Although we realise that God is different from us and so much more than we are, often we place our human limitations and thoughts in how we think of him. Two verses that should bring us back to our senses are found in 2 Peter 3.
“Now, dear friends, do not let this one thing escape your notice, that a single day is like a thousand years with the Lord and a thousand years are like a single day. The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8-9 NET)
There are two thoughts here that radically distinguish God from humans.
The first is that God does not view time as we do. For most of us when we were young time seemed to go by slowly, but as we get older it seems to accelerate and go by faster and faster. But God is eternal. From his perspective, time becomes a bit more relative: “a single day is like a thousand years with the Lord and a thousand years are like a single day”. (By the way, this is not a formula for calculating prophecies – and if a day is like a thousand years, don’t forget the corollary: a thousand years are also like a day.)
What does this say about God? If nothing else it tells us that he looks at time differently than we do. Which leads to the second thought: because God doesn’t view time as we do, his speed in doing things may be regarded by many as being slow.
Rather than slowness, we are reminded that it is God being patient. Do we really want him to act quickly when someone does something wrong? We might think the answer to that is ‘yes’, but do we want him acting quickly every time we do something wrong? We realise the need to correct what we do – we want time to change. This is what God extends to all people.
God does not delight in people dying in their sin. He wants all to “come to repentance” – he wants them to turn from their sin and choose to follow him. So it might seem from our perspective that he is taking too long to right some wrongs. But from God’s perspective, he is showing his love in giving people time to change their lives. Sadly, too many have no interest in changing. But God is still patient.
Rather than fretting over why God, in our opinion, takes so long, we need to be looking to ourselves. We need to “strive to be found at peace, without spot or blemish, when you come into his presence. And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation” (2 Peter 3:14-15).
Rather than worrying about what others are doing and what God is or isn’t doing, our concern should be to make sure that we are ready to be with the Lord. “Without spot or blemish” refers to Israel’s sacrifices under the Law. These sacrifices had to be the best, without any defects. This is what we should be concerned about: living for God so that we can present our lives to him as a perfect sacrifice.
We realise that this takes time. It takes time for others to change. It takes time for each of us to get our lives straightened out. We should regard the Lord’s patience as salvation – as providing time for us all to get ready to be with him.
No wonder Peter ended his letter this way: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the honor both now and on that eternal day” (2 Peter 3:18).
Readings for next week: 2 Peter 1-3; 1 John 1-3