At the appointed time…
These words have stood out to me this advent season.
Time is a curious thing. Our brains, amazing as they are, can’t quite grasp the concept of existence without time. Yet, for God, this container of time and space is His invention! He’s always existed outside of time. (I can’t even write that sentence without a time/space marker to describe the situation).
“In the beginning…” the first words of scripture. Eternity interrupted. The clock starts ticking. The heavens and earth and all their inhabitants are introduced to the concept of waiting.
Starting with the creation of Eve (Gen. 2:18), we see God declaring “I will…”. These promises refer to things He will do (like bring justice and judgment) and things he will never do (like flood the earth again). As the Grand Narrative unfolds, we begin to see some of these promises fulfilled. The “I wills…” become markers of His faithfulness.
But there’s that idea of time again. The only way we are able to see these is because we are removed from the events. Think about what it might have been like to be in the moment.
Sarah, in her nineties, with a barren womb, remembering God’s words to her husband, Abraham, “I will make you a great nation…” (Gen 12:2). She overhears the Lord reminding Abraham of this promise and laughs. I don’t really blame her, I probably would have laughed too; the situation seems impossible, she was being realistic. Yet God says, “Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son” (Gen. 18:14).
Or Habakkuk having a conversation with God on behalf of Israel. The Assyrians had captured the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Culturally, the Israelites had strayed from the commands of God while at the same time were suffering injustice and oppression. “Why do you…remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” Habakkuk asks (Hab. 1:13). The Lord answers him “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end — it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay” (Hab. 2:3).
A lot of us find ourselves in similar positions—waiting and hoping for something that seems impossible. We can relate to Sarah and Habakkuk. Yet, we also know what happens next in their stories. From this perspective of history, we’re able to see the greatest promise of God fulfilled to date. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4,5).
Jesus! The Savior of the world…at the appointed time…
Ecclesiastes 3:11 reminds us, “He has made everything beautiful in its time” isn’t that really comforting? Solomon goes on to say, “Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end”
Eternity. Our innate knowledge of it magnifies mysteries and makes us keenly aware of our limitations within this time-container. Eternity in our hearts introduces us to the concept of hope. And where we place our hope, determines how well we wait.
If you ask me what I’m waiting for, I would say without hesitation “A husband!”— your answer might be, “a job, healing, a restored relationship, a child,” or something else. All of those things are good and valid things to desire. But I’ve realized that if we zoom out, we’re really waiting for something deeper—Jesus! He is the hope that will never disappoint! These yearnings we feel as we wait on Earth are echoes of our yearnings for eternity. The desires we long for may not be fulfilled like we imagine but we can know they will one day be fully satisfied in the consummation of all things.
…at the appointed time…
It’s hard. It’s painful. It’s tempting to take matters into our own hands. Or to wallow in the cynicism and disappointment of hope misplaced. Friends, I am with you. Let us pray with David in Psalm 31:14,15, “But I trust in you, O Lord’ I say, “You are my God” My times are in your hand;…”
As we live in this tension between the now and not yet, let us persevere. In the waiting He is working and asks us to join Him. The posture of our hearts correlates to our patience. A heart that recognizes “He [God] changes the times and the seasons…” (Dan. 2:21a) can steward the time in hope rather than strive to gain what we feel is missing. An impatient heart looks inward, viewing everything through the lens of serving the self whereas a surrendered heart is soil for the Spirit to cultivate the fruit of patience.
And maybe, just maybe, God has a reason for those unfulfilled dreams. “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:8,9) Perhaps this space between desires realized is providing precious time for us to trust, obey, seek peace, and share the good news. For one day these minutes and hours will cease.
Our God is a Promise Keeper.
He will come again.
All will be made right and these deepest desires fulfilled…
…at the appointed time.