As the angels swung the huge gates closed, our first parents were stunned. They couldn’t believe what had happened. Why just yesterday everything was fine, they had been happy, living in freedom and best of all, walking and talking with their Father. There was harmony in heaven and earth but today, today the gates were shut—with them on the wrong side looking in. Little did they know that these gates were not to reopen for at least another 6000 years!
Sadly, they turned away into a life that would become their new normal. With every newborn, they imagined and prayed —could this be the promised Saviour? All the while sin was growing exponentially—from eating the “apple” to killing one’s brother took only one generation!
But our first parents didn’t forget the promise and it continued to be passed from father to son. Time went on so long that many forgot the promise. They were tired of worshipping a God they couldn’t see or hear. There was lawlessness around every corner, no respect for parents, and certainly not for God, and unbelievably little respect for themselves. Within a very short time sin had so infested this little planet that in order to save the world, God ironically sent a flood to destroy it. In the end there were only eight people who got on the boat—they along with a zoo-filled ark were preserved to begin life again.
After a year at sea, and after the oceans had subsided, Noah’s little family disembarked to find a world that was much different to the one they remembered. There was no hint of the Garden that had once stood as a reminder that they were in lockout. They found themselves all alone in this strange new world! They literally had to restart their new normal from scratch.
Even though the world had changed, the promise had not —the Saviour would come! As the years rolled on, prophets came and went. They foretold, warned and shook their fingers at the crowds laughing, jeering and a few believing, while the prophets pleaded with the people to repent and turn to God.
In Jerusalem the temple priests took seriously their job—so seriously in fact that in addition to the 10 laws God had given, they wrote a new, improved version with more than 600 laws. It was nigh impossible for the people to keep them all and God forbid if you broke their Sabbath rules, but that is exactly what happened when Jesus came to town.
The church leaders of the day were so preoccupied with legalising every last detail of people’s lives that they missed the event of the centuries—the coming of The Messiah. Oh yes, there had been many messiahs—all false, of course, but in their haste to dismiss all of these, the priests also dismissed the true—The Promised One!
But there were a few . . . there were the shepherds who had little else to do as they tended their flocks but to recall the stories. God’s words had been passed on to them by their parents and their parents before them. They had no Bible in their rucksacks, but they remembered the stories. And there were a few senior citizens who spent a lot of time in the temple archives reading the scrolls. They prayed daily that they would live long enough to see the promise fulfilled—the signs were pointing to the soon arrival of the Messiah. And there were Gentiles, wise men from the East, known for their interest in astronomy, who found themselves excitedly studying the Books of Moses in their quest to find the meaning of life. All of these were looking for “The Way” out of lockout.
But Jesus came and went unnoticed by most. He had been born in a back room and murdered on a cross. When He was born there was not much of a fuss and when He died it was much the same. Well, except for the sun refusing to shine—that should have been a clue! And then there was the temple curtain in the Most Holy Place that was mysteriously ripped from top to bottom, but other than that—life as usual!
Even when He rose from the dead there was little fanfare. There were only a handful who knew, and the church leaders unbelievably tried to keep that quiet. They had spent their lives predicting the coming Messiah. Now, they couldn’t very well admit they had been wrong, not when they had just crucified their own Saviour! Why is it that the world still does not want to know and why do so many fear the proclamation of Jesus’ soon return? What if they’re wrong—again!
Yes, for most, but not all, life went on pretty much as normal.
Now here we are in the 21st century—the year 2031 will mark the 2000th anniversary of the year Jesus gave His life for ours. The promise is just as real as it was when Jesus spoke it to our first parents all those years ago in Eden. Those who had seen the risen Saviour were never the same again. They went on to preach that Jesus would return and most of them paid the price with their lives. The apostle Paul, whose life had been changed completely when Jesus met him on the road to Damascus, spent his last years in prison. Paul had learned when he couldn’t preach, he could still sing about the promise —even behind prison doors.
Do we sometimes find ourselves feeling a little like the disciples and Paul in their darkest hours? Here we are with our churches closed one moment and open the next, and when they do re-open, we are not allowed to sing? Even when the laws of the land limit song, thankfully, the God we serve can hear the song in our hearts. He has promised that the lockout will soon be over—forever. Every day brings us one day closer to the day when the angels will open wide the gates, never again to be closed. Then, along with the redeemed, we will be forever free to sing praises to our Saviour. God surely does want to hear us sing!
Rhondda Hortop enjoys writing. Australian by birth, she was raised in the USA but returned to the land Down-Under in 1980. Now retired, Rhondda and her pastor husband live in Morisset Park, NSW.