Most of us can relate to watching the progress bar on a computer monitor, and wondering if it would ever get to the end. Was it even moving? Then maybe we wondered, how accurate is it? Is this a picture of the real time it is going to take?
But whether or not it is an accurate measure of time or progress, it still felt good to “see” something happening.
Occasionally in the history of God’s people, God provided a visible progress bar. Those living at the time could see God working, if only in the background.
The apostles of our Lord had this privilege. Being with Jesus and later carrying out His commission, they could “see” the fulfillment of the prophecies written hundreds of years before. The progress bar was visible and moving, even though they did not know how fast or how far it would go.
Hear the testimony of Peter as he spoke to Cornelius:
Acts 10:38,43 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power,…43To Him give all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”
They were seeing the moving progress bar in the fulfillment of the words of the prophets, about the ministry of Jesus.
Jesus Himself testified to the fulfillment of all that was written in the prophets about Himself.
It was the afternoon of the day of His resurrection, as He walked with two of the disciples to their hometown in Bethany.
Luke 24:25–27 25Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
Wouldn’t we like to have heard that message from Jesus? Later the same day Jesus appeared to the Eleven and gave them deep insights into the prophecies they already knew. Seeing Jesus alive after being crucified was visible evidence that the progress bar was moving. The plan of God was going forward.
Luke 24:44–47 44Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” 45And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. 46Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
They were with Jesus. They could see, but this was the rare picture. Much more common through scripture were the times when they couldn’t see the progress bar.
Witness the situation of Abraham. God had given him a great and far-reaching promise.
Genesis 12:1–3 1Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. 2I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
At this time Abram was about 75 years old.
Abram believed, but… no child. Time went by. Five years. Ten years. Eleven years. Still no child.
Abram and Sarah waited, and waited, and waited. Still no child.
Then, one day, Abram heard the Lord’s voice in a vision.
Genesis 15:1–6 1After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” 2But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!”
Abram was quick to remind God of the problem. If only there was a visible progress bar, something happening, something he could see!
4And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.”
Praise God! The promise still stood! The angel said, “Abram, look up!”
5Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
It was assurance renewed. The progress bar was moving.
6And [Abram] believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.
Even when Abram could not see it, the promise was sure. The progress bar was there. But this took FAITH. GREAT faith. God had said,
Genesis 21:12 12… in Isaac your seed shall be called.
By the time Abram was age 100 and Sarah was over 90, they were holding their child of promise! Baby Isaac was truly a miracle!
We read of a similar time in the book of Samuel, when Samuel was a young child, living in the temple with Eli the priest. It was a sacred place, but there was apparently nothing to see. No motion on the progress bar.
1 Samuel 3:1 1Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation.
Fast forward to the time of Gideon. The little nation of Israel was being ravaged by the Midianites. Here again there was no visible progress bar.
What was Gideon’s reply?
Judges 6:11–13 11Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites.
There was so much danger of the wheat being seized by the Midianites that Gideon was threshing it in the winepress – can you imagine the dust?
12And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!”
13Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.”
No progress bar, nothing to see. Gideon even wondered if God had forsaken them. Couldn’t God see their plight?
Yes, God had seen. The progress bar was moving in the background. God had arranged for Gideon to deliver the nation.
There were silent times again and again. Even when God was speaking through His prophets, some had visions, some had dreams, sometimes we read only that “the word of the Lord came to…” such and such a one.
But between those visions, those dreams, those audible words, silence. Nothing visible on the progress bar.
Do we wonder that Hebrews says, speaking of Abel, and Enoch, and Abraham and Sarah, and Jacob, and Joseph, and Moses and so on, do we wonder that it says of each: “By faith…”?
Yes, they had an occasional visual. But in between, nothing. No visible progress bar. Or at times a progress bar that seemed not to be moving at all!
When we think about it, we realize they ALL walked by faith. Even if they saw for a time the progress bar moving forward, none had SEEN the promise fulfilled. None had experienced the immortal state. As Paul said, even with all his experience,
2 Corinthians 5:7 7For we walk by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:1–3 1For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, [this present life] is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Notice it is not ETERNALLY in the heavens, but it is ETERNAL, and it is NOW in heaven—which is the point Paul is making. We don’t have it yet.
2For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven,
We long to be clothed with that immortal body which comes from heaven, that immortal body like Jesus has!
3if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.
By comparison with immortality, we in this mortal state are “naked.”
2 Corinthians 5:4 4For we who are in this tent [this mortal state] groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed [with immortality], that mortality may be swallowed up by life.
“That mortality may be swallowed up by life.”
Not seeing the progress bar now. Doesn’t this mean we live by hope?
This is what Paul said:
Romans 8:22–25 22For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
Paul says, even “we”—those who had the Holy Spirit power, the “earnest,” the arrabon, the guarantee of the glory to come—even they were longing for the change to immortality! The progress bar was moving, but ever so slowly! He says,
23…even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?
Even with the gifts of the spirit they could not see!
25But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
That’s right where we are. Hoping in our sure hope. Waiting. Even when we cannot see the progress bar. Because we know it is moving steadily forward, it is getting very near the end of the bar, when the great Day of the Lord will break in upon us and the long promised Kingdom will come, and God’s will be done here as it is now done in heaven above!