Meditations in 2 Peter : 29: Understand Waiting
2 Pet 3:8,9 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
We’re not at the climax of Peter’s argument yet, but we are getting near it. Let’s recap the whole picture because it is important that we hold on to it: Peter is reminding his readers again, of the basics of salvation, of the fact of it being prophesied in the Old Testament and then fulfilled in Jesus and testified to by the apostles. These basics we need to hold on to especially in the face of sceptics who, for personal rather than intellectual reasons, look at something like the second coming of Jesus and deny it and use that to undermine all of the Gospel.
So Peter has arrived at this part where he is arguing against those who might say, “Well God isn’t turning up, Jesus clearly isn’t coming back, so that casts doubt on all you say.” He has just pointed out that history clearly shows that God takes His time when He wants to and linked the facts of the past Flood with the end time judgment. Now he caps that with this principle laid down in these two verses, a principle which is vital for us to remember. In fact Peter starts out these verses with that exhortation: “Do not forget this one thing.” He wants us to really hang on to this particular principle. If you ever memorize Bible verses, these are two worth memorising.
Let’s break these verses down. He starts with a basic fact about God: “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” The Lord is outside of time and perhaps a helpful picture used by someone in the past is of him looking down on a time line from above. He does step into it when it suits Him but mostly it is like He looks down on it and so He sees it all. From His perspective a day is the same as a thousand years, He sees it all and, implied from that, He is under no pressure to act for He sees the whole picture and knows exactly what is best and how it will work out. What rather stretches our minds is that He also steps into this time line constantly and involves Himself with the affairs of mankind to bring about His purposes. He will not force the free will of human beings but He will work in and around them to help us along, even if we are being resistant and remain resistant.
But then comes a statement of understanding: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.” If we think He is slow in turning up, it simply means we don’t understand Him, we haven’t got the big picture and we haven’t understood His purposes. Then comes the crucial climax to these two verses (not to the whole argument though): “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Yes, that is the truth of it. If God wasn’t patient with us, He would judge us straight away and destroy us without waiting – but He does wait. He waits to give us time to come to our senses to realise the truth and to turn to Him. That is His objective! And that is why He waits and that is why He appears to be doing nothing. Always remember what the Lord said through Ezekiel: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezek 18:23) and “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (Ezek 18:32) He doesn’t want to kill us, He wants us to turn back to Him and live, and for that to happen, He knows that often He must give us time. So He waits, and He waits and He waits. This is not the picture of an impotent God who cannot do things on this earth, who cannot deal with the humans on it. No, this is the picture of a gracious and merciful God who wants to give as much time as possible so that human beings will come to their senses and turn to Him.
So when silly people say that Jesus second coming clearly won’t happen, explain that anything that they consider a delay is simply God giving His world a chance to repent. Be under no illusions: Jesus will return and that will be a time of the judgment of all things. If God gives you another day and you are not a believer, it is an opportunity for you to reconsider and turn to Him. It may be you only have one more day, because all this applies not only to Jesus’ return, but also to how many days you have on this earth, for that too is an unknown time. Don’t waste it! Your time is limited!
For others of us struggling with waiting for something to happen, realise that sometimes the Lord purposely delays so that we will have a longer learning opportunity. Every time we have to wait for something is an opportunity to think and learn about God’s ways and to establish our faith more deeply. So if you are feeling frustrated over something, pray, “Lord, give me the gift of perseverance, but may it also be grounded in understanding. Please find in me a teachable heart and help me to have one.”