Orson Welles said it: “We will sell no wine before its time.” Time. We mark time, pass time and mourn its passing. But we cannot rush it, slow it or stop it. We can manage it, waste it or redeem it but we cannot create it. I came across a term in my reading today: the fullness of time. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son…”. Makes me think of an hour glass used for keeping track of time. You know, like the one the wicked witch of the west used to let Dorothy know how much time she had to give up the ruby slippers. Guess you could say Dorothy was on the clock. I think that’s where the term ‘fullness of time’ comes from. When all the sand reaches the bottom, when it is full of sand, that’s the fullness.
You can’t know how badly I want to prune the vines right now. They’re barren and unsightly; a tangled mess of wirey looking strands. I’m sure the neighbors are not happy. I want the vineyard to be attractive, interesting; nice straight rows of evenly trimmed vines and branches awaiting the promise of a new crop. Its not time. Pruning will have to wait until the right time. When the branches are pruned it signals the vine that it is time to begin sending energy to the cut places for healing and new growth. The time is not right for that now. If new growth emerged it would not be able to withstand a frost or freeze if we got one. When a vine sends out new growth and the new growth gets damaged it throws off the timing of the whole system. The crop would be smaller and later this year. But a freeze at this time is not likely for us in central Florida. More importantly it is not time for pruning because I need the vine to focus its energy on developing a better root system and stronger main branches. Energy not spent on healing and new growth right now is making the vine healthier so when the time is right the vine will thrive.
Jesus was well aware of the importance of timing. When John the Baptist was put in prison it signaled the right time to Jesus and he moved from Nazareth to Capernaum, positioning himself for ministry from there. To those who tried to persuade him to step things up he insisted, “my time has not come”. When others wanted to know the time of his return he merely said it was in the Father’s time. Sometimes the father’s time may seem slow. The prophet, Habakkuk, speaks of God’s encouragement to him concerning timing. “Write the vision; make it plain. The vision awaits its appointed time. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:2-3
I’m reminded of my friend in Kenya. George sold fish at the market in the village of Siaiya. Our eyes met the first time I walked into the village. Okay, I was the only white guy around for miles so of course he was looking at me. Assuming that because I am white I was a missionary or I wouldn’t be there, George asked and, for lack of better explanation and because in fact I was, I said yes. George immediately told me that the time had not come for his salvation.( Sort of gives a clue about George’s experience with missionaries.) I said: “George the Bible says today is the day of your salvation.” We laughed together. I had him. George and I met every evening in the market for the next two weeks. We talked about his family, his daily routine, his hopes and dreams, what he thought of America. I never brought up salvation. The last evening I was to be there I walked into the marketplace. George had a different countenance about him. “You come to my home.” he said. “I want my family to hear about Jesus.” I found my interpreter and we trekked the 2 mile path to George’s home, arriving at dusk. In the hut were George’s wife and her best friend and George’s two small children. Introductions were made and I began to share the gospel, God’s love in Jesus. Before I knew it they were on their knees crying out to God. The thing is I hadn’t even gotten to the part about the whole invitation and sinner’s prayer deal. I didn’t have time to finish. God finished in his time. And it was time.
God, teach me timing. Not the kind used for cars, music or clocks. Teach me the kind of timing needed for life in Christ.