Like Unto Men That Wait For Their Lord
Notes of an Address on Luke 12
In writing to the Thessalonians the Apostle addressed them as those that “wait for God’s Son from heaven.” The same apostle, writing to the Corinthians, in his first letter addressed them in similar words as, “waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ;” and that despite all that he was about to say to them in regard to their moral and spiritual condition, which was at a very low ebb. These descriptions we would, I suppose, be ready to accept as true of ourselves professedly, but that is hardly the question that the Lord would raise with us according to Luke 12. It is rather, are we “LIKE UNTO MEN that wait for their lord.” Certain traits mark such men, and He is anxious that we should be characterized by them. The Lord is teaching us in this chapter how He would like to find us when He does come, and that would surely appeal to the heart of the one that truly loves Him.
Teaching as to the coming of Christ is not to be found in this chapter. It was not until the very night of His betrayal, in that quiet, solemn and very touching upper-room conversation with His disciples, that He spoke of His return in that aspect of it that appeals to us, and which gives us the special hope of the Church. And even then the features and manner of that return were not revealed till by special revelation it was made known to Paul.
In Luke 12 the Lord speaks of it in a very general and quite parabolic way, and without any explanation of prophetic details. He uses a very common event—an Eastern marriage—and one particular feature of it, that has reference to the fidelity of the servants to their lord, who is about to return from his wedding, to illustrate for us the distinctive marks that He desires should characterize those who are professedly waiting for Him. We may be quite certain that there are very distinctive features that mark those who wait for their Lord and distinguish them from the rest of men. The words, “Like unto men that wait for their lord” are the pivotal words of the whole chapter, and all the warnings and exhortations are based on them.
Of this we may be certain, if it is the Lord’s desire that there should be distinctive features about us who wait for Him, then it will be the great object of the enemy to destroy all such distinctiveness. This seems to be the feature of the first part of the chapter, and occasions the warnings the Lord utters. Satan does not like his servants to be marked off as distinctively black, nor the servants of the Lord to be distinctively white, so his effort is to destroy all such distinctiveness, and tone things down to a fashionable grey. The appeal to the hearts of all who are professedly waiting for the Lord seems to be, “Are we desirous of being in the character He would like to see us wearing when He does come?” Surely to a devoted heart the request of love is equal to a demand.
Look at that statement again “LIKE UNTO MEN THAT WAIT FOR THEIR LORD.” These seven words seem to embody two great facts for the one who waits for Him. First, He is my Lord, though absent. Second, I am waiting for His imminent return. The Lord’s two warnings seem to have distinct bearing on these two things, and indicate to us just the way in which the enemy would obliterate every distinctive feature.
BEWARE OF HYPOCRISY. Am I really confessing Him as my Lord? Am I taking my stand in the midst of those who reject Him, and owing my allegiance to Him and dropping the reins of the government of my life into His hand, and owning His rights and authority over me?
We use the term hypocrite when we mean one who is professing to be a Christian when he is not one. But then the term applies also to another form of it which is quite as despicable as the first, viz., professing by my action and words, or even sometimes by my silence, that I am not a Christian when in point of fact I really am one. Have we never been in circumstances which have called for a clear and bold declaration of our allegiance to Christ, and though we may not have gone the length of positively denying that we have any links with Him, yet we have maintained a culpable silence which has led others to think that no such link existed. That is tacitly denying Him. What contemptible hypocrisy this is! We generally quote poor dear Peter as an illustration of this kind of hypocrisy, but I think if we were honest we could find an instance a little nearer home.
What is the root cause of hypocrisy in this case? The Lord puts His finger on it at once, Cowardice. “The fear of man bringeth a snare.” The desire to stand well with my fellow men and companions leads into the snare of trying to camouflage my true identity, and I become a moral coward in the effort to obliterate the distinctiveness between me and other men, that should be made apparent by one who confesses Christ as Lord. Thus I allow the world to think that He is not my Lord! The reason for this cowardice is that He is disallowed of men and we desire to have the patronage of men. Instead of the identity being complete between me and my Lord it is complete between me and His enemies. Thus we become like men in general and not like men that wait for their Lord. May the gracious Lord forgive us! The fear of a joke at our expense, or a well timed snub, or a jeering laugh leads us to hide our true distinctiveness, so that we may be welcome in the companionship of men that disallow Him.
The corrective of this would be living in the light of the judgment seat of Christ; for He reminds us in this connection, “There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.” Hypocrisy cannot live in the light of that day.
BEWARE OF COVETOUSNESS. The first point of warning was in connection with our confession of Christ as Lord. Now we come to a warning in connection with whether we are in reality “waiting for the Lord.” What characterizes a truly waiting servant is that he is ready to act immediately—“They may open unto Him immediately.” It is impossible to act immediately if we are entangled. It is true according to Hebrews 12 that sin “doth so easily beset [or entangle] us.” But it is equally clear that the affairs of this life may do the same (see 2 Tim. 2:4). Now the Lord’s warning seems to apply to this side of the matter. Not now the fear of men, but the fear of circumstances. Evidently neither fear nor fetter must mark the one that is truly waiting for the Lord. He is coming suddenly and quickly and the servant must be ready to act immediately. I cannot do this if I am pre-occupied, and engrossed, and entangled with other things.
