Summary: This sermon deals with a simple biblical truth: God’s ways and his sense of timing are not the same as ours. Many times God does not seem to fit our schedule. However, his ways and his time are best.
Late, Yet On Time!
Have you noticed that God is frequently late? As I’ve grown older in faith, I’ve become more aware that God follows a different time, almost as if he runs by a different clock. He is frequently late.
For the sceptical among you, allow me to elaborate. Some people are uncomfortable to speak about God in rather common ways. There is a degree of artificiality about our faith that does not permit many to see God in ways that are natural to life. Consequently, some cannot bring themselves to speak of God in ways that may appear common or negative. For those of you who are so inclined, I ask for your indulgence as we examine the evidence.
When God appeared to Abraham in Genesis 18, it was with the intention to tell Abraham that he and Sarah were to finally have a son. Unfortunately, Abraham was 99 years old at the time, and Sarah was 89 years old. Both knew that it was already too late. They knew that it was physiologically impossible for them to have a child. The irony of the situation was not lost on Abraham and Sarah because they both burst out laughing. I can just imagine them saying, “God, it’s simply too late!” God was late.
The 80-year old Moses had lived in exile for 40 years when at a burning bush he was startled by God. The dreams and hopes he had had 40 years prior to this had most likely evaporated. His people, the Israelites, had been in bondage, slaves of Egypt, for over a hundred years (or more). During this period a death decree had been proclaimed against the Israelites, and the resulting pogrom led to the death of hundreds or thousands of infant male Israelites. Moses himself had been miraculously preserved from this decree. Why does God come at this late hour to attempt a deliverance of his people? Is it possible that Moses’ hesitancy was partially driven by his doubts about God’s sense of timing? I think I can almost hear Moses mutter, “God, you are late!” God was late.
Job had experienced monumental tragedies. He had lost all his material possessions; all his children had perished violently; his wife might have walked out on him; his friends had turned into ardent accusers. Slowly but surely, Job began to sink into despair and despondency. That’s when God appeared to Job. Wasn’t it too late? Can you hear job lament, “God, you’re too late”?
Mary and Martha watched their brother, Lazarus, fall ill, his life force deteriorate, and die. They had sent desperate messages to Jesus to come and help but he did not. Four days after Lazarus’ burial, Jesus appeared. Can you feel the pain of the sisters when they saw Jesus? Out of desperation, they cried, “Lord, if you had been here, you could have helped Lazarus. But you are too late!” When Jesus asked that the tombstone be rolled away, Martha protested, “Lord, he’s been in there for four days!” Again, God was late.
Arguably, the most commonly asked questions of faith have little to do with God’s existence or providence. The most troubling questions for God’s people inevitably have to do with his sense of timing. Far too frequently, God is late. And so God’s people are often left to cry out, “When, O Lord? How long, O Lord? Why were you not here when we needed you? Why did you not come? Why are you so late?” How many of us have asked these questions? When, in 1996, while on a Bible camp, my best friend went swimming in the sea and did not return alive, I was compelled to ask these questions. And I still do!