One of the difficulties in obeying God are delays. When God delays more than we expect we tend to disobey. The reason we give for this disobedience is that God failed to meet us at our expected time.
There are a few things that should be noted about this. One fact is that we may never know the reason for the delay. The second fact is that when we act without waiting for God it proclaims that we distrust Him. And thirdly, the disobedient act of ours is costly. It can cause God’s blessing to be removed from us and can bring His judgment on us.
The Bible gives us two classical examples which reflect the truth that delays can cause people to disobey.
Reflection 1: Aaron
(Exodus 24 and 32)
Moses had gone up to meet God on Mount Sinai. He went at God’s invitation. When he went he told the elders of Israel to wait there by the mountain till he and Joshua came back to them (These elders were earlier given the privileged opportunity to see God on the mountain.).
He also asked them to have all their disputes settled by going to Aaron and Hur while he was absent. With these words Moses went up the mountain. God called Moses on the seventh day and he was with God another forty days and forty nights. All this while the cloud of God’s glory looking like a consuming fire covered the mountain.
While God was making known His commandments to Moses, the people in the camp grew impatient. The reason was that Moses was taking “so long” in coming down the mountain. So they went to Aaron and asked him to make gods who will go before them. The reason they gave for this was that they did not know what had happened to Moses.
Aaron fell in to their pressure. He requested them to give him their gold ornaments and he fashioned a golden calf and declared it the god who brought them out of Egypt. Aaron also announced a festival.
When God saw all this he asked Moses to go down to the people at once. He also wanted to destroy the people immediately. Only Moses’ prayer made God show mercy. When Moses came down he saw the people running wild and indulging in revelry.
Then he threw the stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God out of his hands and broke them to pieces. He also destroyed the golden calf in the fire. Then the Levites killed about three thousand people who had led in the sinning.
Again Moses went up to God to plead for mercy. God promised mercy but also said that He will punish them when the right time comes.
As we look at this incident we find that the long delay of forty days had really tired down these people. They made it an excuse to give free play to their base desires.
While God was giving Moses the command that they were not supposed to make any images to bow down and worship them as god; here were the people making a golden calf and declaring it to be god.
The root cause of this problem was their lack of tolerance of the delay. They never knew that this delay was not deliberate. But that during this time God was giving the laws that were for their good. If they had waited with patience they would not have brought God’s judgment upon themselves.
Reflection 2: Saul
(1 Samuel 10:8 and 13:3–15)
Saul was anointed king of Israel by Samuel the Prophet. After giving him the first instructions of things that were to happen to him immediately, Samuel gave Saul a final instruction. Samuel asked Saul to go ahead of him to Gilgal. He promised Saul that he would come to sacrifice offerings there.
But the most important instruction was that Saul had to wait for seven days before this offering could be made and further instructions given.
When the specified time was coming to a close there was no sign of Samuel. And there was another immediate problem waiting to be resolved. The Philistines had assembled to attack the Israelites for Saul’s son Jonathan had attacked their outpost.
Now many of the Israelites went to hiding because they saw that their army had no chance against the Philistines. Also, the troops that were with Saul at Gilgal were quaking with fear!
In such a difficult situation, Saul waited for Samuel the seven days; the time that Samuel had set. But Samuel did not arrive. And Saul’s men began to scatter. So Saul asked for the offerings to be brought to him. Then he offered them.
Just as he finished offering them; Samuel arrived. When Saul was asked about what he had done he replied that he felt compelled to offer the burnt offering when he saw the Philistine armies gathered against him and his own troops scattering.
Samuel told him that he had acted foolishly because he did not keep the command of the Lord to wait till Samuel arrived. Also Samuel told Saul that his kingdom will not endure because of this; but will be transferred to another man after God’s own heart.
As we look back at this incident we find that Saul was chosen by God as king. And the most important instruction given to him at that time was to wait seven days at Gilgal. There Samuel would meet him at the appointed time to sacrifice offerings. But Saul offered the sacrifices himself and thus moved out of God’s blessings on his life.
The problem with Saul was that he could not wait a little more longer. More importantly, he was not given authority by God to do what Samuel was to do. Thus he disobeyed God’s word. This happened because of the very small delay that occurred on Samuel’s part. By acting in disobedience because of the delay Saul lost his kingdom to another person.
The most important application of the delays frustrating disobedience is that human reasoning is not the right solution to God’s delays. It is when we apply our human reasoning to topple what God has commanded us that we run into deep trouble. Therefore delays are not reasons to disobey what God has commanded.
Another thing is that delays are not easy for us to handle. So we have to take extra precautions to keep trusting in God even when He does not seem to act. We might expect God to act before a particular time. Usually it is a time we would have set ourselves.
Something like, “I expect God to do this for me before the end of this financial year!” But God has His own time. He acts at the right time. What seems as delays to us are not reasons to disobey.
Again, we should count the cost. The Israelites paid dearly for their idol worship. This tendency in them never died down completely. As a nation we find that one of the sins that made them slide down the slippery slope of destruction was idol worship. It all started when they could not tolerate delay.
Similarly Saul lost an enduring kingdom because he could not a wait a little longer. Thus disobedience due to delay is costly.
Finally, the saddest element in both these stories is that a little patience on their part could have saved them. Since the people could visibly see God’s presence on the mountain; they could have waited a little longer and Moses would have come down with God’s blessings for them.
In Saul’s case it is even more dramatic. Samuel arrived just as Saul finished making the offering. He could have waited for some more time.
Therefore let us wait a little while longer. Let us not act according to human reasoning when God delays. Let us also count the cost of disobedience due to delays. The message therefore is, “At all costs, wait for God!” He will come at the right time!