God’s Clock

"Then the Lord said unto Abraham, Know for certain that thy seed shall dwell in the land of others, and be slave there, and shall be oppressed for four hundred years. But also to the nation to which they will serve, I will judge; and after this they will come out with great wealth ... And in the fourth generation they will come back here; because the evil of the Amorites has not yet come to its end." (Gen. 15:13-14, 16).

When God makes the covenant with which He will favor Abraham, his friend, and his offspring, he speaks to him of their future. He tells him that his descendants will be slaves, and that they will then leave the place of slavery with great wealth, and that He will then give them the land of Canaan in possession.

From these words it is clear that the future history of Israel would be associated with two nations, and more specifically, with God's judgments toward those nations. In Egypt they were to be slaves, but God would judge Egypt. Later, they would possess Canaan, but God would judge Canaan.

Because God is righteous, God does not send His judgments without there being a powerful enough cause. God could not judge Egypt and the Amorites if their wickedness had not reached its end. God would bless Israel in Egypt and Canaan, but His blessing would be associated with God's judgments for those peoples.

This illustrates a very important principle in God's work. God's movements with his people do not happen isolated of his movements with the rest of men and nations. God is linking everything perfectly, ordering the stage of the world wisely, so that God can give to each one accordingly. Some will receive blessings and others will receive judgments, according to the certain deliberate counsel of God.

God could not bring Israel out of Egypt unless Egypt's wickedness had filled God's patience, and judgments became necessary. Similarly, God could not bring the Canaanites down under the righteous whip of the Israelites, unless their wickedness had reached its limit.

When God ordains the great milestones of his people's history, He takes into account other men – and the simultaneous occurrence of acts of justice and grace that He has prescribed for them.

This has an application to our own present history. Two examples. Sometimes we pray for something specific, but we feel that God takes too long to respond to us. Sometimes it seems to us that the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ also takes too long, despite the insistent prayers of his people. When and how does God answer the prayers of his people?

When God decides to intervene in the lives of his children, he first orders the scenario in which they unfold, intertwines the specific facts with broader ones, matches acts of grace with others of justice, all in such a perfect order that nothing happens for free, but in the way God determines, and in the right time. His are what, how, and when he will work. Our gaze is often too narrow, and with it we sometimes misjudge God's action. But God's clock does not move as simply as ours.

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