Few and evil are the days
We often, on a Sunday, read “for as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (1Cor 11:26). And so our Master will soon return and this transient, temporary life, that we are so bogged down with, will be a thing of the past. After all it is, as we know, only temporary. Something we all intellectually are aware of: but do we really live in the light of this reality?
We are told to be a people watching and waiting for our Master’s return. And more than this we are to be a people earnestly desiring or longing for that day. Paul told us “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven’’ (2Cor 5:2). The Psalmist David speaks of “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power” (Psa 110:3), and for this to be true, we need to be willing now, prepared at any moment to welcome our Lord with gladness and joy.
Do we each yearn for the millennium, for the fulfillment of the next stage in our Heavenly Father’s purpose? Are our minds focused as often as possible on the return of the bridegroom, or do our minds fall into thinking only of the approaching judge and the specter of the judgment to come?
Is our desire for the glorious age to come growing, as we see the day approaching? Or is our desire being clouded over by the rising spirit of fear felt all over the world? Or perhaps this desire for the millennium is only being felt by the older members, or those who have been around for a while, those who have lived long enough to have fully experienced the harshness of life? As Jacob said to Pharaoh “the days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been” (Gen 47:9).
Such a longing should not be just the feelings and emotions of those that have been in the truth a long time. Of course those experiences of life should develop a longing, and that desire ought to grow in intensity with age and experience of life. But it must not be solely the experience of who have walked for a number of years in the way of life.
And so those who have been around for a while, and who feel the intensity of such a longing due to their experience of life with all its evils and trials, must convey this yearning for the Master’s return to those that are younger. To those who have not yet had the breadth of life’s experiences, and who may be still filled with all of life’s hopes, joys and dreams i.e. the promotions, the perfect marriage partner, the adorable kids (so brilliant that they top MIT); the huge mansion and a couple of cars to park there! Nothing evil about any of these things, so long as they do not take preference over our groaning for the millennium!
You see there is a danger here, that we can be overtaken with the cares of this life. Those cares, which may increasingly become much more pressing as we approach the time of the end and the increasing instability of these last days, such instability, as we have been experiencing in the credit crunch and the global economic downturn, the housing market, etc.: surely these turn of events stimulates our faith
How can we not be sitting on the edge of our seats elated that the day is approaching? Accepting with gladness and joy the possible short-term hardships, which we may experience, both individually and ecclesially, before we are delivered from this evil and dark age.
Of course we know that as the hard times get more and more widespread, men’s hearts will be failing them for fear, because of the distress and the perplexity affecting all nations.
“Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:24-28).
For our redemption draweth nigh…: our lives are not based in the here and now. But rather are “hid with Christ in God and when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col 3:3). Now in those couple of verses from Luke, we have a powerful contrast between those not in Christ and those in Christ. Those whose hope is lost, such as we see every day.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2Tim 1:7). We are those who are called upon to “look up and lift up our heads.”
And again in the Greek when it says, “look up and lift up”, both are ongoing daily commands that the Eternal Spirit urgently exhorts us to perform. This is in order that we too might not become paralyzed by the spirit of fear, that is so much present all around us, in every part of the world. We only have to think of the Apostle Peter when he walked upon the water. He took his eyes off the author and finisher of our faith and began to sink, being overcome with his temporal circumstances. It’s an example for us to keep our eyes on our Lord!
And so in the first picture we see those overcome by the troubles of our times, their heads hanging down, undoubtedly unable to see a way out of what is before them either individually or collectively. And then in the second picture we have ourselves, who are living through and experiencing the very same set of circumstances, but we are not bowed down by those events. Rather, as verse 28 indicates, this second group is on their feet with expectation, elated that the fulfillment of all their hope is at hand.
Our eternal focus
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2Cor 4:17-18).
There is a great need amongst us to keep an eternal or a vertical focus, especially if we are to go through a harsh time of economic testing, as a number of our brothers and sisters endured in the 1930s. We have heard a lot about that decade… the great depression. The Wall Street Stock Market Crash of October 1929, also known as the Great Crash, was the most devastating stock market crash in the history of the United States. The crash signaled the beginning of the 12-year Great Depression that affected all the Western industrialized countries and did not end in the US until World War II at the end of 1941.
