WAIT FOR HIM
JAMES L. STANLEY
My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning.- Psalm 130. 6.
To wait for His Son from heaven.- 1 Thes. 1. 10.
Behold, I come quickly ... Surely I come quickly ; Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.- Rev. 22. 7, 20.
"And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord"(Luke 12. 36). Such is our Lord's description of the attitude in which His people ought continually to be found. Before His departure He left with His disciples this comforting assurance : "I will come again, and receive you unto Myself " (John 14. 3) ; and after He had departed, while the astonished disciples gazed up into heaven, angelic voices reminded them of the same glorious truth, "This same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven" (Acts 1. 11).
This grand fact should be kept distinct from all questions relating to accompanying events. It is to be regretted that long and bitter controversies over prophetic topics have tended both to obscure and discredit the doctrine of the second advent of our Lord. Whatever disagreement may exist as to the interpretation of certain scriptures bearing upon time, manner, and order of occurrences, there is a general agreement on the one point that He will come again; and in apostolic days the hope of His return occupied a prominent place in the minds of teacher and taught. When the Thessalonians received the gospel, they "turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven"(1 Thes. 1. 9, 10). In the brief summary of elementary doctrine contained in Paul's epistle to Titus, ch. 2. ver. 13, prominence is given to this truth : "Looking for that blessed hope, even the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ."
Our Lord has represented Himself as the absent Bridegroom who will come to receive His bride(Matt. 25. 1-13), and as the Lord of His servants who will come to take account of their work (Matt. 25. 14-30). To the Jewish Council He declared, "Henceforth ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matt. 26. 64). To the Thessalonian Christians, to comfort them under the loss of friends, Paul presents as a heart-sustaining truth, "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God : and the dead in Christ shall rise first" (I Thes. 4. 16).
Thus throughout the Gospels and Epistles we find our Lord and His apostles in various ways unfolding this important doctrine, and placing it in a strong light before the eyes of the church. And, as if finally to remind our hearts, and to add emphasis to the teaching, three times in the last chapter of the Bible do we hear our Lord saying, "Behold, I come quickly" "Watch, therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come."
A practical truth.
Against this doctrine it is often urged that it is not practical. It is regarded as merely speculative ; but this is a mistake. Rightly understood, its influence on life and service is most powerful.
The two parables inMatt. 25 of the Virgins and the Talents indicate the practical bearing of this subject. The parable of the Virgins is designed to teach the duty of watchfulness and expectancy. But the parable of the Talents serves as a complement to it, showing what the character of that waiting should be : that it should not be an idle "gazing up into heaven," but a diligent occupying till He come.
It is a stimulus to holiness.
"Every man that hath this hope set on Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure" (I John 3). The consideration of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ is eminently fitted to quicken us in watching against sin and cultivating purity of life. Our desire will be to "abide in Him, that, if He shall be manifested, we may have boldness, and not be ashamed from Him at His presence"(1 John 2. 28). The thought that we may speedily be called into His presence will make us anxious so to conduct ourselves that we may be ready at any moment to meet Him. There are many motives to holiness set before us in the Scriptures, but there is surely not one more powerful than this - "Behold, I come quickly."
It is a stimulus in service.
"I charge thee," says Paul to Timothy, "before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom ; preach the word ; be instant in season, out of season"(2 Tim. 4. 1, 2). What can be more forcible and significant than this? Here the fact of the second advent of Christ is made the ground of a special and solemn appeal to Timothy to be diligent and faithful in service. If this truth holds its right place in our thoughts, then it cannot fail to awaken a desire to serve Him as we shall wish to have served Him when all earthly opportunities are over and we stand before His judgment seat. If we truly love Him, it will be our ambition to please Him, and to gain the expression of His favour when we see Him. If we acknowledge His authority, it will be our desire to give practical proof of it by steady obedience to His commands, so that we may not have to suffer loss at that day. Our Lord not only said, "Blessed are those servants whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching" (Luke 12. 37), but also, "Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing" (Matt. 24.46).
Although the question of the acceptance of our persons was settled when we believed in Jesus, the acceptance of our works is another matter, and for this we wait the day of His appearing. Then "every man's work shall be made manifest : for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire ; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss : but he himself shall be saved ; yet so as through fire"(I Cor. 3. 13- 15).
A stimulus in self-judgment.
