One of the best reasons to read the Old Testament is to learn more of the character of God. There, you’ll find the shepherd’s care of His people, loving and constant, in spite of humanity’s waywardness, forgetfulness, and outright rebellion. Yes, even His discipline shows His love.
That thread goes right on through the New Testament, all the way to Revelation when John stands in the great throne room of heaven and sees the vision of all those who have come through great suffering for Christ. John is told:
“And he who sits on the throne
will give them shelter.
They will never again be hungry or thirsty;
they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun.
For the Lamb on the throne
will be their Shepherd.
He will lead them to springs of life-giving water.
And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
This explanation of God’s relationship to His people is not only a vision of a future heavenly life but also a description of the life we gain as soon as we come to the Lamb and wash our robes in the sacrificial blood.
Our heavenly, eternal life has already begun. Not perfectly, of course. That will come later. But we are already walking in heavenly places. We already enjoy benefits of the heavenly realm. We are already serving God in His Temple here on earth. He is already providing for our hunger and thirst, protecting and sheltering us. We already have a Shepherd who is leading us to life.
There again, we hear the echoes of Psalm 23 and Jesus’ declaration that He is the Shepherd of His flock.
But the revelation given to John tells us about one more touch of intimacy in God’s care for His people: He wipes away our tears.
For many years, I had a child-like image of this. God, waving some celestial wand, would banish sadness from our lives, and we’d always be happy, no reason ever to cry—someday, in a perfect world.
But then I read N.T. Wright’s comment on this: God, “at his very heart, is so full of mercy that his most characteristic action is to come down from the throne and, in person, wipe away every tear from every eye.”*
The Creator, the God who rules the universe, comes to us and personally wipes away our tears. Think of a mother, wiping away her child’s tears as she comforts and consoles. Or a lover, tenderly wiping away tears of the beloved. Or a dear friend, wrapping you with love and compassion and, figuratively, wiping away your tears.
This is not a God waving a wand; this is a compassionate, loving Father who is leading us to our new day and new life. And along the way, He’ll wipe away our tears.
O LORD, I give my life to you. I trust in you, my God!
* from Revelation for Everyone, N.T. Wright
© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)