Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance:2 Peter 3:4
The sense of security more frequently springs from habit than from conviction, and for this reason it often subsists after such a change in the condition as might have been expected to suggest alarm. The lapse of time during which a given event has not happened is, in the logic of habit, constantly alleged as a reason why the event should never happen, even when the lapse of time is precisely the added condition which makes the event imminent.
—George Eliot, Silas Marner (ch. v.).
References.—III. 4.—H. M. Butler, Harrow School Sermons (2nd Series), p. 292. J. Martineau, Endeavours after the Christian Life, p. 94. III. 6, 7.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 28a.
The Slowness of God
2 Peter 3:8
I. First, let us think of the sphere of nature—of this wonderful universe in which God has placed us. Like a scroll upon its bosom this is written, that with the Lord a thousand years are as one day. It was Augustine who said this of God: God is patient because He is eternal. He takes His time because all time is His. There are a thousand years within His day. And that is a lesson we are learning now, with a fulness that was undreamed of once—how slow and sure and splendidly persistent God has been in fashioning the world.
II. Think again of the sphere of revelation. Does not that same mark of slowness meet us there? The one thing God has never done, is to be in a hurry to reveal Himself. Suppose you were to ask a child this question, How do you think that God will speak to men? Would not the answer be of sudden voices pealing from the silence of the sky? Well as a matter of fact God has spoken to men, for that is just what we mean by revelation: but His speaking has been as different from that as a strain of music from the din of thunder. Not suddenly, in one stupendous moment, has God declared the riches of His grace. That would have been cruelty and not kindness, for men would have been blinded by the glare. It has been here a little, there a little; one syllable today and one tomorrow, until at last these broken syllables blended in the Incarnate Word.
III. The slowness of God, again, is often manifest in regard to the great matter of our duty. Not all in a moment, but rather step by step, does God reveal the pathway of our duty. Think, for example, of the case of Paul when he was on his missionary journey. First he wished to go southward to Galatia, and the Spirit of God forbade him to go there. Then his heart turned northward to Bithynia: would it not be a joy to preach the Gospel there? But once again his will was crossed, and the Spirit of God suffered him not. We understand to-night why that was so: he was being led to the great hour at Troas. He was travelling to the man of Macedonia, and to the summons from the shore of Europe. But the point to note is that Paul did not know that; nor could he tell why doors were being shut: he could only leave it in the hand of God, who seeth the end from the beginning. How easy it would have been for God to let Paul know why he was being baffled. But it was not thus that heaven dealt with Paul, and it is not so that heaven deals with us. God leads us forward one step at a time, giving us light and strength for that one step, and only as we take it and are strong does He reveal the pathway of our duty.
IV. There is only one other sphere that I would mention, and that is the sphere of judgment upon sin. Sometimes God is very swift in penalty; at other times, inexorably slow. There are sins which instantly condemn a man, and make him a social outcast in a day. They cannot be hidden, and, being cried abroad, they shatter the character and blight the home. But if there be sins that go before to judgment, I think there are far more that follow after, and such sins may track a man for years before at the long last they track him down. Seek ye the Lord while He may be found; call ye upon Him while He is near.
—G. H. Morrison, The Return of the Angela, p. 167.
References.—III. 8.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii. No. 447. J. Keble, Sermons for the Sundays after Trinity, p. 419; ibid. Sermons for Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 68. III. 9.—W. M. Sinclair, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. p. 228. III. 10, 11.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix. No. 1126. III. 13.—F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. vi. p. 257. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. i. p. 329. F. W. Farrar, Everyday Christian Life, pp. 13, 31. III. 13, 14.—G. A. Smith, Christian World Pulpit, vol xlviii. p. 232. III. 14.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Peter, p. 224. III. 14, 15.—J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas to Epiphany, p. 214. III. 15.—Ibid. Sermons for Advent to Christmas Eve, pp. 198, 209, 219. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiii. No. 1997. III. 15, 16.—E. J. Hardy, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. p. 83. T. Arnold, The Interpretation of Scripture, p. 196. III. 16.—F. Hastings, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. p. 261. III. 17.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliii. No. 2533. III. 17, 18.—G. W. Brameld, Practical Sermons (2nd Series), p. 149. III. 18.—W. S. Stewart, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. p. 236; vol. xlvii. p. 106. E. A. Bray, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 181. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii. No. 427; vol. xlvi. No. 2700. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Peter, p. 234.
That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,
And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:
Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.