The Slow Hand of God

The Slow Hand of God

Most of the time, God moves painfully slowly. I wish they’d told us this when we were kids in Sunday School — it would have saved us from a lot of false expectations. “Hey, there is a God who cares about you. But you’ll probably never notice him acting in your life.” Yeah, not exactly the stuff that grips your attention. Not the stuff that creates zealous believers.

But, at least in my life and as I see God “at work” in the world, it is in the long, slow arc of our lives that God is most evident. I mentioned this a few weeks back when talking about how God seems to move more like a gentle breeze than a hurricane. Slow and gentle seems to be the divinely preferred way over fast and furious.

This week’s lectionary reading includes one of my favorite texts from the Hebrew Bible. (Okay, I tend to say that when the text hits me as unusually poignant.) The passage might seem like a mundane plot update in the life of David on his way to becoming king, but there’s more buried in it.

“David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.”

If that doesn’t send chills up your spine … Haha!

But honestly, what a subtle but significant point to make about how God moves. The story line sets up David to be a legend-making warrior king and poet from a young age. He is anointed by the prophet Samuel when he is still a boy, probably a young teenager, the youngest and least respected of his brothers. But God saw something in him and chose him: “For the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

Here’s the staggering thing. From that moment of being anointed King, it would be about 15 years before he begins to reign: “David was 30 years old …”

Would he have been ready to take the crown at age 15? Likely not. Would people have respected him, trusted him to lead? Probably not. So what was David doing all that time, waiting to take the throne? Living. Growing in experience and wisdom. He was a warrior and mercenary, learned how to lead in battle and in diplomacy. He built friendships and alliances. He grew. And God was with him during all the dark days, fighting and fleeing, hiding in caves, all those cold nights under the stars when he must have wondered what was going on with his life. And all those days celebrating, drinking, carousing with friends and comrades. All those times praying, writing songs and psalms we’d be singing and praying for thousands of years after.

And when it finally did happen, when the elders of Israel came to accept him as their king, it didn’t just happen over night. He’d been king of Judah, the smaller tribe, in Hebron for 7 and half years first. The fulfillment of that oil-anointing and divine prophesy of his kingship came about in stages. It was a process.

And this seems to be how God prefers to move when dealing with humans. Well, maybe how God prefers to move period. The universe might have begun with a Big Bang, but it took billions of years to unfold. And we humans wouldn’t appear on the scene to keep God company until some 13.8 billion years later, as current thinking puts it.

Even in the Bible, when God is moving in people’s lives, it seems to be a slow crawl to greatness. Abraham was 75 when God first appeared to him, and was 99 before his promised son Isaac was even born (25 years later). Joseph has dreams of greatness, but was first sold into slavery by his brothers. It would be another 15 years of servitude and prison before he was finally elevated to prime minister of Egypt. It would take Moses 40 years tending sheep in a wilderness before he encountered the burning bush, and then another 40 years leading the Israelites in the wilderness before they’d conquer Canaan. And on and on.

The hand of God moves slowly. God takes his time. God is not in a hurry, even when we are. And when God moves, he seems to move systematically, through a slow process. So, whatever it is that you’re hounding God to get on — and get on with it! — be aware that his usual modus operandi is “slow and easy”. Good things in life take time, and great things sometimes take a lot of time. As hard as it is to accept, God is often more interested in you and your growth than in the final outcome.

So … Take a breath. Take a look at where you are. Progress is happening. You haven’t been forgotten. Keep growing. The slow and gentle hand of God is moving. And you’re not done yet.

ref: 2 Samuel 5:1-10