Give me your lantern and compass, give me a map, so I can find my way to the sacred mountain to the place of your presence. (Psalm 43:3, MSG)
Oh, I was tempted today to write about another verse for writers, particularly historical fiction, my specialty: We've been hearing about this, God, all our lives. Our fathers told us the stories their fathers told them. (Psalm 44:1, MSG)
But . . . the above verse won out.
In the television series "Seventh Heaven," someone close to the family died. Everyone told the youngest children that (Grandma, or whoever) had gone to heaven; the boy became obsessed in figuring where heaven was.You see, he couldn't find an empty spot in the sky (heaven "up there," hell "down there")where heaven might be. In the end, his even younger sister said, "that's easy. Grandma is right here, in my heart."
Sweet, and in terms of someone living on in our memories, her statement is correct. The fact I still remember says something about the effectiveness of its message.
But the question stayed with me. Where is heaven? Is the New Jerusalem on the New Earth heaven? (I don't think so. Doesn't John say he saw Jerusalem descending from heaven like a cloud?)
Is it a physical place? I think so. Jesus' resurrection body was clothed in flesh and blood--just immortal. (Just?!) One day our bodies will be clothed in immortality (1 Corinthians 15).
Another galaxy? Another universe? Another dimension, like matter and antimatter in Star Trek or the side-by-side worlds in Blue Adept by Piers Anthony? (a fun little scyfy/fantasy book I discovered at 20 cent book sale)
I'll let those who obsess about such things try to figure it out. I'll know the answers some day. And I know the way--the One who said "I am the way."
Psalm 43 doesn't name David as the author. So the unknown poet begs God for directions to "the place of your presence." You can't enter "heaven" into Mapquest or GPS to find it.
Now I know "sacred mountain" and "the place of your presence" sound like the temple in Jerusalem. But I assume the poet's question isn't that literal, that surely he knew the road to Jerusalem. He probably traveled there several times a year for the annual festivals. I'll go one step farther and guess that he didn't mean a literal lantern, compass or map. He wanted to know the where's and how's of finding God.
The answer is, God never left. He is everywhere. Not only that, the Holy Spirit lives inside me. But those "facts" don't change the feeling that God is far away. I've also heard the cliche, "God didn't move, you did." Having acknowledge all of that, we all know the feeling. When we feel alone, that if God is with us, He's silent.
Let's consider lantern, compass, and map. What spiritual tools serve the God-seeker?
A lantern is first of all a light, one that shows us where we are headed. How about, "thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path"? Or the Holy Spirit, lighting the next step if not much more? It is light. It relieves the darkness. What lifts us up and doesn't tear us down--seek those things.
A compass indicates direction. In the spiritual realm, we don't need four compass points. We have two: God or not-God. The spiritual man or the natural man. Obedience or disobedience. Again, the Bible guides us, and the Holy Spirit convicts us.
A map is needed for the step-by-step journey. How do I get from where I am to where I want to be? Let's face it, the Bible doesn't come with a handy index for making those life decisions: whom should I marry? what career should I pursue? where should I live?
The Bible does tell us how to walk (in the light, walk worthy, live wisely, etc.) How we make the journey is more important to God than what journey we take. God expects the same commitment from the farmer as from the president, although he will hold the president more accountable as a leader.
Where is heaven? We've already taken the first steps--studying His Word. Let's go on together.
If you love us so much, help us! (Psalm 44:26, MSG)