Today’s Text and Thoughts of Encouragement:
“Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you do hold my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to honor and glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And I have no delight or desire on earth besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the Rock and firm Strength of my heart and my Portion forever.”
Psalm 73: 23-26
“Faith is a grasping of Almighty power;
The hand of (mine) laid on the arm of God;
The grand and blessed hour
In which the things, impossible to me,
Become the possible, O Lord, through Thee.”
Anna E. Hamilton
“Whatever God tells us to do, He also helps us to do.”
Today’s Study Text:
“Watch, therefore, give strict attention to and be cautious, for you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man will come.”
Matthew 25: 13
“The Wisdom In Watching” Part 10
“Those who wait for God watch with their hearts and not with their eyes, listening, always listening, for angel words.”
If I was one of the ten bridesmaids, which group do I believe I would have been in?
Is my lamp filled and do I carry extra oil as well for my journey?
“Keep watch in your heart; and with watchfulness say in your mind with awe and trembling, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me.’”
(Lived in 6 or 7 c)
Egyptian spiritual leader
“Be eager in prayer, and vigilant, without wearying; and remove from yourself drowsiness and sleep. You should be watchful both by night and by day; do not be disheartened.”
Abraham of Nathpar
Syriac Spiritual Writer
If I asked you to choose one word which you believe sums up the message found in Matthew 25: 1-13, what would that word be? How about “prepared”? Or “delay”? And here’s another, “asleep”. Well, Jesus actually gives us the answer in Matthew 25: 13 which begins with this word, “Watch”!
As I was studying, I took a look at how many times, while Jesus was speaking He used this specific word which in Greek is, “grëgörênö,” meaning to be vigilant, to stay alert and active. To remain awake. To rouse up from lying or sitting. And my favorite definition of all is that I will be watchful and have a resurgence of strength. I’m resurrected with all my faculties functioning clearly. Over 14 times this word is found in the gospels. And this is what Jesus asked of His children, especially because, as He tells us, “you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man will come” (Matthew 25: 13) So we are to ‘Watch’!
Jesus didn’t want the delays and uncertainties of our lives to distract us from the fact that this earth isn’t our permanent residence. He promises to come and take us home. So He says, ‘Watch for my return.’ In his sermon called “Waiting,” John Henry Newman shares this most insightful passage which applies directly to our study on the “Ten Virgins”:
“Do you know the feeling in matters of this life, of expecting a friend, expecting him to come, and he delays? Do you know what it is to be in unpleasant company, and to wish for the time to pass away, and the hour strike when you may be at liberty? Do you know what it is to be in anxiety lest something should happen which may happen or may not, or to be in suspense about some important event, which makes your heart beat when you are reminded of it, and of which you think the first thing in the morning? Do you know what it is to have a friend in a distant country, to expect news of them, and to wonder from day to day what they are now doing, and whether they are well? Do you know what it is to live with a person who is present with you, and their eyes follow yours, so much so that they read your soul; that you see all the changes in their countenance; that you anticipate their wishes; that you smile when they smile; and are sad in their sadness; and are downcast when they are vexed; and rejoice in their successes? To watch for Christ is a feeling such as all these.”
When I was reading this passage, my thoughts drifted to a book by one of my favorite authors who I’ve drawn from on a number of occasions here in Transformation Garden. Pastor and author J.R. MacDuff writes a great deal about the word “Watch,” especially in his book, Memories of Olivet, where he takes his readers to the Garden of Gethsemane. There we find Jesus and three of His closest friends entering the wooded garden in what for Jesus will become the greatest struggle a human will ever face on this earth. As author MacDuff shares what he calls a “touching testimony” he invites us to listen to Jesus as He tells his dearest friends, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” This revelation should more than awaken Christ’s friends to the agony He is faced with. And then as Pastor MacDuff shares, Jesus made a request of His three disciples: “’Tarry you here and watch with Me’ – With Me! Your presence is the only support I have in this fearful struggle!’ And when, on His return, He found them ‘asleep,’ see how He mourns the absence of the sympathy He so needed. ‘What! Could you not watch with Me one hour?’ He returns a second and third time, even though He knows their eyes are sealed in slumber; just as the child clings to its parent in the thunderstorm, and clasps that parent’s hands; although he can render no aid, the very feeling of presence mitigates fear and dispels a sense of danger. But, what a withering rebuke! It might well have gone as an arrow to their hearts, ‘could you not watch with me? You promised to die with me. Can you not watch one hour? Often, O faithless ones, for whole nights you have toiled at your nets and surrendered your hours of needed repose. On this one night of temptation and anguish can you not spare your Lord one hour?’”
