This article first appeared as a meditation in the January 15, 1957 issue of the Standard Bearer (vol.33, No.8) and was penned by Rev. Gerrit Vos.
"And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, where He feels at home. Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful." Rev. 21:3-5
We are still in the first flush and glow of a new year. There is a certain rosiness, freshness of a new year which makes people think and say: Now it shall be!
And they make their resolutions.
But it is all empty and vain.
If the old year was dark and dank, miserable and corrupt, so shall the new year be. And even that statement is not correct: it will be darker, more miserable for the sons of Adam.
There is a poem in the old country which says: " 't Hoofd omhoog; het hart naar boven: hier beneden is het neit!", which means: "Lift up your heads and your hearts on high, for your heart's desire is not here below!" (Freely translated).
Shall we do that? The apostle John shall be our guide.
Towards the end of the true sayings of God in this revelation, John heard out of heaven a great voice. I think it was the voice of Christ. I think so because of its marvelous content, which is the very heart of the eternal Gospel of God.
In that great voice I hear several things. And of these things I would talk a little at the beginning of this year.
First, I hear Christ say to us that the tabernacle of God is with men.
That, my dear friends, is the miracle of all miracles.
What is the tabernacle of God?
It is the abode of God. It is the place where God dwells, where He feels at home.
We have the weak shadow of that Tabernacle of God with us. In a formal sense it applies to all men.
There is among the children of men an urge to have a home. I remember really well how I longed to have a home of my own. For years I traveled about in four countries and on two continents. Customs and habits differed greatly in the various places where I stopped, but they all had this one miserable thing in common: I ever stuck my feet under someone else's table. And no matter how agreeable the people were in their efforts to make me feel at home, they all failed: I was an interloper, a stranger, that did not belong.
And the urge which is in all men usually is satisfied. They sing of it in the world: "There's no place like home!" Every culture has its variant of this song. The eyes of the German grows moist when he talks of die Heimat, his home. I am told that the Mexican expresses this sentiment in hisLa Golondrina (The Swallow) with its unspeakably sweet melody.
Home is the place where you really live your inmost life. There you are at rest; there you enjoy yourself to the fullest. There you need not post. The husband smiles at his wife, and both smile at their little ones. There they are snug, cozy, and comfortable.
Well, God has His home. And He makes His essential HOME in the inapproachable Light; He inhabits eternity.
But He willed to make a creature that was fit to swell with Him in His home in a creaturely measure. He would create a place where He would walk with man and talk to him, and make him feel AT HOME with Him, and that was Paradise. There He smiled at Adam and Eve, and they answered God's smile. When Adam and Eve were talking to God they would spread forth their arms on high and with a voice that trembled of ecstasy they would say: Oh, my God!
But we lost that Home of God in Paradise.
And now man is away from home, singing the dirge.
Things are no longer cozy, snug, or comfortable. Look around you: see and listen. And weep.
They do not smile at one another; neither do they smile; at God. Yes, they mention His name, but it is vain, in mockery, in anger or madness. They curse Him who is so beautiful and good.
And so the former things came about with their sorrow, crying and pain. And the cause is mentioned: it is death. And death is conflict between man and God.
Really, essentially, the whole world is crying bitter tears. Even in their laughter they taste sorrow.
The whole world is called a vale of tears.
Is it then not a miracle of miracles that the great voice speaks of unutterable bliss of the tabernacle of God with men?
How did this come about?
The answer is Jehovah in Jesus. The Revelation of Jesus Christ. God took the cover off the most beautiful THING He created: Christ Jesus the Lord.
God dove under the children of men and appeared, garbed in human flesh and blood. And His purpose in so doing was that He might free us from our bondage and cause us to return to Him so that we might dwell with Him in another Paradise: the new heavens and the new earth.
And here is the Wonder which makes me marvel at all times: God became a Wanderer, an Outcast, a Worm and not a man. Take all the songs that tell of the homesicknesses in all centuries and all climes, with all the tears, sorrows and pains, and all the deaths, and you have only an insignificant drop compared to the oceans of death, misery and tears of Jehovah in Christ.
