Years ago, my wife and I took a glorious world cruise along with hundreds of total strangers. Didn’t know a soul. That didn’t last very long. We made some really good friendships on this three and a half month journey at sea. Friends we still keep in touch with. Like Jack and Maggie from way-down-under in Australia! Very first people we met at the ‘Sail-Away’ party from Sydney Harbor as we plied the waters past the famed Opera House. These strangers became friends. But more than that, we discovered that they too knew our Lord Jesus. More than friends, they were family. Not strangers… a brother and sister in the Lord.
The prophet Joel talks about end times. No more strangers then…where the Lord dwells. Joel 3: 17–‘…the Lord your God, who dwells in Zion…and strangers shall never again pass through it.’ The Hebrew word for ‘dwell’ is ‘shakan’, to permanently reside, to lie down and rest. God promises not to be a temporary guest, like a stranger in our midst. He sinks His roots way down deep with His people. I had a favorite elderly client when I was a financial planner for a large investment firm. She and her husband were both believers, which was like icing-on-the-cake(and I love icing and cake!!). When the topic came up about moving to a retirement home, she objected saying ‘no, my roots are way down right here’. Reading Joel 3: 17, I thought of this older woman. Like her wish and determination, God stays very close to us. He dwells with us. His roots… deep.
What about that word ‘stranger’? Possibly your translation says ‘foreigner’? Joel says that none will be present in God’s dwelling. What’s wrong with including the stranger? Had not I been a stranger that the Lord welcomed into His family? I looked up that Hebrew word. It’s ‘zoor’, which does mean stranger but with a pronounced rough-and-ragged edge.
Means a stranger to godliness, someone who commits adultery, a profane person. Not necessarily someone unknown, but one pigheadedly and utterly resistant to following the ways of the Lord. Willful, dogged, hell-bent… strangers to Him. This is their own decision and choice. This makes much more sense to me.
In Heaven, with God dwelling in the center, we’ll have no more struggles with our own sin… or that of anyone else’s. No more political parties, with their spin, posturing and power-grabbing, will be allowed in Heaven. The Marriage Supper of the Lamb( Revelation 19: 6-9) will be celebrated like no party we’ve ever had here in this crazy world! I told you there was real good news found in these verses from that unfamiliar prophet. Now will you believe me?! Wait a minute…forget about me, believe the Lord! That’s much better! Amen?
Prayer: Lord, we thank you for making us family in your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.