I sat yesterday evening with a beloved sister in Christ who is on her way Home. She would not awaken at first to greet me with her customary "oh wow" (who doesn't like to be welcomed with such exciting words?). So I sat by her, and, as we were forgotten in the bustle of the business of the household, I read the Psalms to her. Close to her ear, in a low voice (not a whisper), I read to her the inspired Book of Prayer and Praise at the heart of the Word of God. At first there was no response, but the longer I read, I began to have the feeling she was reading with me. A slow, slight nod of the head at certain points, a quiet moan when the Psalm was completed. I started losing myself in the Word...my favorite place to be.
You know that the Bible is authored by God the Holy Spirit. Normally when you and I read a book, the author is some name attached to a photo on the back of the dust sleeve. We know the author had something to do with the words on the page, but there is a disconnect because we don't know the author very well. The Bible, though, is different. The Author dwells within the children of God in Christ. For those that hunger for that fellowship with Him in His living Word, He works a joyous closeness and exultant communion. He is good, and His covenant love endures to where the long road meets the horizon and beyond.
This is where I was, losing myself in the Word in a time of being held with this fellow believer in the grip of the Holy Spirit. It is not a technique or a human-centered meditation; it is a gifting grace of God Himself that allows us to become small before the only One worthy of being considered ALL. Forget this garbage of "finding yourself," becoming "centered," or "self-esteem." Only a fool stares in the mirror during a Southwest sunset. Only a sorely benighted soul lifts his voice to be heard over the boom of the breakers on a New England shoreline, or thinks about his own greatness standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon or under the parade of the heavens. The gracious gift of God is to lose oneself in something infinitely greater, more glorious, and loving beyond degree. "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). His Spirit, God the Holy Spirit, Who dwells within believers, makes them one in Christ's Church, and conforms each to the image of God's Beloved Son. His truth (not the "everyone must find his own truth" bilge vomited forth as wisdom in this perverse age), which is His Word (John 17:17). The Holy Spirit and Bible cannot be separated or experienced apart from one another, for in the economy of God they are bound in an undivided unity (1 John 5:6). When we separate them or seek to experience them apart from one another, we quickly enter the deadly zone of error. They are the means by which we truly are brought into the presence of the Creator to worship Him as creation must.
So I sat there with this dear sister and God the Holy Spirit, being woven into His glorious and timeless truth as we worshiped in the Word. Words became emboldened with fire and great weight in places I'd never noticed before. "Forever" gains a special heaviness and light when in a gathering with a saint not far from touching it.
Then we came to Psalm 126. I can't say I've ever paid a lot of attention to this Psalm before, but as I read just the first line my voice caught in my throat.
"When the LORD brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like those who dream." Chills went up my spine and my heart lept at these words. I don't even know if I can explain why. Paul speaks of a knowing beyond knowledge (Ephesians 3:19). This doesn't mean we ignore disciplined study, intelligent meditation, or eschew sound biblical teaching. These are the doorway to the knowledge beyond knowledge, which we can only touch in part in this world, in these frail mortal bodies. A moment comes, when the mind is glorified with the body in eternity, and we find out that we had only known a faint shadow of the pebbles at the foot of Everest when it came to knowledge of God. These small truths are powerfully inspired and infallible here, but the MORE of eternity will fill us with an ever-growing fullness of joy that will never cease for all the days of "forever." I can't adequately teach Psalm 126, but here are a few thoughts that are those shadowy pebbles. We have (with the exception of my dear sister in Christ) a long way to go before we begin the tireless and invigorating climb up the celestial Everest...ZION.
Paul says of heaven that our citizenship is there (Philippians 3:20). So, what are we here? The Bible has numerous testimonies to the fact that we are not home yet and are but pilgrims and sojourners here. Let me tap into our current theme of the majestic and transcendant Word of God and quote a single verse to illustrate this truth: "Your statutes are my songs in the house of my pilgrimage" (Psalm 119:54). I love that verse. Psalm 126:1 speaks of bringing back captives to Zion, to Home (see my thoughts on our captivity here). Being brought back to Zion, being brought Home to God Himself by God Himself, "we were like those who dream."
I immediate thought of a very young child laughing in her sleep. Resting, without fear or concern, relatively pure in thought...laughing. As we watch her laughing so peacefully and joyfully, we cannot help but smile or laugh ourselves. We don't know the secret joke and carry the baggage and responsibility of adulthood, but for a moment we are drawn into that joy. "We were like those who dream." The best of dreams suddenly becoming reality...an unending reality with a dreaming laughter suddenly filling our hearts with such joy. We're Home, and Home is ZION. It is His Home, and He has brought us here out of our wandering captivity.
"Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with joyful shouting; then they said among the nations, 'The LORD has done great things for them.' The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad." There's no need for me to go on in exposition, except to say that true and lasting joy starts in the truth of the Word of God that lifts us up to a worthiness that is not our own and a reality in which we are not the center of gravity. That is our purpose, and the reason for which Christ died for our sins: "...Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God..." (1 Peter 3:18). Not to a mystical, self-actualized exalting of ourselves (our most natural and depraved desire...to be god). True joy comes from Him and entering into relationship with Him through the salvation available only in Christ. And, in His Word through the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (in the context of the gathering of the saints in His Church), we begin to be trained for that ultimate reality. And, no matter the persecution, tribulation, or trial around us, we begin in slow spiritual maturity to "greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8), even though we don't see Him yet and are not setting foot in Zion.
What now? I'm content to wait. I am part of His awesome Church, which is the "fulness of Him Who fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:23). That's pretty glorious and all-encompassing. I will go back to Psalm 126 several times in the next days, as I did yesterday evening. I have, once more, caught a vision of my purpose - training the saints to walk together in the Word, guided by the Author. And though we may not get to Zion at the same time (my dear sister may beat me there), we will never cease to be one in Christ, and the captives will be brought to Zion in ceaseless joy and laughter, "like those who dream."