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面对迟延

作者:道格•巴契勒 牧师日期:2013-05-05 6:29:27浏览数:11324
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奇妙真相:二战期间,法国的抵抗者相信,纳粹的占领只是暂时的。这些勇敢的男女们进行着艰苦卓绝的战斗,被捕的战士受尽酷刑折磨。尽管敌众我寡,胜算渺茫,但他们依然不屈不挠,坚信联军很快会到达,将法国从残酷的压迫者手中拯救出来。

但日复一日,年复一年,有些战士逐渐厌倦了这种无休止的抵抗和躲躲藏藏的生活。在许多人看来,联军似乎永远也不会来了,因为他们正忙于同其它战线上的纳粹敌人做殊死斗争。看起来法国将永远处在敌人铁蹄的蹂躏之下。

最终,一些自由战士觉得,和德国人合作日子会更好过些。他们甚至开始和压迫者交朋友,并为了利益和地位出卖同胞。随后,联军突然在诺曼底登陆,法国解放。那些坚持到底的自由战士成了英雄,而投降的叛徒则被当众羞辱,甚至处死。

面对迟延

在末后,教会是否将上演与二战中的法国极为相似的一幕呢?

上帝的百姓在末时所面临的最大危险之一,并非患难时日的长短,也不是监禁、折磨、或饥饿的威胁,而是主的再临显然迟延了,及至那些自称为信徒的人开始变得麻痹、冷淡。对大多人来说,与世俗联合似乎要比放弃世俗更容易。但有警告的话对我们说:“倘若那恶仆心里说:‘我的主人必来得迟’,就动手打他的同伴,又和酒醉的人一同吃喝。在想不到的日子,不知道的时辰,那仆人的主人要来。”(太24:48-50)

那恶仆心里说:“我主人必来得迟。”这并不是一个公开的声明,而是他信心内在的腐蚀。对再临信息之信心的减退可以体现在方方面面,如聚会开始断断续续,奉献也越来越少,等等。很快他便开始打他的同伴(主要是以其言语伤人),并和酒醉之人一同吃喝(在世界上找到了友谊和享乐)。最后,那恶仆希望主人永远不会回来,因为他已经与敌人联合了。

基督早已预言

基督再临的日子和大多数人的期望相比,显然是迟延了。对此,我们不必感到惊奇。圣经对于这一迟延及其引起的普遍反应早有预言:“第一要紧的,该知道在末世必有好讥诮的人,随从自己的私欲出来讥诮说:‘主要降临的应许在哪里呢?因为从列祖睡了以来,万物与起初创造的时候仍是一样。’”(彼后3:3, 4)

你看出对主降临的怀疑和随从私欲之间的关系了吗?倘若我们不再相信并停止传扬耶稣降临迫在眉睫,便会处于极度的危险之中。

另一方面,相信耶稣即将再临有一种使人成圣的效果。“亲爱的弟兄啊,你们既盼望这些事,就当殷勤,使自己没有玷污,无可指摘,安然见主。”(彼后3:14)并且约翰一书3章3节也强调:“凡向祂有这指望的,就洁净自己,像祂洁净一样。”我们决不能对祂的应许——“我就必再来”——失去信心。

“惟有忍耐到底的必然得救。”(太24:13)这最后的迟延乃为试验“圣徒的忍耐”,(提后4:8;启14:12)只有真正爱慕祂显现的人才能通过这场考验。

请不要忘记,在马太福音24章,耶稣指出祂降临前的预兆后,随即讲了十童女的比喻。“新郎迟延的时候,她们都打盹、睡着了。”(太25:5)祂警告我们,末世会有一段迟延的时期。

简而言之,我们仍应期待,并为基督第二次降临的迟延时期早做准备!这些警告记在经上,乃为使我们警醒,预备油在自己的器皿里。

难道因为圣经预言了这个迟延时期,我们就该消沉怠惰、任时光匆匆流去吗?决不是!我们处于迟延的时光中已经很多年,且几乎要结束了,但许多人似乎要丧失信心,在最后钟声敲响之前放弃了。“我们行善,不可丧志,若不灰心,到了时候就要收成。”(加6:9)

上帝将有史以来最宝贵的信息赐予了末期教会。现在,我们应当比以往任何时候更加警醒,决不可放松信心的锚去与世界同流合污。耶稣就要再临!