This same question is asked of you and me today in the parable of the 10 virgins that Jesus told. “Will you not watch? Will you let a delay shake your faith? Will I arrive to find you unprepared? Will your lamp be filled with oil? Oh, please watch1 I’ll arrive. I promise I’ll be there on time. No matter the trial you face and the heartache that challenges you, I’m on the way. Please keep watching. Don’t give up! I won’t break my promise to you.”
I’d like to close with the words penned by Pastor Christopher Smith in his poetry collection entitled, “The Gospel Parables In Verse”:
The Watch To Keep
“Three days before His work was done,
Christ told this graphic tale
Based upon customs in the East,
Which partly yet prevail.
There, when a wedding day arrived,
And as its evening neared,
The bridegroom and his chosen men
At the bride’s home appeared…
The ten maids took their lamps,
But only five were wise,
For they in vessels carried oil,
Lest some mishap should rise.
The rest, though they had oil in lamps,
Yet none in vessels took;
They for the present arranged,
Beyond that did not look.
Provided thus they all began
A steady watch to keep.
But as the bridegroom tarried long,
They drooped and fell asleep.
At last, at midnight’s silent hour,
There rang an echoing shout,
‘Behold! the bridegroom is at hand,
To meet him come yet out.”
The sleepers heard it and awoke,
Around them all was dim,
They started up and set themselves
Anew their lamps to trim.
Then did the foolish maids perceive
The error they had made,
And turning to the prudent five,
Thus wistfully they said:
‘Our every lamp is going out,
And now we are in need,
Pray give us from the oil your brought,
Wherewith we these may feed.’
But this request they could not grant,
Although it seemed so fair,
For they might find when all too late,
That they had none to spare:
‘We fear there might not be enough
For you and us as well,
For rather with your vessels go
And buy from those who sell.’
The prudent felt that they must first
To their own pledge be true,
And thus advised because the best
Which for them they could do.
But as the midnight hour was passed
And merchants had retired,
How very slender was the chance
To get the oil required.
Those maids, however, left in hopes
Of being able still,
By exercising diligence,
Their promise to fulfill.
But while upon their way to buy,
And the mistake repair,
So chargeable to their account
For lack of thought and care.
The long-expected bridegroom came
When he was looked for least.
And those whose lamps were burning bright
Went with him to the feast.
The grand procession of his friends,
All having passed within,
Immediately the door was shut;
No more could entrance win.
Both for security at night
Had this at once been done
And that their harmony and joy
Might be disturbed by none.
The foolish maidens had no oil,
Their errand filled with dread
And with the cry of deep despair,
Their supplications plead.
That he would open up the door,
Now against the lateness sought
Only to hear his sad reply
‘In truth I know you not.’
Never doubt or be confused
Because of his delay,
But with the greater earnestness
Always watch and pray.
For when He spoke of His return
His words revealed it clear,
That swift as came the flood of old
So sudden He’ll appear,
Descending with the clouds of heaven,
The day and hour unknown,
To judge the world in righteousness,
Before the Great White Throne.
And since none know how soon that day
Will have forever passed,
Wisdom demands that we each day
Be ready for the last.
She who desires a place in Heaven
Will every day in prayer,
With Jesus glory to commune,
As though she now was there.
Our faith will thus receive new strength,
And we shall calmly wait
The full fruition of our hopes,
Inside the pearly gate.
No happiness the world supplies
Can be with ours compared,
Who walking in His light and love,
To meet Him are prepared.
With songs of praise to Him we’ll go,
Whose blood our souls has bought
And in whose presence there are joys
That wither human thought.”
Pastor Christopher Smith
Watching and Waiting
“Now is the time of watching and waiting
a time pregnant with hope
a time to watch and pray.
Christ our hope,
bare brown trees etched dark
across the winter sky,
leaves fallen, rustling,
ground hard and cold,
remind us to prepare for Your coming;
remind us to prepare for the time…
May we watch for the signs,
listen for the messenger,
wait for the good news to slip into
our world, our lives.
Christ our hope, help us to clear the
way for You;
to clear the clutter from our minds,
to sift the silt
from our hearts,
to move the boulders that prevent
us from meeting You.
Help us to make straight the highways,
to unravel the deception that leads to war,
to release those in captivity,
May sorrow take flight,
and Your people sing a song of peace
and hope be born again.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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