Sometimes I hesitatingly refer to a terrible text. I must do so now: "Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplication with strong crying and tears . . . ."
The tears of Jesus because He was so far from HOME!
My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me!?
Since God revealed that most beautiful THING (Luke 1:35, where Jesus is called THAT HOLY THING), the suffering of a band of chosen men, women and children has deepened. And I am persuaded to believe that the text speaks of theirtears, death, sorrow, crying and pain, and not of the others.
The others! A deep feeling of pity fills me when I think of the reprobates who weep, but not according to God. Their tears will continue to flow. Jesus speaks of weeping and gnashing of teeth, no matter how many new (?) years they receive. The poor things sing of "the long, long trail a-winding," of "the gold mine in the sky," of "the beautiful isle of somewhere," but the end of the wicked is fears and more tears, for they hated God and His tabernacle. They desire the snugness, the pleasures of sin for life's short span, and lose everything that is worth having: they lose their own soul!
But the tears of my text are the tears that flow because there is something, some holy thing in the depth of their: hearts which is hurt, time and time again. It is God dwelling in their hearts; it is the grief of the Holy Spirit in their inmost soul.
Therefore those tears of the child of God are so precious in His sight. David says that all his bitter tears are in the bottles of God Who will save them until the day when He shall wipe them away. Oh, blessed day! For all the, former things, the old things, are then passed away, and there was no more death!
And instead of those former old, ugly, evil things there will appear the beautiful new year of God.
"And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new."
Do you know what that means in negative terms? It means that Aser and Naphtali will no more throw their brother Joseph in that dark pit. They will no longer sit down to eat bread while Joseph cries his heart out. Read Gen. 37:25 and 42:21. Also,Isa. 11:13, "Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim."
In the new kingdom, in that new world, all inhabitants, be they men or angels, shall love one another, trust one another, enjoy one another, for all shall be filled with God.
The text has something about that blessed new estate: God will dwell with them. You are very particular whom you invite into the intimate circle of your family. Not just anyone occupies a chair in the parlor, the sitting room, the front room.
So is God particular. He does not invite just anyone. He invites only His own whom He saw in the palms of His hands from all eternity. And their image in that palm was beautiful.
And God works with and in His people, until they are as beautiful as His Christ whose image is in the very center of that palm of God. We call that process, that operation: sanctification.
And that process begins on earth.
The beauty of the Godhead is given when you are born anew. It is brought to your consciousness in conversion.
He even gives us a place where we may practice how to behave in the House of God in heaven.
And that place is the church on the Sabbath.
It is a bad sign when they must drag you to church. Then you have not tasted that the Lord is gracious. Church is the most beautiful thing on earth. It is the anticipation of God's tabernacle in the New World.
Yes, we will believe all this; we will firmly believe all this.
Because He that sat upon the throne has a final word for us: "these words are true and faithful."
A true thing is a thing which is as it ought to be according to its nature.
A faithful thing does as it promises. You may apply that to the words of the Almighty.
Believing His true and faithful word is like building on a rock.
Your tears, the tears of your heart shall be wiped away!
Rev. Gerrit Vos was born in Sassenheim, the Netherlands on November 1, 1894. He died in Hudsonville, Michigan on July 23, 1968.
Rev. G. Vos received instruction in the PR Seminary and was ordained into the ministry in September 1927. He served churches in Sioux Center, Iowa (1927-1929); Hudsonville, Michigan (1929-1932) and again in 1948-1966. He was pastor at Redlands, California (1932-1943) and in Edgerton, Minnesota (1943-1948). He retired in 1966.
The Rev. G. Vos was very eloquent in preaching and extremely descriptive in his writings. One sermon remembered well at Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church was that preached the Sunday after a devastating tornado roared through the city in 1956. That sermon was later presented in the Standard Bearer as a meditation.
Three books of his meditations have been printed by the Men's Society of the Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church and later reprinted by the Reformed Book Outlet of Hudsonville, Michigan.