从挪亚而来的教训

马太福音24章37节提醒我们:“挪亚的日子怎样,人子降临也要怎样。”

在挪亚时代,许多人起先相信了挪亚所传的信息,认为审判就要临头,甚至还有人帮助他建造方舟。但随着时间一年年过去,预言中的洪水并没有来,他们丧失信心,并加入了讥诮挪亚的行列。

传道书8章11节宣称:“因为断定罪名,不立刻施刑,所以世人满心作恶。”还有人不但心里说“我主人必来得迟”,在行动上也表现了出来。正如在挪亚的日子,那些拥有大光(明白了许多真理)之人将显出他们的言行不一。因为很久以前就已预言了基督的再临,却一直没有应验,所以他们总结,这一教义必产生了错误。但主说:“因为这默示有一定的日期,快要应验,并不虚谎。虽然迟延,还要等候;因为必然临到,不再迟延。”(哈2:3)

两种对待迟延的方式

我们可以用两条颇为流行,但意思却截然相反的谚语来形容人们对待迟延的普遍反应。第一条是:“分离使爱意更浓(小别胜新婚)”;第二条是:“眼不见,心不烦”。这两种相反的态度在扫罗和大卫的例子中尤为突出。

扫罗在吉甲的故事(撒上13:1-14)说明了后一条谚语。上帝告诉扫罗在投入战斗前要等七天。先知撒母耳在七天的终了会到吉甲见扫罗,在那里献祭并为军队祈祷。但出于某些原因,撒母耳迟延了。百姓在等待中变得焦躁不安,开始灰心丧气并从军队中逃跑。扫罗觉得此时不顾撒母耳的命令也是合理的。他鲁莽地擅自在坛上献祭,破坏规矩,僭取了祭司的职权。

经上说:“刚献完燔祭,撒母耳就到了。”(撒上13:10)倘若扫罗再稍等片刻就好了。很多人都是在快到终点线时放弃的。会有很多人在耶稣即将再临时离开教会。拉尔夫•沃尔多•爱默生(美国作家)说:“一个人并不是因为比别人勇敢才是英雄,而是因为他比别人多勇敢了十分钟。”

撒母耳到的时候,扫罗出去迎接他。“撒母耳对扫罗说:‘你作了糊涂事了,没有遵守耶和华你上帝所吩咐你的命令。若遵守,耶和华必在以色列中坚立你的王位,直到永远。现在你的王位必不长久。’”(撒上13:13,14)上帝允许这样的迟延临到扫罗,为的是试验他。当扫罗王失去耐心时,也失去了信心,未能通过考验。他也因而失去了国位。我担心同样的事会发生在末世许多人的身上。

我相信上帝之所以允许有一段迟延的时期,原因之一就是要从虚伪的仆人中将祂的真仆人筛选出来,将宝贵的麦子从毫无价值的糠秕中分别出来。

现在,我们把扫罗的经历和大卫对待迟延的反应作一对比。从大卫被撒母耳膏立为王到他实际加冕,间隔了好多年。在那些年月中,大卫等候上帝将扫罗的冠冕交给他。他有多次机会可以擅做主张,扫罗也不止一次落入他的手中。只要他一声令下,扫罗立刻就会人头落地,他也能即刻登基作王。但大卫耐心等待着上帝安排的时间。

“大卫又说:‘我指着永生的耶和华起誓,他或被耶和华击打,或是死期到了,或是出战阵亡。我在耶和华面前万不敢伸手害耶和华的受膏者。’”(撒上26:10, 11)大卫也不明白为什么迟延,但他却相信上帝的应许:“你必要作王!”他因忍耐而得了丰厚的赏赐。

即将到达应许之地

迟延往往留下一个必须要填满的空缺,要么用信心和忍耐填满,要么用个人的努力去改变局势,甚或创造一个新的神明。

出埃及记32章1节记载:“百姓见摩西迟延不下山,就大家聚集到亚伦那里,对他说:‘起来!为我们作神像,可以在我们前面引路,因为领我们出埃及的那个摩西,我们不知道他遭了什么事。’”对于当前的趋势来讲,以色列人造金牛犊的故事可算是最显著的例子了。当上帝的百姓马上就要进入应许之地时,我担心这一悲剧还会重演。

在这段经文中,摩西预表耶稣。摩西说:“耶和华你的上帝要从你们弟兄中间给你兴起一位先知像我,你们要听从他。”(申18:15)当摩西被召上山,从上帝手中领受石版时,他告诉百姓他会回来。但他显然没有说明具体的时间。百姓绝没有想到会有那么长时间。“四十天?为什么?降十灾和出埃及都没有用那么久!”

