SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON/Welcomed from a Distance
Wednesday, December 4, 2013 12:00 AM
"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." (John 8:56)
I think that you must know quite well the experience of anticipatory joy - looking ahead to something special with almost an unbearable longing. Perhaps it was a celebration of some sort, an anniversary, a graduation or promotion that now comes to your mind and you recall how that day hovered there on the distant horizon of your mind for such an agonizingly long period of time. But then, ever so slowly, it drew nearer and nearer. And with its nearing, there grew within you simultaneously a barely containable excitement as you counted down the years, weeks or days before the long-expected arrival. You may be looking towards something similar even at this very moment and so even now there is within you a tingling of desire that seems to become more substantial with the passing of time.
In this eighth chapter of John, a back and forth discussion between Jesus and His critics is recorded for us. The sinful pride of the people is made quite apparent as they opposed and rejected God's gift, refusing the Light, opting rather to walk in darkness. Much to their consternation, Jesus spoke of their enslavement to sin (8:34), a charge they outright rejected, voicing their prideful belief that as Abraham's descendants they were free and had never been enslaved to anyone (v. 33). Of course this was absolutely false and they knew it. But being blinded, as they were by sin, they were incapable of hearing the truth, and so, they aligned themselves against the very Person God had sent as their Deliverer. And it was in that rejection that they revealed themselves most clearly not to be true sons and daughters of Abraham. For as we read, "Abraham looked forward to" the coming of the Christ. By faith, he saw it - perceived the Day - and was glad in it. He welcomed it from a distance.
In Luke 10:24 we are told that many of the Old Testament prophets and kings "wished to see the things" which the people saw in the day of Jesus. They longed to see Him - the promised Messiah. They desired to see the coming of His Kingdom. They burned within to hear His voice -- "to hear the things" which the people heard from Jesus. And in Hebrews eleven we also are informed how those men and women of faith in olden times considered the promises of God and, by faith, "welcomed them from a distance" - that is, they looked to their fulfillment in Christ.
Such a man was Abraham, the father of all those who believe according to Romans 4:11. He looked ahead to the Day of Jesus and was glad in it. In other words, he trusted the promises of God. In that gracious provision of a son, Abraham perceived God's promised provision of a Seed through whom the nations would be blessed. In that gracious provision of a son, Abraham perceived God's promised provision of a Seed through whom the nations would be blessed. In the substitute provision of the ram in the thicket, Abraham recognized God's promise to provide a sacrifice by whom life would be assured to His people. While roaming around the hills of the land to which God had brought him, Abraham looked in faith to a City not made by human hands and took joy in a Country which was exceedingly better than any on earth (Heb 11:10,14). Even from that great distance - separated by years from the fulfillment - Abraham saw it - and perceived the Day of Christ as the incomparable treasure it would be. Therefore, in complete contentment and with a deep abiding sense of satisfaction, Abraham endured and waited in gladness for that Day to come - the Day of his salvation.
Let me ask you this - Do you see Him? Are you cheered by His presence? Do His words comfort you? Does the promise of His return transpose even the most difficult of your present moments into days filled with joy pressed down and overflowing? The world around us is rapidly disintegrating. Social civility is unraveling at a startling pace. It is becoming more and more difficult for any of us to point to a single thing in our lives that promises security and peace. Is this present moment not the ideal time for us to look to Christ and to welcome Him from a distance?
Hebrews 11:13 reminds us that many of those believers in long ago generations died in faith without having received the things promised. In other words, they had longed for the arrival of the promised Messiah and the Kingdom of righteousness, but they passed before the arrival of that Day. But don't for a moment begin to imagine that even a single one of those champions of faith were disappointed! Far from it - they were made glad by the promise and welcomed the fulfillment of those promises "from a distance".
So it should be for you and me. With our eyes fixed upon Jesus, the Object of our desire and the Joy of our longing hearts, we too are made glad in these days as we contemplate our inheritance. We rejoice in that home which awaits us in glory. Even as we pass through the midst of this dark and fallen world, we perceive the blessed presence of our Lord and Savior who walks beside us and is guiding us home. Even surrounded by the noise of this world, we hear the soft voice of our Master, we receive His Word with meekness (Jas 1:21) and believe.
Abraham's gladness can be your gladness too. There is a blessed contentment to be enjoyed by each child of God as we learn to rest in Christ and look upon Him with complete satisfaction. Then we will come to know the truth of that great hymn which teaches: "the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace."
The Rev. Donald Caviness is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, MS.