Reprinted from the January / February 2014 issue of “Christian Woman” Magazine.
By Sybil Walker
Some 3,000 years ago, King Solomon considered the human condition and concluded that all people experience the same things. Each life has some joy and some sadness, some hope and some despair, some temptation and some triumph. Solomon was looking back at his own life when he said, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9 NKJV).
Looking back was not a new thing. Many people before Solomon had looked back. Lot’s wife looked back even after God had told her not to, and she became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:17, 26). We do not know why she looked back, but it always reminds us to obey God.
Soon after they were freed from Egyptian slavery, the people of Israel looked back and wished for foods like cucumbers and garlic (Numbers 11:5). They remembered the good things of their former life and ignored the misery. About that time, Moses realized the journey would be more difficult and longer than he had expected.
How often we want the easy, beautiful trip. How seldom do we think there will be sand in our eyes and pebbles in our shoes. We welcome the prospect of a new and better situation but fail to consider the effort required to achieve it (2 Timothy 3:12).
During the days of Jeremiah the prophet, the Israelite kingdom, now divided, was ruled by foreign kings. The people needed hope. Their country was in turmoil, and their lives were uncertain. God gave them hope through Jeremiah’s prophecy of a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). They began to look forward.
The new covenant came centuries later, but hundreds of people had been cheered by the expectation of a Messiah. They looked forward. Some believed the Roman government would be overthrown.
When Jesus began to teach and preach, they liked the idea of an earthly government (John 6:15). They were still asking about His intention of overthrowing the Roman government in Acts 1:6. They were not yet looking forward to a spiritual kingdom. They were not ready to give up the Law of Moses. The old covenant pleased them.
Still, great crowds followed Jesus as He set up the new covenant that God had promised. After Jesus’ death, resurrection and return to heaven, many people became Christians. Those who continued to look back to Moses persecuted the Christians.
One who was very zealous to stamp out the new covenant was Saul of Tarsus. When he finally became a Christian, he looked back in horror at what he had done. In 1 Timothy 1:15, he wrote, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” He also wrote: “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
Peter was another person who did some looking back. When he denied Jesus, was he looking back to the safety of being just a fisherman of Galilee? When that rooster crowed, he looked back on his sin and wept. Then he stopped looking back, and years later, he wrote: “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless” (2 Peter 3:13-14).
The new covenant changes all. In Luke 9:51-56 the record tells of James and John offering to call down fire from heaven to punish some who did not receive Jesus. Over the years, John learned “what manner of spirit” he was (Luke 9:55). John was the one who wrote, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).
The Bible tells of many other people who faced drastic changes in their lives. Some looked back and returned to their old ways. Some looked back only long enough to repent and accept God’s grace. Then they moved forward in newness of life.
We, too, have that choice. Back in our old lives are cucumbers, garlic and the slavery of sin. Ahead, there is grace, which offers forgiveness, guidance and hope. The new covenant is full of hope. It makes our past truly past and our future secure. We “know whom [we] have believed” (2 Timothy 1:12).
The future of those who believe in and follow Jesus includes an existence in a new place. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). That place is described in human terms in Revelation. It will be totally new. Only God and His Son, Jesus, can make something new. And this new place will not be here in time, but there in eternity.
That place will be like nothing we have ever seen before. We cannot now imagine it. There will be no night, no sun, no time. Nothing unpleasant will be there. Those who are privileged to live in that place will be happy and content in God’s presence. Heaven will be totally new, and its glory will far exceed the glory of Solomon’s kingdom. If we will follow Jesus, He will take us there.
There will be no more sand in our eyes, no more pebbles in our shoes, and no more weeping because of our sin. There will be only joy and blessings in the presence of God and Jesus our Savior. o
Sybil Walker lives in Memphis, Texas. She was married to her husband, Ernest, for more than 50 years, supporting him in his ministry and teaching classes for women and children. She enjoys Bible reading, bird-watching, gardening, sewing and hard work.