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Reading: Luke ch. 17

How true in the experience of the believers have proved the words of the Master recorded in the 22nd verse of the 17th chapter of the gospel record according to Luke: € The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and we shall not see it. € These words were addressed to the disciples. At the time they felt the strength, the power, the comfort of his personal presence among them. But soon he was to be taken away, As he said: € The Son of rnan must suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation. € For a short time after his resurrection he mingled with the disciples again, but then he was taken to heaven, and thence forward the prospect of seeing him again was entirely a matter of faith.

On another occasion Jesus had said: € Can the children of the bride chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.. € The days of fasting have been long and tedious. For well nigh two thousand years the saints have desired to see one of the days of the Son of man, and have not seen it. All through those dark and dreadful periods of the seals, the trumpets and the vials their plaintive cry has been € Lord, how long? €

We today share the same earnest longing for the return of the Master. € Thine absence now we daily mourn/We long thy face to see/No joy for us till thy return/We will remember thee. € Unlike all previous generations of believers, we can fully expect that our earnest desire will be gratified. We can confidently believe that we are the generation which will prove to be the exceptiou to the rule € € Ye shall not be able. € There is no mistaking the existence of the signs, from whatever point of view we consider them.

In today € s reading Jesus draws attention to the moral and social sign. Luke 17.26: € As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. € There is little doubt that these words of Christ had a dual application. He was describing firstly the conditions in Israel which would herald a € coming of the Son of man € for judgment through the instrumentality of the Roman armies; but more particularly his words were meant for a generation which would € see one of the days of the Son of man, € because € as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. €

The underlying meaning of the symbol of the lightning is that the coming of Christ would not be a doubtful event based on rumour or hearsay, but an open, public, undeniable fact as far as those were concerned who stood related to that coming. An angelic announcement, a being € caught away to meet the Lord, € manifestations of the miraculous, will be undeniable indications that the Lord is back in the earth. Jesus also gives unmistakeable evidence of the time when to expect him. The social and moral condition of the world will be comparable to the Noachic age, when the earth was corrupt before God and filled with violence. Could anything be more appropriate, as we live in this vice-ridden generation of our times? Morals and modesty are alike cast to the winds. Sex is the ruling passion today, with its trail of broken marriages, divorce and depravity. That is a sign of the coming of Christ. We loathe it as we are forced to mingle with it day by day. But let us think of it as a sign of Christ € s coming and lift up our heads, instead of being depressed by the sordid environment in which our lot is cast.

But more than that. The Lord says, verse 28: € Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodoin it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. € The sins of Sodom were once proverbial; now they are regarded as legitimate practice. Meanwhile, the world goes on, quite impervious to the condition of things and the great events which lie so near at hand. They are building their great skyscrapers, their economic and financial affairs are being arranged as though peace and security were here for ever, but fire and brimstone from heaven will destroy them all, when voices and thunders and lightnings issue from the heaven and cause all the cities of the nations to fall.

If ever we are tempted to look back to the condition of things from which we have been delivered, then let us heed the Master € s exhortation in our chapter € Remember Lot € s wife. € Her action implies that she had regretful feelings in leaving the city of mirth and madness. She took € one last, long, lingering look € at the city behind, and it cost her her life. She stands for ever as the type of one who, having been delivered, afterwards looked back.

These are the things, the important, urgent, personal matters to which our attention is drawn in this chapter. We might go on a little further. Verse 31 speaks concerning the suddenness of the coming of the Lord. € In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. € Verse 35: € Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together. €

It impresses upon us, does it not, the suddenness of the Lord € s coming. € Behold, I come quickly. € We know that the word in the original Greek implies suddenly. € Behold, I comesuddenly. € We all, of course, expect the return of Christ to the earth. There is not one

that doubts it for a moment. And yet when it actually happens we shall, as it were, be taken by surprise. We would not have thought that

Christ would have come just at that moment.

Undoubtedly these words again have their incipient fulfilment in what happened in Israel € s case. The righteous, the true believers who

had heard Christ € s warnings and given heed to them, were providentially delivered. The wicked were left, and they suffered the calamity when the Roman eagles devoured Israel € s body. That scene will be re-enacted crc long on a greater scale when God € s judgments descend upon the world. Two shall be in the field, in the mill, in the office, in the factory or the shop, or the home it may be; one shall be taken and the other left.

