Monday, October 03, 2016

Heaven's Clock

Repeat and or meditate on this verse until your thoughts are centered on God.
My soul for help on God relies,
from him alone my safety flows;
my rock; my health, that strength supplies,
to bear the wrath of all my foes.
 —Psalm 62:1-2
Suggested tune: Rockingham (LM)

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them.
—Luke 18:1-8a
We must note the spiritual experience supposed by this parable to belong to the Christian life. That forlorn figure of the widow, with all its suggestions of helplessness and oppression, is Christ’s picture of his Church left on earth without him. And though of course it is a very incomplete representation, it is a true presentation of one side and aspect of the devout life on earth. In the world you face persecution (John 16:33), and the truer his servants are to him, and the more their hearts are with Christ in God, the more they will feel out of touch with the world, and the more it will instinctively be their adversary. If the widow does not feel the world’s enmity, it will generally be because she is not a widow indeed (see 1 Tim. 5:3-6).

And another notable fact of Christian experience underlies the parable; namely that the Church’s cry for protection from the adversary is often apparently unheard. In chapter 9, the prayer was for supply of necessities, here it is for the specific blessing of protection from the adversary. Whether that is referred to the needs of the Church or of the individual, it is true that usually the help sought is long delayed. It is not only souls under the altar that have to cry, How long, O Lord, before you avenge? (Rev. 6:9-10) One thinks of years of persecution for whole communities, or of long, weary days of harassment and suffering for individuals, of multitudes of prayers and groans sent up into a heaven that, for all the answers sent down, might as well be empty, and one feels it hard to hold by the faith that ‘verily, there is a God that’ hears.

We have all had times when our faith has staggered, and we have found no answer to our heart’s question: Why is his chariot so long in coming? (Judges 5:28). Many of us have felt what Mary and Martha felt when ‘Jesus he stayed two days longer in the place where he was’ after he had received their message, in which they had been so sure of his coming at once when he heard that ‘he whom you love is ill,’ that they did not ask him to come. The delays of God’s help are a constant feature in his providence, and, as Jesus says here, they are but too likely to take the life out of faith.

But over against these we have to place Jesus’ triumphant assurance here: ‘he will quickly grant justice to them.’ Yes, the longest delay may yet be ‘right early,’ for heaven’s clock does not beat at the same rate as our little chronometers. God is ‘the God of patience,’ and he has waited for millennia for the establishment of his kingdom on earth; His ‘own elect’ may learn long-suffering from him, and need to take to heart the old exhortation, ‘If the vision tarry, wait for it, for it will surely come, and will not tarry.’ Yes, God’s delays are not delays, but are for our profit that we may always pray and not faint, and may keep alight the flame of the sure hope that the Son of man is coming, and that in his coming all adversaries shall be destroyed, and the widow, no longer a widow, but the bride, go in to the feast and forget her foes, and ‘the days of her mourning be ended.’
—Alexander Maclaren
Grant me courage to hope, and to risk disappointment, O God. Teach me to pray expectantly, and when my prayers seem to fail, bring me to pray again and again; for you are my God: You have acted, and will act again.
 —NZ: Anglican (alt.)
Allow the above to help guide your own confession, praise, thanksgiving, and/or petition.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
 —Matthew 6:9-13

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