Sunday, September 04, 2016

The Patience of God

In Isaiah, also sometimes called the "book of consolation," we read, "Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you." (Isaiah 30)  What is God waiting for?  Why does he wait?  We might initially think that God waits for us.  Maybe he's waiting for us to do something, show some sign of goodness however small so that he can, in turn, be gracious.   The chapter however, and indeed, the entire book of Isaiah, militates against any such conclusion.  In Isaiah, people are not capable of goodness, even their righteous deeds are "filthy rags"(64:6) and "all we like sheep have gone astray." (53:6)  No, the Lord isn't waiting for us to do something, he is waiting because he is patient and has something in mind for us so wonderful that we cannot even imagine it. (I Cor. 2:9)  He is waiting for the right time to show us his grace.  Think of Abraham and Sarah.  Certainly God wanted to give them a child in their youth. Had he, however, given Abraham and Sarah a child at the normal time, they would have rejoiced but chalked up the gift of baby Isaac to normal life.  God did not give Abraham and Sarah a baby in their twenties or their thirties, instead he waited until Abraham was ninety-nine years old and Sarah was ninety before he gave them Isaac.  He "waited to be gracious to them."  Only in this way could he give them not only a little baby to love but also the most precious gift of all, to know God for whom nothing is too difficult. (Gen. 6) The Lord God is always with us but sometimes he waits in faith and patience for the right time to show us his grace. And as if that were not enough good news, he give us this faith and patience too.(Isaiah 55:3)  But there is even more, so often the faith and patience that he gives us is not for ourselves but for someone else.  In the church I have found that time and time again it is someone else's faith and patience that sustains me in the trials of life. How many times has someone, in effect, laid a comforting hand on my shoulder saying, "steady on, your prayers will be answered, steady on, hold fast." We are supported and saved by other peoples' faith and patience and then we hope to return the favor. This is why God puts us in his assembly, so that you can save me and I can save you right back. (Romans 1, I Chron. 19:12)