Waiting for God’s Goodness (6)
…for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Hebrews 11.10
Looking ahead to God’s goodness
Biblical religion is forward-looking. Christians live by promises, words spoken by God concerning goodness and blessedness, eternal peace and joy, available in part in the here and now, but stored up and being prepared for an eternal dwelling in the world to come.
Patriarchs like Abraham, and all the good kings and prophets of Israel, together with the apostles and saints of the New Testament, understood that the full realization of God’s goodness awaits another City, another world. Only in the New Heavens and New Earth will we realize that perfection of unity, holiness, harmony, order, creativity, and love which perfectly expresses in material forms the eternal, spiritual goodness which is God Himself.
That day of eternal and abounding goodness is coming, and we are well served in this life to look ahead to that new world. For then and there, all goodness, beauty, and truth will unfold daily around and through us, in forms and expressions creational, cultural, and social that will speak with one voice of the glorious goodness of our God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
If, drawing from the writings of prophets and apostles, we can fix in our minds an image of the City to Come, that vision and promise can strengthen us in our waiting here and now, and guide our efforts to bring to light the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
The vision of eternal goodness
In his epic poem The Task, William Cowper (1731-1800) provides an encyclopedia of lessons in noting, enjoying, sharing, and contributing to the goodness of God. In six books, Cowper teaches us how to observe the world of late 18th-century England so that we see the goodness of God in creatures, scenes, seasons, and the everyday work of country folk, highlighted against the backdrop of what was not good in that period of England’s history.
The Task concludes with Cowper, like Abraham and faithful saints in all ages, looking forward to the new heavens and new earth, and the abounding, endless, universal goodness of God we will know and enjoy then. Here is Cowper’s vision of coming goodness from Book VI of The Task:
Oh scenes surpassing fable, and yet true,
Scenes of accomplished bliss! which who can see,
Though but in distant prospect, and not feel
His soul refreshed with foretaste of the joy?
Rivers of gladness water all the earth,
And clothe all climes with beauty; the reproach
Of barrenness is past. The fruitful field
Laughs with abundance, and the land once lean,
Or fertile only in its own disgrace,
Exults to see its thistly curse repealed.
The various seasons woven into one,
And that one season an eternal spring,
The garden fears no blight, and needs no fence,
For there is none to covet, all are full.
The lion and the libbard and the bear
Graze with the fearless flocks. All bask at noon
Together, or all gambol in the shade
Of the same grove, and drink one common stream.
Antipathies are none. No foe to man
Lurks in the serpent now. The mother sees,
And smiles to see, her infant's playful hand
Stretched forth to dally with the crested worm,
To stroke his azure neck, or to receive
The lambent homage of his arrowy tongue.
All creatures worship man, and all mankind
One Lord, one Father. Error has no place;
That creeping pestilence is driven away,
The breath of heaven has chased it. In the heart
No passion touches a discordant string,
But all is harmony and love. Disease
Is not. The pure and uncontaminated blood
Holds its due course, nor fears the frost of age.
One song employs all nations; and all cry,
“Worthy the Lamb, for He was slain for us!”
The dwellers in the vales and on the rocks
Shout to each other, and the mountain-tops
From distant mountains catch the flying joy,
Till nation after nation taught the strain,
Each rolls the rapturous Hosanna round.
Behold the measure of the promise filled,
See Salem built, the labour of a God!
Bright as a sun the sacred city shines;
All kingdoms and all princes of the earth
Flock to that light; the glory of all lands
Flows into her, unbounded is her joy
And endless her increase…
Thus heavenward all things tend. For all were once
Perfect, and all must be at length restored.
Catch the vision!
We will be and do that to which we aspire. When we, like Abraham, fix our gaze on the City to Come, and as we rehearse, like William Cowper, the abounding goodness we anticipate there, we will find the strength and direction we need to seek the goodness of God for our lives and for all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities.
Catch the vision of God’s goodness, and let that vision escort and enrich you everywhere you go and in all you do in the here and now of your life.
1. Do you ever meditate on the City to Come? Where would you turn in Scripture to discover some images or descriptions of the new heavens and new earth?
2. All the different components of William Cowper’s vision are grounded in Scripture. How many references to God’s Word can you identify in Cowper’s vision of the coming goodness of God?
3. What can you do to make this vision of the coming goodness of God a more operative and motivating vision for your life?
Next steps – Conversation: Share Cowper’s vision of the coming goodness of God with a Christian friend. Talk about how having such a vision can affect your waiting on the Lord for His goodness in the here and now.
T. M. Moore
The Spirit of God executes the will of King Jesus, as His Agent on earth, for the progress of His Kingdom. Learn more about the kingship of Jesus and our place in it by ordering a copy of the book, The Kingship of Jesus, from our online store (click here).
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.