39. God of Times & Seasons

Getting to Know God Meditations:  39. God of Times & Seasons

Eccles 3:1   There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

Songs 8:4   I charge you: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.

Jn 7:6  Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do.

Gal 4:4  when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son

Gal 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

And So? Let’s declare it from the outset – God is never in a rush.  This God we have been considering, who we have said more than once is all-knowing and all-wise, knows exactly what is going on, what causes stuff to happen, how long things will take and when things will happen. And because of this, God is patient, He waits and He waits: “he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9)

The enigma of time: Time is a mystery or a philosophical construct or a philosophical bind. It is taken for granted but also causes speculation so that ‘time-travel’ has been a good source of writing and films. But in this modern day, we are ever aware of ‘the time’ whether it is to clock-in at work at the right time, to turn on the TV at a right time, or to get to the airport to have the right time to get processed before your flight. Time is simply the space awareness we have between one activity and another. We say, “We have just an hour before we need to leave for the meal out,” and within that ‘hour’ we know we have a number of things to do and each of them will take ‘time’.

Time involves Process: Eccles 3:1-8 is a great source for meditation but it speaks of appropriate or right times to do various things, but when it comes to the process we need to go to Isaiah as he chides the people and implies that God take His time and has a time for everything: “Listen to me now. Give me your closest attention. Do farmers plough and plough and do nothing but plough? Or harrow and harrow and do nothing but harrow? After they’ve prepared the ground, don’t they plant?…. They know exactly what to do and when to do it.(Isa 28:23-26)  Farming is a process, it takes time and varied activities to bring about a harvest. Gardeners learn this thing as well; they are constant season watchers. They may put bulbs in during October, say, but realize they won’t see any signs of growth until March perhaps. To be a gardener you have to learn patience. Parents know that children are not good with patience: “Are we almost there yet?”   Are we like little children with God sometimes, I wonder? Solomon understood this when he wrote the Song of Songs and penned, “I charge you: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.”   It takes a while for love to build so often, and it is a foolhardy suitor who seeks to rush it. There is a process even within relationships.

God is Patient: Earlier in this series we considered the God of Purpose and we considered His activities and words in respect of Israel, providing a nation for the world through which He could reveal Himself, a nation into which He could send His Son. From the time He spoke to Abram about blessing the world through him, and the fulfillment through His Son, was roughly two thousand years. In our perspective God is not in a rush. If you really want to put time in perspective consider what today’s world-watchers say; according to one history book on my shelves, there have been 31.7 billion years since ‘the Big Bang’. If they are right that is a long time – indeed a time that we cannot possibly comprehend. It is utterly meaningless to the human mind. But if they are right, God is certainly not in a rush. (Perhaps He was doing lots of other things in that time we know nothing about!!!!!)

Frustration: Frustration follows impatience. We want things to happen NOW! We struggle to cope with delay, even though we know time has just got to pass, a process has got to be allowed to work through. For God, revealing things through Israel, it necessitated each player in Israel’s history to live out their time, day by day, hour by hour, so that they be allowed to build their testimony. Often we find the scribes writing such things as, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not as his father David had done. In everything he followed the example of his father Joash,” (2 Kings 14:3) here referring to Amaziah. Those few simple words, “as his father David had done,” refer back to pages of testimony about David’s life, but he had to live it out before it could be said. So it was of each king, years passing in which testimony was built, and all the while God watches patiently. God is patient, He doesn’t get frustrated like we do.

Jesus, the example: Jesus, the Son of God, must be the prime example of divine patience and order. Again and again he indicates that he is moving according to a divine plan and would not, therefore, be rushed into anything prematurely. Our verse above from Jn 7 was from a time when his brothers were encouraging him to go to Jerusalem for publicity sake, but he resists that motivation. At a wedding in Cana in Galilee when the wine ran out, his mother sought to involve him but his response was, “My hour has not come,” (Jn 2:4) or, “This isn’t my time. Don’t push me.” (Msg paraphrase) Although in both cases he did respond in the way suggested, his immediate response indicates he was not going to let even closest family conclude they could dictate his activity. Later he was to explain, “The Son can’t independently do a thing, only what he sees the Father doing. What the Father does, the Son does.” (Jn 5:19 Msg) The Son’s activity and timing was governed by what he sensed his Father was leading him to do, not what others wanted him to do.

