by Jesse L. Smith
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You could see the profile of the Rabbi against the evening sun as he walked distantly in the wilderness. There was nothing but rocks and the stubble of shrubs out there, but He seemed to love it so much - regularly taking these strolls lasting into the early hours of the morning. Maybe He just wanted to get away from the people who thronged Him all day, finding rest in the sheer contrast of solitude. But there was something unnatural about it - why we would He forsake sleep after a hard day of labor to walk in those wind chaffed wastelands? To the average eye there was no more lonely a figure than of Jesus walking amidst those barren wastelands in the night, but there were a few privileged souls who saw more. Nathanael of Galilee was one who literally saw the heavenly host of angels moving with every step of Jesus, and bursting with activity as they descended and rose from him.
For those eyes that could see, the very elements of matter around Jesus glistened with the glory of God as He passed by - the rocks and stubble themselves giving praise to the Son of God. Far from being alone, an innumerable company of angels surrounded Him and conveyed His prayer to the God of Heaven. What was only a barren wilderness to unseeing eyes was Holy ground where Jesus stood - and out there the land untouched by human hands was truly 'God's country'. Just as Moses removed His sandals at the burning bush where God was, Jesus found the greatest fellowship with the Father where all human influence was absent. In that place of intimate communion Jesus was never hasty to leave His Presence - and found spiritual renewal as the hours passed toward dawn.
In contrast a place nearby called 'A house of prayer for all nations' in the scripture was beautiful to behold. It was true that the glory of the second temple exceeded the glory of Solomon's temple as scripture foretold - the gold and gems adorning it brought awe to all who saw it. Even the disciples of Jesus were enthralled at its presence, and pointed out its majestic splendor to a seemingly unimpressed Jesus. But what Jesus saw in the temple was different than what the rulers, priests, and even His disciples did. Instead of a house giving glory and honor to the God of Heaven, Jesus saw it as a center for corruption - made a 'den of thieves' through exploitation of the people. What was beautiful in the eyes of man had become disgusting in the eyes of God.
Some of the most beautiful places on this earth are really quite ugly to eyes that are insensitive to spiritual reality. When Jesus was born in that lowly stable, there was no more beautiful place on earth as the heavens rang for miles around with the voices of angels welcoming the arrival of God With Us. To unopened eyes there was nothing special to behold - but for a group of common shepherds the wonderful gift of sight was bestowed. There among that new family with the shepherds and wise men was more love, joy, and peace that could be found in any earthly palace. In fact, what was to be found in King Herod's beautiful palace not far away was very different - hatred, fear, and envy.
If we could all see with perfect clarity the spiritual background of the places we live, what would we see? Would we see angels hovering over our homes and vehicles, or something very different? Would the spiritual environment look more like the stable where Jesus was born, or more like Herod's palace? Even if we can't see the spiritual world with perfect clarity - love, peace, and joy are qualities that we can all feel and are valuable to us. These are not qualities that you can physically handle, but they are spiritual qualities that proceed from spiritual reality. While many of us have only valued what eyes can see, and the physical beauty that man's hands can create, we have lost sight of the true beauty that can only proceed from spiritual things. While God cares about our need for physical things, the true 'bread of life' is only spiritual - and having the blessing of righteousness, peace, and joy outweighs everything else.
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