Christ, as Star or Thief

H. Nunnerley

In Matthew 25 we get the parable of the ten virgins. There are four parts to that parable. First—they all went forth to meet the Bridegroom. This going forth marked the early Christians; serving the living and true God, and waiting for His Son from heaven, described their lives. Second—Christians gave up this waiting attitude, they ceased to watch for their Lord. During the long night of the “dark ages” they all went to sleep. Third—when all was in the midnight gloom a cry arose—“Behold the bridegroom!” those sleeping virgins arose, trimmed their lamps afresh, and again went forth.

It is nearly a century since this third part was fulfilled, and only the last part remains to be fulfilled. What is that? He came, the Bridegroom came, and found a number of them in a state of unreadiness. I am not now discussing the reason, but the fact remains, when He came there was no welcome from part of the ten, though all arose and trimmed their lamps, numbers were unprepared to meet Him. “Ah!” you will say, “that refers to mere professors, people who had ‘no oil,’ no Holy Spirit dwelling in them.” Doubtless it does, but let me ask my Christian brother, you who can explain the difference very lucidly between the appearing and the rapture; between Christ’s descent into the air to meet and welcome His bride, and His shining forth in all the glory of the kingdom; you say you “hold” the coming of the Lord, but how is it affecting you? Is there that fervent desire, that earnest longing to see His blessed face, which once marked you, that unworldliness, that “going out” to meet Him? Surely it should be a searching question for each one of us, not whether I “hold” the coming of the Lord, but does the Lord’s coming “hold me”? To the world He will come as a thief. A thief usually comes when you do not expect him, and he always comes when you do not want him. It is a sure sign we have sunk down to the world’s level if His coming at any moment would so disturb our plans that we do not want Him. An alarming symptom if such sleepy indifference fills our souls that we do not expect Him now—Now—NOW. Do you see yon mother at the pier-head? She has been waiting for hours, although she knew the boat by which her child was coming would not be due for some time. How anxiously she inquires, Is this the boat? Does she go home quietly because the boat is late? Are you going to give up because the Lord, as you think, delays His coming?

Come with me to David’s death-bed. His hour-glass is fast running out; grace had raised him from the sheepfold to the throne, crowned and anointed him with the holy oil, used him to deliver Israel from their foes, taught him as the “sweet Psalmist” to sing of the “King’s Son,” who should judge His people with righteousness, who should judge the whole earth with verdure, come down like showers on the mown grass, One to whom all kings should bow, offer gifts, and whom all nations should serve. Now he is dying; and He has not come of whom he once wrote, “My soul doth wait for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning. I say again, “more than they that watch for the morning.” Does he give up waiting and expecting? Listen to his last words, “He shall be as the light of the morning when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds . . . this is all my salvation and all my desire, though he make it not to grow” (2 Sam. 23). His gaze was fixed, his soul entranced, his desire centred, on One fairer than the children of men. He lived, expecting all evil to be removed, the sons of Belial thrust under the pot, the gloom of night turn into a glorious day under the dominion of the “King,” of Psalm 2, the “Son of Man,” of Psalm 8. He died in the faith of this. His last words tell us he had not given up “patience of hope,” even though the fulfilment of his hopes were delayed.

Travel on a thousand years. Major and minor prophets had in the meantime written much of the coming One and waited as “prisoners of hope,” but for four hundred years their voices had been silent. Malachi had closed the book by announcing that the Lord would suddenly come to His temple. This became the rallying point for faith. Simeon and Anna said, “We will be there to give Him a welcome”! Look at that aged man, “just, and devout,” who had waited long and patiently for the consolation of Israel, guided by the Spirit, coming into the temple; that widow of fourscore who had fainted not, neither grown weary. They had both desired, and expected their Lord; and now He had come their hopes were realized, their desires satisfied. “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.” The salvation David desired, Simeon now possessed. He held the holy child Jesus in his arms, and was abundantly rewarded for those long years of waiting. Anna out of a full heart “spake of Him” and “gave thanks.” She, too, had found One who was “fairer than the children of men.” She had forgotten her own people and her father’s house, and now gladness and rejoicing filled the Sanctuary, as the “hope of Israel” came to His temple and His praises burst forth from those who had looked for redemption.

The dayspring had “visited” the earth, but the earth was not prepared for the light; the light shone in darkness, but did not dispel it, so from Bethany Jesus went up where He was before, but went up pledging a sure return. This same Jesus is surely and certainly coming. Just as He found a Simeon and Anna waiting to welcome Him, so He will find one and another who have waited through the “long, dark night to hail the coming day.” The question is, “Are we among them?”

They look for no signs, unless it be growing gloom, the deepening of that darkness which overhung Calvary and has shrouded this world ever since. Those whose occupations keep them out all night tell me ere the day dawns the darkness is most dense, and the morning star shines out in all its brightness. Our last word from the glory where Jesus is gone is “I Jesus, I—the bright and Morning Star—I am coming!” He has also said to the overcomer, “I will give him the Morning Star.”

Now, we ought to know whether we are amongst the Simeons and Annas, whether Christ as the Star is ours experimentally. Peter says our affections are to answer to this heavenly light; the day dawn—the day star—is to arise in our hearts. When does this take place? The day star means a phosphorescent light, the day dawn, a shining through. When Christ shines through the gloom, He shines into our hearts the light of His own glorious Person. When Jesus our Lord eclipses everything and everyone else; when we can truly say, “I have none in heaven, and I desire nothing, and no one, on earth beside Thee”; when we are earnestly longing, diligently watching, and are truly like men who wait for their Lord; then, indeed, we know Him as the bright and Morning Star, so welcome to the watcher during the long, dark night.

How much better that He should come and find a welcome from us as the “Star” than disturb us in our sleep as a “thief”!

Lord awake us, if we have fallen asleep, and shine upon us afresh until we say “Come!”

H.Nunnerley

Words of Grace and Encouragement 1909