Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
Timing is everything. Timing is rarely what we want it to be. We have our ideas about when crucial events should play out in our lives and how it is all going to work, but rarely do our plans match those of God. In one passage today, God tells Abram, “now,” and in another Jesus tells some of the Apostles, “wait.” Neither command was particularly convenient for those receiving the directive (especially Peter), but they were right for God’s purposes.
In Genesis, God tells a 75-year-old Abram to pack up, leave the land he had settled with his father and move to a land he will be shown. The Lord promised the heretofore childless Abram that for following his directions he would make him the father of a nation and a blessing to all on the earth. The history does not give any account of whether Abram thought about it, only that he packed up all belongings and set off as directed. What prior interactions God and Abram had were not recorded as this passage marks the call of Abram into service with God.
At 75, Abram was a middle-aged man (his father lived to 205), apparently prosperous as a herder and settled into the land. This sounds like middle-age in our time: progressing in a career and settled down with family. Packing up everything and everyone and moving to a yet unseen location (on a “trust me, it’s going to be good”) would give most of us pause before accepting or rejecting the idea. Centuries later the writer of Romans cites Abram for his faith. God asked; Abram did. Neither Abram nor his immediate descendants saw the completion of the promise, yet God fulfilled the promise.
In Matthew, Jesus takes three of the Apostles with him on a private hike up a high mountain. Upon arriving, Jesus’s “God side” showed itself. His face and clothes shone. Just as suddenly as there was the change in Jesus, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus. Ever impulsive, Peter jumps in with the suggestion that he build tents so they can all stay there together. God jumps in, stopping Peter, and for the second time identifying Jesus as his son and giving the command that they listen to him.
When God spoke, the Apostles fell down in fear. When Jesus told them not to be afraid, they discovered that Jesus was back to normal and Moses and Elijah were gone. As they were leaving, Jesus directed them to tell no one of this encounter until after his resurrection (one of many times he mentioned that it would happen). I know that if I had been one of the Apostles with him, I would have been much like Peter, “This is the greatest thing ever, We’ve got to tell everyone!” But Jesus, knowing the plans for his earthly ministry, knew it was not time for him to be proclaimed as the Son of God. The time would come, but there was more left to do.
At 75, many would consider Abram to be past the time when God would begin to use him. The zeal of the Apostles at experiencing a transfigured Jesus, the historical figures Moses and Elijah, and the voice of God would seem to be the perfect time for Jesus to turn them loose and let them start spreading his gospel. In God’s time, it was time for Abram to begin his work. In God’s time, it was not time for the Apostles to reveal the encounter and identity of Jesus. We too, must be attuned to God’s time in our lives. When his direction comes, it will be exactly when needed.