WHY THE DELAY?
The world around us has no idea of what the future holds. It has no hope, and nothing to look forward to. But we do know the future, that Jesus is coming and that God’s Kingdom will be established. When this will be we do not know—only that it will happen when the time is right.
But, we may ask ourselves, why the delay? The new millennium came and gone and we are already over a decade further onward in time, and still Christ has not come. It seems as if time is going on and on; and some might begin to wonder if Jesus will ever come.
This has always been the feeling. We remember 1935, the year of our baptism: then it seemed that there would be no time left to even get married before Christ came. But now, over seventy years later, some of us are not only married with children, but have grandchildren, and even great- grandchildren. So why the delay?
The delay seems so to us, and to us only. God knows the end from the beginning, and God knows the day when Jesus will come back. Jesus also knows it now, for he said after his resurrection that “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28.18). Thus Jesus is in control of world events, and he is working towards the day of his return—which we hoped would have already come, but in God’s purpose has not yet arrived.
We must remember that we are human and God is divine; and we are told that to God a thousand years is like a twenty-four hour day. Let us try and comprehend that. If we were to live to be eighty years old we would have lived through 29,220 days, or 701,280 hours. When we are young this may seem a long time, but in God’s eyes this is a very short period. If a thousand years in God’s sight is equal to twenty-four hours, then one year is only one and a half minutes; and eighty years but two hours.
So what seems a long time to us is, on this basis, but two hours to God. Hence, because eternity is God’s, and God is rarely in a hurry, we, with limited life and limited minds, may think that God takes too much time in working out His purpose.
But it is not true that God always works slowly. Sometimes God does a lot in a short time. There are many examples of this in the past. In Genesis we are told of the six days of creation, prior to which the earth was covered with waters, and everywhere was barren: “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Gen. 1.2).
But in six working days the barren earth became a smiling plain, with grass, herbs, flowers, trees, hills, valleys, forests, birds, animals, as well as seas populated with all kinds of fish. So God can work fast and intensively if He wants to; but more often than not He works slowly and deliberately.
God also worked fast at other times. At the time of the Flood, He drowned the world in forty days, and all flesh perished except those in the ark. Later Sodom and Gomorrah were burned up and destroyed in just a few hours, because their inhabitants were exceedingly wicked. In a few minutes God caused the waters of the Red Sea to part until about three or four million people went over on dry land. And in an instant Jesus was raised from the dead.
Thus God can work quickly if He so desires, but more often than not He is rarely in a hurry. But to us, with our limited lifespan and mental perception. God may sometimes seem to waste time. In the past He has chosen to do what He wants slowly when He could have done the work in a fraction of the time. But we must remember that none can question God or say unto Him “What doest thou?”
Many of the faithful of old were tried by the fact that God seemingly worked very slowly. Take Noah for example, who for very many years preached about the flood whilst he built the massive ark. Imagine that faithful man preaching and working year after year—for maybe ten years, then twenty, then thirty, then forty, and so on. He might have thought, “Is the flood ever going to come?—Why the delay?”
God was testing Noah’s faith; but his faith held fast, and by that faith he “prepared an ark to the saving of his house” (Heb. 11.7). In those days of waiting Noah continued his plain and simple life, which did not alter to suit those wicked times. He was content to serve God patiently, and to wait for events to happen in God’s good time. And one day the Flood came; God shut the door of the ark, and only those inside were saved. So the long-predicted day did come, though apparently long delayed—and God’s promise to save Noah was fulfilled.
We are in a similar position to Noah, for we are in the Christ-ark of safety. And if we are among the faithful few riding the storm of wickedness, and not being influenced by it, then one day the door of that ark will be opened. And we shall go forth to see how we have fared during the period of our life—maybe eighty brief years or so for us, but only two hours to God.
Those who come forth of the Christ-ark with good characters will enter into the new world, wherein God’s name will be acknowledged, and Jesus will reign supreme as universal King. That is God’s promise; and while it seems a long time coming. God cannot lie, and the day will dawn when God’s promise will be fulfilled.
Meanwhile, let us remember that Noah had to keep going—he had to keep serving God until His appointed day arrived. He had to trust God, even though in human terms it took a long time for His promise to be fulfilled.
So the life of Noah is an exhortation for us all. We have to keep on serving God in the way that we know that we should; and although our faith may be tested severely, the day will dawn when God’s promise to send Jesus will be fulfilled. In reality there is no delay with God.
