Isaiah 51:2 “Look to Abraham, your father,
and to Sarah, who gave you birth.
When I called him he was but one,
and I blessed him and made him many.”
It struck me just now that at the time Abraham died he only had two children, and one of those was not a child of God’s promise. (He did have more by his second wife Keturah, but those don’t figure in the Biblical narrative after Genesis 25:4, though they are mentioned in 1 Chronicles 1:32-33) Isaac in turn only had the twin boys, Jacob and Esau. The multiplication God promised Abraham happened very slowly! Again and again throughout the Bible it is very clear that God’s promises are sure, but His time frame is not the same as ours. That’s why Peter had to write so clearly, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (Peter 3:8-9) This keeps coming up in my devotions. You’d think the Lord was trying to teach me something! Psychologists are agreed that tolerance for delayed gratification is a major indicator of emotional maturity, but sometimes it seems like society is steadily becoming less emotionally mature! We are pampered by the pace of technological progress, and we want the latest and greatest NOW! Awesome things are happening, but they aren’t happening at the pace we would like. The James Webb Space Telescope just launched successfully, but it’s 10 years behind schedule and it will be almost a month before those operating it will know whether it is going to operate properly. That’s just one of many examples that could be given. We need to remember that our Creator has said, “I the Lord do not change.” (Malachi 3:6) Unlike human plans and promises, if He said it, that settles it, whether or not we believe it. Many things seem to point to our being in the Last Days, but earnest believers in every era have felt that way, so we aren’t to try to pin God to some timetable of our making. At the same time, we aren’t to dismiss the various signs we are seeing and so fail to be personally ready, available for God to use as He desires.
The thing that struck me hardest about this verse was quite personal. My parents came to Japan as missionaries in 1934 and 35, respectively, and labored faithfully. On at least one occasion my father prostrated himself on the floor and cried out, “God, if I am standing in the way of revival in Japan, then take me out of the way!” As a new missionary in Japan he had visited the famous Shantung Revival in China, and he knew what revival looked like. At the time he didn’t know that God was preparing the Chinese Church to endure the decades of Communist oppression that are still continuing, but God sees the end from the beginning. My parents were good examples of what Hebrews talks about: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:39-40) Not long after my wife and I came to Omura 40 years ago the Lord gave us the vision of Omura again being the foremost Christian city in Japan. That hasn’t happened yet! However, just as Abraham didn’t see his multitudes of descendants in the flesh, but only by faith, I too am not to give up in any way, but trust that God will bring about His harvest in His way on His schedule, for His glory.
Father, thank You for this strong reminder. Thank You for the various things You are doing even now in this church. Help me indeed keep my eyes on Jesus and trust You to fulfill all Your promises, on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!