“But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” (II Peter 3:8 – 9)
One of the consequence of my health issues is that my internal clock does not work. I do not have a strong sense of time passing. Seconds can seem like minutes or hours. The minutes or hours in the day can drag or speed by. And I do not have a strong sense of it. Of course like many people when I am gladly occupied time can speed by. Or when tasks are weighing heavy on me or I am hoping time passes quickly, time can drag. But if you ask me how much time has elapsed or to guess what time it is, I would be lost.
I do not think the apostle Peter (or whoever the writer of II Peter is) marked the passing of time the way we do. Yes, they probably did measure time but I do not think they allowed time to dictate their schedule, ie need to be some place by such and such a time. More likely they used the sun to measure the passage of time. And estimated intervals of time, marking them according to an internal sense or feeling – something that I do not have.
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.” (Verse 10)
But there must have been some way to know when the days and weeks have passed, and when months have gone by. In Jewish life festival days and celebrations were carefully marked out so that one could be prepared for special Sabbaths etc. Minutes and hours may not have been taken note of, but days and months must have been carefully accounted for. It is not surprise then that the writer of II Peter has concerns about the day of the Lord coming without warning.
“Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire?” (Verses 11 – 12)
The timing, or lack of it, is not his only concern. Since one does not know when, it is important to be ready at all times. This passage though is large on warnings, but small on advising what should be done. Most likely those instructions were given in another letter or in a different section of a letter. I am not of a mind to search for that, but what to keep my focus on what is said here.
“But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him.” (Verses 13 – 15a)
I have to tell you, beloved reader, this is not a strong or forthright passage. Hints of this and that to be taken and understood along side other more robust teaching and instruction. Last week our theme was wait and remember. So far this week a theme is slower to develop. As I moved through this portion of the apostle Peter’s writings, it did seem like time was passing slowly as I strove to understand the central feature of this passage.
One is clear though; if the Old Testament passage spoke of a comforter, this passage brings to mind a judge who will examine one’s life inside and out. I guess the key point is that the Lord is patient. Which is a good thing if those who are waiting have not remedied their lives according the righteousness that is expected of them. And maybe their sloth has slowed down the return of the Divine. Be mindful, beloved reader, that we are some two thousand years plus from this writing. And as far as the history of humanity can discern, there has been no blaze, dissolution or melting. Furthermore, there are plenty of “spots” and “blemishes” in our society. Finally, the Divine has been very patient.
It is an odd passage for the Advent season. As I ponder it, it reminds me somewhat of the position and situation of the Jews at Jesus’ birth – waiting for the coming of a Messiah who would bring radical change. We are waiting also for the return of that same Messiah, while we wait and prepare for the celebration of that first coming. And of a Messiah that the Jews at that time were NOT expecting.
Beloved reader, we caught betwixt and between paradoxes and juxtapositions. May the Divine be with you, pointing the way to the righteousness that should be our goal. Shalom & Selah!