When you think of God’s kingship in your life does it cause you to rejoice? For many people the Kingdom of God is a gloomy place that feels more like the wasteland surrounding the realm of Mordor than the happy village of the Hobbits. The kingdom of God for such people primarily consists of darkness, tears and much gnashing of teeth.
Erma Bombeck tells of how during one worship experience her attention was caught by a little boy who was turning around smiling at everyone. He wasn’t gurgling, spitting, humming, kicking, ripping hymnals, or rummaging through his mother’s purse. He was just smiling. Finally, his mother jerked him around and said in a loud whisper,
“Stop that grinning! You’re in church!” And with that, she gave him a flick in the ear. As the tears rolled down his cheeks, she added, ‘That’s better” and returned to her prayers. Such is the picture that many have of life with God.
But Jesus paints a much different picture of the kingdom of God for us. He tells us that the kingdom is like a “wedding banquet” (Matthew 22:2), a “feast” (Luke 13:29), and a “celebration” (Luke 15:24).
We see this especially in the three parables that he tells us in Luke 15. All three are told in response to the Pharisees who are muttering, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (15:2) Each of the parables have similar qualities, each one speaks of something that is lost and so highly valued that it is sought after. The value of each lost item is heightened by the fact that they aren’t really needed – the shepherd has 99 other sheep, the woman has 9 other valuable coins and the father has one other good son at home with him – the lost sheep, coin and son are not really needed, and yet they are sought after. They are considered to be of worth.
But what strikes me the most about these parables is that all three tell us that when the lost thing is found there is “rejoicing” (15:6, 9), a “celebration” (15:24). And Jesus tells us that this joyful attitude is a characteristic of heaven. “I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (15:10)
Does your experience of the rule of God in your life include rejoicing? If not, maybe you would be helped by reflecting on the truth of Luke 15. Think of how valuable you are to God – so much so that he sent his Son to die for you – and rejoice. Remember how God seeks you out and wants you to be with him – and rejoice. Know that he showers you with attention that you do not deserve (see Luke 15:22-24) – and rejoice.
Let the truth of Jesus Christ so permeate your heart that the promise God gives to us in Isaiah 61:3 becomes a reality for you. He has come to “provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
In thanksgiving for you,