The Swallows are Gone


   The end of the year is near and the cold blasts of winter are come, and the swallows are gone. We saw them gathered together, we observed their restless behaviour, we heard their excited twittering. Then they were gone! No one saw them go— all that is left is their memory. They have gone to a land far, far away where the frosts, and snow, the sleet and piercing winds of winter can never reach them. They will never know winter. Very remarkable is this instinct of the birds: “Even a stork in the heavens knoweth her appointed times, and the turtle–dove and the swallow and the crane observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of Jehovah” (Jer. 8: 7).

   Is there not a lesson for us in this instinct of birds? Yes! God speaks through creation (Rom. 1: 20). The Lord has His own swallows, you and I, those that are awaiting God's Son from the heavens (1 Thess. 1:9–10). Like the birds we have that inward sense that soon we must leave this scene, for has not the Saviour promised that “I am coming again and shall receive you to myself, that where I am ye also may be” (John 14: 3). “Our gathering together to him” (2 Thess. 2: 1) is the hope of our lives—we are simply waiting for that signal, that assembling shout (1 Thess. 4: 16) and then we shall fly away. “Caught up together ... in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we shall be always with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4: 17). It will be an Exodus the like of which this world has never seen!

   Those who study the natural world will know that as autumn approaches, the swallows suddenly and inexplicably abandon their spring and summer routines, and all their activity becomes directed to the day of departure. It is as if an inward voice had told them so. Is it not a solemn fact that God by His Spirit has sent forth the midnight cry, “Behold the bridegroom; go forth to meet him” (Matt. 25: 6). Let us then “watch and be sober” (1 Thess. 5: 6). Are you watching? Are you ready? Have you this hope? Are you, like the swallows in the company of others with the same expectation? Or do you in your unbelieving heart wonder “where is the promise of his coming? For from the time the fathers fell asleep all things remain thus from the beginning of the creation” (2 Pet. 3: 4).
Can you not even discern the signs of the times?! (Matt. 16: 3).

   It is a sad but true fact that every year some swallows remain behind to endure the winter.
They do not survive. They do not look any different from other swallows, but that migratory urge is missing. Because migration is so characteristic of the swallow, we might in one sense go as far as to say that they were not swallows at all! It is the same with the Christian. Looks and practice may deceive (Matt. 7:21–23), but the real Christian is characterised by having a real hope (Tit. 2: 13). What kind of swallow are you?

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