Thursday, 21 January 2016

Gathered to his people

The phrase ‘gathered to his people’ is a frequent description of the death of God’s people. It is used of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Aaron. It reminds us of a destination, of a community, of an active Gatherer who takes his people to himself. It gives to us a perspective about how to look at things, it is a reminder that God has a plan, and it is confirmation that death is not the end.

First, the phrase is a reminder that there is a shared destination. All those so described went to a place where people are. That is how heaven is usually depicted – it is a country (and a country is composed of inhabitants), it is a city (and a city is made up of citizens), and it is likened to a feast (and a feast is participated in by guests). The best-known description of the destination is the Father’s house (John 14:2) – and a house is full of rooms in which people dwell together.

Second, ‘gathered to his people’ is a reminder that there is a special people who share specific spiritual features and I would briefly mention four. First, they realise that they are sinners. Of course, there is a sense in which everyone is a sinner because they have broken God's law. But this people are taught by God that they are sinners, and this special teaching makes them do something about it.

So they trust in Jesus for salvation, by a simple act of faith accompanied by repentance for their sins. They hear about Jesus and what he did on the cross and they are drawn to him. Within them a love develops for Jesus and they become his glad followers. They become saved sinners.

The third mark of this special people is that they also become sojourners, travellers to a better country. They discover that this world is not their home, that they are only passing through. In their hearts, there is a longing for a better world.

How do they know they will get to a better world? They know it because they are aware that they are already the sons of God travelling towards their eternal inheritance. This inheritance they will share with Jesus. This leads us to think of the Gatherer.

Here we have one of the shepherding activities of Jesus. He is engaged in one of his tasks when he takes each of his people home. This is what he promised when he said that he would come personally for each of them. ‘I will come again and receive you unto myself.’ He gathers them into his fold.

Of course, Jesus was the shepherd who died on the cross for his sheep. He was the shepherd who led them through life. He is the shepherd who will, throughout eternity, lead them to the fountains of the water of life. And he is the shepherd who carries them across the Jordan so that they are safe in their final moments here, and who takes them into the great gathering centre. 

Many have been gathered already, and many more will yet be gathered.

No comments: