Waiting No More…
The achiness of his bones awakened him. It was still dark, but his body’s groaning left him restless. The darkness seemed so much darker, but morning would soon break. Rolling over to get up took so much more energy now – age hadn’t been so kind. In the past few years, his health had been poor.
At one point, he wasn’t sure that he’d make it. For weeks, the pain had made him delirious. He thought he was going to die. He wanted to…except the echo of the promise of the voice. The whisper had kept him going.
He groaned as he got up. Oy vey! Quiet and dark, he went to his familiar place and faced toward the temple and bowed down to pray. This had been his morning practice now for decades. It was no mere ritual. It was his practice, fuelled by a longing, a hunger. The familiar refrain “Blessed are you, Adonai, King of the Universe, for you will redeem all things…” – this was no old prayer. In fact, every time he prayed these words, he couldn’t help but remember that day when his prayer had been interrupted.
And as he bowed and prayed those familiar, yet oh so precious words, his prayer was interrupted: “Stop. Go.” Like decades ago, he recognized that voice. That voice – gentle and firm, urging and commanding – that same voice that had revealed to him so long ago that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ, now was compelling him to go to the temple.
Could it be? Was today that day?
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…
As he opened his eyes, the dawn was breaking in. Somehow, the colors of the morning seemed more vivid, the daylight more radiant, the morning more hopeful than it had in ages.
Through the years, he had felt the gloom. His beloved Israel faced oppression. And the more she fought against it, the more she was crushed. Rome had grown in power, authority, contemptuousness, and fury. Jewish fanatics had risen up, zealots fighting for a purer religion in the midst of corrupt, politically driven, and splintered religion, only to be snuffed out with Rome’s military machinery piercing insurrectionists to crosses, hung along the roadways as a public demonstration of Rome’s great might.
And he had battled despair and despondency seeing the righteous faith be watered down and compromised. Children who had been brought to the temple by their parents, presented as the Law required, now brought their children. But not all came back. Some had fallen away. Others had been killed in the riots. It was hard to carry on.
But the voice compelled him. He had cherished this promise. In the most tenuous of days, in the gloomiest moments, in the darkest of doubts, he remembered the voice as if it had spoken to him yesterday – you will not die until you’ve seen the Lord’s Christ. It had kept him going.
So up he got, scurrying off to the temple, agile and nimble, sprightly and vigorous, this old man rushed, feeling no twinge of pain. A youthfulness had come over him. He must hurry and believe and obey the voice.
He stood there in the temple court, looking, wondering. Confusion was settling in. How would he know? Who was he looking for? Had he heard correctly? Had he heard things? His mind wasn’t as sharp as it once was, for he often found himself wondering why he had gotten up, forgetting what it was that had compelled him in the first place to go. But the whisper of the voice had certainly revealed it to him – you will not see death until you see the Lord’s Christ.
Standing, waiting, looking, he sees them: a young couple enters the courts. The child is only a few weeks old. Watching, waiting, he notices them buy a pair of pigeons – obviously poor. His hands look worn and splintered. She looks young and timid. Certainly they don’t have much – not even enough to buy a lamb for the child’s consecration. But they are righteous, devout, holy. They have come, and the child must be 40 days old – they’re doing what the Law demands, following its rites and practices. Hard pressed, yet obedient, they come. With the bundled child, they move forward.
Today, he has heard the voice. His heart has not been hard. HiHisHe has waited all these years. That day is this day. The Spirit had compelled him, and he wasn’t mistaken. Obedient, the young couple comes following the Law; obedient, the old man comes, compelled by the Spirit. A new age has dawned. A new light has shone.
Stretching out his frail, weak hands, he nods for the child. “Mary, it’s okay,” says her husband. And as she places the child into the frail man’s hands, the weight of the cosmos feels so light, yet this child feels so heavy. A song, a prophecy cry out of this old man’s mouth with a sudden burst of energy coursing through his veins. Simeon has waited for this day! Many will rise and fall at the birth of this dangerous boy! Some will stumble on this stone; but many will hear, believe in fear and hope in this dangerous King!
This child is a threat, but he is also a promise. Many will rise and fall. He will pierce his mother’s heart. Yet he will redeem those who call out to him. The voice has spoken. Simeon has heard. He has waited. He has believed.
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart…No, that day is this day. The mother – she is pensive. But Simeon smiles. I have seen it all – the salvation promised the deliverer who has come to rescue humanity and bring them back to God, a revelation to those who would hear, and glory for those who have believed.
“I have heard your voice. I have believed. And now my eyes have seen that for which I have longed and waited. Now let your servant depart in peace, just as you have said.”
