Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Do Not Delay

But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay!
Ps 70:5

There are lots of hymns that use the phrase, "Do not delay." But in every case, the words are directed at people coming to God. For example:

Let ev’ry heart leap forth and rejoice; and let us freely make him our choice; do not delay, but come. 
 ❧ G. Root
Oh, sinner, come, do not delay, but come to God, no longer stay. 
W. Mahone
If you from the Savior have wandered away, return to him quickly, O do not delay. 
E. Barnes
Here in Psalm 70, however, these same words are directed at God. This is a double surprise: Usually we're told not to delay in going to God, and just as often we're told to wait for God. So why is this situation different?

What I note here is register. We speak in different registers to different people, depending on our relationship with them. The way I speak to a child differs from how I speak to an adult. The way I speak to a friend I've known since I was a child differs from the way I might speak to the Queen of England (if I ever actually spoke to her). I speak in a different register depending on where I stand on the social ladder compared to where the person I'm speaking to stands. I might tell my sister or an old friend to hurry up. But I would never speak that way to another country's ambassador to Washington.


So who has a right to speak to God in a register that allows them to say, "Hurry up" or "Don't delay"? The only time that would be possible is if it is a person with whom God identifies. And with whom does God identify? David the King? No, David when he is poor and needy. This is the One to whom David could speak not as a sinner, and not as a supplicant, but as one might a friend.

Might I ever speak to God in this same way? The answer is Yes. But it had better not be when everything's going well for me, or when I'm feeling proud. I may speak to God impatiently when I most feel like one of the poor and needy with whom God identifies.
Thank you for the good times, Lord. But thank you, too, for difficulties. For it is in such times that I may most closely identify with you. Do not then let me hesitate to express to you the urgency of my need; in Jesus' Name who taught me to pray...

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