Longing for the Divine

Waiting and Hastening

Jesus is coming soon—at any time. I’ve heard this all of my life. Since becoming a person of conviction, I’ve waited for Jesus to come. I waited in the 80s, and then I waited throughout the 90s. Those years flew by. It is now 2022, and Jesus still has not come. I keep hearing Christians say that Jesus is coming soon, but more than 2,000 years after He first came, here we are, still waiting. I am not a cynic poking fun at the delay; I am just stating the facts. Truth be told, I would rather be considered a fool for desiring and hoping that Jesus will come in my lifetime than miss the joy of expectation.

Peter speaks about “waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:12). I don’t believe Jesus is going to come steal all our fun away and rapture us to some boring afterlife. He may come unexpectedly but not to take our lives away. He is coming to give us the best life possible in ways abundantly beyond our imagination and I can hardly wait for God to be with us fully, but perhaps I have only been thinking of myself. My desire to have Jesus come may be driven by my own self-interest. In the joy of expectation, perhaps I have forgotten what it means to wait and run toward His coming. 

When I think about God’s response to the world, I remember that Jesus was a person of compassion and love. Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12–13). When we see the world as bad, we think in terms of sinners who need punishment, which makes us more likely to call down fiery retribution on wickedness, but God is “not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9). If we instead see the world as Jesus does, recognizing His compassion for a broken world and His response to come heal the sick and hurting, I think it changes our perspective. Scholar Sigve Tonstad makes the finer point at the difference between looking at a person who is sick and looking at a person who is bad, by stating “we are likely to relate differently to them, looking at a sick person with compassion and at the bad person with fear, if not with contempt. The bad person goes to jail to be punished while the sick person goes to the hospital to be healed” (A Blessing in the Midst of the Earth: Traveling the Prophetic Highway in Isaiah, Spectrum 34, 2006, 46-54). Jesus categorized people among the ailing in need of healing, assuring us that God is a committed physician.  

This leads me to the point I want to make. What does it mean to hasten Jesus’ coming? Are we resigned to waiting? The life of a believer is supposed to be waiting and hastening. This got me thinking about the kind of people we ought to be. I don’t think hastening is about knowing which rules you’re supposed to follow to pass a moral entrance exam but about being an other-centered person and one who won’t let go of God. I think God is waiting for us to hold on to His grace in such a way that the world can see a fuller display of His compassion and love.

There are times to wait, to contemplate, and to discern God’s ways. The Bible commends such patience and diligence, but there is also a time to act, to work toward hastening His coming. God does not call us only to wait for Him to come. We are to wait, but we must also run toward the second coming because we eagerly long for it. I get the sense that God wants us to chase Him down and not let Him go, to beg Him for more—like Jacob clinging to God for a blessing (Genesis 32:22–32), Moses begging to see more of Him (Exodus 33:18), and the Canaanite woman eagerly seeking His blessing (Matthew 15:21–28). There are ways in which the coming kingdom of God—the “new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13)—is meant to invade the present. Things will not work the way God intended until we work to hasten this coming. This idea may challenge our preconceptions, but working as participants in what Jesus is already doing is the way God works, and we are way out of practice. Perhaps we need to spend more time contemplating the kind of person God is and the character and manner of His coming before we can truly work to hasten that coming.

The Canaanite woman understood this when she came to Jesus looking for mercy. She seemed to know that she had no right to ask for His blessing—the time had not come—but she would not take no for an answer. She would not let Jesus go until He brought her some of the blessings promised to the nations. Jesus’ silent response may be puzzling on the surface, but He drew something from the Canaanite woman so that He could bring something out of Himself. The Canaanite woman drew a prophetic blessing from Jesus, speeding the blessing promised to the nations and hastening the future kingdom into the present. She refused to just sit at home, waiting and hoping for Jesus to come. She eagerly chased Him down, ran after a blessing, and would not let Jesus go.

I think Jesus wanted to reveal something to His disciples that challenged the popular concept of God. The Canaanite woman’s persistence brought Jesus’ true disposition into the light. There are other examples of this in the Bible. Abraham did not believe God would destroy the righteous people of Sodom, so he persisted in seeing God’s willingness to spare the guilty (Genesis 18:17). Moses did not believe that God would go back on His promises and destroy His people, so he persisted, bringing out God’s wonderful unconditional love (Exodus 32:11–14). Moses couldn’t see more of God until he pushed and begged to do so (Exodus 33:18). It is such persistence that enables God’s disposition to be seen in the world and allows Him to act more fully on our behalf. It seems that God will not do some things until we persistently ask Him to be who He really is. 

When Jacob, Abraham, Moses, and the Canaanite woman sought healing and blessing, the divine answer was yes. For Jacob, this answer did not come until he reached a place where he would not let God go. Similarly, only when Abraham bartered with God did God say yes. Moses couldn’t see God’s blinding glory until He begged for it, and it was not until the Canaanite woman participated with Jesus and pushed boundaries that she received the blessing. You see, they didn’t assume God’s character was inscrutable. When they argued for a more beautiful God, they received so much more. Each of these examples contradicts the common notion of a harsh God, suggesting instead that He is merciful, compassionate, just, and amazing—not inscrutable but beautifully engaging.

I think this view is often missing in Christianity. We’ve settled for a simplistic God who sets rules that we had better obey and who does not permit us to ask any questions. Time and time again, however, we see God breaking these characterizations, like when we are told to hasten His coming even when we have difficulty squaring that with grace alone. Don’t be alarmed. No one can bring about the second coming except God. Jesus does what we could never generate ourselves, yet God’s grace works in us “to both will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). God expects that we will participate in doing God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. Therefore, there are some things that Jesus won’t do without us, that is until we eagerly long to participate with Him.

So, I am still waiting for Jesus to return, but I emphasize hastening to meet Him. Lord, I pray that you will help me join your heart, which beats for every person on planet earth so that more people can discover your incredible love and compassion. Lord, help me to not only wait but also be so moved by your love and mercy that I will join you in hastening your beautiful kingdom so that the world can see you as you really are. 

Craig Ashton Jr.

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