God’s promises delayed
The Israelites were slaves in Egypt. They prayed for freedom and God heard their prayers. He appeared to Moses and appointed him to deliver the people.
Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 13:7-10)
If you are familiar with the Bible you know what happened next. Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go and God sent a series of plagues. The last plague, the death of the firstborn, convinced Pharaoh to release them.
Pharaoh then changed his mind and led his army to bring the Isrealites back into slavery. He thought he had them trapped by the Red Sea but God miraculously opened up a way in the sea for them to escape. When the Egyptians tried to follow them, God allowed the water to return and drown them.
God supplied water for his people in the desert and sent manna for them to eat. He finally brought them to the land he had promised to give them. He told them to send twelve men to find out what the land was like in preparation for their conquest. Here is what they reported.
We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. (Numbers 13:27,28)
God had shown his power by sending plagues on the Egyptians, opening the Red Sea so they could cross it, and giving them food and water in the desert, but in spite of seeing all this they didn’t believe he could give them victory over the inhabitants of the land. Here is God’s response.
As I live, declares the LORD, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have rejected. (Numbers 14:28-31)
After the generation that refused to obey had died off God chose Joshua to lead the Israelites into the land.
After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.” (Joshua 1:1-3)
God kept his promise, as he always does, but the adults who came out of Egypt failed to receive the benefits because of their failure to believe God.
This wasn’t the only time unbelief delayed the fulfillment of a promise. God promised the Israelites he would send them a Messiah who would rule over them. The time finally came for him to fulfill that promise.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’” (Matthew 2:1-6)
It was Gentiles who told the Jews that their king had been born. The Jews found the news troubling rather than exciting. Herod saw the new king as a rival and plotted to kill him. The priests and scribes who knew form the scriptures where the king was born evidently made no effort to go to Bethlehem to see him.
When Jesus began preaching publicly many Jews believed and followed him, but the leaders of the nation opposed him and finally delivered him to the Romans to be crucified. When Jesus was on trial before Pilate they rejected him.
They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!”
Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?”
The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15)
Jesus was crucified but rose from the grave three days later. Because the Jews had rejected him he formed a new body, the Church, to carry out his work on earth. In AD 70 the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. The Jewish nation ceased to exists and the Jews were scattered among the other nations.
But God is not finished with the Jews. He will keep his promise to make a nation of them with Jesus as their king. He has preserved them as a separate people, not allowing them to be assimilated into the nations where they live. In 1948 the Jews established their own country, the state of Israel. The Jews still don’t acknowledge Jesus as their king and Messiah but that will change when he returns.
For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.
Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. (Zechariah 14:2-5)
Not only will Jesus reign in Jerusalem but his authority will extend over the whole world.
Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. (Zechariah 14:16)
When we disobey because we don’t have faith we may delay the fulfillment of God’s promises and miss out on the blessings we could have gotten but we can’t keep the promises from being fulfilled.