(image from wikiwand.com)
A hymn I grew up with--one I seldom hear anymore--was titled "Higher Ground."
In the chorus of the hymn, we sang these words:
"Lord, lift me up and let me stand, by faith, on heaven's tableland,
A higher plane than I have found, Lord plant my feet on higher ground."
What is a tableland? A tableland is a plateau, a mesa, or an elevated flat ground. Often sheep would graze on tableland.
What is heaven's tableland?
Many commentators have said it is the afterlife, when we all live in the heavenly kingdom of God's goodness. Not so fast. Heaven's tableland is not for the future; it is for now. It is for us to live on now.
We won't need faith in heaven. It is only in this world that we need faith. Note carefully what the hymn writer wrote:
"Lord, lift me up and let me stand, by faith, on heaven's tableland."
In this world, we need faith. We need heaven's tableland. What is this tableland, and how do we get there? How do we stay there?
We can't get there on our own. We need God to lift us to the place and purpose He has for us. That lifting event is called salvation. We're reborn and made ready to live a life worth living when we accept God's direction for our lives and His assessmentof who we are. His judgments are always correct.
His purpose and place are always higher and better than what we could or would choose for ourselves. Our knowledge is limited, we are influenced by those around us, and we are sometimes disoriented and confused when things happen that are beyond our comprehension. Only God can lift us above all of the limitations, the influences that don't help us, and the confusion that disrupts us.
Where will He lift us? He will lift us to heaven's tableland. Heaven's tableland is special, because not only are we living on an elevated plane, but also because we are living in a place uniquely prepared for us, created to answer our needs and develop and expand our gifts to serve God and to serve others. Heaven's tableland is a place where we will find joy in being just who are are--dearly loved and carefully crafted creatures of a good God who wants to communicate with us and connect with us in meaningful ways--now and forever.
Heaven's tableland is not a physical place. It is an emotional-mental-spiritual place. You may never leave the town or city where you were born. Or, you may travel the world while you are young. You may acquire every thing you have wanted, or you may never own a bigger house or move to the city or move to the country. You can still live on heaven's tableland.
The traditional shepherd would walk through the tableland before he brought the sheep to that location. He would clear the noxious weeds and dig ponds for drinking. He made sure the soil would support grasses and clover the sheep could eat. He made the space ready for the sheep to enjoy and to be fed from before he would allow them to graze in that area.
That is heaven's tableland.
Allow God to clear away all of the things and people keeping you from living a real life. Be willing to live in the place God has prepared for you--here and now. God has already gone ahead of you, and has prepared a life and a place for you. If you allow God to lift you to that place--a place you could never find on your own--you will find everything you need for joy and for purpose. If you allow God to "plant" you there--secure you, protect you, and direct you--the goodness doesn't have to end.
From the hymn, Higher Ground (words by Johnson Oatman, Jr., music by Charles H. Gabriel)
"My heart has no desire to stay where doubts arise and fears dismay.
Though some may dwell where these abound, my prayer, my aim, is higher ground.
I want to scale the utmost height, and catch a gleam of glory bright.
But still I'll pray 'till heaven I've found, Lord lead me on to higher ground."