Many others of the faithful also found out that God is rarely in a hurry, and their faith was severely tested by the experience. Abraham was seventy-five years old when God called him and was even older when God promised him a son. At that time his body—and Sarah’s—was dead as far as having children was concerned.
The Apostle Paul says of Abraham “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken. So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform” (Rom. 4.18-21). God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations; but as each year went by, and he was getting older, still nothing happened. Why the delay?
In fact it was a further twenty-four years before the angel came to Abraham and said “Sarah thy wife shall have a son” (Gen. 18.10). Let us stop and think about this. Twenty-four years is a long time to wait. Even Sarah laughed—for was it possible for a woman of ninety years old to have a son; and then many nations to come forth from that one son?
But after twenty-five years Isaac was born, and Abraham’s faith in God was justified, even though it took a long time for it to happen. Again we ask, “Why the delay?” Why didn’t God immediately let Abraham have twelve sons or fifty sons and work out His purpose fast? But God is rarely in a hurry;
He has no need to be, for eternity is His, and time is nothing to the Almighty.
And so it is with us. God has promised that Jesus will come at the day appointed, and no man knows the day or the hour, only God and Jesus. Meanwhile, like Abraham, our faith is being tested to see if we will believe what God promised, and wait patiently for it to happen.
There are very many Scriptural promises about the return of Jesus, so we can be sure that we have not made a mistake in expecting Jesus to come; but in our small minds we are a little premature in our expectation. But the apparent delay is testing our faith. So comes the question: “How great is your faith, and how great is mine?” Like Noah and Abraham, we have to keep going on and on, all the time retaining the undying belief that Jesus will come at the time appointed.
God is rarely in a hurry—He has no need to be, not being limited to a human lifespan. Think of Moses as he spent forty years minding sheep. We might have thought it did not need all those years to prepare Moses as the great leader; but God thought so. Yet for us forty years is perhaps more than half of our life.
Similarly with Israel: God could have easily taken them from Egypt to Canaan in one year; but He let them wander in the wilderness for forty years. What for? So as to test and try them, to see if they would fear and serve God. As a result many failed; but a few had enough faith in God, and they went into the promised land. Thus did God fulfil His promise, although it took a long time. But it had to happen, for God’s word just cannot fail.
So we too are on a wilderness journey that ends in certain redemption; and every passing day is one day nearer the day of Christ’s coming and our entry into the promised rest. Meanwhile the many dangers and trials on our journey are God’s way of testing whether we will serve God and believe what He says.
But it could be said that had Jesus come before now, it would have ended all the wickedness of this world, and the suffering and trials of his brethren and sisters. This is man’s thinking and reasoning, not God’s. In His wisdom, and according to His time scale. He has set the day of Christ’s coming and nothing can alter or amend it.
Jesus said: “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power” (Acts 1.7). And Peter said “The Lord is not slack … as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3.9). How true. If Jesus had come in 1900, how many of us would have been in the Truth and have the hope of eternal life? So when the last saint is baptised into the Truth, then the day of his coming may well dawn.
God in His love and wisdom has given us many signs—most noticeably the position of Israel and the increasingly evil state of the world —to tell us the period when it will happen, but not the day, the week, or the year.
What we do know is that Jesus will come at an unexpected hour. “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 24.44).
But if some do think “my Lord delayeth his coming” what will happen then? Jesus tells us in v.48: “But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart. My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of.” So, whether we are prepared or unprepared, the Master will suddenly come. Nothing can alter this fact. Then there will be no delay!
At the Breaking of Bread we have the emblems which demonstrate the reality of God’s purpose. Jesus was a real man who lived in Israel some two thousand years ago. Jesus died and then rose from the dead to die no more, and will undoubtedly return at God’s predetermined time.
And Jesus is with us in spirit each Sunday morning: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18.20). He can see us, but we cannot see him. It must be pleasing to Jesus on such occasions to see our faith in his second coming.
With all the promises of God’s Word before us, including the certainty of Christ’s coming again, let us renew our faith in God. For our faith is not built on shifting sands, but on the “impregnable rock of Holy Scripture”. And on this firm basis let us press forward in eagerness to the day of his coming; to reap the reward for those who faint not. And so, in the confidence that there is no real delay, we ask in the words of our hymn:
How long O Lord our Saviour,
Wilt thou remain away?
Our hearts are sometimes weary,
That thou dost absent stay.
Oh when shall come the moment
When brighter far than morn,
The sunshine of thy glory,
Shall Israel adorn?