WELS Hymnal Project

Focusing on the Finish Line

“Look at the finish line, not your feet.” When my daughter Priscilla and I were running in a race, those were the words I told her. The Third Sunday of End Time, Saints Triumphant, is that sort of Sunday. It’s a day where we lift our eyes up to the finish line and those waiting for us there in heaven. One of the hymns we sing on that Sunday is “Jerusalem the Golden.” It was written by Bernard of Cluny in the 1200s. With beautiful words it lifts our eyes up above the crosses we bear and the trials we endure to the finish line of heaven. In the first stanza, he writes:

Jerusalem the golden, With milk and honey blest—
The sight of it refreshes The weary and oppressed:
I know not, oh, I know not What joys await us there,
What radiancy of glory, What bliss beyond compare:
To sing the hymn unending With all the martyr throng,
Amidst the halls of Zion Resounding full with song.

There are so many pictures and promises of heaven in God’s word. Bernard reminds us that even though we do not know exactly what heaven looks like, we have every right and joy of pondering what these pictures and promises in God’s word are portraying. In verse 2 he writes:

Oh, sweet and blessed country, The home of God’s elect!
Oh, sweet and blessed country That eager hearts expect,
Where they who with their leader Have conquered in the fight
Forever and forever Are clad in robes of white.
Jesus, in mercy bring us To that dear land of rest
Where sings the host of heaven Your glorious name to bless.

Can you see yourself there in heaven? Can you see your sins washed away in Jesus’ blood, wearing the white robe of his righteousness? Can you focus in on the victory that the Lamb of God has won for us and gives to us? Do you yearn for “that dear land of rest?” That’s why this is one of my favorite hymns. It focuses our faith on the finish line. It gives us the privilege of singing a heavenly song knowing that even this song is nothing compared to singing with all the assembled hosts and martyrs when we get to heaven. That is a finish line worth lifting our eyes up to.

About Steve Bauer

Steve Bauer is a member of the Communications Committee of the WELS Hymnal Project. He serves as pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in West Newton, PA. Bauer particularly enjoys singing in choirs. Bauer and his wife Karin have two children.

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