“As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept.” (Matthew 25:5).
This verse is in the middle of the parable of the ten virgins. Jesus refers to the reality of there being a delay before the bridegroom returns. This theme of delay is given as an explicit reason by Jesus for some of his parables (Luke 19:11).
The question arises: why the delay? The short answer is that we are not told. We are called to be faithful as we wait.
But the Scriptures do give us insight into some of the issues at stake. One of them is the notion of freedom. In his book ‘People who made history’, Roy Clements comments upon the variety of time spans in the book of Judges. It is all so unpredictable. For example, in the time framesthere will be oppression for 8 years and then peace for 40 years, oppression for 18 years, peace 80 years, oppression 20 years, peace for 40 years. There is no discernible pattern. He then makes the perceptive observation:
“It is necessary for there to be a time lag between crime and punishment. Furthermore, the time lag must be of indeterminate duration. Otherwise, there is no freedom to sin; and if there is no freedom to sin, there is no freedom at all.” (P 25).
This is a helpful insight into what might also be occurring when there is a delay in the Lord’s righteous judgement. It is also the way in which the heart is revealed. For there is another question at stake: ‘How does God get us to love him without destroying our free will?’ The time delay also serves to reveal the heart of the faithful. In short, the very delay reveals the heart that believes. The love that waits. Freely.
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8).