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. He has made purification for sins. (Hebrews 1:1-3 ESV)
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. Come, let us sing to the LORD, let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Come into his presence with thanksgiving, make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. Today, if you hear his voice, let every heart prepare him room and may heaven and nature sing. (Psalm 95 Adapted from the ESV)
Many will rise and fall at the birth of this dangerous boy
“Rise and Fall”
By Daniel Renstrom, 2009
The dawn of the light
Is breaking tonight
At the birth of this dangerous boy.
And shepherds and kings
Bow down and sing
At the birth of this dangerous boy.
Many will rise and fall
At the birth of this King, the birth of this King.
Many will rise and fall
At the birth of this King, the birth of this King.
Those who oppose
Stumble on this Stone
At the birth of this dangerous King
But many will hear
Believing in fear
Will hope in this dangerous King.
From the depths of woe i raise to Thee the voice of lamentation.
Lord, turn a gracious ear to me and hear my supplication.
If Thou iniquity dost mark, our secret sins and misdeeds dark,
O, who shall stand before Thee?
O, who shall stand before Thee?
To wash away the crimson stain, grace, grace alone availeth.
Our works, alas!, are all in vain; in much the best life faileth.
No man can glory in Thy sight; all must alike confess Thy might
And live alone by mercy,
And live alone by mercy.
Therefore my trust is in the Lord and not it mine own merit.
On Him my soul shall rest; His Word upholds my fainting spirit.
His promised mercy is my fort, my comfort, and my sweet support;
I wait for it with patience.
I wait for it with patience.
What though i wait the live-long night and till the dawn appeareth,
My heart still trusteth in His might; it doubteth not, nor feareth.
Do thus, o ye of israel’s seed, ye of the Spirit born indeed,
And wait till God appeareth,
And wait till God appeareth.
Though great our sins and sore our woes, His grace much more aboundeth.
His helping love no limit knows - our utmost need it soundeth.
Our Shepherd, good and true is He Who will at last His israel free
From all their sin and sorrow,
From all their sin and sorrow.
Stretch out Thine arm, victorious King,
My reigning sins subdue,
Drive the old Dragon from his seat,
With all his hellish crew.
A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
Into Thy hands I fall;
Be Thou my strength and righteousness,
My Savior, and my all.
Waiting in Prayer
There’s a growing trend in year-end sales. “Self-gifting” is the new economic engine. Accelerated by Black Friday and End of Year deals, savvy shoppers have decided that they want to buy now rather than wait.
In a world of no money down, no interest, no payments for 12 months, there is little incentive to wait. “You snooze, you lose,” the saying goes. You can have your 50” LED HDTV and buy somegifts for the others (besides, that’s what the line of credit is for,right?!?). With newer iPhone models released regularly, marketers are now psychologists who sell you a lifestyle, not a product. Creating hunger for the newest,
the latest gadget causes disenchantment for those who wait.
Suddenly, in an instant world, praying to a God who values waiting brings disappointment. The first evidence that waiting is a lost virtue is in diminished prayer.
But it is in prayer that our strength is renewed (Isa 40:29-31), our hope built (Ps 130), and our joy
abounds. In the darkest time of the
year, Advent calls us to wait and cry out for the Light to come again, just as
God’s perfect gift was given in the fullness of time (Gal 4:4). More than watchmen long for the morning (Ps.130:5-6), waiting on God reminds us of His promises, recounts His faithfulness, seeks His forgiveness, and intensifies our longing for Him!
God is not your genie in a bottle (three wishes answered immediately!); He is infinitely better. He knows how to create a hunger in your soul that only he can satisfy with a lasting satisfaction (Ps. 16:11). It is good to wait for God’s deliverance (Lam 3:26). And when you have learned to waitupon him, then light will pierce the dark night of the soul, his healing will cometo you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your defense (Isa. 58:8).
3) express your confidence in His Word (Ps 130:5-6); and
4) praise God in the presence of others (Ps 130:7-8).
So call out to Him! Wait upon Him! Pour out your heart to Him! Find renewed strength, guidance, and hope as you wait for the promise of no more tears, sorrow, sadness, or loss, for His Son’s second coming is closer than when you first believed!
"I did not have what was His;
He did not have what was mine.
He assumed what is mine, that I might share in what is His.”
- Ambrose of Milan, 4th century.
Spend your time in nothing which you know musy be repented of; in nothing on which you might not pray for the blessing of God; in nothing which you could not review with a quiet conscience on your dying bed; in nothing on which you might not safely and properly be found doing if death should surprise you in the act.
Provoked by Idols
I remember vividly my first encounter with an idol. It was the first day of second grade, and the Buddha-like figure sat prominently at the front of the carpeted area where we gathered for every activity, story, and lesson. Coming to the carpet, our teacher instructed us to look to the statue and sit quietly in an Eastern meditation posture.
