So I spoke to you, and you would not listen but you rebelled against the command of the LORD and presumptuously went up into the hill country. Then the Amorites who lived in the hill country came out against you and chased you as bees do and beat you down…
Birthday cards, thank you notes and snow day phone calls. All better late than never.
Late to the airport, a job interview, a best friends’s wedding. You’d best not be late.
We tell our boys: Obey without delay. Delayed obedience is really disobedience. In Shepherding A Child’s Heart (p. 138), Tedd Tripp defines obedience for a child as:
Doing what he is told- Without Challenge, Without Excuse, Without Delay.
So, when a son ignores your call to put away his Legos for two hours, does it under threat of them all being hidden away- Is that really obedience? Or when they brush their teeth three hours after breakfast, as lunch is being prepared and the proclamation that dessert is forfeited has been issued- Is that obedience?
Or when I read seek to show hospitality…for in so doing some have entertained angels. I read this and those neighbors-oh, those still-strangers, next-door neighbors- loom large. But life is so busy, and they’re not used to wild little boys and our kitchen carpet is being ripped out and we might have different politics. We’d better delay the invite.
I’ll forgive, I’ll tithe, I’ll open my home, I’ll send that note, I’ll smile at that one who slandered me.
I’ll do it.
Excuses abound. The Israelites gave some good ones when God told them to take the promised land. Read Deuteronomy 1 and Numbers 13.
The people are greater and taller than we. We’re like grasshoppers to them. And the cities are great and fortified up to heaven. And besides, we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.
Moses exhorts them with the best of encouragement,
Don’t be afraid of them. The LORD your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes.
But it wasn’t enough. Still they wouldn’t obey. Not yet.
Then, God gets angry. He does what I do to the boys when dig in their heels. He punishes. Disciplines. Gives an undesired consequence. Vastly greater than 15 minutes of iPad time lost or 30 minutes earlier bedtime: None of this evil generation will see the good land. But your little ones you said would be prey, I’ll bring them into the land you rejected. So have it your way, turn around and wander in the wilderness for 40 years!
Now, with consequence pronounced, the Israelites, like my boys, (like me?) decide to obey. Better late than never, they presume. Sorry, sorry, sorry, Mom. I’ll ___________________ now. (Fill in the blank: set the table, brush my teeth, practice piano, do my math, put away my Legos.) We’ll go to the place God promised to give us and do battle now. We’re sorry. We sinned. We’ll obey now.
Alas, it was too late! For that generation, the price of delayed obedience was forfeiture of the promised land.
They just couldn’t believe it. We’re ready now, they told Moses. But he shakes his head, Sorry, guys, that golden moment’s gone.
Don’t go up, for the Lord is not among you, lest you be struck down before your enemies.
But they presumed to go up to the heights of the hill country, although neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses departed from the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites came down and defeated them and pursued them, even to Hormah.
Sometimes it really is too late. We forfeit the grace that could be ours. Delayed obedience morphs into disobedience. Some opportunities only come around once.
Russell Wilson must know that. His is a shining example of timely obedience. Last night, with millions watching the Superbowl post game interviews, the winning Seattle Seahawks quarterback thanked God. First. Before thanking his teammates, crediting his coach and applauding the “twelfth man,” he thanked God for his blessings. He didn’t wait until his next game. He knew it was a golden moment, and he obediently, humbly thanked his God.
Today, if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness.
So, make that call. Write that letter. Invite those neighbors over to dinner.