God's Perfect Timing
God has his own sense of timing: ‘With the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day’ (2 Peter 3:8, AMP). He has perfect timing: never early, never late. God is never in a hurry, but he is always on time.
We see in today’s passages that the Lord is sovereign over the future (Daniel 4:32). ‘We are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth’ (2 Peter 3:13). God is going to vindicate his people (Psalm 135:14).
But what do we do while we are waiting for God to do what he has promised to do?
1. Trust in the Lord
When your prayers don’t seem to be answered, you may be tempted to stop trusting the Lord and start chasing other ‘gods’.
Trusting in the Lord may seem a little old fashioned. But the psalmist says, ‘God, your name is eternal, God, you’ll never be out-of-date’ (v.13, MSG).
The great biblical truth is that you become like that in which you put your trust. If you put your trust in ‘gods’ of silver or gold, then you will be like them – spiritually lifeless, blind and deaf (Psalm 135:16–18). If you trust in God, you will be filled with life and joy as you become like him.
Keep trusting God, ‘For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants’ (v.14). ‘God stands up for his people, God holds the hands of his people’ (v.14, MSG). Hence, the psalmist calls the people of God to praise and fear the Lord (vv.19–21).
You need to remain totally dependent on God and look for him to vindicate you. When things aren’t working out as you wish, be patient. Stop trying to move ahead of God. His timing is perfect. Trust him.
Lord, thank you that you vindicate your people and have compassion on your servants. Help me to trust in you, worship you alone and to become like you – full of love, joy and peace.
2. Turn to the Lord
2 Peter 3:1–18
When we look at all the evil in the world – all the wars, violence, institutional torture, horrific crimes and the amount of suffering – we might wonder why Jesus does not come back now and sort it all out.
Why does God delay? Why has the Lord not returned already?
Peter warns us that people will mock us and say, ‘So what’s happened to the promise of his Coming?’ (v.4, MSG). He says there is a very good reason for the delay. The reason that the Lord has not come already is to give people more time to repent.
God is not in a hurry. ‘With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day’ (v.8).
God is not being slow in keeping his promise. Rather, the delay comes from his patience: ‘He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’ (v.9). ‘God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change’ (v.9, MSG).
Repentance is all about a change of direction in our lives. It is turning away from all the bad stuff in our lives and turning to Jesus. By giving people time to repent God is lovingly holding the door open for their salvation. ‘Interpret our Master’s patient restraint for what it is: salvation’ (v.15, MSG).
This theme of salvation is one of the great themes of Paul’s letters, and so at this point Peter refers to them. I find it encouraging that he describes them as sometimes ‘hard to understand’ (v.16) – if we struggle to understand them, we now know we are in good company!
Significantly, Peter then goes on to compare them with the Old Testament (‘the other scriptures’, v.16). In doing so, he demonstrates that the early church and apostles understood the New Testament writings as having the same divine authority as those of the Old Testament.
The Lord will come at a time when we don’t expect him (‘like a thief’, v.10). The world as we know it will be ‘laid bare’ (v.10). There will be ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (v.13). The New Testament vision of the future is not so much of people ‘going up to heaven’ – rather it is that there will be ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (v.13).
Despite the mockers who scoff at the delay in Jesus’ return, you can trust that it will take place and that the ‘new heaven’ and the ‘new earth’ is a certain future hope. Again and again, Peter points out that God is faithful to his word and his promises (vv.2,5,7,9,13). The truth is that what God says will definitely happen.
The way to prepare for this certain, but delayed, future is ‘to live a holy life’ and ‘daily expect the Day of God, eager for its arrival’ (v.11, MSG), and ‘be found living at your best, in purity and peace’ (v.14, MSG), and to ‘grow in grace and understanding of our Master and Saviour, Jesus Christ’ (v.18, MSG).
Grace is undeserved love. You grow in grace as you turn to the Lord, dependent on him in every situation you face, bringing your needs to him day by day, as you eagerly expect his return.
Lord, thank you for your amazing love and patience. Thank you that you don’t want anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance. As I await your coming, help me to turn to you, to live a holy and godly life and to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with you.
3. Thank the Lord
Pride comes before a fall – as I have discovered many times in my life. Everything we have comes from God. We are dependent upon him for our next breath. He is in control of the past, present and future. Thanksgiving prompts humility.
‘When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude’, wrote G. K. Chesterton.
It is relatively easy to pass on a message of encouragement from the Lord. It is less easy to convey a message of rebuke. Daniel found it perplexing and alarming, but he was obedient to the Lord (4:19 onwards).
The mistake Nebuchadnezzar made, and that all of us possibly make from time to time, is to think that what he had achieved was all his own doing: ‘Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?’ (v.30). Be wary of using ‘I’ and ‘my’ in this way!
The lesson that God had to teach Nebuchadnezzar, and sometimes has to teach us, is that everything you have is a gift from God – ‘the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes’ (v.32).
Our spiritual gifts, bodies, families, homes, intellect, looks, money, sporting abilities – are all gifts from God. Your reaction to any success should not be one of pride or self-congratulation, but one of praise and thanks to God – honouring him and exalting him for what he has given you (vv.34–37).
Nebuchadnezzar took things for granted and failed to give thanks and glory to the Lord for what the Lord had done for him. Rather, he saw it all as the work of his own hands.
When Nebuchadnezzar was restored he realised that everything he had came from God. Instead of taking the glory himself, he thanked and glorified God, ‘singing and praising the King of Heaven’ (vv.34–37, MSG).
Humility does not mean pretending that you do not have what you have, but rather it means recognising the source of what you have, and giving the praise where it is due: ‘Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just’ (v.37).
His testimony is summed up with these words, ‘He knows how to turn a proud person into a humble man or woman’ (v.37b, MSG).
Daniel says to Nebuchadnezzar, ‘So, king, take my advice: Make a clean break with your sins and start living for others. Quit your wicked life and look after the needs of the down-and-out. Then you will continue to have a good life’ (v.27, MSG).
The next generation did not learn the lessons of the past. King Belshazzar broke the command to worship God alone, and ‘praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone’ (5:4).
As with Nebuchadnezzar, beneath the surface there was a deep-rooted fear in Belshazzar’s life – he did not have peace with God. Both were warned by God and told what to do. The difference is that Nebuchadnezzar repented, humbled himself, acknowledged and thanked God, whereas Belshazzar did not.
Daniel himself was ‘well known for his intellectual brilliance and spiritual wisdom’ (v.11, MSG). He was full of the Holy Spirit. There must have been a great temptation to pride. Yet Daniel remained humbly dependent on God, giving him all the glory and honour and thanksgiving.
Lord, thank you that you are in charge of this universe and everything we have comes from you. I want to give you all the praise and honour and glory.
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