It should be noted that the taking or the leaving relates to deliverance or otherwise from the judgments of God upon the wicked. The responsible wicked, though taken from the scene of their activities and removed to Sinai, will be just as much the € left € in the end as the world of the ungodly in general, because all the wicked, responsible or otherwise, stand related to Divine judgment and destruction. They shall he left. Left where? € Wheresoever the bodyis, thither will the eagles be gathered together. € In the latter day application of the Lord € s words that body is the body of the fourth beast of Daniel € s vision. € I beheld till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. € But the righteous, living or resurrected, will be € taken, € delivered from the wrath to come. As Paul says: € God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ. € The righteous are to be taken, soon to reappear as the eagles in search of their prey, the lifeless body of the kingdoms of men. € They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint. €

When that happens, the world will then see one of the days of the Son of man. € Beheld, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him. € Yes, Israel, wayward Israel; at long last they will recognise their mistakes and approve him who has come as their deliverer. Then there will be that final re gathering, that bringing into the wilderness of the people, mentioned in our middle reading, that all Israel may € know that I am the Lord, when I have wrought with you for my great name € s sake. € That is what is coming, and then € all the world shall see the salvation of our God, € one of the days, the day of the Son of man.

Well now, how do we react to these great facts of our faith as we ponder them as suggested by the thoughts engendered by our reading? How will it be with us? Shall we be the € taken € or the € left € ? Taken into the refuge, hidden in the secret of the Divine Presence from the strife of tongues, that pavilion of the Lord of which the Psalmist speaks, or the place to which the prophet Isaiah makes allusion when he says: € Come, my people, enter into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be over past. € Taken away from the wrath to come. Or shall we be among those that are € left € ? The left ones, to endure the death throes of the kingdoms of men.

The answer to the question depends entirely upon each one of us and our reaction to those commandments, some of which are found in our chapter. How wonderful it is to think that these facts of our faith, so great and stupendous as they are in one relation, are intimately linked with the very small, everyday reactions to the circumstances of our life as we find it! Yet they are. Our eternal destiny will depend in the end upon this day of small things and how far we have observed narrowly the commandments which Christ has left on record for us to follow.

For a few minutes, then, let us study these personal commandments and see how we are getting on in relation to them. We can decide the better for ourselves then whether we shall be among the € taken € or those that are € left. € Verse 1 of Luke chapter 17: € Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. € How solemn! € Offences will come. € Enemies of the Truth will arise. There are bad brethren as well as good brethren. That is the stark fact of the Lord € s reference here. Perfection will not exist even in the body of Christ until the segregation of the wicked from the righteous.

Well, there are many ways of giving offence. Unfaithful walk is, of course, an outstanding way. Malicious talk, bad example, self- indulgence in things which cause the weak to stumble: these are causes of offence. € It must needs be that offences come. € Some will be guilty of these things. € But woe unto them € , says Christ. In other words, the influence of our lives upon our brethren and sisters is most important. It is the mind of Cain that says € Am I my brother € s keeper? € In a very real sense we are. The eternal life, maybe, of each one of us in some respect depends upon the faithful attitude which we individually show towards those with whom we mingle. We do react on one another as closely as that. How careful we should be, then, to avoid these causes of offence.

If we have been causes of discouragement, or hatred, or strife, temptation or pain to our brethren or sisters, then Christ says to us, Woe unto us. Better it would be to experience a violent death than to experience that woe.

Then Christ goes on to speak of the matter of forgiveness. Verse 3:

€ Take heed to yourselves € -__there is the same exhortation again. We must take heed, take these things seriously, that is what it means. Do not just read them as a theory and still goon as we did before. € Take heed to yourselves € . € everyone of us, speaker and hearer alike. € If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. € The disciples thought that was a very difficult thing to do and so they said, as we all say: € Lord, increase our faith. € Give us the power and the strength and the spiritual-mindedness to do that.

Here is the lesson, then. These are things which we must root out. The harbouring of resentment, malice, hatred, envy; they are definitely forbidden. Love, kindness, forbearance must be the essential qualities that we manifest in our relations the one to the other. There must be no such thing as saying that we will forgive but we cannot forget. That is not scriptural either. If that is how we expect God to deal with our transgressions then none of us has any hope because, after all, in the kingdom and beyond, all the sins, all the weaknesses of God € s children will be completely obliterated; otherwise it would not be pure and unalloyed joy. That is how it must be, then, with each one of us. Pure, wholehearted, genuine and complete forgiveness the one of the other.

