Second Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lessons "The Day of the Lord" June 17, 2017
One day a group of friends were (laughing and talking) on their way to visit another friend who lived some distance away. Everyone was looking forward to getting together as they hadn't seen each other in a while. As they drove along, they soon began singing. When one song would end, another would begin, until before you knew it, all five of the friends were engaged in singing the songs they'd sung together in their choral group. They were having such a good time. Suddenly, one of the guys noticed they'd missed their exit, and that the next one was 15 miles farther down the road. Since there was construction, the opportunities for a U-turn had been blocked; so, on they went through the dusk into the darkness of night. Of course, the singing wasn't as enthusiastic as it had been in the beginning, and the laughing and talking gradually died down too. What was once an exciting trip became an excursion filled with barely concealed anxious thoughts.
You see, the friends knew the road they'd been on, and they knew where the exit was, but not beyond. Furthermore, they were uncertain about the upcoming exit, since it was in an unfamiliar and dangerous part of town. Consulting the map led to one set of conclusions about the best way to proceed -- some were in favour of back tracking, while those who consulted the GPS thought that turning around was a waste of time. After a bit of discussion, in which some blame was cast, it was eventually determined that it would be better to follow the GPS. Those who wanted to follow the map were ill at ease, as they felt the map was more reliable, but they kept it to themselves. One hour later, the group of friends finally arrived at their destination. Still eager to see their friend, there was none-the-less, the undercurrent of disaffection, as the seeds of discord had been sown among them. It's interesting how delays with their inherent uncertainties reveal our temperament, our ways of thinking, and ultimately our characters.
In the book of Numbers, God told the children of Israel to go and conquer the Promised Land. However, their focus (how long their journey had been already, as well as the taste of the leeks and garlic of Egypt, etc.) distracted them and led them to unbelief in God's promise. Looking at their lack as well as the difficulties along the way caused them to murmur, complain, and falter in their trust. Thus they refused to conquer the land He had given them by promise. The Hebrews just would not in confiding faith trust Him, so instead they took Him by the hand and led Him where He would not go, which was into their 40 year sojourn going nowhere. Their choices were to trust God and go forward into Canaan in faith, or retreat to the wilderness in unbelief. There were no other options. In pain Himself, God let them have what their hearts were set on – their fears. Yes, they had the freedom to choose, they had the right to choose, but they just didn't know what was attached with their choice.
According to 2 Peter 3:9 – "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." In other words, the Lord is not slow to fulfill the promise(s) He's made, and neither is He remiss, negligent, careless or unaware of how the waiting seems to us. Actually, in the context of Second Peter chapter three, Jesus, speaking to His people through Apostle Peter calls us His beloved five times. In essence, He is using these terms of endearment - Darling, Sweetest, Precious, My adored one, much loved and cherished – to say, "I have not forgotten you." "How could I forget you whom I have engraved upon Myself?" "I have given My life for you – for us to be together. How could I forget what I've promised you?" "I know it's taking a long time, longer than you expected. I know you're disappointed, and weary, but remember I will never leave or forsake you, I will always love you. Just rest in Me, and I will carry the burden you're bearing, and fulfill My promise to you."
What if the Israelites had in heart gratitude, and thankfulness according to the Word (which is faith) seen this reality and accepted it? What a world of difference it would have made. And what if we, individually and collectively were to receive God's promises to us in this manner – what a testimony to God's (character of) love and faithfulness we'd be.
Delays almost always both test as well as display the character of the one(s) who are waiting. There were those who believed in the warning that a worldwide flood was coming. Yet when the flood came -- for various reasons, they entered not in. What could be said was the root cause? Unbelief. Perhaps they listened to the scoffers, and the skeptics (2 Peter 3:3-6) and came to disbelieve. Perhaps they were just weary and gave up. Whatever the case, because they did not believe, they were unable to take part in the promised deliverance -- the ark of safety.
I heard a story long ago, as to its credit, I do not know. However, it goes like this. "In 1776 the King of England, after a long day, and just before retiring to bed, wrote in His journal, "Nothing of any significance happened today." But that was the day that the Declaration of Independence had been signed (in America)."" Just because the fulfillment of the promise doesn't seem to be happening, doesn't mean that God has forgotten or is powerless.
We who are living in these last days would do well to note that the Word of God is His pledge to us. He has said it will not fail, but will prosper in the thing to which He sent it (Isa. 55:11). He has said He is God, forever the same, not a man who will lie (Num. 23:19). Therefore, let's not become weary in the well doing of waiting for Him (Gal. 6:9); He is, after all, faithful who has promised (Heb. 10:23).
As we look back through the history of the various stories in scripture (Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Jesus, and so forth), and our own history as a people, we can see that faith and feelings always part ways. Jesus Himself said that there were promises He longed to keep (healings, and teachings, etc.) but He could not because of the unbelief of the people. Faith is believing that the Word will do (exactly) what it has said it will do – without our help. So, while we wait longer than expected for what is to come, may we keep the faith of Jesus, not growing discouraged or dismayed with anxious care. May we, with anticipation and gratefulness, choose to accept and believe the Lord's promises despite what we see and hear around us. And may we allow the Lord to more fully enter into our hearts and minds, instead of hindering His Word in unbelief from fulfilling and finishing what indeed it said it will do.