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A Thief In The Night


1 Thessalonians 5:1-10
But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren,
you have no need that I should write to you.
For you yourselves know perfectly that
the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.
For when they say, “Peace and safety!”
then sudden destruction comes upon them,
as labor pains upon a pregnant woman.
And they shall not escape.
But you, brethren, are not in darkness,
so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.
You are all sons of light and sons of the day.
We are not of the night nor of darkness.
Therefore let us not sleep, as others do,
but let us watch and be sober.
For those who sleep, sleep at night,
and those who get drunk are drunk at night.
But let us who are of the day be sober,
putting on the breastplate of faith and love,
and as a helmet the hope of salvation.
For God did not appoint us to wrath,
but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep,
we should live together with Him.
 
The day of Lord will come like a thief in the night. But a thief in our human understanding may not be a good example or analogy to represent or symbolize this awesome day of the Lord! Simply because the thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. But Jesus has come that we may have life, and that we may have it more abundantly (John 10:10). Who then is this thief in the night?
 
“A thief in the night” is a Hebrew idiom. It does not refer to a criminal thief that will come in the middle of the night, take us by surprise and steal our belongings or kill us. He is someone who has a high calling and an honorable task to fulfill!
 
Psalm 134:1
Behold, bless the LORD,
All you servants of the LORD,
Who by night stand in the house of the LORD!
 
In the Temple of God, a priest was posted every night on duty to ensure the last sacrifice for the current day was completely consumed. He also had to guard the fire on the altar so that it was kept burning throughout the night ready for the next morning’s sacrifice. The fire was not supposed to go out for any reasons.
 
Somehow the priest on duty would become tired and sleepy about halfway through the night. If the last sacrifice was consumed and the flames were still burning, he might catch some moments to rest and nap while waiting. He would wake up every now and then to fuel the flames by adding woods and fanning before going back to the sleeping mode again. This happened throughout the night till the rising of the sun.
 
However it was highly possible for this priest on duty to fall asleep totally, failing to perform his responsibilities of tending to the fire. And the fire went off.
 
Here the thief in the night would come. Sometimes during the night watches, the High Priest would enter the Temple very quietly like a thief to check and ensure the priest on duty was fulfilling his duties. He might be accompanied by his faithful assistant.
 
Firstly the High Priest and his assistant would check the fire to see whether the flames were still alive. If necessary, they would add some woods and fan the flames. If the priest on duty was sleeping, the High Priest would take an ember of coal from the fire and sneak quietly around the sleeping priest. He would then place the burning coal on the garment of the sleeping priest.
 
When his clothes were on fire, the priest would wake up. He would have no choice but to rip them off and run home, naked and ashamed. One thing for sure, he would never fall asleep while on duty again.
 
These white priestly garments were made of 100% cotton. When soiled, they were torn into strips and used as wicks for the menorah or swaddling clothes for infants.
 
Thus the thief in the night is the High Priest coming to check whether the priest on duty is carrying out his responsibilities faithfully and doing his work properly. Those who sleep will be punished, but those who keep watch and stay awake will be rewarded.

Revelation 16:15
Behold, I am coming as a thief.
Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments,
lest he walk naked and they see his shame.
 
We are all children of the light and of the day. We don’t belong to darkness and night.
 
Thus let us be on our guard, and not fall asleep like the others. Let us stay alert and be sober.
 
Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. But let us who live in the light and be sober, putting on the armour of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the hope of our salvation.
 
For God has chosen to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out His anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when He returns, we can live with Him forever.
 
When our High Priest comes as a thief in the night, we will be ready to meet Him. The flame and zeal in our hearts will be burning brightly but our white priestly garments will not be burnt! We will not be naked and ashamed!
 
Finally, let us take a closer look at a warning for the lukewarm church in Laodicea:
 
Revelation 3:14-22
“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,
‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness,
the Beginning of the creation of God:
 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.
I could wish you were cold or hot.
So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,
I will vomit you out of My mouth.
Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—
and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked
I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich;
and white garments, that you may be clothed,
that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed;
and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.
Therefore be zealous and repent.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears My voice and opens the door,
I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.
To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne,
as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’”
 

Written on 17 May 2013