The healthy Christian is not necessarily the extrovert, ebullient Christian,
but the Christian
who has a sense of God’s presence stamped deep on his soul,
who trembles at God’s word,
who lets it dwell in him richly by constant meditation upon it,
and who tests and reforms his life daily in response to it.
— J. I. Packer (A Quest for Godliness)
“The days are prolonged and every vision comes to nothing” (Ezekiel 12:22, NRSV). This bold statement had been spoken so often by the Israelites, it was known as a proverb. We have an adage that expresses the same idea: “He’s all talk, no action”.
Can you imagine the nerve of the Israelites from God’s perspective? They were essentially saying that God never follows through on his promises. They have heard words of doom and gloom from the prophets—along with plenty of false-hope from the soothsayers—but nothing was happening.
True, many of the Israelites were now in exile, but that didn’t seem to dampen their cynicism. In their spiritually inept state, they probably assumed that their God was just not powerful enough to save them.
. . .
As absurd as this situation sounds, it happened often in scripture and is still happening today. Listen to what people said in Malachi’s day:
You have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “All who do evil are good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?” (Malachi 2:17, NRSV)
The post-exilic Israelites saw wicked people prospering, and assumed that God was pleased with wickedness, or at least impotent to stop it.
In the early church, Peter had to address a similar situation. When Jesus ascended after the resurrection, two men in white promised the Galileans that he would return. A couple decades later, people began to wonder where he was. Peter advised:
The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, NRSV).
. . .
We have this same disease today. Wicked people become rich and famous by trampling on the poor. We wonder if God even notices. Jesus has not returned to earth (yet), and we wonder if he ever plans on showing up.
In our defense, we are creatures of time. It’s terribly difficult to understand how God paints his justice on the canvas of history—while we measure time in seconds.
. . .
Eternal God, help us to tremble at your word and to never take it for granted. Remind us again that your time is not ours. In Jesus’ name, Amen.