hat do John Denver, Simon and Garfunkle, Otis Redding, and Gene Autrey all have in common with the Israeli national anthem, "HaTikva?" They have all sung songs with the same common theme running through them. Whether wanting to be heading down country roads to West Virginia, or wishing that the endless monotony of a traveling musician would be over, or sitting hopelessly by the San Francisco bay longing to be back in Georgia, or expressing the heart of a cowboy to live in the wide open spaces of the western plains, all portray the earnest desire to be home. And of course, the theme of "HaTikva" is the yearning of the Jewish soul to return to Zion. I believe what they all really reflect is the desire of the human heart to be at rest in our eternal home with God.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 explains that God has set eternity in the hearts of men. As carnal as human beings may be, our roots are still spiritual. Peter speaks of the hidden person of the heart; Sha'ul makes reference to the inner man. Even if people are dense and unaware of their inner nature, it does not change the reality. The image of God in fallen man is marred, but it is still there. The unregenerated spirit of man lives in darkness, but is still drawn towards the fragments of light that penetrate his world.
John Denver's Theology
The lyrics of the songs point us towards the heavenly. "Country Roads" even compares West Virginia to heaven, speaking of its natural beauty, mountains, rivers and forests. There is a sense of something ancient there. The writer is longing for something solid and dependable in contrast to the rapidly transitory nature of modern life. Yet God is even more ancient and trustworthy: "Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting you are God." (Psalm 90:1,2)
"Homeward Bound" is the lament of a traveling musician, tired of the world of entertainment. He must travel to make a living but there is no satisfaction in it. Every train station, every city, every concert hall, every stranger's face looks the same and only increases his loneliness and his desire for home. It's interesting that the singer refers to home as the place where his music is playing. What he does for the entertainment and amusement of others is not really his music. Home is where his music is playing. It's a refuge from the phony world that takes what it wants from us and then spits us out when there is nothing left to take. He sings, "I need someone to comfort me." In His final words to His disciples Yeshua refers to the Holy Spirit as "The Comforter", because he connects us to eternity.
Otis Redding's "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" is also about someone stranded far away, wishing he was home. Trapped in a hopeless situation and stripped of motivation, he failed to find a reason for living when he left home to wander. Now he just sits and stares at the boats, ever conscious of just how empty he is. In Luke 15:11-29, Yeshua spoke of the prodigal son who also wound up in dire straits and found the solution in repentance and returning humbled to his father's house. There his father received him with open arms.
"Home on the Range" is a cowboy song that expresses the desire for a home in a place of beauty, genuineness, light and encouragement, the opposite of this world of distortion, artificiality, darkness and discouragement.
Back in the Land, Still Waiting for Home
Those of us living in Israel, having responded to the call to return, face an interesting paradox. We recognize that this land is a gift from God to us - an inheritance and a homeland. However, there is still a certain aspect that is unfulfilled. The longing in the Jewish heart to return home from the Diaspora and to be a free people in the land is the vision of Zionism. Probably more than anything else in this world, the land of Israel represents the reality of heaven. Yet it still falls far short of fulfilling the promise of a heavenly home.
In Hebrews 11:8-10 we read about Abraham, "who, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance. And he went out not knowing where he was going." So Abraham was called to travel and to come to a place that would be shown to him after he went forward in faith. Yet even with this place given to him and his children as an inheritance, Abraham "lived as an alien in the land of promise as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise." He lived as an alien in the promised land. There was still an aspect of not being totally at home even though it was the land that God had given him. How can that be? It's because there is incompleteness in this world. Even the best in this world is still lacking without the eternity connection. "For he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God." He was looking for a city that has foundations. What kind of foundations? Eternal foundations that cannot be shaken and cannot be broken down. A city designed and built by God.
Walking on Streets of Gold
Jerusalem is the holy city. We speak of Jerusalem as the capital of our nation and the place of longing of generations. And so it is, but we also read in the book of Revelation about a New Jerusalem that comes down out of the heavens and seems to be superimposed over top of the old Jerusalem. It comes down in the context of a new creation, a new heaven and earth. The first seven verses in Revelation 21, speak of God dwelling with His people forever. No more tears, no more death, sorrow, crying or pain. There is a fountain filled with the water of life from which we can drink freely. This is the kind of place our Father would design and build for eternity. Ultimately, this is the home the songwriters are longing for.
We are fulfilling the words of "HaTikva" by living in Zion and Jerusalem. Well, we actually live in Zion and the Kryote. Not exactly the same, but close! Even if we did live in Jerusalem, even if all the Jews of the world came back to the land of Israel, even if we had complete possession of all the land and of the city of Jerusalem, it still would not be the Jerusalem of Revelation 21. Jerusalem and Israel is not the New Jerusalem, not yet. Only when we can see His face forever in that place will all be fulfilled.
Revelation 21 goes on to describe the building material of gold and precious stones. What does it mean? I don't know. Is it literal, symbolic? I don't really care because I know that whatever it is, it will be far more wonderful than anything we can imagine. What will it matter if the streets are of gold? What matters is that we will be forever in the presence of God. This will bring the completeness that all people long for. We will truly be home.
|Let us know what you think - why not comment to this article. The authors of these articles are often involved in intense ministry and are thus unable to respond to most comments. As is normal with print and online magazines, Tikkun reserves the right to publish only those comments we feel are edifying in tone and content.|
Also in this issue of the newsletter:
|Daniel Juster: Islam, Violent Jihad and Israel|
|Marty Shoub: Reaping A Harvest|
|Asher Intrater: Abraham & Lot "Why Did Lot Tarry?"|