring our eagerness to mine those precious jewels and nuggets from His Word so that we can accumulate them in our hearts and lives. A last word today from Jesus. “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

Soaring

All you who fear the Lord, trust the Lord! 
He is your helper and your shield. 
He will bless those who fear the Lord, 
both great and lowly. 
May the Lord richly bless both you and your children.
The dead cannot sing praises to the Lord, 
or they have gone into the silence of the grave. 
But we can praise the Lord 
both now and forever! 
Praise the Lord!”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭115:11, 13-14, 17-18‬ ‭NLT‬‬

After expounding the attributes of God, answering the question he had obviously been asked by those around them – “Where is your God?” – the Psalmist continues by contrasting idols, inert lumps of precious metal, with the vibrant wonder of God. The Psalmist lists the qualities of idols, or rather the lack of them, and then finishes this section with the thought that the makers of idols are just like them, lifeless. So when the reader gets this far in the psalm, he is presented with the stark contrast between the living God and lifeless idols, and the pointlessness of putting trust in dead and immovable objects. 

But the Psalmist wastes no further time in the discussion, desperately impatient to focus and expound on God being the Helper and Shield, the totally trustworthy Creator God. In effect the Psalm itself comes to life, abandoning further talk of idols and preferring to focus on God Himself. It’s almost as though the world and its focus on worldly objects is left on the tarmac as our spiritual airliner takes off into the God-void above, where God rules and determines our environment. Those left on the tarmac missed the flight. They didn’t even know that there was one. But God’s people were on board the airliner and soared into the blessings above. Soaring on wings like eagles, effortlessly supported by the wind of God’s Spirit. 

The Psalmist briefly dips back into the thought that, like their idols, those that make them are heading for a silent grave. A grave where singing praises to God is not an option. But those soaring above continue to praise God eternally. Of course, we know that one day the graves will give up their dead and those within them will have a brief encounter with God before heading to their eternal home, a home especially built for idolators. But God’s people will continue to soar in the multi-dimensional environment where God lives. What else can we do except “Praise the Lord!” O, and by the way, the precious metal used to make idols on earth, is used for covering roads in Heaven. Hmmm..