House of Mercy and Grace

“A Forever Home,” © Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

© 2017 Lynn Abbott

“Meet you at the Amethyst Gate,” she promised as my mom began her final week’s journey in 2008.

My mother’s longtime friend and colleague had been there for us through many heartbreaking days as my mom battled cancer.  Mom’s friend thought nothing of it.  After all, they had been friends for more than 30 years, and had shared their hearts and daily life.

Today, I smile when I remember that promise.  After all, knowing Christ means hope not only for the day-to-day, but also for the future.  Mom and her dear friend knew that they would see one another again in eternity.

But at the time, I didn’t wish to think about it.  I wasn’t ready for her to make her final exodus.  I didn’t want for Mom to go.

Mom, however, understood that her time was short.  She turned her thoughts toward heaven and devoted her remaining energy toward finishing her last lap.

“It’s a wonderful book,” she said, when for Christmas, she gave me her copy of Randy Alcorn’s non-fiction work, Heaven.

“I want you to read it, too.  I want you to know where I am going.”

“I know, Mom, ” I said. But I didn’t understand.

“No, I want you to know…”

I smiled, and squeezed her hand.  On the inside, my heart cried, “Surely, Lord, you can rescue her.  Please, Abba, work a miracle!”

She was my best friend, for heaven’s sake.  How could I ever live without her?  I prayed for strength, again and again.

I clung to faith.  I begged for mercy and grace. Nevertheless, my very human heart broke.

And I struggled to “give thanks” in everything, (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Oh, I thanked Abba for the grace and hope He’d given Mom and me.  I thanked the Great Physician that when Mom met her friend at the Amethyst Gate that Mom would be fully healed…

Yet, I knew I would miss her.  That grief seemed overwhelming.

Undoubtedly, the journey is not for the faint of heart.  Mom understood that and yet,  looked forward to an eternity of God’s grace and love.  Without a doubt, I know she is there now.

Recently, I have been reading my way through the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament.  As I meditate on God’s truth, I think of not only Mom’s journey, but my own.

If you’ve read here frequently, you’ve gathered that I love the accounts of the lives of Old Testament saints; their faith as well as their authentic struggles encourage me.

But this past week, I focused not on a specific passage, but on the entire book of Exodus.  My favorite theology professor had always required his students to read books of the Bible straight through in order to survey the book in its entirety.

My professor certainly understood the power of the big picture. While reading a single chapter at a time often serves me well for devotional reading, I gain great understanding about Abba and His grace as I examine His long-term plan for His Chosen People.

Surveying the book of Exodus reminded me of some basic truths about our walk of faith.  It may seem elementary.

However, perhaps like me, you periodically find yourself reviewing the beautiful foundation of grace upon which we stand.

Although Exodus details the journey of Israel, it also helps me understand my life journey with God. In fact, in the book of Exodus, God reveals His masterpiece of grace and redemption.

Exodus opens with a stunning revelation.  The large population of Israelis, that under Joseph’s leadership had sojourned with great favor in Egypt for 400 years, made their hosts uneasy.

Scripture records, “Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. ‘Look,’ he said to his people, ‘the Israelites have become much too numerous for us.  Come we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.’ So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor…” (Exodus 1:8-11a).

The Egyptian ruler did not seek their best.  They were aliens in the land, and although for a time, they had prospered, their lives no longer were their own. The new Pharaoh enslaved them.

They had immigrated with high hopes.  They had prospered, but the ruler now sought to entrap them.

There seemed to be no way out.  No exit.  Bondage stretched out before them…endlessly so.

Yet, Yahweh in His grace chose these sojourners, people who had lived comfortably in a culture that did not honor Him.  Finding themselves in bondage, they remembered and cried out to Yahweh, (Exodus 2:23-25).

And Yahweh sent a Deliverer named Moses.  At first, many questioned Moses.  God, however, validated Moses’ calling through miracles.

Nevertheless, the plan did not seem to flow.  Pharaoh tightened his grip.  Things appeared to go from bad to worse.  In fact, Pharaoh threatened to kill Moses.

Then, through tragedy, God gave us an object lesson, a portrait of redemption.  Because Pharaoh would not release the people, Moses predicted that the Angel of death would take the firstborn in all the land.

God instructed the Israelites to kill what we now call a “Passover Lamb.”  The blood of the lamb would be smeared on the doorposts of those who placed their faith in God.  When the angel visited Egypt, death would pass over those households.

God saved lives because of the blood of the Passover Lamb.  Indeed, as a result of the plague and passover, Israel found freedom.  They left their bondage behind them.

