When thinking about measuring time there are at least Two Clocks to consider: God’s Clock and Man’s Clock. God’s timing isn’t our timing. God’s Clock isn’t Man’s Clock. God’s timing is perfect.
There’s a chapter on waiting for God’s answer to prayer in James and Joel Beeke’s little book Developing a Healthy Prayer Life. The authors offer biblical examples of prayers and promises which took many years to come to pass: Isaac wasn’t born until Abraham was 100 years old and David had years of fleeing from Saul until he became king etc. God answers prayer in His own way, and fulfills promises in His perfect timing.
One of the biblical illustrations the authors use regarding God’s timing is Habakkuk 2:3.
For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay. (Hab 2:3)
Is there a contradiction here? No! The authors point out that the verse is referring to Two Different Clocks. One clock is from our perspective, while the other is how God uses time. The NET Bible translation perhaps makes this a little clearer:
For the message is a witness to what is decreed; it gives reliable testimony about how matters will turn out. Even if the message is not fulfilled right away, wait patiently; for it will certainly come to pass – it will not arrive late. (Hab 2:3)
Along prophetic lines, we read in the New Testament that it is the Last Hour (1 John 2:18) and that the end of all things is near (1 Peter 5:7). James tells us that we should be patient and strengthen our hearts for the coming of the Lord is near (James 5:8). Jesus Himself told us that the time is near (Rev 1:3; 22:10).
Yet here we are some 2000 years later and the Lord hasn’t come yet. There is no contradiction or failure. In thinking about God’s timing versus ours, these verses quickly come to mind:
For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night. (Psalm 90:4)
But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 2 Peter 3:8
It’s also helpful to consider God’s attributes and the fact that He isn’t restricted in time. God is incomprehensible, incomparable and eternal. George Swinnock wrote that,
God is an infinite being. He is without bounds or limits, measures or degrees. God is a sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere…
When thinking about that statement, consider the vastness of our universe which had a beginning. Yet as Joel Beeke and Paul M. Smalley observe,
…a standard definition of the doctrine of God’s eternity is as follows: God has no succession of moments through time. Edward Leigh said, “He is without beginning; he is before time, beyond time, behind time as it were, and above all circumscription of time. ‘From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.’ He is what he is in one infinite moment of being, as I may speak.” (Reformed Systematic Theology Vol. 1 – Revelation and God, 663)
And so, whether praying for God’s intervention in our lives or observing what we deem to be significant prophetic world events, understand that God operates on a different clock than we do. Our calling is to pray in the Spirit according to God’s will and to wait patiently for His perfect timing… For the time is nearer than ever.
Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD! (Psalm 27:14)
Further “light” reading: