Eukairos: When Will Help Arrive?

Word of the Week

July 9, 2022

Eukairos: When Will Help Arrive?

 

. . . grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

 

You’re driving across west Texas, far from the nearest town, when your van suddenly loses the ability to make it up the next hill.  You coast to the side of the road and call AAA for help.

“We will be happy to send help, but all our tow trucks are busy.  It may be more than an hour before we can reach you.”

So you settle down to wait, watching the tumbleweeds roll by as you check your watch and wonder how long “more than an hour” really means.  It’s amazing how slowly time moves when you’re waiting for help to arrive!

We often find ourselves in the same spot when we are waiting for God to send the help that He has promised.

Hebrews 4:16 invites us to come boldly to the Lord to ask for His help.  “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (NASB).

We know that God keeps His promises, and according to this verse, He invites us to come boldly to ask for help.  But there’s the matter of timing.  Even when I know that the Lord plans to help me, it often seems that He’s in no hurry to arrive.  He seems blissfully unaware of the urgency of my situation!

The final phrase of this verse – “in time of need” – addresses my questions about God’s sense of timing.

n English, this is a four-word phrase.  In Greek, it’s a single word:  eukairos.  Strong’s Concordance defines it as “well-timed” or “opportune.”  Danker’s Concise Greek Lexicon says, “well-timed, suitable, at the right time.”  In a word, God’s help is well-timed.  It comes at the right time.

You can catch the flavor of the word more fully by noticing its etymology.  It is formed from two shorter Greek words, eu and kairos.

The Greeks would often add eu at the beginning of a word to mean “good.”

Kairos is one of two Greek words for “time.”  Unlike chronos, which simply describes the passage of time, kairos means a crucial moment in time, a turning point, an opportunity.

Put them together and you get “a good opportunity, a suitable moment in time.”

You can see this idea clearly in Mark 6:21, the only other place in the New Testament where eukairos occurs.  As the curtain rises, Mark explains the back story.  King Herod had stolen his brother’s wife Herodias and married her, a hot item for the gossip columns and an obvious offense against the law of God. John the Baptist had denounced them publicly and was arrested for his trouble.  Herodias was determined to have him put to death, but Herod wouldn’t do it.  He enjoyed listening to John, even though the message was often a condemnation of his sin.

When Herod scheduled a birthday party, a vindictive Herodias saw her chance.  Mark says, “A eukairos day came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee.”  A seductive dance and a thoughtless promise gave her the opportunity to dispose of John, and she took it.  It was the perfect moment to accomplish a longstanding objective.

If a wicked, deeply flawed woman can recognize the optimal moment to act, then the flawless, all-wise King of the universe can choose the perfect time to carry out his purposes, even if we would prefer a different schedule.

We want God’s help to be prompt.

We want God’s help to be predictable.

But God’s help is perfect in its timing.

He sent His Son after 400 years of silence, when the time was ripe (Galatians 4:4).  And He will send the help we need at the perfect time.

He may delay an answer until we are ready to hear it.

He may delay a rescue until we are ready to recognize Him as our rescuer.

He may postpone deliverance in order to accomplish His purpose in someone else’s life.

He knows exactly when to provide the help we so desperately need, at an instant when it will accomplish his many-sided purposes for us, for others, and for His glory.

John Piper says, “So it’s not surprising that a ‘well-timed help’ might be different from God’s perspective than from ours.  But his perspective is always best.  It is always grace to us.  It should always be trusted” (Desiring God, “Let’s Find “Grace for a Well-Timed Help” Together; desiringGod.org, November 17, 1993).

Study Hint:

You can expand your understanding of eukairos by studying its cognates, the other members of its family group.  Eukairos  is an adjective, but the lexicon lists three matching words:

Eukaireō (a verb)

Eukairia (a noun)

Eukairōs (an adverb)

 

Look at the references where these words are used, and you’ll find some surprising insights:

Eukaireō – “have an opportune moment, have leisure”

  • Mark 6:31 – “And [Jesus] said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.’ (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even eukaireō to eat.)”
  • 1 Corinthians 16:12 – “But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren, and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he eukaireō.”
  • Acts 17:21 – “Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to eukaireō in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.”

Eukairia – “timely moment, good/favorable opportunity”

  • Matthew 26:16 – “From then on he {Judas] began looking for a eukairia to betray Jesus.”
  • Luke 22:6 – “So he [Judas] consented, and began seeking a eukairia to betray Him to them apart from the crowd.”

Eukairōs – “at an opportune time”

  • Mark 14:11 – “Then they [the Jewish leaders] were glad when they heard this, and promised to give him [Judas] money. And he began seeking how to betray Him eukairō”
  • 2 Timothy 4:2 – “Preach the word; be ready eukairōs and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instructions.

Q/A:

Q – I was reading an article making the point that Jesus had to deal with people who grumble, just as Moses spent much time leading grumblers.  To make his point, he said the same Greek word was used about Christ’s critics in the New Testament (Luke 5:30 is an example) as is used in the Greek Old Testament for the Israelites.  I looked up both words, and they don’t look much alike.  What gives?

A – The Greek word in Luke 5 is gogguzo, which means to complain.  The Old Testament word you found was diagogguzo.  You were alert to notice the difference.  The two words are not identical, but they are related.  For the second word, they just put the preposition dia in front of gogguzo to make a new word.  This longer word describes muttering done in a crowd, rather than just an individual complaint.  The article you read made a good point, but he could have made it clearer by quoting Luke 15:2, which uses exactly the same word as the Old Testament passage.

Coming Up

What does it take to be qualified for God’s kingdom?  Next week we will look at the verb that describes that transaction.

©Ezra Project 2022

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