Today’s Text and Thoughts of Encouragement:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you and continued My faithfulness to you.”
Jeremiah 31: 3
“As a countenance is made beautiful by the soul’s shining through it, so the world is beautiful by the shining through it of God.”
Johann Georg Jacobi
Today’s Study Text:
“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.”
Matthew 25: 1
“While We Wait” – Part 2
“’The steps of a good man or woman are ordered by the Lord’ (Psalm 37: 23). On the margin of his Bible at Psalm 37: 23, George Mueller had a notation, ‘and the stops also’…It is a vital principle of guidance for a Christian never to move out of the place in which they are sure God has placed them, until the Pillar of Cloud moves.”
From Sunday School Times
As I wait for God to move in my life, what should I be doing?
What am I learning day by day about my heavenly Father and the stops or detours He has me making along my journey home?
“When we learn to wait for our Lord’s lead in everything, we shall know the strength that finds its climax in an even, steady walk…Waiting, holding oneself true to His lead – this is the secret of strength. And anything that falls out of the line of obedience is a waste of time and strength. Watch for His leading.”
S. D. Gordon
“Must life be a failure for one compelled to stand still in enforced inaction and see the great throbbing tides of life go by? No; victory is then to be gotten by standing still, by quiet waiting…It is the grandest life, ‘having done all, to stand.’”
J. R. Miller
During the past few months, the idea of “waiting” has been on my mind a lot. Thankfully, as I’ve been working on other devotional topics, I’ve frequently come upon passages directed at this specific subject. Finally, curiosity got the best of me and I began to dig. I wanted to find out all I could about what the Bible said about “waiting.”
Honestly, there was so much material that after a lot of prayer for guidance I decided to narrow my search down to “Red Letter Words.” In the very first Bible I received as a young girl, the words of Jesus in the New Testament were printed in red ink. So I chose to begin my study in the book of Matthew for several reasons.
Reason #1: It is the first book in the New Testament
Reason #2:I knew that Matthew contained words from Jesus about how we should wait for His return to earth – the second coming.
Reason #3:I wanted to take a second look at several parables in Matthew which had elements about “waiting time” associated with them.
I turned to Matthew 25, a chapter which contains three parables, all related to waiting. Interestingly, these fascinating stories, taken from real life activities and combined with spiritual lessons will teach us, over the coming days, how we can handle “waiting” in our daily lives. We will be looking expressly at three traits Jesus’ teaching encourages us to cultivate during those times when our lives appear to have the “pause” button on. Or when everything in our lives seems to have stopped dead. Or when we feel as though we are off on a side rail and aren’t’ part of the real action. Jesus’ instruction will give us just the hope and help we need to keep moving forward.
The three parables we will be studying are in Matthew 25:
1. The parable of the 10 bridesmaids and the wedding they are going to go to. The overreaching trait we will be looking at is how we learn to “Watch” when we’re waiting.
2. The parable of the talents. The overreaching trait we will be looking at is how we learn to “Work” while we are waiting.
3. The parable of the sheep and goats. The overreaching trait we will be looking at is how we learn to “Witness” while we are waiting.
If you are like me, you may never have thought that “waiting” had anything to do with these three stories told by Jesus. However, the footprints of waiting have been left all over these three parables. In the coming days, it is my prayer that together our eyes will be opened to the fact that as we wait for the future to unfold; as we recognize the purpose God has carved out for us; and as we proceed down the pathway God has paved before us when we patiently wait – our courage will be strengthened and our spirit of hope will overflow as we recognize that during our “waiting times” God is polishing the fine gold of our lives as He prepares us for the service He has called us to.
