One of the greatly beloved older saints in our church often likes to remind us young whippersnappers in Jesus that “We serve the God of the eleventh hour. He is never late, but He is seldom early.”
Now every time he says this something in me catches.
I have to ask, “Why not? Why is God seldom early?”
I don’t know about you but I was always taught ‘early is excellent”. My dad (who was a small business owner) prized timeliness and applauded those who could make it to work early. On time got you no extra points. Late got you fired. In my growing-up world there was no “fashionably late”. You were early or an inconvenience.
The Book of Habakkuk got me thinking along these lines today. The prophet writes these words from God in Chapter two of his book:
“”Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” Hab. 2:2,3 NIV
What is God saying to the prophet?
Basically He is saying, “I have appointed a time for the end of things and its coming soon…sort of.”
He’s announcing “I am the God of the eleventh hour. I am never late, but seldom early.”
Maybe my penchant for earliness is not as important to God as it is to me. Maybe sometimes early isn’t excellent. Maybe sometimes it’s just anal. Maybe God prizes patience more than He cares about everything getting started on our human time-table.
Now I am not saying that we should become lax in our personal work habits. I’m not saying it’s O.K. with God to be late for work every morning. But in our work-a-day world hurry and worry have become the mottos of our culture. We rush. We organize. We try to keep up with the Jones’. We pile more and more into our schedules and in the midst we miss out on the “wait for it” part.
“The church has been waiting for the coming of the Lord for two thousand years.” we reason.
Some of us are now saying “If God’s going to make me wait for Him, He can just wait for me when it’s time to go. If He wanted me to be ready He should have come earlier.”
We’ve crowded out prayer and study and all vestiges of waiting in favor of “living life to the fullest”. We’ve gotten so caught up in the world and its fast pace many of us are going to run right past the rapture. We have become the foolish virgins of Matthew 25 because we’ve replaced prayer with human activity. We’ve stopped going to church so we can watch football or work an extra shift. We’ve given up prayer time so we can hit Dunkin on our way out-of-town or watch NCIS once we’ve gotten back in. We’ve given up Bible study so the kids can play soccer and we’ve cut out our personal Bible reading in favor of listening to the latest shock jock on the commute. Where’s the “wait for it” that God commanded us to have in Habakkuk 2:3?
Now that I look at it, I guess there’s a certain genius in God being an eleventh hour God. He has now waited long enough to see who’s really interested.
“Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” Hab. 2:3 NIV