Our society is now very different from the 1930s, for there is not the sense of community at large as there once was, and sadly this is also true of the brotherhood. When you look at shows such as “Little house on the prairie” you get a sense of how communities lived and struggled together. I know in big cities this is rare, but as a Christadelphian community it doesn’t matter if we are in a big city or small town, we need to keep our focus upon our hope and we need to do everything in our power to strengthen each other. Not only that, but also to strengthen the bonds of fellowship between us practically, as far as we are able. An example is prayer meetings, a practice that is perhaps not very common in the US, but in the Caribbean, brethren call each other to their homes regularly for a prayer meeting, it doesn’t always have to be for a specific reason. And brethren also just invite each other to spend some time together, hang out as we say. Instead of spending time virtually, we do it the old fashioned way: in person! Can you imagine that? You know with all the research on cell phone waves and their effects on our brain, and the computer screens of all types, and their effect on our eyes, there has never been any negative findings for face-to-face encounters. Isn’t that something: it is still safe to talk to each other in person!
It’s one way we can show support to one another, especially with difficult times ahead. I know our love comes out when ever one of us is in dire need, and not just here in Brooklyn, but throughout the world. Whenever we hear of a situation, first we find out if anyone has been hurt and then we offer financial support. As was the case with Haiti, a year ago, and recently New Zealand, (and still more recently in Brooklyn itself), these events are just the beginning of sorrows. One brother suggested that things may get so bad, that we will have to pool our monetary resources in a similar fashion to the first century to care for those in need.
Such times of distress are also a means that our Heavenly Father uses positively to develop our love and our hope, even our yearning for the age to come. And there is nothing like disaster, natural or man-made, to bring people together: even enemies sometimes come together to help each other in times of emergencies.
The trials of Joseph
“He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: Until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him. Israel also came into Egypt; and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham. And he increased his people greatly; and made them stronger than their enemies. He turned their heart to hate his people, to deal subtly with his servants” (Psa 105:17-19, 23-25).
First we have an individual, Joseph, who was sold into Egypt by his brothers and so experienced the harshness of life, that our Heavenly Father might both prepare him and also try him. (The Hebrew word there is smelted him, the way silver is refined, so that the dross might be removed in order to make Joseph pure.) And that took some thirteen years, so when we read, the phrase “he was laid in iron” in verse eighteen, think of “iron entering his soul”.
So the trials of his life made Joseph fit for the Father’s purpose, and more than this, it purified him. Do we not read elsewhere “every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he [Christ] is pure”! (1John 3:3). So Joseph’s faith did not collapse through this trial: his hope increased and he would undoubtedly have been sustained by focusing upon the eternal.
And so the very trials, which destroy those who are not in the Truth, are actually a means of generating our hope for the age to come, for that new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
The trials of Lot
Think for a moment of the trial of Lot, dwelling in Sodom, and you can see our Heavenly Father used the mistakes of this righteous man to fulfill this same purification process in his life.
“And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust unto the Day of Judgment to be punished” (2Pet 2:7-9).
Now it’s interesting how those two occasions of the word “vexed” here are different words. The first when it says, “vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked” means to be bowed down with the toil or the effect of the culture he lived in. So the wickedness of Sodom wore him down and afflicted him daily, as the Greek implies, because of the blatant wickedness of Sodom. Now this is how we should be today. Vexed with all the immorality going on, not joining in glorifying it! After all we, like Lot, choose to live wherever we are living!
Glorifying immoral behavior, we don’t need to be involved in it ourselves, we don’t have to be out fornicating ourselves, by being entertained by those who do is just as evil! If we are not vexed by the happenings around us, the practices of our friends, our wayward relatives, our neighbors, then how are we different from them?
It’s amazing that our younger members may not be aware of the breakdown of morals, because this is all they have seen growing up over the past 15-20 years. So society doesn’t really look any different to them, whereas those who have been in the Truth many years can more readily appreciate the decline of our society
Now when we consider the second word “vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds” in verse 8, it is speaking of the testing of metals, especially of silver and gold to make it pure. We see then how life the Father can turn around even our bad choices in life, and teach us lessons through those experiences to develop our faith, our love and hope for the age to come.
