Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Watch For The Thief

42 ¶Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.
44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. (Matt. 24:42-44)

These verses come in the chapter in which Christ discusses the signs of the times and signs of His second coming on the earth.

When I read this most recently, it struck me as odd that Jesus underlines that we don’t know exactly when He’s coming and in the very next sentence gives a little parable about a man who would have watched IF HE HAD KNOWN when the thief was coming.  Why talk about what we could do if we had known when He’s just said we can’t know? 

It is then that I realized that I had been assuming that the thief coming in this little parable represented Christ’s coming.  So it must be that the thief coming represented something different, something that it is possible to know when it will occur. 

One of the characteristics of the thief (besides stealing) is that he breaks up the house.  I suspect the thief represents Satan and temptation because not only does Satan try to steal the Saints’ possessions of spiritual gifts (along with cheating souls, leading them carefully down to hell), but he is trying to break up the family (the house) and break up the covenantal foundation of our lives. 

This brings us to a very interesting question.  Is it possible for us to know the hour that the thief (Satan, temptation) comes?  I suspect that it is, if we are alert to notice what kinds of things “set us off.”  I suspect that Jesus wants us to learn to recognize the patterns of circumstances in our lives—our frame of mind, our energy level, our thoughts, the surroundings we are in, the desires that we have—that in the past have led to us sinning.  He wants us to consider those times “the hour when the thief comes” and to guard ourselves to keep from having our house broken up.   The cool thing is, if we do that and guard our houses carefully, we will automatically be ready for Christ whenever He comes because we will have kept ourselves pure.

I’ve written before about how I’ve noticed a tendency to get stressed during breaks of general conference.  That is only one small example of an hour of temptation for me.  When I went through some depression, I noticed I was particularly vulnerable to a heavy feeling of despair right at sundown and dusk.  That was another hour of temptation.  I have hours of temptation due to PMS.  I have an hour of temptation after I’ve worked very hard without much break and I’m tired.  I have an hour of temptation related to the computer and doing my writing.  These are patterns that I can think of immediately, but I know I have a lot of little hours of temptation associated with interacting with my husband and my family.  I have to watch for those hours and guard myself and my house. 

I get two other principles from these verses.  I notice that Jesus calls it an “hour” and not a day or a week.  That teaches me that these periods are relatively short.  Repulse the thief and he will leave eventually.  Second, it strikes me that Jesus was teaching a principle that He practiced (as our perfect example), which gives us insight into His inner life.  He had hours when He was tempted and He resisted.   After a while, He recognized the pattern such that He was able to predict when it was going to happen.  He learned this principle, not from noticing the pattern of the times He was giving in (because He never gave in), but the times when He had resisted.  He wanted us to learn about this too.