Our study text begins in Matthew 25:1 where we find that a wedding was about to take place. In Weymouth’s New Testament in Modern Language, we find that, Matthew leaves this record: “Then will the kingdom of heaven be found to be like ten bridesmaids who took their torches and went out to meet the bridegroom.” Just so I could get a better understanding of the wedding traditions which took place at the time Jesus told this story, I uncovered the words of Professor William Barclay, a popular Scottish interpreter of the New Testament who gives us a clear and interesting background in his excellent book, The Parables of Jesus. As Barclay explains, “in the Jewish culture there were three stages leading to marriage. First, there was the engagement. This was usually carried out by the parents or by professional match-makers. At this stage the couple might be mere children and probably would never even have seen each other…second, there was the betrothal. This happened when the couple were approaching marriageable age. It was carried out with feasting and ceremony almost as elaborate as the marriage itself. It was absolutely binding and could not be broken except by divorce. If the man died the girl was technically a widow. One year after that, came the marriage proper. It was a time of great joy. Everyone joined in the festival and in the procession to the home of the newly-married couple. ‘Everyone,’ says a Jewish saying, ‘from six to sixty will follow the marriage drum.’ Even the Rabbis left their studies to which they were so devoted because marriage was given by God.” As Pastor Barclay goes on to describe, “The picture of girls waiting for the bridegroom was the kind of thing that happened and still happens. If the bridegroom came from any distance there was no saying when he would come and since he was a supremely honoured guest, not to welcome him when he did come was a serious breach of manners.”
As the Biblical record lays out, there were 10 bridesmaids who we are told were waiting for the bridegroom. And their job was to “Watch” as they waited for the arrival of the honored bridegroom. In his comments on this parable, Pastor John M. Buchanan turns our eyes onto the fact that keeping alert as well as awake when we watch is key to understanding how effectively we survive the “waiting times” when they arrive in our own lives.
Matthew 25 is not the only place where Jesus’ own words on watching and waiting, those “Red Letter Words,” appear in the book of Matthew. Just before Jesus’ death, in Matthew 26: 40, our Lord came to His closest earthly friends, Peter, James and John and said, “My soul is very sad and deeply grieved, so that I am almost dying of sorrow. Stay here and keep awake and keep ‘watch’ with me.” In the Greek the word ‘watch’ means to be ‘vigilant.’ What a tremendous word to use as we describe our behavior during waiting times. I find it helpful to note that in the English language, vigilance is used to portray actions during times when one may be sleeping. Vigilance also means to keep surveillance of what’s going on all around. While you and I may be waiting, thinking that there’s nothing worth note happening, if we keep alert to the hand of God we may be shocked at what we see He is doing in our lives.
Author Max Lucado really hits the bullseye when he points out that we must “wait forwardly.” As he underscores, “We forget to look…we become complacent…we seldom, if ever, allow the Holy Spirit to interrupt our plans and lead us to worship so that we might see Jesus.” And I’d like to add, if we aren’t looking for the hand of Jesus moving in our lives, we might completely miss the sight of His wonder-working power as He fulfills His promise to “make everything beautiful in His time” (Ecclesiastes 3: 11). This means He’s in the beauty business in your life and mine right now while we’re waiting. All we need to do is stay vigilant. We must be alert. And we most certainly must watch for His arrival!
Prayer For Waiting Times
“Lord, not my will, but Thine be done. I know not what to do; I am brought to extremities, but I will wait until Thou shalt cleave the floods, or drive back my foes. I will wait, if Thou keep me many a day, for my heart is fixed upon Thee alone, O God, and my spirit waiteth for Thee in full conviction that Thou wilt yet be my joy and my salvation, my refuge and my strong tower.”
Morning By Morning
“Wait, patiently wait,
God never is late;
Thy budding plans are in thy Father’s holding,
And only wait His grand divine unfolding.
Then wait, wait, patiently wait.
Trust, hopefully trust,
That God will adjust
Thy tangled life; and from its dark concealings,
Will bring His will, in all its bright revealings.
Then trust, trust, hopefully trust.
Rest, peacefully rest on thy Savior’s breast;
Breathe in His ear thy sacred high ambition,
And He will bring it forth in blest fruition.
Then rest, rest, peacefully rest.”
Mercy A. Gladwin
“Blessed is he and she that waiteth.”
Daniel 12: 12
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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