You've probably felt once or twice in your life like God is a little late, like He missed the moment when you really needed Him and now...whatever. And some well-meaning Christian will usually come along to tell you that God is never late; it's just that His timing is not our timing.
That's true, but it's not always helpful. At least, it doesn't always feel helpful. Especially when we read our Bible and think it's full of stories of God showing up right on time, every time.
But what if it's not?
There's a very famous story in 1 Samuel when God is, by all human measures, late. It looks like He's late by God-ly measures, too.
The story centers around young King Saul, who is doing his thing and leading Israel in battle. He's pre-arranged with the priest-prophet Samuel to meet at a certain time to make an offering before going into the next battle, but...Samuel is late. Samuel doesn't show up when he's supposed to.
Saul is starting to panic. His troops are starting to worry. No one's sure how long they're supposed to wait, but everyone knows they don't want to go into battle without God's favor.
After waiting what must have seemed like an eternity and watching the sun start to set and the light for battle start to fade, Saul does the only thing he can think to do - he offers the sacrifice himself. He can't wait any longer for Samuel, but he can't move into battle without God. It only seems reasonable.
Except just as the smoke starts to waft heavenward from the offering, Samuel shows up. And...things get ugly. What are you doing, Saul? You aren't authorized to offer the sacrifices; you are not a priest.
Well, uhm. Well, see, I just thought God was late. That's all. I mean, uhm...where were you, Samuel?
And that's how King Saul lost the favor of the Lord.
See, it all started with a time frame that Saul had in his own mind. He had the logistics of battle in front of him, and as a skilled leader, he knew roughly how things had to go. As a man of faith, he also know how those things must go, but his impatience got the better of him. He didn't think he had any more time to wait for God.
Isn't it the same way with us? We, too, are an impatient people, and we think we understand the timing of things and how they have to go.
But look at the story - God was only a few minutes later than the moment when Saul thought he was running out of time. Saul had just started the fire, just slaughtered the animal, just separated the fat, and Samuel was right there. Saul wasn't entirely wrong - he was very close to being at the time, the time God had to show up. He was off by just a few minutes.
Just a few minutes.
What if you're off by just a few minutes in your estimation of God's timing?
God is never late.