Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of
the tree are for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1,2 NIV)
Today (August 31), Malaysia celebrates its 60th birthday. Although, to be accurate, Malaysia’s birthday should be September 16th. Malaya, Sabah, and Sarawak entered into an agreement to form Malaysia as equal partners. Singapore, too, though that didn’t work out in the end. In other words, it’s not as though Sabah and Sarawak were absorbed into Malaya. The three entities came together as equals. This peninsular Malaysia-centric approach is a clue that not all is right with this nation.
The recent Southeast Asian Games ended on a high note for host Malaysia. I can’t remember a time when we ended with the most medals. Of course the host country always has many advantages but it was still special to see the whole country, all states and races, cheering on the Malaysian contingent. This is when we are united, when we are not competing against each other but are all pulling in the same direction. We know, however, that no matter how the leaders would like to capitalise on this feel-good factor, things will be back to normal the moment the Games end, a country going down a road increasingly marked by racism, religious intolerance, corruption, and the abuse of power.
A general election has to be called by next year. The odds for any real change seem slimmer than the previous general election. I looked for hope and found some in my last Bible study with my church small group. It was our last study in the book of Revelation. We were looking at the last two chapters and this verse struck me:
On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:2)
So God is not just in the business of saving individuals. He also plans to heal the nations. And boy do we need healing.
I try to imagine what a healed Malaysia would look like. It would be free of evil, hence there would be no corruption or abuse of power. Creation would be restored. Rivers will once again run clean, and forests flourish, with flora and fauna reflecting the glory of their Creator. And perhaps what is most important to many of us, no more racism. We were already told in Revelation 5:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9,10)
I have long believed that racism is the last sin to die. The recent events in Charlottesville are but one example of many, but I think we should be paying more attention to the struggles closer to home. Indeed, we should take a long hard look at our own souls. There are those who champion the equality of all races, yet who suddenly baulk when their children want to marry outside their race. A healed Malaysia would value all races.
The vision of a healed humanity living in healed nations is not “pie in the sky by and by”. It gives me hope that the trajectory of history is headed towards wholeness and justice and love. That strengthens me. More importantly, this picture of the end empowers and guides me as to how I should live today. I know that the nations will be healed completely only when Christ returns. In the meantime, my prayer and action are expressed in that part of the Lord’s model prayer: “. . . your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)
So, where we can, we will work against racism and corruption, we will fight to protect our environment, we will see what we can do to make our nation one where all peoples can thrive. We understand that the results will at best be partial. Indeed, at times it seems the forces of evil are winning. But we won’t give up because we know how it will end and therefore we choose to play the long game.
It must be said that the vision in Revelation presupposes that those who will be there in the end are those who are properly related to Jesus. And therefore while we work hard to see more evidence of Kingdom values in the public square, we must continue to invite people to consider the claims of the loving lordship of the One who is going to set things right in the end. Followers of Jesus have been warned that we will be persecuted for doing that. (Where is Pastor Raymond?) But it should be clear enough that human effort can only go so far. Definitive solutions lie elsewhere. They lie with Him who will make all things new (Revelation 2:15).
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen. Revelation 22:20,21)