“He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes; Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (Psa 105:14-15).
Faithful men of old
Both in the lives of Abraham and Isaac we find this situation taking place. Their weakness, because of their unbelief, in their inability not to understand completely the promises made to them, led them to make foolish mistakes. They were focusing upon the temporal situation at the time. Yet our Heavenly Father in His providential care not only protected them, but also blessed them through those experiences, even though Abraham and Isaac were both reproved by kings for their folly.
From these examples, we can take great comfort, that these faithful men of old, even in their failures and apparent weaknesses of the flesh our Heavenly Father turned those events to work together for their eternal good.
Now within Psa 105 we see this same principle in the life of Joseph worked out collectively in the life of the whole nation of Israel in the persecution of the people after Joseph. Note carefully the record states that, “He (that is the Lord) turned the hearts of the Egyptians to hate his people, to deal subtly with his servants”
So in this Psalm, we see our Heavenly Father trying to develop faith, hope and love in His promises in both the individual Israelite and collectively in the nation. Now since our God does not change, can we think of any reason why He need be any different today?
This is a Psalm recognizing the initial and partial fulfillment of the promise of the land to Abraham’s seed — the nation of Israel. It shows to us the very faithfulness of our Heavenly Father that what He has promised He is able to deliver. The same way He has provided the necessary sacrifice for our sins represented by the emblems upon the table. It brings out the faithfulness of our Father in making this provision.
Now this Psalm powerfully highlights for us the providential care of our Heavenly Father in the life and development of the nation. Take note of the number of times it states “He” did something to move forward His purpose. So our Heavenly Father began with Abraham, in a sense, and brought to fruition the redemption of the nation of Israel at the time of the Exodus, caring for them through their wanderings until He brought them into the land of promise.
The same is equally true concerning our redemption in the Lord Jesus, as is witnessed with the bread and wine upon the table. That all of the purpose and its process is of him, and to the Father must the glory be given. So when we read Psalm 105, which takes us through the redemption of the nation, we are being told that the same God, who performed the Exodus, is equally at work in each of our lives and collectively in the life of our ecclesia’s through His Son to bring us unto His rest.
“Being confident this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6)
This is exactly why Psalm 105 stops at the point that the nation enters the land of promise and inherits the land. We are to see in it a type and the surety of our redemption in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that it is our Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom.
And so we go back to our question, are we longing for the kingdom? Are we even sighing, as this word groan indicates, are we like vexed Lot? Day to day shaking our heads at the world around us or are we entertained and amused and join in the frivolities that everyone else is enjoying. Are we secretly or openly wishing that we can be part of the “mardi gra”… to borrow that term?
And so as we come once more around these emblems, Let each one of us clearly see the bread, which speaks here of the love of our Heavenly Father in Christ, expressed in His word. That word, which is able to transform and renew our minds and characters to be like our Lord Jesus.
That word, which is able to give us a yearning for the glories of the age to come, that we might have a Holy dissatisfaction with the here and now. Vex our righteous souls! Hopefully they can be classed as righteous!
Likewise with the cup, for the wine speaks to each one of us, of the outworking of that word in a life poured out. Firstly in the Master’s sacrifice and secondly in his ongoing High Priestly intercession on our behalf and for our good, for our eternal wellbeing. Through the Father’s mercy and ultimately to our Heavenly Father’s glory.
In the wine then we see the example of how we are to live out our faith, our hope, and our love. In sacrificial service in stirring up one another unto love and good works, exhorting one another concerning the kingdom, and so much the more as we see the day approaching.
Knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent; the day is at hand. Let us eat this feast with our loins girded, our shoes on our feet, and our lamp in your hand. Ready, willing and longing to go out and meet him, when the cry comes.
“Seek the Lord, and his strength: seek his face evermore: Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord” (Psa 105:3-4).
Gideon Drepaul (Brooklyn NY)