Wednesday, January 12, 2011

absolute fidelity

"[W]hen the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8, NASB)

For me it is often easy to proceed from Malachi to Matthew and gloss over the roughly 400 years of silence that lies between the turn of a page. But, as we, dwelling between two worlds, eagerly wait for our Lord and Savior to "appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin" (Hebrews 9:28), we find an important analog between our experience and that of Anna and Simeon (Luke 1), who serve as examples of encouragement in times of waiting.

As we are probably all well aware, many of the religious leaders in Israel possessed some cognizance of the manifold prophecies concerning the Messiah (e.g., Matthew 2:4-6) though they were not truly prepared for His coming. Nor did they recognize the fulfillment of prophecies before their very eyes, for their hearts were hardened and they would not, as John the Baptist exhorted them to, "bear fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matthew 3:8). Still, in contrast to those who refused to believe, there are those who remained faithful, ever longing for God's words to come into fruition. Among the few who, like Abraham, would not "waver in unbelief" "with respect to the promises of God" (Romans 4:20), Simeon and Anna are among the "cloud of witnesses surrounding us" who exhort us to endure by "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith" (Hebrews 12:1-2). Although God had, in a sense, been "silent" for four centuries, yet we read of Simeon that he was "looking for the consolation of Israel," assured that he would see "the Lord's Christ" before his own death (Luke 2:26). Additionally, we read of the constance of Anna, who "never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers" (2:37; related to persistence, recall also Jesus's parable in Luke 18:1-8 as well as the notion of "impudent prayer" [HT: Ray Ortlund] taught by Jesus in Luke 11:5-10). After the birth of Jesus and His presentation in the Temple according to the Law, "[Anna] came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (2:38).

Like Anna and Simeon, we too live in a period of (so-called) "silence" as we feel the tension of that which is "already" and that which is "not yet." And, importantly, like Anna and Simeon, we too are called to fidelity as we wait for our salvation (see 1 Peter 1:5, 9). But, while the faithfulness exhibited by these two is impressive, their examples do not call us to an end in themselves. Rather, they point to an even greater faithfulness, the absolute fidelity of God who never changes and is the very Person who supplies the content for our trust and our hope (Isaiah 26:4; Psalm 39:7; 1 Timothy 1:11). Paul expressed this in his second letter to Timothy, and the Scriptures instruct/train us (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17) in the same manner:

It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. (2 Timothy 2:11-13, emphasis added)

Thus, in reality, our fidelity (and Simeon's and Anna's, as well), is predicated upon the eternal, immutable faithfulness of the only True God whose promises our sure. Knowing this, "[l]et us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful" (Hebrews 10:23, emphasis added). We know not the hour of Christ's coming (Matthew 24:36, 44), but we know that He will come. His faithfulness, demonstrated by His Person and work, supplies our need and strengthens us as we abide in Him (John 15:4-14) until He comes in glory (Matthew 16:27). His faithfulness animates us to labor in prayer (Luke 18:1), to obey in love (John 14:14), "to stimulate one another to love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24), to walk in accordance to our "calling" - with humility, gentleness, patience, and unity (Ephesians 4:1-6), and to gather together and "encourag[e] one another" as we "see the day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:25). And, when Jesus comes again, as we, by God's immeasurable grace, seek to glorify Him, may He indeed "find faith on the earth" (Luke 18:8).

No comments:

Post a Comment