For the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God.…
The kingdom of God is a kingdom of progress; "forward" is its watchword. That outgoing of the character of God which constitutes his works and laws cannot be other than an advance. For God to retrograde is impossible. In Judaism at its brightest period, the eyes of the noblest men directed their vision to better days to come. The saints "died in faith," not having received the promises, but embracing them afar off. And today the Christian, much as he loves to read of the illustrious sacrifice of himself on earth of the Son of God, regarding the events of that earthly sojourn as the foundation of his hope and religion, yet sighs not for a return of past wonders, but believes in a more glorious unveiling of the plan of God. Times of apparent defeat and humiliation are but valleys to be traversed in ascending to the topmost mountain-peak.
I. THE GOAL OF EXPECTATION. "The revealing of the sons of God." The sons are at present in obscurity. The statue is partially hidden, its proportions are visible, but we shall hereafter discern its lustrous beauty and perfection, complete, unstained. Princes, heirs to the throne, may be for a season in poor habiliments and amid mean surroundings; but they are to be brought forth like Joash, to be crowned as kings and priests unto God. God has given us "the firstfruits of the Spirit." As when a friend despatches his carriage and servants and son to conduct us with all honour to his house, so God has sent his Spirit into the hearts of his children - the earnest of the joys of heaven. Sweet voices whisper a coming state of larger possibilities and nobler felicity. The dawn heralds a cloudless day. We "wait for the redemption of the body," the removal of every trace of sin, the deliverance from every yoke, the complete abolition of death. Here a mean presence may conceal a beautiful personality; there the body shall be the out-flashing glory of the perfected spirit, as at the Transfiguration the soul of Christ in its intensity tinged with splendour the very skirts of his garments.
II. THE WHOLE CREATION IS INTERESTED IN THIS UNVEILING. With uplifted and outstretched head does the "creature" wait to decry the long-desired event. Genesis tells us of the ground cursed for man's sake. Man was formed to rule over the world, but, unable to control himself, his dominion has been broken in upon by disorder. And the beasts have suffered through the degradation of man. If the master deteriorate, so will his household. The howling of the dog, the moaning of the lion, the writhing of the worm, the fluttering of the imprisoned bird, all confirm the assertion of "subjection to vanity unwillingly," The poor brutes at the mercy of rough men may well pant for the redemption of the sons of God. Had man continued upright and grown in true wisdom, doubtless the very character of nature had changed for the better. Then had the glowing language of Isaiah been descriptive of common occurrences: "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and a little child shall lead them." All things in God's universe are linked together. Man was formed out of the dust of the ground, and we must despise nothing.
III. IT IS ALREADY OBSERVABLE THAT THE PREVALENCE OF CHRISTIANITY ALLEVIATES THE HARDEST LOT. Many are the philanthropic agencies which owe their origin to the diffusion of the Spirit of Christ. First deemed quixotic, sentimental, then plausible and possible, and further becoming actual, the contrary has at last come to be thought disgraceful and unnatural. More consideration is shown to the lower animals. Earth yields up her stores to investigation, rejoices in the augmenting power of man to use her forces and bring her marvels to light. That sympathy with nature which modern poetry exhibits was almost unknown to the ancients. We are learning the language of Creation, interpreting her smiles and tears. At the death of Christ, the association with nature's pangs was made visible by the rending of the rocks and the darkening of the sun.
IV. If this tendency to amelioration is even now patent, WHAT SHALL BE THE EFFECT OF THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF GOD'S PURPOSES! Then shall "earth be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." Moses in his song called the "heavens to hear, and the earth to give ear." Our Saviour showed his command of the elements. Winds and waves, trees, sickness, and evil spirits obeyed his word. In the desert the wild beasts hurt him not. In anticipation of the day when men shall be like the Saviour, the psalmist called upon earth to "make a joyful noise before the Lord. Let the floods clap their hands, for he cometh to judge the earth." Isaiah predicted that in Israel's millennium "the mountains and hills shall break forth into singing." And in the Book of Revelation we hear the chorus of redeemed creation: "Every creature which is in heaven and in earth, and under the earth, heard I saying, Blessing... be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever." The cross of Christ is the great rectifier, reconciling all things unto God. If we cannot fathom the deep secrets of God, it is good, howler, for us to meditate on the hints of a widespread redemption. There is something in the prospect which dwarfs our selfish earthly plans, and ennobles all that is linked on to God and his kingdom. It makes the paros and strifes and aches of the world bearable, because "our redemption draweth nigh." Are we doing aught as the sons of God to quicken the approach of the apocalypse? May our awaking be not to shame and everlasting contempt, but to the glorious emancipation of redeemed humanity! - S.R.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.