The Pastor's Pen
With a string of beautiful, sunny, seventy-degree days our corner of creation has come to life. The lilac outside my office burst into bloom, the rhododendrons will soon follow, and the grass needs to be mowed…again. Spring points us beyond the calendar to the new creation / recreation that we long for in the coming of our Lord in victory – “with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God” (1 Th 4.16).
Patrick Reardon reminds us that it will not be a return to the garden, or at least, not only a return to Eden. Some things will be as they were, “the wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox…” (Is 65.25). But some things that came after the fall will remain and be, in a sense, redeemed.
The easiest example to grasp might be the question of clothing. Our Lord’s return will not bring a return to nakedness – now that’s a relief! Fig leaves were Adam and Eve’s response to the knowledge of shame that accompanied sin and the first death in the garden came at the hand of God who made them more durable clothing of skins. But in the new creation, we shall be clothed in white robes! One of the four elders answers John, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rv 7.14).
The New Jerusalem itself offers another illustration. The first city built was Enoch and its builder was Cain, not the finest of pedigree. The second city we read about is Babel and yet God does not abandon cities but chose Jerusalem as the place for His name to dwell.
All of this brings us to the Psalm of the Day, Psalm 150. Praise the Lordwith trumpet and tambourine, lute and lyre, strings and pipes, cymbals and even more crashing cymbals, “let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” We don’t read about Adam and Eve singing in the shower after a long day of horticulture, maybe. But in Genesis 4.21 we read about Jubal, a descendent of Cain, “he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.” Not a very auspicious start and then there was Nebuchadnezzar who commanded, “when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image…” (Dn 3.5).
Very early on, however, God appropriated these post-fall inventions and their accompanying cultural forms for true worship in the tabernacle and temple. Since then music and song, melody and sonata have been a part of the life of God’s people. Luther wrote, “Next to theology I accord to music the highest place and the greatest honor.”
As a bitter reminder of the cost of sin, music will no longer be heard in hell, “…the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters, will be heard in you no more.” (Rv 18.22). The descendants of Cain, the inventors of harp and flute, will never hear them again.
For our part, we look forward to our place in the heavenly choir as we say in the preface, “with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name.” Psalm 150 calls all these voices, “everything that has breath,” to join in the eternal praise of God. Amen.
Rev. J. Wesley Beck