Do you ever wonder why there seems to be long periods of time between when our Lord Jesus said He would accomplish our salvation and the time when His revelation of Himself to us in our salvation is accomplished? This is a recurring theme in scripture. God promises. There is an interval of time, often long, before the promise is fulfilled in the experience of His people. God made promise to Abraham. After he patiently endured, he received the promise (Heb. 6:15). God promised that Israel would sojourn in Egypt, that the Egyptians would afflict them 400 years, and after that He would bring them out (Gen. 15:13-14). True to His word, the nation of Israel sojourned in Egypt 430 years (Exodus 12:40-41). For 400 of those years they were afflicted and kept in bondage by Pharaoh. That’s a long time. Their affliction drew out their groanings and earnest cries to God. And God fulfilled His word in the fulness of time.
Again, immediately after Adam and Eve fell in sin, God promised Christ would come and redeem His people (Gen. 3:15). Throughout the long interval from our fall in Adam until Jesus, all of the prophets searched diligently, looking, waiting in anticipation for Christ to come. In the fulness of time, He came. He redeemed His people, just as He had spoken (Gal. 4:4-5). God cannot lie. He promised eternal life before the world began. I wasn’t there then, at least not in my own person. To whom then did God make this promise? To His Son, whom He chose and appointed as Christ. He promised to Christ that He would give eternal life to all He had given to Him (John 6:39; 17:2; 2 Cor. 1:20; Gal. 3:16,19).
Jesus told His disciples that He would be condemned by the chief priests and scribes and delivered into the hands of the Gentiles, mocked, scourged, crucified and rise again the third day (Matt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:17-19; Luke 18:31-34). But the disciples did not fully understand. They believed Him, but what He said did not fully sink in. It was only after Jesus rose from the dead that He came to them and opened their understanding. Two disciples walked on the road to Emmaus. He came to them. They talked about what had happened three days before in Jerusalem. They had believed He was a prophet. He was undeniably mighty in word and deed. They talked about how the chief priests and rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death at the hands of the Gentiles (Luke 24:19-20). They were deeply disappointed because they had trusted He would have redeemed Israel. They had heard the report brought by the women who had seen angels, which said He was alive. And they had been astonished by their report. But for all this, they did not understand until Jesus appeared to them, until He Himself opened to them the scriptures. From the scriptures, He showed them how that Christ must suffer all they had seen, and how He must rise again the third day and enter into His glory (Luke 24:25-27). He gave His words to them. He interpreted scripture. He revealed God’s eternal will. He revealed that scripture spoke of Him throughout, of His sufferings, His death and His entrance into glory. When He opened their eyes, then they knew Him (Luke 24:31)! And when He vanished out of their sight, they were in amazement as they recalled how they felt when their hearts burned within them as He opened the scriptures concerning Himself to them!
Christ gave His word. He fulfilled it by His death on the cross and in rising again. When He went to the cross, the disciples were left alone. “Smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered” (Zech. 13:7). Their experience was that their Lord was taken from them, their beloved Master, the Christ of God, whom they believed and loved (Matt. 16:15-17). Though He had said, “I will not leave you comfortless [orphans], I will come to you” (John 14:18), yet they were troubled by His absence. Christ promised to come to them by His Spirit. Yet there was a time during which they experienced no comfort and mourned because He was not with them. At least it seemed to them He was not with them (Matthew 9:15).
So it is in our experience. The gospel is declared to us as it was to the disciples. We immediately rejoice in it. Then time goes by. A period of silence occurs, often long, sometime short. We lose our sense of peace. Gospel realities once believed in the heart become doctrines in the head only. The promise first believed seems less familiar, less intense. Enthusiasm wanes. Hope dims. Faith wavers. Joy is lost. After what seems like long silence, we may think of returning to our old profession -- catching fish rather than catching men. Then Jesus graciously gives fresh views of Himself from scripture (Luke 24:25-32; 44-47). He tells us again (Matt. 11:4) from His word of His eternal purpose of grace, His immutable promises, His work by which He obtained our eternal redemption, His unchanging faithfulness. Faith is renewed. It is strengthened. Redemption is seen and remembered as if for the first time again. Christ is embraced from the heart.
But why must we endure this wilderness, this silence in the soul, as seasons of cold and darkness? Is it not because we do not hold fast the word that was first preached to us? Is it not because our cries for Jesus have grown silent? Is it not because we let faith-choking cares and pursuits draw our eyes away from Him? And is it not His grace and faithfulness that restores us and increases faith through these seasons? Just as the growth rings of trees are increased through seasons of summer and winter, so our faith is made stronger in these cycles of promises, patience and faith renewed. These trying times send our souls to the throne of grace with empty hands carrying buckets for fresh filling from mercy’s fountain, for grace to help by seeing our Savior again with eyes of faith! Let us lift our hearts and voices in earnest cries to our Lord Jesus! "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law" (Psalms 119:18). O Lord! Cause me ever to avail myself of your word! Keep the eyes of this poor sinner fixed on your person, your promises, your performance of all and my inheritance in you! Let me drink deeply from the wells of salvation accomplished, redemption obtained, reconciliation made, righteousness established, inheritance secured (Dan. 9:24). And let me ever see with increasing assurance that Jesus is my all. I have nothing and am nothing but what I am in Him by grace!