I will hasten and not delay to obey
It was about twenty five years ago when Lorne Sanny gave a brief talk on how this verse had impacted his life. We were at Glen Eyrie, and a small group had gathered in the dining hall after breakfast. He shared examples from his own life of how the Lord had taught him to “hasten and not delay.” Although I have not remembered any of those specifically, I have remained impressed over the years with the need to hasten to obey the Lord’s commands.
The scriptures list various responses to the Lord’s commands. One of these is to say no. The Old Testament is filled with the stories of His people and leaders who refused to walk in the way of His commands. Even His own prophet Jonah initially said “No” to the Lord’s command to go to Nineveh.
We see a second response to the Lord’s command at one point in the life of Moses. He initially attempted to negotiate with God concerning His command. The Lord said to him in Exodus 3:10, “So now go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” Moses’ initial response was “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11) In Exodus 4:1 Moses answered “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘the Lord did not appear to you?’” and again in Exodus 4:10 it relates that “Moses said to the LORD, ‘O Lord, I have never been eloquent; neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.’” Finally in Exodus 4:13 we read “But Moses said, O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”
The third attitude we see in scripture is to delay obeying the Lords commands. This is seen in Joshua 18:3. “So Joshua said to the Israelites: ‘How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the LORD , the God of your fathers, has given you?’” Perhaps the clearest example of this is found in Luke 9:59. “He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But the man replied. ‘Lord first let me go and bury my father.’” In the middle eastern context, we realize that what he was actually saying was to let him live with his father until his father was a ripe old age, and had passed on, leaving the inheritance to the son.
I have discovered in my own life that the longer I delay responding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the less likely I am to obey. If I say “I’ll do it next week,” when I am able to do it today, that is delay. Sometimes that delay may extend into a few months. I recall a young man in our neighborhood who was looking for a small group Bible study to attend. One was not immediately available and I delayed answering his request for a few months. When I did visit with him later, he had found another group to meet with, one which was leading him away from the truth of the scriptures. Delay resulted in a missed opportunity. Colossians 4:5 states “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time, for the days are evil.” Part of walking in wisdom is hastening to do God’s will. His will may involve simply writing an encouraging note, calling a friend, taking someone to lunch, or visiting a friend in the hospital or care home. The Holy Spirit may be prompting us to reconcile a relationship, to pray for a need, or to share the gospel with an individual. I well recall Lorne’s illustration of the time he left a relative’s home, realizing that this person did not know the Lord. He was prompted by the Holy Spirit to consider two questions in regard to the presentation of the Gospel to this man. “If not me, then who? If not now, then when?” Lorne then promptly returned to his home and shared the gospel with him. In all of the illustrations given above, I have been prompted by the Holy Spirit. In some situations, I have hastened. In other cases where I have not hastened, the opportunity has been lost.
I am challenged by the Scriptural accounts of situations where there has been hastening to obey. One of these is Abraham’s obedience in Genesis 17. When told by God that circumcision was to be the sign of the covenant between Abraham and his descendants with God, he did not hesitate. He did not ask for the opinion of others, and he did not ask for plan B. It says in verse 23, “ On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household……and circumcised them, as God told him.” We also read in Genesis 22:2 “Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.’” What was Abraham’s response? The next verse continues as follows, “Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey.” Even though Abraham did not understand God’s method, he hastened to obey.
We also see hastening to obey to Gods commands in the life of Moses. In Numbers 1:2 we read that on the first day of the second month of the second year after leaving Egypt, God told him to take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one. I am afraid my response would have been “Are you kidding? Do you know how long that will take?” Moses’ response, however, was the following. In verse 18 we read “and they called the whole community together on the first day of the second month.” He did not delay and began this momentous task that very day.
To hasten in our response to the Holy Spirit’s direction in our lives not only prevents missing opportunities to serve the Lord, it also enables us to draw into closer fellowship with Him. In hastening, we train our hearts to be attentive to His leading. Our spirit learns to listen, and to wait. In our reading, our study, and in our prayer we learn to anticipate the Holy Spirit’s direction in our lives. As His Spirit speaks to our spirits, then, let us hasten to obey His voice.