Friday, September 17, 2010

Let's go up!

I was quite surprised recently by the encouragement I found in the final few words of the many words written in Chronicles. Chronicles can be a discouraging book given how badly God's people behaved. But in the last two little verses, the writer speedily fast forwards the story so that he can end the book with great hope following the lengthy and tragic explanation of Judah's and Israel's spiritual decline. And it was there that four simple words caught my attention.

The final verse describes Cyrus king of Persia inviting God's people to return to Jerusalem to build the house of God. Cyrus said, "The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all His people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up." (2 Chronicles 36:23).

Now that's an amazing thing for a pagan king to say to a conquered people, and focusing on that fact is reason enough to be encouraged by this verse. But as I finished the book, the words "Let him go up" caught my attention like never before. It seemed to me that that invitation must still stand. I paused and wondered, haven't I received that invitation as well?

I couldn't help but wonder if I'd heard an echo of this verse in the gospel. After all, isn't Jesus' invitation in John 7:37, "...let him come to Me..." an expression of the same heartfelt longing that we see at the end of Chronicles? In Chronicles, Cyrus said, "The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth..." Then he said, "Whoever is among you of all His people... let him go up." Centuries later, in the Gospel according to Matthew, we're told that Jesus said, "All things have been handed over to me by My Father..." (Matthew 11:27). Then He said, "Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28).

Cyrus had the authority from God to invite God's people to go up to build the house of God. And now Jesus has the authority from God the Father to invite us to come to Him to be the house of God, as God dwells in our hearts through faith in Him. The invitation stands: Let him come! Let him go up! This reminds me that when we chose to put our faith in Jesus, God "raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6). In other words, as I come to Jesus each day, I am going up to be with Him. Up above my circumstances, up above this world's view of things, up above the emotional swirl that's sometimes in my heart. You see, the main reason I was taken aback by that ancient invitation "Let him go up" was because of my own emotional frustrations with my own spiritual struggles. There are days when I feel like a loser, low in faith, and can wonder if God even wants me near Him. But I can know that -- just as a people who had been disciplined for grave sins can be given an open invitation to go and build God's house -- I can be certain that a spiritually inconsistent man like myself can be invited to be God's house simply because Jesus is the King who's doing the inviting! A King who was crucified to pay the penalty for all my failures, and who's been raised to heaven to now call us up to Him.

That's why I'm encouraged by those words, "Let him go up!"  I believe it's still an invitation for today -- for right now. And I believe it's an invitation to rise above the discouragement of our troubles and to open our hearts to be a house of the living God -- Christ in us, the hope of glory! (Colossians 1:27).

© 2010 by Ken Peters

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