The image of the remnant of Israel returning home from Babylon foreshadows the gathering of all families, languages, peoples, and nations into one new being in Christ. Israel can only be itself by being a blessing to all nations, and this most ancient promise is a promise fulfilled in Christ. Compelling, though sometimes difficult theological language may be used to describe this new humanity. To augment our understanding and to edify, stories and images must be employed. We need ways to see and feel this gathering together into Christ.
So we imagine with the prophet Jeremiah, giving time and attention to his word, “See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn” (Jer. 31:8-9).
As they return home, their tears give way to consolation, and consolation gives birth to joy. “They shall come and sing aloud … their life shall be like a watered garden … the young women rejoice in the dance … the young men and the old shall be merry … I will turn their mourning into joy” (Jer. 31:12-13). To this streaming mass of humanity, Jesus says, “I came that you may have life and have it abundantly” (John. 10:10). Jesus is our final destination. He is our country and homeland.
There is a city within the nation, the city of God, and within the city a temple where God is especially present. The returning exiles would work and weep while restoring their ancient temple. Here too we have an image of Christ. Longing for the temple is an inner ache for the One who is the temple of the Father. “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (John 1:18). The Psalmist speaks of our longing for the Lord Jesus, “My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord … Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praises … For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere” (Ps. 84:2-8). We, like Jesus, are in the Father’s house, doing, in him and by the power of his Spirit, the Father’s business (Luke 2:49). Jesus is the Holy of Holies, and where he is, we are, by adoption and grace.
All the people of the earth are gathered together in Christ. Without revoking their special gifts and unique languages, the nations become one new humanity in Christ. This new humanity is a temple where the presence and glory of God is. Jesus, the Son of the Living God, the temple of the Father, shares his divine life with all who are drawn into him, to all who cleave to him, to all who long to touch the hem of his garment. This migration home is a call to the only home we ever had. “For God alone my soul in silence waits, from him comes my salvation” (Ps. 62:1).
Jesus Christ is a country, a city, a temple, and a fount of divine being.
Look It Up: The collect of the day
Think About It: We are drawn to the center, where Christ is.