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on delays

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, "Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him." So Aaron said to them, "Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me." So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!" When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made proclamation and said, "Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD." (Exodus 32:1-5 ESV)



Many of us don't wait very well. I don't. Just this last week there were snow storms, cancellations, waiting for roads to get plowed, shoveling sidewalks, and postponing appointments. For others, there were flight delays and cancellations. Those are just weather-related delays. Sometimes we wait for people to respond, for business deals to close, or for circumstances to change. When I was a child, and was told to wait for something or someone, it was like a sure invitation for me to get into trouble. I always found something else to do with my time. I don't wait well.

When Moses went up on the mountain to meet God, the Israelites didn't wait well either: "When the people saw that Moses delayed... they said, 'Up, make us gods... As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.'" It didn't take much delay for things to get out of control.


But, delays and waiting are an important part of God's plan. Jesus made it clear that his return, though imminent (it could happen at any time) was not immediate (it will happen soon, according to our time). From the gospels:

But if that wicked servant says to himself, 'My master is delayed,' and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:48-51)

As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. (Matthew 25:5)

Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. (Matthew 25:19)

As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, "A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, 'Engage in business until I come.' But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We do not want this man to reign over us.' When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. (Luke 19:11-15)

A long delay becomes a kind of testing, an opportunity to be faithful: Will we spend the extra time in idleness, unholy leisure, and idolatry? Will we find other things to take the place of God-- objects or passions which we find more worthy of our confidence, time, and pleasure?

Or will we do as Jesus asks, to watch (stay awake and alert-- spiritually and morally), wait patiently, and work faithfully? A delay reveals our heart's allegiance.

For some a delay means time to be idle and make idols. For others it means a time to watch and work. We do well to contemplate the Apostle Peter's words, towards the end of his life in the first century:

...knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." ... 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. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Peter 3:3, 8-10)





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