然而,摩西还是迟延了。对于有些人来说,这种料想不到的迟延简直难以忍受。“亚伦对他们说:‘你们去摘下你们妻子、儿女耳上的金环,拿来给我。’百姓就都摘下他们耳上的金环,拿来给亚伦。亚伦从他们手里接过来,铸了一只牛犊,用雕刻的器具作成。他们就说:‘以色列啊,这是领你出埃及地的神。’”(出32:2-4)

以色列人离开埃及前,上帝允许他们“掠夺”埃及人,作为他们多年来无偿服侍的酬劳。我们看到此后不久,在西奈山下,他们就把金银穿戴起来炫耀自己的财富。不仅他们的妻子戴耳环,连儿女们也戴。

听着耳熟吗?我几乎能听见以色列人用来劝诱亚伦犯罪的借口。“孩子们越来越不耐烦了,吵嚷着要回埃及去。我们需要做出让步,否则将失去他们!”在焦躁不安中,百姓开始转回到周围列国异教的敬拜方式中。

我们今天也在犯同样的错误吗?当我在北美旅行并访问各个教会和学校时,发现基督徒对于圣洁生活的标准似乎和世人没有太大的差别。我问一些领袖为什么不坚持原则时,普遍的回答是:“我们需要做出某些调整,以适应青年人。”

出埃及记32章6节说道:“次日清早,百姓起来献燔祭和平安祭,就坐下吃喝,起来玩耍。”以色列人从敬拜到玩耍,其转变如此迅速。这会发生在我们身上吗?已经发生了吗?我们神圣的崇拜聚会本应虔诚地敬拜一位圣洁的上帝,并教授圣经中的教训。但在某些时候,它却为了取悦人群而堕落成了一种不圣洁的表演

“约书亚一听见百姓呼喊的声音,就对摩西说:‘在营里有争战的声音。’”(出32:17)实际上,战争倒比当时发生的事还要好。本应是一场吸引天使驻足的颂赞,却堕落成了约书亚所误认为的战争混乱和喧嚷的声音。“摩西说:‘这不是人打胜仗的声音,也不是人打败仗的声音,我所听见的,乃是人歌唱的声音。’”(出32:18)

倘若百姓在为战胜罪恶以及灵魂得救而欢呼雀跃,那没什么不好。抑或是在为屈从了试探而痛悔哭号,那也很好。耶稣在启示录3章15节说:“我巴不得你或冷或热。”

但他们所做的却是起来玩耍。在这样一个神圣庄严的时刻,他们却投身于荒诞的戏耍之中。摩西即将下山,手里拿着全能者亲手所写的圣约。上帝的百姓等得厌倦了,摩西回来的时候他们却没有预备好。结果,有人被杀,有人得了尊荣。同样的事还会重演。“所以,你们也要预备,因为你们想不到的时候,人子就来了。”(太24:44)

我们只是等待吗?

许多年前,在新英格兰,当水手们乘商船或捕鲸船出海时,你会在码头上目睹感人的一幕。水手向妻儿道别,并保证会带着从遥远港口购得的异域礼物平安返航。这类航行往往需要数周甚至数月的时间,但是谁都无法预测确切的返航日期。

许多妻子会说:“我会在窗前亮一盏灯,直等你回来。”

分别过程中最痛苦的就是杳无音信。当时还没有电话和固定的邮政服务。所以,每当有船回港时,妻子便会跑到码头询问:“有我丈夫所乘的那艘船的消息吗?”

有时,船长为了获得更丰厚的利润,就将船开到加利福尼亚。当时,巴拿马运河还未开凿,所以要绕很远的海路,如此绕道而行可能会将数月的航程延长为数年。与此同时,水手的妻子在等待中有时会厌倦,就吹灭了窗前的灯盏。有些人宣布她们的丈夫已死,好再去嫁人。还有些人陷入绝望之中,不再照顾孩子或打扫房间。

有一条很恰当的谚语这样说:“最爱丈夫的妻子等得最久。”我读到有一位妻子,五十年来,每夜都点亮窗前的灯盏,直到她离世的那一天,这一切只为等待那出海且永远也不可能归来的丈夫。

当一艘船经过了极其漫长的航行而返回时,码头上所上演的是怎样的一场悲喜剧啊!有些水手会以难以言表的喜悦问候妻儿,长久的拥抱,以及许多的礼物。还有些人听到妻子并未等自己回来,早已改嫁时,便在痛苦和泪水中将礼物抛进大海。那些没有耐心的妇人们该是多么尴尬和羞愧啊!丈夫如所承诺的,带着满包的金银财宝返回,看到的却是她们已投入别人的怀抱。

朋友,耶稣来时,我们怎样呢?