But there is a little danger here, perhaps. Christ is speaking of personal offence. We must not confuse this with sins against the Truth itself. Sometimes we hear the idea: € We must have mercy. We must forgive € when brethren or sisters are failing in their duties in maintaining the Truth in practice and conduct. That is not the same thing at all The Truth is not ours to toy with or to decide how far we shall apply its principles; neither can we forgive in that sense. The Son of man only hath power to forgive sins. That is his prerogative. We have our duty to perform. But of course, even in the exercise of that we can show a kindly and a true spirit. But we cannot talk in the sense of forgiving and tolerating or condoning that which is detrimental to God € s Truth, given to us purely on trust.

Then the Lord goes on further to give a lesson about diligence in service. We have read that in verse 10: € So likewise ye, when ye have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. € In what sense unprofitable? Not unworthy, of course, but in the sense that we cannot make God a debtor. Even when we have done all it will be only the goodness and love of God that will take us into His kingdom. Not of works; that is the principle; not of works, though he will reward our works far above anything that we could ask or think.

Well, there is a lesson there. If faithful servants of God are to regard themselves as unprofitable, what is the position of those who are neglectful and disobedient, who in some respects are really unprofitable? Well might the apostle say: € If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? € In other words, nothing less than our best must suffice. Earnest and patient and persevering performance of well doing will alone gain for us acceptance at the judgment seat of Christ. We could not expect it to be otherwise. Indifference of carelessness or apathy, lukewarmness, that Laodicean attitude, will not save any of us. It is that urgent and earnest daily application to the best of our ability to the commandments of Christ that will gain for us the acceptance for which we long.

Now comes the lesson of thankfulness in regard to the healing of the ten lepers. Ten lepers. In those days lepers used to go about in groups. They kept together for the purpose of the comfort and company of each other. They were not allowed to mingle with the populace generally. There were ten of them there, and they heard of the coming of Christ. They approached him: € Lord, have mercy upon us. € He said to them: € Go shew yourselves unto the priests. € They went, and as they went they were conscious that something was happening. They did not feel so unwell, their flesh became clean. To their amazement they found that they were cured. Ere one of them had got to the priest he turned back and gave thanks. He gave thanks, and well he might. What a deliverance! Only those who know what it is to be really ill can appreciate that sense of relief from pain when those lepers were cleansed. But only one turned back. € Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? €

How dreadful that human nature should be so unthankful! The poet € s words are perfectly true: € Blow, blow, thou winter wind,/ Thou art not so unkind/As man € s ingratitude! € Well, one returned and he gave pleasure to the Lord. We can think of him in relation to ourselves. In a sense we all have been leprous. In some respects we still are, of course. We have sin € s flesh with all its infirmities. But so far, incipiently, in the acceptance of the Truth and the washing of water in baptism, we have been cleansed from a loathsome disease, washed and made clean. As Petersays, we have € purified our souls in obeying the truth. € That is but a foreshadowing of the complete change of these vile bodies, when they shall be changed and fashioned like unto the glorious body of Christ. Are we thankful? Do we continually refer to it in our prayers? and is our thankfulness so deep in our hearts that we are moved to reciprocate by loving service, as God has shown love toward us, and by a diligent application of His commands? That is why we are here this morning, is it not? You and I have come here this morning, in a sense, like that leper who returned. We have come, have we not, to give thanks for the mighty deliverance that our Lord has wrought for us. He was € wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities € but € with his strips we are healed. € He paid a price to cure us and that was it.

So we are healed now prospectively; but in the fullest sense, if found so faithful, when mortality is swallowed up of life. That will be the day when we shall see the day of the Son of man. No longer then € whom having not seen, ye love. In whom, though now we see him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, € Not that any more, but instead, a seeing of Christ in his day. € Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty. € Of the righteous it is said in the Book of Revelation: € They shall see his face. € John says € We shall see him as he is € € glorious and strong and immortal and invincible! King of kings and Lord of lords € we shall see him thus.

So then, let us take heart once more. Let us resolve that we will do our duty now and wait in patience for that happy day when we shall € see one of the days of the Son of man € ; and meanwhile let us € exhort one another, and so much the more as we see the day approaching, € : € H. T. Atkinson