Again, the doctrine of the second coming of Christ, is a stimulus to self-judgment. " If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." We may, and ought, to anticipate the tribunal of Christ. By the discovery and confession of our sins now, we do not leave them to be dealt with hereafter ; for, "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness"(I John 1. 9). Remembering what our Lord has said respecting the suddenness of His appearing, we shall be the more diligent in self-examination, so that we may have "a conscience void of offence toward God," and may not have to go forward to the judgment seat with a burden of unconfessed sin. The Israelites were directed to keep the camp free from every unclean thing, because the Lord their God walked in the midst of them. Surely the prospect of the sudden appearance of our Lord, if kept vividly before our minds, would beget in us a like carefulness for the purity of our hearts and ways, and the exclusion of everything that would defile.
An encouragement to patience.*
The predicted return of Christ is also an encouragement to patience. When the apostle James would encourage oppressed believers to patience under their sufferings, he directs them to the same glorious prospect : "Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord "(ch. 5. 7) ; "Be ye also patient ; stablish your hearts : for the coming of the Lord has drawn near" (ch. 5. 8). So also, Paul, in comforting the Thessalonians under persecutions, says : "To you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels" (2 Thes. 1. 7). All the trials and sufferings of believers will terminate then. Their cause is in the hands of a mighty Redeemer, and they may well leave vengeance to His execution. "Vengeance is Mine : I will recompense, saith the Lord" (Rom. 12. 19).
How often the people of God have been perplexed by the seeming contradictions of Divine providence! The ungodly prosper, and increase in riches, while the godly are poor and afflicted. Oppressors are allowed to march in triumph, and the feeble flock of God is trampled under their feet. The appearing of Christ will rectify that which now, to our limited gaze, appears so wrong. "The Sun of Righteousness will arise with healing in His wings ;" and then we shall be able to "discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not"(Mal. 3. 18). Then the last mark of reproach shall be completely rolled away, and Christ and His church be eternally vindicated before the whole universe.
The waiting which the delay of Christ's return involves constitutes a salutary discipline. There is scarcely anything more difficult to do than to wait. Patience is not a common virtue. It does not require much acquaintance with life, either our own or others, to bring us to this conclusion. It is easier to do than to suffer, to act than to be still.
King Saul was tried by this test, and failed. His standing orders for critical times were, to wait for Samuel's appearance for the space of seven days. The history shows how on one memorable occasion he waited, but not long enough ; then he acted upon his own responsibility, and disobeyed. Although we would not dare to put it into words, and indeed. would shrink with horror from an attempt to formulate such an idea, yet does there not now and then start into our minds the dim shadow of a suspicion that there must be some flaw in the Divine arrangements? and are we not tempted, like Saul, to anticipate Him, and put our hand out to expedite the result? Let us be on our guard against this snare. Impatience will hurry us into mistakes, dishonouring to God, distressing to ourselves ; while faith and patience will keep us calm and steady till the fulfilment of the promise. "Though it tarry, wait for it ; because it will surely come, it will not tarry"(Hab. 2, 3).
While we wait for Him every virtue is called into exercise.
"We walk by faith, not by sight." Hereafter, faith will cease, and it will be easy to serve God in the presence and enjoyment of all the glory and happiness of the future state. But to serve Him now - amid scorn, reproach, unbelief, perplexities, weakness, and opposition - to maintain faith in the presence of infidelity, meekness under injury, patience under persecution, hope in spite of discouragement, faithfulness amid general unrighteousness, - these are the things that glorify God, exalt His name, and develop Christian character.
We shall not wait in vain.
"They shall not be ashamed that wait for Me"(Isa. 49. 23). These are the words of Jehovah of hosts. His honour is at stake. Did any ever turn their eyes in vain to the cast as morning approached, and fail to see the streaks of dawn announcing the advance of day? Did any, after the long reign of winter, look in vain for the signs of returning spring and summer? Never have these ordinances of Nature failed, but, true to His ancient covenant, the great and beneficent Creator has caused the seasons punctually to appear.
It is upon the word of that same God that we rely. "I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait,, and in His word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning ; I say more than they that watch for the morning"(Ps. 130. 5, 6). "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness ; but is long suffering to youward " (2 Peter 3. 9). With Him
"Slow circling ages are as transient days."
As certainly as the periods of day and night, and the circle of the seasons run their course, so with equal faithfulness will it be found that the larger prophetic circles fulfil their round. Vast they are, and baffle our limited comprehension ; but they are accurately measured by Him who "meted out heaven with a span," and are even now running on towards their close. "These times and seasons" the Father hath set within His own authority ; and though we may not know "the day and hour," we may discern the gathering signs, and look up and lift up our heads with joy, knowing that our redemption draweth nigh. "And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God ; we have waited for Him, and He will save us : this is Jehovah ; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation."(Isa. 25: 9).
The word ‘patience’ is defined as: "Calm endurance, resignation ; perseverance in pursuit of an end ; capacity for quietly awaiting an event or issue." (Odhams Concise English Dictionary.)