Thursday, February 10, 2022

Meditation on Hebrews 13:14

 George van Popta

A lasting city

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.—Hebrews 13:14

 The text above is well-known and frequently used. When one is transferred to another city, or accepts an appointment elsewhere and needs to move to another country, he may well say, “Here we have no lasting city.”

Many of us have ancestors who migrated from another country. When asked why they were leaving all that was good and familiar in their native land, they may well have answered that it does not really matter where one lives on this earth, for here we have no lasting city. In other words, we cannot hold on to what we have here or elsewhere for sooner or later it will all slip out of our hands or be taken away from us.

It is a text that may be used when one retires from his career or profession. Here we have no lasting city, not only when it comes to where we live, but also as it relates to our daily work. A person may work for many years, but the day comes when he teaches his last lesson, completes his last project, or makes his last sale.

Life is about changes and transitions. As you reflect back upon your own life (even upon the past year), you can speak about many changes: birth and death, marriage, new careers, new places to live, and the examples could be multiplied. As we think about the year that has just begun many of us anticipate changes. You may be excited about some of them and dreading others.

These may be real instances of the transient nature of life; and yet, despite the changes we experience, even the big ones, life continues. However, this life too will come to an end. Eventually we will all come to the end of our lives. As Psalm 90 says, we will all return to the dust from which we were taken. We are like grass that is fresh in the morning but fades and withers in the evening.

Life is fragile, transient, like a vapor, like a dream. We’ve felt that this past year perhaps more than in many years. We do not have a lasting city here. This is something we need to hear and meditate on, don’t you think? Not only because of the ongoing pandemic and the fleeting nature of life; but also because we tend to sink our roots deep into the soil of the city and of the world. Our tendency is to hold tenaciously to the things of this present life. But we should not because what we see is not going to last. We should hold what we have here loosely. We seek another city, the eternal one. We seek the new Jerusalem which will come from above.

The first readers of this letter needed to hear this. They were experiencing persecution and had begun looking again at the old Jerusalem, to the temple and the sacrifices, the liturgy and the temple service. The thought of returning to the old patterns of worship and life was comforting. But they needed to understand that Christ had fulfilled every aspect of the Old Testament service. The temple, all of Jerusalem, was about to be destroyed by Rome (AD 70). The old Jerusalem was not an enduring city. They were to look for the new Jerusalem.

And so do we. We. too, need to look for the new Jerusalem. There is a better country, a better city coming down from above—the New Jerusalem. Let us join with the church of all ages and places as we wait with anticipation that beautiful city.

 For extra reflection:

·  In Matthew 6:19-21 what does our Lord Jesus teach us about treasures?

·  In Matthew 6:25-34 what does Jesus instruct us about the transience of this life?

·  What does Revelation 21 say to us about the new Jerusalem?

(As published in Clarion)