August 7, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Isaiah 35:10 (NRSV)
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Centuries ago, the exiled Israelites were inspired by a vision of the day when God would set them free and bring them home. A similar vision inspires us today, even if we are not actual exiles. We look forward to the future when God’s shalom will cover the earth. This confident hope empowers us to live for God’s purposes today.
Have you ever spent an extended time away from home? Perhaps you were away at school, or on a long business trip, or deployed in the armed services. If so, you know how it feels to live as a kind of exile and how much exiles long for home.
The theme of exile and return runs through the Old Testament prophets, right into the New Testament. Beginning with the Assyrian defeat of the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C., and expanded when Babylon overthrew Judah in 587 B.C., God’s people were scattered throughout the world. They longed for the day when the Lord would gather them again in the Promised Land.
Many people throughout the world today experience literal exile. But even if we are not actual refugees, we can nevertheless relate to the sense of being separated from our true home, that is, from the Lord and the kingdom of God. Like the Jews in centuries past, we yearn for the day when we will be gathered into God’s presence with all of God’s people, when God will establish justice on earth, and when divinely-inspired peace will embrace the whole world.
In the meanwhile, though we live as refugees, we catch a glimpse of our homeland. When we gather for joyful worship, we experience something of the future. When we come to the Lord’s Supper to be renewed in God’s grace, we get a taste of the life that is to come. When we see the oppressed set free in our world, we sample the justice of God’s future. Thus, we are renewed so that we might live with hope in a world so filled with despair.
Moreover, as people of such distinctive hope, we are inspired and empowered to live today by our vision of God’s future. We pray to the Father as Jesus taught us, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We allow this prayer to shape our lives wherever we are: in our offices and stores, in our studios and conference rooms, in our churches and cities, in our homes and schools.
When you think of your future with the Lord, what do you envision? How do you feel?
When have you experienced something of “heaven on earth”?
How might the vision of God’s future inspire you to act differently today?
See if you can do something today in light of your answers to the previous question.
Gracious God, even as your people longed to be reunited to you, so we long to know you better. We cling to the hope that, one day, we will see you face to face. What a glorious day that will be!
In that hope, we seek to live for you each day. Help us to share this hope with others, not in a naïve way, but with confidence that points people to you. Help us to live out this hope in every square inch of life.
May we learn, Lord, to take greater delight in the times when we get a glimpse of the future. Help us to take more joy when we gather with your people for worship. May we be filled with glad expectation when we receive your Supper. May we rejoice when your justice and righteousness prevail in our world, when your grace transforms hearts and lives, institutions and communities.
Thank you, dear Lord, for the future you have planned for us. How good and gracious you are! Amen.
Banner image by Phil Botha on Unsplash.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.