Wednesday, March 19, 2014

For All Nations

These I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. 
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; 
for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations."
Isaiah 56:7

It was a vision.  Clear.  Vivid.  A vision.

Liat felt the press of bodies; her feet had been stepped on more times than she could count and the dust from the road was coating her throat, dry and persistent, like a waterless tide.  Relentlessly, the crowd moved forward toward the door - entry to the temple.  The temple of God, the One, the Holy.  She held her scarf in her left hand, reaching up with her right to touch the stone wall.  

The Lord our God, the Lord is One

Yes, she had been born into the right family.  The right clan.  The right people.  The chosen ones. Yes.  Even her name you are mine proclaimed who she belonged to.  Who she was.

She felt the breath being squeezed from her slight frame as she squirmed her way through the threshold.  It was her first time, and she was determined to stand in the courtyard of love and prayer - determined to demonstrate her devotion, to prove herself worthy, to make her insignificant presence known to this mighty God.  

The air was thick with smoke and noise.  The air inside this gateway.  The stink of the bodies assaulted her nostrils.  She pulled the veil across her face so that her eyes only, wide and staring, were visible.  This was not what she had expected - this noise, this filth, this sea of humanity.  She was about to enter the courtyard of the presence of God; she had done everything correctly; she had been taught correctly; she had earned this right, this passage.

She was proud of her heritage, her family, her people.  Proud of the traditions laid down by the prophets of old.  Proud of the books of rules and law.

Proud of being different than the other tribes - the unknowing - the unchosen - the others.

She sensed, rather than felt at first, the thinning of the crowd.  The air cleared as the stone walls widened.  Stepping away from the tunnel, Liat allowed her veil to fall.

This too, was unexpected.

The Lord our God, the Lord is One 

Gone was the noise from the entry - the narrow door - the temple gate.  Gone.  The pushing and pressing.  Gone.  The dust, the smoke, the fetid odor.  Gone.

Liat stood in an open courtyard and her heart skipped a beat.  Before her - a radiant structure, focal point to countless people - all colors - all races - chosen and unchosen - they streamed around and through the steps and columns, around and through the wide rectangular doors.  Not crowded.  Not noisy.  Reverent.  Prayerful.  Raising their voices in praise.

Awestruck, she looked back toward the tunnel.  One by one, men and women were stepping out from the tunnel - the narrow, confining passageway of rock and dust.  Children spilled out from the crowd behind.  Some stumbling, some releasing hands on veils as she had.  All looking around with wide stares and open jaws.

In the next heartbeat she recalled the prophecy of the man, Isaiah...And it will be called a house of prayer for all nations.  She could see them - all nations - coming into this place, this holy place of prayer and worship.  She saw other narrow tunnels leaking with strangers, dark and light, in exotic costumes of unusual texture and detail.  She saw caravans picking their way across wide, open fields.  She saw wide roads and tree-lined drives.  All leading here.  To this place.

Unexpected and surprisingly wonderful.  Children of the One God.

I have been reading about division.  Not the math kind.  Division of ideas, division of beliefs, division of cultures, division of religious.  I see it on the news everyday.  Political division.  Even bands of weather and storms.  Boundaries.  Fences.  Locks.

I think about my last job.  The one I resigned from - the class I couldn't teach.  And what divided us.

I think about Christ.  And God.  New and Old Testaments.  Legality and Grace.  I think about differences and the lines drawn to separate, to categorize, to confine.

And I come back to this passage in Isaiah.  Put into the eyes of the vision of a woman who traveled a narrow road to reach a destination she really wasn't prepared for.  Kind of like that narrow road of law.  Kind of like that narrow road of right choices.  Kind of like that narrow road of not-good-enough.  Kind of like that narrow road of you-have-to-do-things-my-way.  Surprised by the others who also arrived through different paths.  Leading to a destination not earned.  I think about our Pastor who invites everyone to the Communion Table - to a destination freely given to all who seek it.  God's house.  A house of prayer for all nations.

Today I struggle with division.  With redemption.  With grace.  Today I am filled with joy at the thought of a house of prayer for all nations.  Undeserved yet freely given.  Unexpected and surprisingly wonderful.  We are His Children.

Thank you, God.  Thank you for your Son.  Thank you for Jesus. 

Linking with TellHisStory
Imperfect Prose
Three Word Wednesday


  1. Oh, AMEN. A house unified by Christ alone, where all those differences are arrays of beauty and not means for division any longer.

  2. Hi Jen, I keep praying for that house to come - Janet

  3. All nations. That is really a huge concept that we've only begun to grasp.Oh, how I wish we could do it better, too. God has invited all yet somehow we still want to exclude people that are "others" (and we all define that differently). Thanks for spotlighting the importance of unity as something the Lord desires from us.

    1. Hi Lisa, As I read your comment, I had a thought - Wouldn't it just scare that Satan silly if we all just held hands and said 'no more!'?? I think we need unity, now more than ever!

  4. This is so beautiful Janet. I love your heart. e.

    1. Thank you - your comments have been an encouragement to me.


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