Hasten Without Delay
David R. Pharr
It is not unusual to hear someone say that he intends to change his ways “someday.” Such is a common excuse for one who is being confronted about his need to obey the gospel but who wants to dismiss the issue. He is not so much expressing good intentions as it is that he simply wants to escape the pressure. Such may think that procrastination is more honorable than open refusal, but delay over things eternal is nonetheless rebellion. “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).
Lot wanted to delay his exit from Sodom. The angels explained that destruction was imminent. We know that it was only God’s longsuffering that was holding back his fiery wrath (2 Peter 3:9). Lot understood the urgency when he had tried to convince the men who married his daughters. As day dawned, the one thing that mattered was to get away, and the angels were pressing the need for haste. Yet, Lot lingered; he lingered in Sodom. Merciful angels took him and his family by the hand to pull them out the gate (Genesis 19:12-16). God, by the truth of the gospel and in the working of his providence, is pulling on the souls of all who linger in the world of sin. Haste is needed because, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation . . . ?” (Hebrews 2:3).
After returning from exile in Babylon, the Jews had enthusiastically laid the foundation for the temple. Then the work was held up for several years as they attended to their own homes and business. Zechariah and Haggai were commissioned to urge the work forward. Haggai, in particular, rebuked their procrastination. “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built” (Haggai 1:2). The people were refusing to build. They would even agree that it ought to be done. In their minds it was simply a matter of timing, which was to say, “We will get to it someday.” Solomon gave sound advice about attending to good things: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). In doing the Lord’s business it is never a question of whether the time is right. It is always right to do right and to do it right now!
It is doubtful that Felix had any intention ever to change his life and submit to God, but when challenged by the force of Paul’s message, he chose to evade the issue by delay. His procrastination has been the excuse of millions: “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:25). Albert Barnes, in his commentary on the text, outlines the obvious reality and folly: “One man is engaged in a career of pleasure, and it is not now a convenient time to attend to his soul's salvation. Another is pressed with business, with the cares of life, with a plan of gain, with the labors of office or of a profession; and it is not now a convenient time for him to attend to religion. Another supposes that his time of life is not the most convenient. His youth he desires to spend in pleasure and waits for a more convenient time in middle age. His middle life he spends in business and this is not a convenient time. Such a period he expects then to find in old age. But as age advances he finds an increasing disposition to defer it; he is still indisposed to attend to it, still in love with the world. Even old age is seldom found to be a convenient time to prepare for heaven; and it is deferred from one period of life to another, until death closes the scene.”
“I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments” (Psalm 119:60). - 1506 Springsteen Road, Rock Hill, SC 29730.
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