“祂对我说:‘将这默示明明地写在版上,使读的人容易读。因为这默示有一定的日期,快要应验,并不虚谎。虽然迟延,还要等候;因为必然临到,不再迟延。’迦勒底人不义的结局。迦勒底人自高自大,心不正直;惟义人因信得生。”(哈2:2-4)

那恶仆和讥诮的人因为迟延而责备上帝。(太24:48;彼后3:3, 4)同样,亚哈也是这样谴责以利亚,“使以色列遭灾的就是你么?”(王上18:17)

怨天尤人很容易。但恐怕该受责备的是我们,因为我们没有认真对待那伟大的福音使命。为此,上帝本着怜悯推迟了祂的降临。

多么仁慈的上帝啊!祂像爱你和我一样爱世上的每一个人。祂是长久忍耐,不愿一人沉沦。(彼后3:9)上帝很早以前就想降临了,但祂怜悯那些还未得到福音并信靠祂的人,因此推迟了降临的日期。

一位基督徒作家曾说:“那使我们许多年仍然逗留在这充满罪恶和忧伤之世界上的,乃是自称为主民之间的不信,世俗化,未曾献身和彼此相争。”末世最基本的试验就是对主的信心,对祂再临的信心,对祂话语的信心,以及对祂应许的信心,“我…必再来。”(约14:3)

我们每天必须通过祷告、学习、侍奉,将自己的信心建立在基督里面。要保持对主的忠心!耶稣就要再临,迟延的时日很快要结束!“谁是忠心有见识的仆人,为主人所派,管理家里的人,按时分粮给他们呢?主人来到,看见他这样行,那仆人就有福了。我实在告诉你们:主人要派他管理一切所有的。”(太24:45-47)

愿我们祈祷说:“虽然迟延,主耶稣啊,我愿袮来!”

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英文:

Dealing With Delay

By Pastor Doug Batchelor

An Amazing Fact: During World War II, resistance fighters in France believed the Nazi occupation was temporary. These brave men and women fought hard and suffered torture when captured, but they continued their campaign relentlessly against terrible odds, spurred on by the faith that someday soon Allied forces would arrive and deliver France from its cruel oppressors.

But as days turned into weeks, and then months into years, some fighters grew weary of their life of constant resistance and hiding. For many, it began to seem that the Allies would never come - that they were too busy fighting the Nazis on other fronts. It even looked as though France would forever be under the control of the enemy.

In time, a few freedom fighters found that it was much easier to cooperate with the Germans. They even began to make friends with their oppressors and to betray their fellow Frenchmen in exchange for favors and position. Then, suddenly, came D-Day. France was liberated, and the freedom fighters who endured to the end were heroes, and the traitors who capitulated were publicly humiliated and even killed.

Dealing With Delay
Could it be that final events in the church will closely resemble those in France during World War II?

One of the greatest dangers facing God s people in the last days is not the time of trouble, nor is it the threat of imprisonment or torture or hunger. Rather, it is the apparent delay of the Lord s return that will lead to a paralyzing apathy among professed believers. To many, it will seem easier to join the world than to reject it. But we are warned, "If that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of" (Matthew 24:48â“50).

The evil servant says in his heart, "My lord delayeth his coming." It is not an outward announcement; it is an inner erosion of his faith. This loss of belief in his Master s soon return might be evident in everything from sporadic church attendance to giving less mission offerings. Soon he begins to beat his fellow servants (mostly with his tongue) and to eat and drink with the drunkards (finding his friendships and amusement in the world). Ultimately, the evil servant hopes his Master will not come at all, because he has aligned himself with the enemy.

Foretold by Christ
The day of Christ s return has been later than most have expected, but this shouldn t surprise us. God s Word foretold this delay and the general reaction it would cause. "Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2 Peter 3:3, 4).

Do you see the connection between doubting His coming and walking after our own lusts? We will be in grave danger if we ever stop believing in and proclaiming the imminent return of Jesus!

On the other hand, faith in the imminent coming of Jesus has a sanctifying effect. "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless" (2 Peter 3:14). And 1 John 3:3 affirms, "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure" (1 John 3:3). We must not lose faith in His promise, "I will come again."

"But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved" (Matthew 24:13). Only those who thoroughly love His appearing will last through this final delay that tests "the patience of the saints" (2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 14:12).