Even so, all did not become heavenly overnight.  The people sojourned for 40 years in the barren wilderness,  a foreign land.  Because of this, hardship dogged their steps.

They faced opposition from other nations (Numbers 20:14-21); at times, they did not know where to find necessities such as food and water (Exodus 15 & 16); they lived in temporary tents.

They left behind the familiar and followed God.  That was a big deal.  After all, many of them had not previously known Yahweh.  The nation had lived as refugees among the Egyptians for 400 years.  The Israeli population that Moses led had been born in Egypt.  Egypt was all they had ever known.

At times, their fledgling faith faltered.  They grew discouraged.  In spite of all the miraculous that they had witnessed, they dared to complain.  They reminisced; they forgot the past pain, suffering and bondage that they experienced under Pharaoh’s rule.  They remembered only the temporary prosperity that Egypt had offered.

They rebelled, again and again (Exodus 32).

They threatened to return to Egypt, (Numbers 14:3-4) .

They repented (Numbers 14:39).

They wandered.

Indeed, they managed to move forward only by the grace of God.  Because of Moses’ intercession on the people’s behalf, God continually forgave Israel’s sin and rebellion, (Exodus 32:7-14).

Yahweh did not forsake His chosen people, His children.

And while many, in fear, resisted crossing the Jordan to enter God’s promised land–a land of milk and honey, rest, God’s grace, love and blessing–God remained faithful.

And of course, we know that the nation ultimately entered the promised land.

God, in fact, had used the journey to prepare His people for the blessings to come.

Uh, huh.  You know where I’m going with this.

Truly, the Exodus account symbolically parallels the journey that each of us who choose to follow Christ must make…

Our gracious God found us in bondage to the present ruler of this world.

Indeed, Satan has drawn humanity into a trap.  He initially offers what appears to be free and  profitable. He suggests that following one’s own way and desires will make us “like God, knowing good and evil.”

And deadly serpent’s offer appeared good.  The deception was so complete that all of Adam’s sons and Eve’s daughters have since followed suit.

However, over time, the Prince of Darkness’ agenda becomes clear.  He desires to enslave humanity.

Abba, on the other hand, offers us deliverance. Christ willingly gave His life.  He became our Passover Lamb.  His sacrifice secured our spiritual freedom.  Jesus pointed to the deliverance of Israel from snakes in the desert as symbolic of our redemption  (John 3:14-15).

But our acknowledgement of Jesus as Lord and Savior is just the beginning.  The journey as strangers and aliens in this world often lasts for many years after our spiritual exodus.

At times, the enemy attempts to persuade us that we were better off in “Egypt.”  Those who rebel against God seem to temporarily prosper.  We may grow discouraged.

However, even when we dare to grumble or disobey, our ultimate Deliverer–Christ–intercedes on our behalf.  And the God of all Grace, Yahweh, is faithful and just “to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (I John 1:9).

The best part is that our God, our Shepherd-King, leads us to the promised land.  We will not journey in the wilderness forever.

Jesus promised, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am,”  (John 14:1-3).

The King James Version translates the original word mone’ in verse two as “mansions.”   Greek scholars, however, tell us that the meaning is actually closer to “abiding places.”   And our God is preparing extraordinary abiding places just for you and me.

My mother and her close friend spoke joyfully of one day meeting at Heaven’s Amethyst Gate.  Now that I have journeyed further, I understand Mom’s longing better.

In fact, my closest friend and I look forward to “crossing the Jordan” into that promised place of God’s peace, grace, mercy and love.  In the book of Revelation, the apostle John described the New Jerusalem as a place of incomparable beauty (Revelation 21-22).  Thus, my friend and I often anticipate our incredible future and look forward to our neighboring “abiding places.”

Although we don’t fully know what wonders Abba has in store for us, we nevertheless dream… My friend envisions our new homes to resemble beautiful cottage-like mansions.

I love that.  Of course, who knows whether we will truly live in cottages? But of this I am sure, I plan to find my dear friend in heaven.  And having now read Randy Alcorn’s beautiful depiction of heaven, I often imagine that on that day–over a delicious cup of tea– she and I will recall all the amazing things God has done.

What an exodus and promise for all those who follow our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ!

When I contemplate it, I surely sing with John Newton, “‘Tis Grace that has brought me safe thus far, and Grace will lead me home…”

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them.  They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’  He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’…” ~Revelation 21:1, 3-5a

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am,” ~John 14: 2-3