Jesus declared boldly that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 3: 16)
Even though He testified to His disciples and to all of us today, His brothers through One Heavenly Father, many of us still try to make our own way and live the truth on our own.
That is not God's best. He came to serve us (Mark 10:45), for we can do nothing of ourselves without Him (John 15:5).
For this reason, too, God delays answering our prayers:
"Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." (3 John 2)
That is God's prayer for us, yet prosperity on the outside depends on prosperity in on the inside, in our soul, that we walk in the truth of the Gospel of His grace (3 John 3-4; Galatians 1:6; 2: 14)
If our soul is not grounded in His righteousness, if we are not fully persuaded of His love for us (Romans 8: 38-39), we will inevitably fall back into our own efforts, even when God blesses us, for we will think that we did something to earn it, and therefore must keep doing something in order to keep it.
Delay is not about our sins, for they have all been paid for at the Cross (Colossians 2:13-15) but rather about our flesh, man's natural tendency to depend on his efforts rather than Himself. Just as God made the fish from the waters of the sea, and thus they cannot operate outside of their original material, so too God man from Himself, in His image, and we cannot operate outside of Him.
God delays blessing us materially so that He can prepare the way for us, and also prepare us for the way.
Consider this delay, which was prophesied long before the Israelites would enter and take the entire Promised Land. While God was cutting the Covenant to bless Abram, his descendants, and the whole world, He shared a grim reality that would come:
|Israelites Enslaved in Egypt|
"13And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; 14And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. 15And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. 16But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." (Genesis 15: 13-16)
The LORD told Abram up front that his descendants would be slaves for four hundred years -- but that they would leave that land with great substance.
Why would they have to be slaves in Egypt? Some pastors submit that their deliverance was delayed because they were worshiping other gods.
And they were, as Joshua exposed to the Israelites after they had taken the Promised Land:
"Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD." (Joshua 24: 14)
"Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel." (Joshua 24: 23)
Incidentally, Joshua spoke these words to a new generation of Israelites, the descendants who had not rebelled against the gracious commandments of God to take the Promised Land.
Still, what did the LORD say to Abram? Why did they have to stay in Egypt?
"But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." (Genesis 15: 16)
First of all, let us be very clear: God did not put the Israelites into bondage, but they would serve in Egypt for four hundred years because the sin of the Amorites was not yet full, i.e. the enemies who had squatted on the Promised Land had not fulfilled their sin, their overwhelming, self-promoting pride.
What were they doing in the Promised Land, anyway?
They were building houses, digging wells, planting vineyards for the Israelites to inhabit, so that they would not have to do the work (and could not take credit for it, either):
"10And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, 11And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; 12Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage." (Deuteronomy 6: 10-12)
"When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which he hath given thee." (Deuteronomy 8: 10)
|We Enter the Promised Land By the Grace of God|
Not Our Effort
Remember what Jesus said to His disciples in John 11 regarding His delay:
"4When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. 5Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." (John 11: 4-5)
Jesus needed to be glorified, yet even in receiving glory, He is serving us, for we partake of His glory:
"But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:" (Ephesians 2: 4-6)
"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." (2 Peter 1: 4)
and of course:
"Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world." (1 John 4: 17)
Now, what would have likely happened if the Israelites had left Egypt right away, without the enslavement?
If the Israelites had walked out of Egypt right away, there would not have been many of them for God fight through, the land would not have been prepared for them, and they would not have been brought to a point of realizing that everything they need, they can get (and only get)
from God Almighty.
All of this provision is a picture of the fullness of God which we receive in Christ Jesus:
"For it pleased the Father that in him [Jesus] should all fulness dwell;" (1 Colossians 1: 19)
"21Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; 22Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; 23And ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's." (1 Corinthians 3: 21-23)
"31What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8: 31-32)
God delays because He does not want us to rely on our own strength, but His, so that we can freely receive all things from Him.
The children of Israel moaned because of their bondage:
"23And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. 24And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them." (Exodus 2: 23-25)
He does not want us to try and be strong in ourselves, because we have none:
"For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." (Philippians 3: 3)
"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:20)
"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." (Galatians 2: 16)
God delays so that we can see how great He is, and how He provides all things for us, and that we can add nothing of ourselves.
Whatever needs, frustrations, or lack you may face, there is a delay because He is preparing the way, a goodly land filled with all good things, from His hand, not from yours or mine, and He wants us to see Him as our total provision, not a sometime helper, but an ever-present help in time of need (Psalm 40: 1) on whom we cast all our cares (1 Peter 5: 6-7).