Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The LORD Loves the Gates of Zion

One of my favorite psalms is found in Psalm 87:2-3 where the LORD speaks of His violent affections for the church.  "The LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the other dwelling places of Jacob.  Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God.  Selah."  The "selah" here is especially important.

To read over this too quickly would be to miss the marrow of this passage.

Israel was the church in the O.T.  She was a shadow of the church to come.  She was the church and a sign pointing to the future church who surpassed her in glory.  Just as the exodus was a real deliverance that Moses secured for Israel and at the same time served as a sign pointing to the true deliverance that Jesus Christ secured for all the people of God; so Israel is the church in the O.T and a sign pointing the church in the N.T. (cf. Acts 7:38; 1 Cor. 10:1-4)  The O.T. is banquet table full of signs pointing to the greater reality in the N.T.   It serves as "...a copy and shadow of the heavenly things..." Hebrews 8:5.  It was "...only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things..."  We must adopt this view of the relationship between the Old and the New Testaments if we are going to understand what the Psalmist is saying, ultimately.  

No doubt when the psalmist originally spoke of the "..gates of Zion" he had a physical reality in his mind.  But we must ask: what did that physical reality represent to him?  It represented the corporate worship of the living God.  The gates of Zion was where the gathered people of Israel worshipped the one true and living God.  It was more special than all the other dwelling places of Jacob, because this was the place of sacred communion.  This was the place where the ancient church gathered to offer their hearts, their minds, their souls, their strength to the Lord of hosts.  That is why the LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all other places.  The community of believers joined with the community of the Trinity, and loved and adored and delighted in God together!

This verse equally applies to the church today.  Sure we have our private devotions, and we gather the family to worship, and we commune with God throughout the week.  But more than these, the Lord loves the gathering of the church—the gates of Zion.  He loves the "place" where His people corporately gather to receive fresh grace from Him.  "Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God."  God loves the Lord's day more than all the other days (although all equally belong to Him) because it is on that day where His church gathers, militant and triumphant, to fellowship, to pray, to praise, to preach, to listen, to love, to learn, to heal, to be made holy, and to prepare for that Day when we will meet the Bridegroom.  What a treasure the "gates of Zion" is.  The LORD loves it more than all other dwelling places.

Is that your heart for the church?  Are you a person who longs for the gates of Zion, and aches for the place where God's special presence dwells?  I hope so friend.  To discover this truth is to discover heaven on earth.  

Monday, November 3, 2014

Heaven is a World of Love

One of the things that has struck me about the differences between this life and the next is that in this life everything is mixed.  With the sweet comes the bitter.  With the joy comes the sorrow.  There is never a time on this side of Jesus' return where there is a full consummation of love and joy and peace.  It is true that our Heavenly Father often gives us glimpses of that type of consummation.  Seasons where love for God is ardent, and the fellowship with the saints is sweet, and compassion for the lost is violent.  But these are just glimpses.  There is no sustained, unbroken harmony with those experiences because of the remaining corruption in all of us.  But in heaven, all mixture disappears.  There is only a pure concentration of love, joy, peace, harmony, holiness and happiness.  We will be in the presence of God Himself. The air of that place will be a fragrance of perfect enjoyment with no mixture of envy or enmity.  There will not be the slightest feeling of discontent.  Those are things that belong to this world.  That world will have no mixture of sweet with bitter.  Only perfect sweetness, perfect harmony, and perfect love.  Jonathan Edwards in his sermon entitled "Heaven a World of Love" puts it like this...

"In heaven all things shall conspire to promote their love, and give advantage for mutual enjoyment.  There shall be none there to tempt any to dislike or hatred; no busybodies, or malicious adversaries, to make misrepresentations, or create misunderstandings, or spread abroad any evil reports, but every being and everything shall conspire to promote love, and the full enjoyment of love.  Heaven itself, the place of habitation, is a garden of pleasures, a heavenly paradise, fitted in all respects for an abode of heavenly love; a place where they may have sweet society and perfect enjoyment of each other's love.  None are unsocial or distant from each other.  The petty distinctions of this world do not draw lines in the society of heaven, but all meet in the equality of holiness and of holy love."