Thursday, September 22, 2011

 Waiting & Watching

Deus habit horas et moras”  ("God has his hour and delay”)Latin Proverb

Ethiopia and Egypt were in league, seeking an alliance with Assyria, endangering Judah and Jerusalem. Judah’s plight was desperate, yet God said to Isaiah, “I will wait, and I will watch…”
His stillness was not acceptance of this conspiracy; he was bidding his time (Isaiah 18:1-7)..

I think of Jesus—watching his disciples struggle against the waves on Lake Galilee; waiting for three days while Lazarus languished in the grave. Was he unaware? Did he care? Of course he cared! He was watching and waiting for the right time.

The Bible is filled with God’s delays, many of which are inexplicable from our point of view. Yet, every delay flows from the depths of his wisdom and love. If nothing else, delay, if we accept it, can produce the quieter virtues— humility, patience, endurance, and persistence in well doing—those qualities of life that are the last to be learned. But, “in the fullness of time,” to use that good old biblical refrain, God will arise for our salvation. “We ‘wait for the morning,’ which is to say that we wait in hope. We wait while we are being ‘ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven’” (Eugene Petterson, The Jesus Way.)

Are you in distress? Does our Lord seem distant and detached? He is not indifferent to your plight, nor is he unmoved by your pleas. He is watching and waiting while his purposes are achieved in you and in others. Then, at the right moment—in this life or the next—he will appear (Isaiah 18:5-7).[1] “God is never in a hurry, but he is always on time.”[2]


[1] The imagery is that of a wise vinedresser who knows the proper time of the year to prune his vines. God thus bides his time until the appropriate moment to prune away those who oppose his purposes.
[2] Someone said this years ago and it stuck in my mind.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


“We’re safe,” said Ford, after his first ever teleport transfer (and discovering that he and Arthur had been transported onto the bridge of an enemy space ship). “Ah,” said Arthur, “this is obviously some strange usage of the word ‘safe’ that I wasn’t previously aware of.”

—Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Spring of Gihon lies on the eastern flank of Mount Zion and, in Hezekiah’s day, was outside the walls of Jerusalem. Foreseeing a siege by the Assyrian army, and knowing that the location of the spring was the city’s weakest point, Hezekiah drove a shaft from the spring through solid rock and directed the water inside the walls to the Pool of Siloam. He then closed off the “old pool” (the Spring of Gihon) and built a second wall to enclose it. Thus Hezekiah made Jerusalem safe (2 Chronicles32:30).

Isaiah observed: “You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to its Maker, nor did you have respect for Him who fashioned it (the old pool) long ago” (Isaiah 22:11). The irony of the project was that God, who fashioned the Spring of Gihon, deliberately placing it outside the walls to made Jerusalem vulnerable to a siege![1]

As it turned out, Hezekiah’s fail–safe water system was wasted effort. God delivered the city in a way that had nothing to do with human endeavor. You can read the story for yourself in 2 Chronicles 32.[2]

It comes to this: God creates weakness that we may become strong. Our physical, mental, and emotional limitations were fashioned long ago that “we might not rely on ourselves but on God” (2 Corinthians 1:9). Our limitations constrain us to cast ourselves wholly on God. In this way, his infinite resources become ours. Unqualified dependence, thus, is the only place of safety.

Paul, who was fond of paradox, put it this way: “When I am weak then I am strong” (1 Corinthians 12:10). We’re most safe when we’re most vulnerable—“obviously some strange usage of the word safe,’” I must say.


[1] The Old Pool and the vertical shaft that rose from it were, in fact, the means by which David gained access to the old Jebusite citadel of Jerusalem when it was in the hands of the Canaanites (2 Samuel  5:6-10).
[2] Chris and Ted Stewart, in their book, The Miracle of Freedom: Seven Tipping Points that Saved the World, make this an event that saved Western Civilization from paganism.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


“Do you know how the clouds are balanced...?” (Job 37:16)

One day, many years ago, my boys and I were lying on our backs in the yard watching the clouds drift by. “Dad,” one child asked, “why do clouds float?”

“Well, son,” I began, intending to give him the benefit of my knowledge, but then I lapsed into silence. I realized he had asked one of those questions for which you have an answer until you’re asked. “I don’t know,” I admitted, “but I’ll find out for you.”

The scientific answer, I discovered, is that condensed moisture, descending by gravity, meets warmer temperatures rising from the land, that dissipate the moisture into vapor, the tendency of which is to ascend because it is lighter than the surrounding air. That’s a natural explanation for the phenomenon.

But natural explanations are penultimate answers; “grace perfects nature,” as medieval theologians used to say: “We see things more clearly when we see their ultimate origin.” Clouds float because God, in kind hearted wisdom has ordered the natural laws in such a way that they reveal the “awesome works of Him who is perfect in knowledge” (Job 37:16b). Clouds, then, become a kind of sacrament—an outward and visible sign of God’s goodness and grace.

So, when you‘re making castles in the sky remember that the one who made all things beautiful makes the clouds float through the air. He does so to call us to wonder and adoration.

“O LORD, how manifold are your works! in wisdom you have made them all: the earth is full of your riches” (Psalms 104:24).


Afterthought: I’m reminded of a story I read years ago about nineteenth century English writer Harriet Martineau who was something of an atheist. One day, reveling in the beauty of an autumn morning she burst out, “Oh, I’m so grateful!”—to which her believing companion replied, “Grateful to whom, my dear?”

Ferns Each will be like a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place, like the sh...