Our Gal 4:4 quote comes over well in the Message paraphrase: “But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son…” which very much matches what we’ve just seen Jesus himself saying. In a previous study we noted that there were a number of things in history that showed that that time was the very best time for the gospel to be spread across the Roman world. Within that same letter, Paul encouraged us to persevere with life because a time of harvest will come in our lives if we do press on and persevere. Timing is all important and even as we commented about there being a right time for a harvest for the farmer, so sometimes we just have to wait for various things to either fall into place or come to fruition before the good comes that we have been praying and waiting for.

God’s Seasons: We should perhaps note, as we conclude this study, that when you observe the history of the Church there have been various phases or seasons but mostly, in the ordinary, everyday run of the mill order of things, they tend to be determined by how we respond to God. The years following Jesus’ ascension were clearly years of blessing as the early Church moving under the power of the Spirit continued the works of Jesus.  The further on and away from that day, as history progressed, it seemed that much of that died away even though the Church was flourishing. Although many of the following centuries were mostly spiritually dark, historians do observe that there were pockets of blessing throughout much of the past two thousand years.

These days? After 1517 when Luther nailed up his 95 theses, the Reformation restored Scripture to its proper place in the life of individuals and the church. More centuries passed before, in 1906, the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, restored the life and ministry of the Holy Spirit to the fore, although it did not cross denominational boundaries until in the 1960’s the Charismatic Movement restored Holy Spirit life for the individual, with also a new teaching restoring the ministry of ‘the body of Christ.  These were clearly seasons of God when He moved on individuals to restore His Word and Spirit to the lives of His people. What is interesting is that these were not revivals.

Revivals? The characteristics of true revival were described by Duncan Campbell of the Hebridean 1949 revival: “God moves in the district. Suddenly, the community becomes God conscious. The Spirit of God grips men and women in such a way that even work is given up as people give themselves to waiting upon God. In the midst of the Lewis Awakening, the parish minister at Barvas wrote, “The Spirit of the Lord was resting wonderfully on the different townships of the region. His Presence was in the homes of the people, on meadow and moorland, and even on the public roads.” This presence of God is the supreme characteristic of a God-sent revival. Of the hundreds who found Jesus Christ during this time fully seventy-five per cent were saved before they came near a meeting or heard a sermon by myself or any other ministers in the parish. The power of God, the Spirit of God, was moving in operation, and the fear of God gripped the souls of men – this is God-sent revival as distinct from special efforts in the field of evangelism.”

When does a revival occur (and a number have through the period of Church history)? When God decides. Often it seems at low social or low moral times, usually preceded by a burden of prayer but these times that have occurred in history, just like the three years of Jesus’ ministry, cannot be explained as a human phenomenon but only as an act of God. They last for limited periods of time and appear as God intervenes in history, mostly in the lives of His people (renewals) but sometimes community-wide (revivals) as and when He sees that His testimony in the world needs strengthening.

And us? We have sought to show again and again that God is patient and God works not only sovereignly but through the way He inspires and empowers individuals. That inspiration and empowering is available for every believer in greater or lesser degrees. The ‘greater degrees’ tends to be a work in the individual who is wholly committed to God and open to receive and respond to whatever God has for them. That is true for all of us, it just depends on how open we will be to Him. The challenge is always there, will I be open to be used by Him if He comes in a fresh way to empower us by His Spirit in either renewal or revival? May He find us open and available.

