Archive for May 20, 2009
Today, I get to travel downtown for jury duty. Although I appreciate the opportunity to do my civic duty, I must confess that the tediously slow pace at which many of our government offices operate tries my patience. The stories of government offices operating at a snail’s speed, of course, are legion. The sixteen weeks it takes fro the IRS to mail a tax return check. The oppressively long lines at the Post Office. And can a person talk about slow service without making reference to the horror stories that come out of the DMV, or DPS offices as the case may be, when getting a driver’s license?
I asked a friend how long he thought my time at the courthouse would last. “Plan to be there all day,” he replied. “But I’m supposed to report for duty at 8 am!” I protested. “How could it possibly take all day just to see if I’m selected to sit on a jury?” “Plan to be there all day,” came my friend’s reply once more. Slow service strikes again.
In our reading for today from Romans 10, Paul ends his remarks with a quotation from Isaiah 65:2: “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people” (verse 21). It seems as though even God himself is the victim of slow service from time to time. For God has been reaching out to his people with his grace, his love, his mercy, and his salvation all day long. And yet, his “disobedient and obstinate” and people refuse to trust and serve him.
Of course, the length of the “day” that God has been holding out his hand to his people is much greater than any time that could be spent at the IRS, Post Office, DPS, or County Courthouse combined. For God has been holding out his gracious hand ever since sin entered the world with Adam and Eve. That’s one long “day.” God calls to Adam, “Where are you” (Genesis 3:9)? But Adam refuses to come and find forgiveness for his sin in the hand of the Lord. Later, he holds out his hand to the children of Israel when he rescues them from slavery in Egypt “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 5:15). But the children of Israel grumble against God and refuse to be guided by his strong arm. Even when God sends his Son Jesus Christ, the ultimate expression of his hand of grace, people do not receive him. Instead, they crucify him and drive nails through – what else? – his hands. Over and over and over again, people reject the very hand of God.
And yet, God continues to hold out his hand. In fact, I love the old King James Version translation of this passage: “All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.” God, it seems, has a long arm – a long arm that he has “stretched forth” across heaven to earth in the person and work of Jesus. The question is, are you going to keep God’s long arm at arm’s length or are you going to trust in his long arm for your salvation? If you refuse the long arm of God’s salvation, you will still have to contend with God’s long arm, but it will be the long arm of God’s law and condemnation. So instead, trust in God’s long arm of grace to take care of all your needs, your worries, your cares, and, most importantly, your sins. Because God is stretching forth his long arm for you.