Posted by: rcottrill | February 2, 2011

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Words: Charles Wesley (b. Dec. 18, 1707; d. Mar. 29, 1788)
Music: Hyfrydol, by Rowland Huw Pritchard (b. Jan. 14, 1811; d. Jan. 25, 1887)

Wordwise Hymns
Discovering the Songs of Christmas, pp. 248-251
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Several other tunes are suggested by the Cyber Hymnal, but the Welsh tune Hyfrydol seems to fit the text well.

The Lord Jesus prophesied that the Jews would “fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Lk. 21:24). The Times of the Gentiles mark a period of time when political rule over the earth is placed in the hands of the Gentile powers. It is also a time of chronic oppression for the nation of Israel.

This began with the Babylonian Captivity in 586 BC, through the destruction of Jerusalem 40 years after Jesus’ day, and it will continue on through the Church Age into the Tribulation (Zech. 14:1-4; Rev. 11:1-2). The Times of the Gentiles will end with the triumphant return of the Lord Jesus Christ to put down the enemies arrayed against Israel at Armageddon (Rev. 16:16; 19:11-21).

“For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts.” (Hag. 2:6-7)

“The Desired of All Nations” has for a long time been considered a messianic title. Some modern translators have tended to make it refer to “the wealth [i.e. desired things] of the nations,” being delivered to Jerusalem. However a case can be made for it being a prophetic reference to the coming of the Messiah (cf. Isa. 59:20).

It is a stirring promise. But in between Old Testament times, and the birth of Christ is a period of about 400 years, sometimes referred to as the “Four Hundred Silent Years,” because we have no inspired prophetic utterances preserved from that time, no book of Scripture that covers those four centuries. God had promised a deliverer in the person of the Messiah. Yet still the Jews continued to be threatened and oppressed by Gentile powers. No wonder the anticipation and expectation grew into an impassioned longing.

It was the belief of many of the Jews that their Messiah-King would immediately put down dominating Gentile powers at His coming, and restore the glory days of Israel. And it is quite true that this is part of God’s purpose (Zech. 9:9-10; cf. Matt. 21:1-9). However, there are a couple of problems with the expectations of the Jews in Jesus’ day.

First, the King, so enthusiastically welcomed on what we call Palm Sunday, was rejected and crucified a few days later. And though the Jews were accountable for turning their backs on Christ, yet God worked through it. In the sovereign purposes of God, Christ had to suffer and die for our sins, before entering into His glorious reign (Lk. 24:25-26). There could be no kingdom of the redeemed without the work of redemption.

Second, the kingdom envisioned by many of the Jews was predominantly a political entity. They wanted to be delivered from tyranny, even while clinging to their self-centred and superficially religious lives. But Christ described the kingdom (in the Sermon on the Mount, and elsewhere) as having an indispensable spiritual dimension. It will be a kingdom of righteousness, in which there is full obedience to the King of kings (Ps. 72:2; Isa. 26:2; 60:21).

Though Charles Wesley’s hymn focuses particularly on Christ’s reign in our hearts now (see especially CH-2), he also alludes to a number of Scripture passages in CH-1 dealing with Christ’s coming earthly reign. The Lord is Israel’s strength (cf. I Sam. 15:29), and Consolation (Lk. 2:25-26), the Hope of Israel (Jer. 14:7-8), and of all the earth (Matt. 12:21; Rom. 15:12), the Desire of All Nations (Hag. 2:7), and the “joy of every longing heart” (Lk. 2:20, 36-38).

1) How do we act if we truly expect something to happen? (Use a couple’s engagement to be married as an example. Then apply your ideas to the Christian’s expectation of Christ’s return.)

2) Why might some Christians not think much about Christ’s coming, or look forward to it? How might this affect their lives?

Wordwise Hymns
Discovering the Songs of Christmas, pp. 248-251
The Cyber Hymnal


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