Beyond the Wall

“See, I have given Jericho into your hand”.

There are only one or two stories better known than The Wizard of Oz. Thanks to MGM everyone knows the tinman, the lion, the scarecrow and, of course, Dorothy. We are familiar with every yellow brick of their adventure to find the great wizard who they believe will be able to grant them their hearts’ desire: the tinman a heart, the lion courage, the scarecrow a brain, and Dorothy a way to get back home to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in Kansas. Once they arrive at the Emerald City, where the great wizard lives, they receive an audience with the man himself. He appears in all blazes of glory and tells them that he will not do anything for them until the wicked witch is dead. So, off the four of them go in search of the witch (cue music) and, since this is make-believe, sooner or later they return to the Emerald City with broomstick in hand to claim their reward. The following scene is comedy of the best value as the great wizard turns out to be but only a little bumbling old bald man. “You are a very bad man,” Dorothy says. “Oh, no, my dear.” says the wizard, “I’m really a very good man, but I’m a very bad wizard.” So the great and terrible Oz is only a human after all, just like Dorothy herself. He is only able to do what humans are able to do. He cannot give them anything that they do not already have or could not have by their own means. The “good news” of the story is that hard and diligent work (and a little help from our friends) pay off in the end, and faith is its own reward. In fact, faith is only important if it is faith in ourselves.

And that’s the thing that troubles me.

The joy and hope of this timeless classic lays right here, within the walls of this world, and not beyond. There is no beyond. The walls of this world reach high and outside of it is nothing. For the tinman seeking a heart there is no heavenly love, for the lion seeking courage no heavenly victory, for the scarecrow seeking knowledge no heavenly revelation and for Dorothy seeking a home no heavenly hope. The Land Beyond the Walls, the Land of Oz, where all things seemed possible by the mighty outstretched arm of the great wizard, was not her home, and could not offer any hope. A world with no world beyond its own walls could only offer it’s own selfish love, it’s own passing victory, it’s own repetitious revelation and it’s own temporary hope. Though the wizard was able to set her mind, and ours, dreaming of a world of joy beyond the Emerald City we tend to believe that that place is only a dream and not entirely real. And so the real travesty is the conclusion. In the end poor Dorothy was left thinking that self-belief and self-realisation was the key to her getting home. That the secret to victory was herself. Success was down to her and her friends.

This isn’t what troubles me the most.

What really troubles me is that with all the well meaning and good natured motives that this was done with, the outcome was very average. Tinman found his heart, lion found his courage, scarecrow found his brain and, of course, Dorothy found her way home. But it’s just home. Home is not that country that Joshua saw and greeted from afar (Hebrews 11:13) but rather home is just here, where there aren’t many surprises and certainly no Emerald Cities. Where the real good news (the Gospel) is reduced to pinky promises that are easily kept. The peace that passeth all understanding (Philippians 4:7) is reduced to peace that anybody and everyone can understand. The faith that can move mountains (Matthew 17:20) and raise the dead (Matthew 10:7) becomes faith that simply helps make life bearable until death conquerors. Eternal life becomes a mere figure of speech for a legacy a person leaves behind. Home is within the walls of this world. No beyond. No ultimate hope of a home beyond the walls.

Well friend listen to the story of Joshua.

“Joshua fit the battle of Jericho … and the walls came tumblin’ down!” sang the sunday school class.Paul said that Jesus is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the wall of separation” (Ephesians 2:14). The story is, as you know, about God’s victory to bring the walls of Jericho tumbling down so that His people could walk in the riches and freedom of the Promised Land. God says to Joshua (before Joshua has even begun to embark on his battle for Jericho) “See, I have given Jericho into your hand”. (Joshua 6:2). Before Joshua had even started out into the Promised Land God said “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you”. (Joshua 1:3). God has provided something better for us (Hebrews 11:39) than a walled world. A city, whose builder and maker is God. (Hebrews 11:10). A home beyond the walls because the wall of separation is torn down and death has been conquered! There is not only a wonderful world beyond to look forward to but now every Christian stands in a position of guaranteed victory because Jesus has already defeated every spiritual enemy (John 12:31). We don’t look to ourselves but to Christ Jesus! And just look through the looking glass at the wonderful “world beyond” promises. Jesus said“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7). “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20), ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (Matthew 25:34) “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). And when that great day arrives, and we wake, we won’t be in Oz or Kansas. Neither the world we live in now nor the world that lives in us can ever entirely be home again anymore than it was home for Dorothy in the end.

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 16:57)

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