Here the Lord touches on the subject of covetousness, the lust of acquisition. What He wants is a heart engrossed with Himself and His things, but alas it so easily becomes engrossed with earth and its things to the exclusion of Him who is worthy to have unrivalled and undisputed sway in our hearts and lives. Here He has to remind us of that which will rob us of our distinctiveness as His servants, and we become like the nations of the world and seek after not only what we shall eat and what we shall drink, but hold what we have got for our own enjoyment for many years as in the case of the rich fool. Cares, anxieties as to whether we shall have enough, or how we can hold what we have got, may engross the mind and shut out of our hearts and thoughts His speedy return, for whom we wait.
Both these snares, the fear of men, and fear of circumstances, get their antidote in the loving and compassionate care of God our Father. We find this in Romans 8:31-32. First, “If God can be for us who can be against us?” So we need not fear man. Then, “How shall He not with Him also freely give us all things.” Therefore we need not fear circumstances. The moment I lose confidence in God I shall want to do the best I can for myself and I shall want a slice of the world. The greater the stake I have in the world the less I shall want to leave it, so that instead of being like men who are leaving the world, I become like men that love the world. “All these things do the nations of the world seek after,” thus my distinctiveness has gone. I am like men in general and not like a man that waits for his lord.
I may say that I can keep my heart out of the things that my hands are grasping, but the Lord does not believe it. He says, “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” “Settle down!” cries the enemy. “Be ready to move immediately!” says the Master. We are often singing the song of the one who is truly waiting for Christ,
“Thy cross has severed ties that bound us here,
Thyself our treasure in a brighter sphere.”
But how far the words apply the Lord knows.
It is interesting to note that under the Mosaic economy property became reduced in value the nearer they got to the Jubilee. This is stated in Leviticus 25:15. If a person bought land the price would be governed by that consideration. The longer the time from the Jubilee the longer the price they would have to give, because the longer the time they would have the use of the land. The nearer the Jubilee the less time they would hold the land, and thus the less value set upon it. Would not we value things less in this world, if conscious how near we are to our Jubilee, when our Lord will usher us into the liberty of glory at His coming again.
It is not a little remarkable that these same two tests were applied at the Lord’s command to Gideon’s 32,000 men. He submitted them to the “fear of man” test. Gideon rang out the challenge “Whosoever is fearful and afraid let him return!” and 22,000 men melted like snow before the sun! Next Gideon brought them down to the test of earth’s mercies, down to the water. The Lord said in effect “Mark the men who settle down on their knees to drink and mean to have a good time. Set them aside, and send them back.” And 9,700 went to the rear. These could not act immediately. They would have to find their feet before they could face the foe. Thus their very mercies would act as an entanglement and they would be detained. The men God used that day were the men that could move without fear or fetter.
All these things we have been considering are what we may call the negative side of the question. Now we must turn to what the Lord marks out more positively as what He would like to see in us when He does return. Surely there is not one of us who would not like to be at that supreme moment just what He desires.
A girded servant. “Let your loins be girded.” The girdle is the insignia of service. Peter says, “Gird up the loins of your mind,” and this in view of the grace that is to be brought unto us at the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Strength and gladness are also connected with the girdle. “Thou hast girded me with strength” (2 Sam. 22:40). Thou hast “girded me with gladness” (Ps. 30:11). The joy of the Lord is our strength, and thus we have the combination of joy and strength with service, and that in view of the return of Christ. This does not give the idea of a cringing coward who is half apologetic for being a Christian at all, but of a downright gladness that makes one strong in the Lord.
Then, “lights burning.” A bright warm testimony rendered to the fact that we are waiting for the Lord. By saying that I am just waiting for the Lord I render testimony to the fact that His return is imminent. If you saw me standing by the station gate and should ask why I am there, and I tell you that I am just wailing for a friend, I give you at once the thought that the coming of this friend is near, that indeed his arrival may be the next thing that will happen. If you saw me at the station at eight in the morning and I were to tell you that I was just waiting for a friend but that he is not expected till twelve o’clock at night then my words, “just waiting” would have no real meaning.
A watching servant. This shows more energy of action and of affection. I cannot sleep and watch. The tendency is to become overpowered with sleep as the night wears on to the morning. Here again I may lose my distinctiveness. I might fail asleep while waiting. “While the Bridegroom tarried they all slumbered and slept.” My waiting room becomes a dormitory. A sleeping Christian has nothing outwardly to distinguish him from a dead person, as far as activity is concerned, and thus all distinctiveness between him and those that sleep in the night (the children of the night) is gone. The cry of the Spirit to an insensible and indifferent church is “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead.” “Blessed are those servants whom the lord, when he cometh, shall find watching.”
A working servant. By serving we may use up the time in seeking to minister to others, to give meat in due season to the household. Thus we may turn the waiting room into a refreshment room. “Blessed is the servant, whom His Lord, when He cometh, shall find so doing.”