Please don t forget that immediately after Jesus gives the signs of His coming in Matthew 24, He caps those teachings with the parable of the ten virgins. "While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept" (Matthew 25:5, emphasis added). Jesus warned us there would appear to be a tarrying time.

In short, we should expect and prepare for this stay in Christ s second advent! These warnings were written so that we should be awake and ready, with oil in our vessels.

Am I saying that because an apparent delay is prophesied, we should hunker down and just watch the years roll by? Heaven forbid! I am saying that we have been in the time of delay for many years now. It is almost over, and many seem about to lose heart and throw in the towel just before the last bell. "And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not" (Galatians 6:9, emphasis added).

God s last-day church has been given the most precious message ever entrusted to mortals. Now, more than ever, we must not loose our moorings and drift into the world. Jesus is about to come!

Lessons From Noah
Matthew 24:37 reminds us that "as the days of [Noah] were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be."

In Noah s day, many at first believed his message of impending judgment and even helped prepare the ark. But when the years rolled by and the predicted flood did not come, they lost faith and joined with the ranks of the mockers.

Ecclesiastes 8:11 declares, "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." There are those who say - not only in their hearts, but in their behavior - "My Lord delays His coming." As in the days of Noah, those who have had great light will reveal their inconsistency. Because Christ s coming has been long foretold, they will conclude that there is a mistake in regard to this doctrine. But the Lord says, "Though [the vision] tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry" (Habakkuk 2:3).

Two Ways to Deal With Delay
There are two popular yet conflicting proverbs that describe how people generally respond to a delay. The first is "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," and the second is "Out of sight, out of mind." These opposite attitudes are evident in the following examples of Saul and David.

The latter proverb is illustrated by the story of Saul at Gilgal (1 Samuel 13:1â“14). The Lord told king Saul to wait seven days before venturing into battle. At the end of the week, the prophet Samuel was to meet Saul at Gilgal to present an offering to the Lord and intercede for the troops. But for some reason, Samuel tarried. The people had become restless from waiting and were beginning to lose heart and desert the army, so Saul felt justified in disregarding Samuel s command. He impatiently took things into his own hands and altered the rules by usurping the position of priest and offering a sacrifice.

The Scriptures declare, "And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering,behold, Samuel came"(1 Samuel 13:10, emphasis added). If only Saul had waited a little longer! So many give up just before the finish line. So many will desert the church just before Jesus comes. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "A man is not a hero because he is braver than anyone else, but because he is braver ten minutes longer."

When Samuel came, Saul went out to meet him. "Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue" (1 Samuel 13:13, 14). God allowed this delay to test Saul, and when the king became impatient, he lost faith and failed the test. Thus he lost the kingdom. I fear this is happening to many in these last days.

I believe one reason the Lord is allowing this tarrying time is to sift His true servants from the false and to separate the precious wheat from the worthless chaff.

Now let s contrast Saul s experience with David s response to delay. Many years passed between the time David was anointed by Samuel to be king until he was actually crowned. During those years, David waited for God to give him Saul s crown. He had several opportunities to become impatient and take matters into his own hands. On more than one occasion, David held Saul s life as a helpless bird in his hands. All he had to do was say the word for Saul to be slain, and he would instantly have become king. But David patiently waited for God s timing.

"David said furthermore, As the Lord liveth, the Lord shall smite him; or his day shall come to die; or he shall descend into battle, and perish. The Lordforbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the Lord s anointed" (1 Samuel 26:10, 11). David did not understand the delay, but he trusted God s promise: "You will be king!" And his patience was richly rewarded.

Nearing the Promised Land
Delay tends to leave a vacuum that must be filled - either with faith and patience or with personal efforts to change the situation, perhaps even by creating a new god.

Exodus 32:1 says, "And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him" (emphasis added). This story of the children of Israel making the golden calf is one of the most striking examples of present trends, and I fear it is about to be repeated by God s people as we near the promised land.

In this passage, Moses is a type of Jesus. Moses said, "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken" (Deuteronomy 18:15). When Moses was called up the mountain to receive the tables of stone from the Lord, he told the people that he would return. But evidently he did not say exactly when. They never dreamed it would take so long. "Forty days? Why, it took less than that for the 10 plagues and the exodus from Egypt!"

Nevertheless, Moses tarried, and for some the unexpected delay was unbearable. "Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt" (Exodus 32:2â“4).

Before the children of Israel left Egypt, God allowed them to plunder the Egyptians as payment for their years of unpaid services. Just a short time later at Mt. Sinai, we find they were proudly wearing their money to exhibit their wealth. The earrings were not only on the wives, but also on the sons and daughters.

