Friday, 6 April 2012
Picture yourself if you will in ancient Israel. It is early autumn and the sun is warm on your back. The birds are singing above your head. You drink in the beauty of the landscape. The fruits of the field, pomegranates, figs, olives, and grapes are all ripe for the picking. Sheep and goats are grazing on the hillsides. The stream meanders its way through the valley. All that lies before you was created by God, and it still belongs to God. The God who created the chaos of the ever moving seas also created the stillness and order of the land. The God who created all of those things created you, and knew you before you were born. He knows the number of hairs on your head and your name is written on the palm of his hand. You are loved by the creator who deals with the business of the day, and yet still makes time for you. He has all the time in the world for you, you are his child.
Today is a day of merriment and excitement, the trumpeters are out and the crowd is singing songs. You stand in amongst the crowd that pushes and pulls you through the valley. The dust from the road covers your feet and gets into your clothes, and hair, and eyes. But you don’t care about that you follow the crowd as they sing. You need a drink of water, but there will be time for that later, you sing at the top of your voice. You love to praise your God. You follow the crowd as it winds happily through the olive trees that smell so wonderful and up into the hills. The journey is tiring, you feel out of breath, but you keep going. The music and the crowd’s jubilance keep up your morale. The trumpeting and clashing of cymbals and the rhythm of the drum help you to keep pace with the march. Many are dancing, many are laughing, and all are joining in the song. You will get there soon enough but you really can’t wait. The eagerness bubbles up inside of you; like a waterfall it wants to spill over. There is no holding it back. There is no holding you back. You are going to meet with God today. You are going to meet with God today. You are going to meet with God today! What will he tell you? What will he want of you? What is the next stage in your journey of life?
You reach the foot of mount Zion, you are there! In the distance your eyes can see the enormous barred gates, the entrance to the temple. Will you be allowed in? We shout up ‘Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?’ The gate keeper responds ‘He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Saviour.’ We affirm these conditions by shouting back ‘such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob.’ We climb the hill. Out of breath we enter its ancient gates. We enter the temple. Here is our God, here is our maker. Here is our Lord and Saviour. But we feel small and insignificant in the vastness of his Temple. Are we really worthy to enter God’s presence?