Whenever I read the statement about Paul’s response when he came into Athens and saw the idols, I remember second grade: “his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16). At age seven, I was a deeply troubled and didn’t know how to sit, listen, and read whenever we came to the carpet. What was I to do?
Christians throughout the ages have been faced with the question of how to live faithfully in a pluralistic world. Should we respond vociferously with moral outrage? Protect our Christian roots? Create political parties to advance our cause?
Before we react, we remember the problem is not merely the idol, but what sociologist Peter Berger has called the “plausibility structures” of our age. Plausibility structures are those beliefs that are thought widely and are almost unquestioningly accepted in our culture. People hold these beliefs with great tenacity, as though society’s future was at stake.
So how did Paul respond in Acts 17? While provoked in his spirit, Paul dismantled the Athenians plausibility structures and gave them a new story that was to shape their lives. He did this in several ways:
- He saw the points of connection. The “Unknown God”? Paul knew him and could speak of the Creator, Redeemer, and Saviour.
- He exposed the folly of idolatry. "You think you serve God? Who gives you life and breath? A statue? God created you and calls you to worship him!
- He spoke with civility. Moral outrage would convince no one and would never commend the Lord Jesus Christ to them. He quoted their poets. He saw they were religious in many ways.
- He shared the gospel. Of first priority was to win people to Christ, and his testimony gave him opportunity to explain Jesus Christ and the reality of sin.
- He was prepared to suffer. Some mocked him. But Christ was worth more, because…
- He delighted in the Lord.
The result was some came to trust in Christ while others continued to dialogue. And the church in Athens was born.
The idols of our day ought to provoke us. But may it not be the kind of provoking that paralyzes us into inaction. May the provoking of our spirit be the kind that moves us to love our neighbours, tell them of Christ winsomely and wisely, with civility and gentleness and respect, and pray for God to build his Church!
Courage to Stand by Faith
Everyone, it seemed, was on his side: the emperor, the leading churchmen, the politicians. Arius, a popular, well connected theologian made a lot of sense. His songs were catchy and sung in churches across the continent. He had convinced the world through song and sermon that Jesus Christ was divine in nature but not one in substance with the Father. Jesus was “a son of God,” if you like. Almost everyone agreed. Who would oppose a catchy tune and a smooth speaker?
One man did. Athanasius saw through Arius’s teaching. If Jesus was not of the same substance as the Father, he could not truly be God. What was at stake was the Trinity and our salvation. Even though he was one man, Athanasius stood contra mundum - against the world. It would take several years of debating, reasoning, and firmness, but in the end, Athanasius swung the theological tide. The historic Nicean creed was reaffirmed and clarified.
Courage means standing up despite fears, concerns, or pain and a willingness to endure hardship. That endurance comes from conviction - we believe there is something greater or more valuable than the present option.
But courage comes to ordinary people. Elijah was a man like us (Jas 5). An ordinary man who believed in an extraordinary God, believing His Word and holding on to the promises of Scripture. He believed, prayed, stood. In a faithless world of godless worship, he remained faithful and courageous right up to the end.
You and I are not called to be Athanasius or Elijah. We are called to be who God intends us to be. There are places and situations God has strategically placed you and you may be the only one who stands with courage and conviction. In a difficult family situation. A workplace filled with compromise. A school filled with skepticism. You need to be wise and courageous where God has placed you.
You are, however, called to trust in the same God that Elijah and Athanasius trusted. The God who enabled men of old to stand for him is the same God who is eager to strengthen you with resolve and courage today. Courage comes by faith - a faith that believes that what is unseen is of greater worth than what is seen. As Hebrews 11:24-26 says of Moses: “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.”
What will help you to stand? What will cause you to go against the flow? You must know the God of the Bible, be convinced of his superior value and worth, and believe that it is more pleasurable to obey because there is something better than this life now.
Suspicion of God
“To doubt the good will of God is an inborn suspicion of God with all of us. Besides, the devil…goes about seeking to devour us by roaring: ‘God is angry at you and is going to destroy you forever.’ In all these difficulties we have only one support, the Gospel of Christ. To hold on to it, that is the trick. Christ cannot be perceived with the senses… The heart does not feel His helpful presence. Especially in times of trials a Christian feels the power of sin, the infirmity of his flesh, the goading darts of the devil…the scowl and judgment of God. All these things cry out against us, death thunders at us, the devil roars at us. In the midst of the clamor the Spirit of Christ cries in our hearts, ‘Abba, Father.’ And this little cry of the Spirit transcends the hullabaloo of the Law, sin, death, and the devil, and finds a hearing with God. The Spirit cries because of our weakness…(and) is sent forth into our hearts…to assure us of the grace of God” (Martin Luther on Galatians 4:6 in his Commentary on Galatians).