Sound familiar? I can almost hear the excuses used by the children of Israel to persuade Aaron to sin. "The young people are getting restless and are clamoring to go back to Egypt. We need to make some compromises or we are going to lose them!" In their restlessness, they began to return to the pagan worship styles of the nations around them.

Are we making the same mistake today? As I travel around North America and visit various churches and campuses, it seems that Christian standards for holy living are not much different from those of the world. When I ask some leaders why they don t hold the line, they generally reply, "We needed to make some adjustments to reach the youth."

Exodus 32:6 says, "They rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play." The children of Israel made a rapid transition from worship to play. Could this happen to us? Has this happened to us? Our sacred worship services, which should be dedicated to reverently offering adoration to a holy God and teaching Bible doctrine, have in some cases digressed into an unholy hootenanny to entertain the flock.

"And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp" (Exodus 32:17). Actually, war would have been preferable to what was actually happening! What should have been a praise that beckoned the angels to draw near had degenerated into what Joshua interpreted as the confusing and disconcerting sounds of war. But Moses said, "It is not the noise of the shout of victory, Nor the noise of the cry of defeat, But the sound of singing I hear" (Exodus 32:18 NKJV).

If the people had been shouting praise for victory over sin and for souls won, that would have been good. Or even if they had been crying in repentance for giving in to temptation, that would have been preferred. Jesus says in Revelation 3:15, "I would thou wert cold or hot."

But to rise up and play - to throw a party at such a solemn time? Moses was about to descend the mountain with a covenant from the Almighty, written in His own hand. God s people had grown weary of waiting, and when Moses did come they were unprepared. As a result, some were executed, and some were exalted. This will happen again. "Be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh" (Matthew 24:44).

Will We Just Wait?
Many years ago in New England, when sailors went to sea on the merchant or whaling ships, one could witness a touching scene at the docks. As the sailing men bid their wives and children farewell, they would promise a safe return with exotic gifts from faraway ports. Such trips often took weeks or even months, and the exact time of return was impossible to predict.

Many a wife would say, "I will keep a light burning in the window until you come home."

The hardest part of this separation was the silence. This was before the age of telephones or regular mail service, so whenever any new ship entered the harbor, the wives would run to the docks and inquire, "Have you any word of my husband s ship?"

Sometimes ship captains would extend their trips to California in order to make a rich profit. The Panama Canal had not yet been built, so such a detour could lengthen the journey from months to years! Meanwhile, the sailors wives would sometimes grow weary of waiting and blow out the light in the window. Some had their husbands declared dead so they might marry another. Others, in despair, would cease to care for their children or clean the house.

There is a faithful proverb that says, "The wives who love their husbands most wait the best." I read of one loyal woman who kept the light burning in her window every night for 50 years - until her death - for a husband who never returned from sea.

When a ship did return after an unusually long voyage, what a bittersweet drama was displayed on the docks! Some sailors would greet their wives and children with unspeakable joy, long embraces, and many gifts. Others, in anguish and tears, tossed their gifts into the sea upon hearing that their wives had not waited but had taken another husband. How awkward and humiliating it must have been for those impatient women when they learned their husbands had returned, as promised, with their sea bags full of money and treasure - only to find them in the arms of another.

Friend, how will Jesus find us when He comes?
"And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith" (Habakkuk 2:2â“4, emphasis added).

The evil servant and the scoffer blame God for the delay (Matthew 24:48; 2 Peter 3:3, 4). Ahab similarly accused Elijah when he demanded, "Art thou he that troubleth Israel?" (1 Kings 18:17).

It s easy to blame God or someone else, but perhaps the blame lies with us for not taking seriously the great gospel commission. For this reason, God in His mercy has delayed His coming.

What a loving God! He loves every person on earth as much as He loves you and me, and He is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). He wanted to come many years ago, but His mercy for those who have not heard and those who would not believe has delayed His return.

One Christian writer has said, "It is the unbelief, the worldliness, unconsecration and strife among the Lord s professed people that have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years." The basic test in these last days is going to be that of faith in the Master - faith in His return, in His Word, and in His promise, "I will come again" (John 14:3).

We must daily place our faith in Him through prayer, study, and service. Keep the faith! Jesus is coming back soon. The delay is almost over! "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods (Matthew 24:45â“47).

Let our prayer be, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."

Reprinted from the January 1996 Inside Report article "Is the Bridegroom Coming?"