Now in Genesis chapter 15 you have the promise, and although it does not look like it, since the story is so quickly got over, it seems that it was at least fifteen years before the promise was fulfilled. It was fourteen or fifteen years at least, but how much more we cannot say as the Hebrew is very uncertain in this matter.
You remember when the men came to Abram's tent and ratified the promise, their words in our translation are something like this: "at the time" or "about the time", or "in the season" Gen. 18:14. The words are very indefinite. Some have translated it, "This time next year it shall be", but we cannot render it so with certainty.
All we can say is that it was a definite ratification of the promise, that in God's appointed time it should be fulfilled. That ratification in the tent was some fourteen or fifteen years after the events of chapter 15 when the promise was given.
Now, taking every other circumstance into consideration; promise, age, and so on, you can see that this was a real matter of faith, this time factor. The time is getting on. We are getting farther and farther away from any possibility of fulfilment. Abram was ninety and nine years old when this ratification of the promise was made.
You see the time factor was a real test.
Moreover it was a deliberate and definite movement of God.
Why did not the Lord, knowing what He would do, wait until He was about to do it and just come and say, Abram, this shall be! and bring it about? But no! He came, announced it, and went away, and year after year passed by.
Then He came again, ratified His promise, and upon that there was still more waiting.
The Lord has strange ways. He deals with us like that.
He must bring His instruments into oneness with Himself.
There is a little phrase in the New Testament which runs like this: "When once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah". If that word means anything it means that delay.
In a case like that of Abram's, it is not a pleasant thing for Abram, not a thing that he would choose for himself.
It would at least imply that if the Lord could have His way He would perfect His purpose at once.
Long-suffering, forbearance, patience, endurance; these things on God's part are not the things that He would choose in carrying out His purposes, seeing all the suffering, and the distress and the pain that there is.
But He suffered, and suffered long, and His instruments must come into oneness with Him, oneness with His heart.
The point is that it lifts this thing on to a certain level. It is not that the Lord is just dealing with you and with me like a schoolmaster, trying to get something in us.
It may be the Lord wants moral qualities developed in us; patience, longsuffering, and so on; there is no doubt that is true, but it is not just that.
The Lord is saying, I am not going to do this until you show signs of certain qualities.
The Lord is lifting us right up on to the same level as Himself, bringing us into actual oneness with Himself, so that we have the same feeling towards others and toward the situation, toward the need, that He has.
I believe that when the Lord can get a corporate cry in His Church which is His own cry, then His time has come.
The Lord is not just waiting for a time. There is something bound up with that time, and He is seeking to produce in the heart of His instrument that which is in His own heart, so that it cries one cry with Him.
The Church has to cry, and it has to cry God's cry, and that one cry is not yet in the Church.
There are many voices, conflicting voices; and by the agony of delay, and the agony of the growing impossibility of the situation, and by the agony of the need for that which is of God as over against all this other, the Church will be brought to cry that cry.
At midnight there shall be a cry! Now that is oneness with God in His time.
~T. Austin Sparks~