3. Not a Lonely Machine (2)

Meditations in Meaning & Values   3:  Not a Lonely Machine (2)

Eccles 1:12-14  I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

In the previous meditation we considered the idea of some modern philosophers that the world is merely a machine that keeps on going, which is what Solomon was saying in the opening verses of Ecclesiastes. We also noted the deist viewpoint that God made it and then stepped away and left this ‘machine’ to run on its own.   But we considered that this world had a beginning, a personal beginning at God’s hands, and it will also have an end, also at His hands. In the meantime there is this wonderful world for us to enjoy. But there are two other aspects of all this to be considered, seasons and the God who intervenes.

Let’s consider Seasons first.  In his jaded outlook Solomon would have us believe that the world keeps on without any change  but in reality that is not true, we have Seasons which mean there is constant change. Some parts of the world – e.g. the Tropics – have a lesser sense of seasons than others. Our own latitude means we have clear and distinct seasons so Spring heralds fresh life, Summer sees an abundance of that life and fruitfulness, and then Autumn sees a clearing away of that abundance so Winter is a bare season, and yet within it, life is building up to burst out again in Spring.

Now if you are jaded you will see the seasons as monotonous but within that ‘monotony’ there is a reassurance; it will come round again, there will be a time of fresh fruitfulness to bring forth a new harvest, fresh provision without which we could not exist. But then as we hinted above, there are different seasons or rather expressions of the same seasons across the world which is why our season of fruitfulness may come to an end, but we’re still able to import fruit from elsewhere in the world. Our summer is Australia’s winter. In this modern world of good transportation, so many fruit and vegetables are now available to us throughout the year. So yes, seasons come regularly but at different times around the globe, a regularity with variety.

The second thing we need to consider, we said, was the fact of a God who intervenes. Quite contrary to the atheistic position that simply sees the world as a closed machine, or the deist position that sees the world as a machine and God sitting outside of it having nothing to do with it, the Bible shows a completely different reality. The atheist and the deist only see a lonely machine just puttering on for ever and ever on its own, and Solomon almost appears a deist in his view of the world. The reality as the Bible reveals it, and Christian experience confirms, is that God may be outside His world and, unlike the pantheist view, the world is separate and distinct from him, but that doesn’t mean He is not in it. This is the amazing biblical testimony that God turns up on His world and intervenes in His world.

Perhaps one of the simplest and most beautiful of verses comes early in the book of Genesis and refers to Adam and Eve, the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day,” (Gen 3:8) There are three simple things here. First, the fact that they could hear Him suggests He was singing. Second, the fact that they clearly ‘saw’ him and heard him and spoke with him, suggests He was there in human form. Third, and this is the key, pertinent point in what we are saying above, God was on earth making His presence known. That is so simple and yet so profound.

When we move on through Genesis we find God communicating with human beings. He speaks with Cain (Gen 4:6-), He interacted with Enoch (Gen 5:24), He spoke with Noah (Gen 6:13-) and He brought judgment on a world where “every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” (Gen 6:5) and afterwards re-established His covenant with Noah (Gen 9:8-), a sign of His desire for ongoing dealings with mankind. Then came Abram, the first man with whom God instituted a long-term relationship. This is followed by Isaac, Jacob (Israel), Joseph and Moses, then Samuel, Saul, David and Solomon. These are all stories of unique dealings with God. No, this God does not stand afar off but comes to the earth, almost it seems to see who He can bless with His goodness and love. But, no, it is not ‘almost’, for that is exactly what He does.

As we go through the Old Testament we start to catch a feeling about this God who is gradually revealing Himself to mankind. His nature or character is revealed with His dealings with Moses where there are numerous references to His love. We have to wait until deep into the Christian era before the apostle John states it as simply and firmly as it can be: “God is love.” (1 Jn 4:8,16)

This is a revelation way beyond Solomon. There is a lot of difference between wisdom and revelation. He had the wisdom but never sought the revelation. He received some but in his jaded state in his latter years, it seemed to filter away from him. No, this is not a world running away with itself. God is in it working out His plans and purposes as we may no doubt consider in the days to come. God and this world are inextricably tied together; it is His creation and He still inhabits it. Hallelujah!