God operates on a different time table than we do as humans. We know, this of course. Of course we do. We remember what Peter wrote during a day when people were arguing that because Jesus had not yet returned, that Christianity could not be believed:
“Dear friends, don’t let this one thing escape you: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:8-9).
Don’t mistake God’s patience for His indifference. Understand that God will act when God will act, and that His time of action is going to be right. We know this of course. Of course we do. But that’s about the second coming of Jesus. The first coming of Jesus happened in a similar way. Not early, and not late, but right on time:
“When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).
It was 400 years between the close of Malachi and the opening of Matthew. Four hundred years of silence. Four hundred years of looking at the prophecies. Four hundred years of wondering if today was the day when God would act on behalf of His people in a dramatic way.
That 400 years mirrors another 400 years between the death of Joseph and the rise of Moses. Four hundred years of slavery. Four hundred years of oppression. Four hundred years of stories of a supposed deliverer.
In both instances, that’s one generation of fathers telling their sons to remain faithful and wait. And then that generation of fathers dying off, and another generation of fathers telling their sons the same thing. It’s a lot of waiting. A lot of hoping. And a lot of questions about the “when” of this God we’ve heard about. But we see, in hindsight, see that God was not inactive during that time, but instead knew the right “when.” We know this of course. Of course we do.
Except we don’t.
We think we do, but our impatience and frustration betrays us. In fact, I wonder today how much sin might be avoided in my life if I really believed in the perfect timing of God. Every time I think I must manufacture an opportunity I show that I don’t believe. Whenever I try and manipulate relationships to my own ends show that I don’t believe. Whenever I am discontent with what the Lord has seen fit to bring about in my life I show that I don’t believe.
But thank God His timing is not dependent on my recognition of its rightness. Thank God He is not swayed by my complaints. Thank God He is willing to press on to the right time. And thank God that He didn’t wait for me to be ready to exercise His good work in my life:
“For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).