“I waited patiently for the Lord, and he turned to me and heard my cry for help. He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
How patient of a person would you say you are? I’ll wait. We joke about the fact that patience is a virtue, but in an instant society like ours, waiting is a challenging thing to do. This morning as I was turning off of Main Street and pulling into work, I had to wait just a second for a car to pass going the other direction. In that brief moment, the truck behind me started to go around me on the right (our Main Street is only a two-way road) rather than being delayed by 10-seconds on his way to his destination. Admittedly, I’ve been tempted to do the same thing in other places when I’m in a hurry myself. We don’t like to wait. Unfortunately, life is full of waiting. The world does not operate on our schedule. Neither does God. The season of Advent is also one filled with waiting. As we continue our Advent journey together, let’s talk about it this morning.
People waited on Jesus for a long time. Moses promised the people of Israel before his death that God would one day raise up a prophet like him to lead the people. Their formalized waiting for the Messiah probably started around that time. Before even that, though, God told Abraham that one day one of his descendants would bless the world. That stretches us back in history another 450 years or so. This means the people of Israel were waiting on God to act for somewhere north of 2500 years before He finally began putting His plans into action.
This hope for a Messiah really kicked into high gear, though, when the people were finally sent into exile in Babylon. The people waited and waited for God to do something not just about the trouble they were in, but about all the trouble they had known throughout their nation’s history. The waiting surely had to get hard at times. They were tempted to give up and just live without waiting any longer; to quit God’s ways and do life on their own.
It is here, though, that the role of the prophets became critical to the nation’s survival with anything like the identity God had given them remaining intact. The prophets thundered and whispered, they begged and commanded, they pleaded and confidently insisted that the God of Israel was a promise-making God, and that He was a promise-keeping God. When God makes a promise, He keeps it. Period. That idea isn’t just one intended to give us encouragement to keeping moving forward toward some unknown, distant goal. It is intended to be a foundation on which we can build our lives.
Now, this means a number of different things for us. But one that stands out to me above all the rest, at least for our present circumstances, is that there is grace in the waiting. This grace isn’t some sort of automatic thing. We can easily miss out on it. But if we are willing to actually…well, wait for it, any season of waiting and patience we face is an opportunity for us to become more reflective of our God. It is an opportunity for us to experience His saving power in ways that will transform our entire lives.
This is what David experienced in His own life. While on the run from Saul, David spent not just many days, but many years toiling his way through the wilderness. He had been anointed by Samuel as the next king of Israel when he was a teenager. This anointing, though, was not some one-way ticket to the throne. It was an invitation to a journey of shaping through suffering so that when the time finally came for him to receive what God planned to give him, he would have the kind of character necessary to bear the weight of the responsibility.
And a part of this shaping was that along the way of this journey, he learned to trust not simply in God’s ability, but His willingness to intervene on behalf of His people when they are in trouble and willing to trust in Him. The thing about this help, though, is that it doesn’t always or even often come in ways or at times suited to our tastes. This means we have to wait on it. It could be that we have to wait on it while we are in the midst of some trouble or another. Yet we have this truth on which we stand while we wait: God keeps His promises.
If He has promised to deliver us (and He has promised to deliver us), then He will keep that promise. When we are willing to wait patiently on Him, we will experience that deliverance. And I suppose I should define what it means to wait patiently on Him. This is not the patience of one who is stuck waiting in line at the license bureau where you have nothing to do except to sit there and twiddle your thumbs until your number is called. This is the patience of the soldier in the trenches of battle, waiting for backup to arrive. This kind of waiting is not passive. It is active. There is much to do. There is much to do while fighting for your survival amid the ongoing attacks of the enemy. You must stay constantly vigilant, keeping your skills carefully honed, and even sharpening them along the way with on-the-spot training, so that you will be ready to jump into battle at a moment’s notice.
As we wait on the Lord, we keep ourselves prepared for battle by engaging regularly with the Scriptures. We pray without ceasing. We fellowship joyfully with our brothers and sisters. We actively pursue living out the character of Christ by loving one another and all the other one anothers around us. We boldly proclaim the Gospel to those who haven’t heard so they have a chance to be living ready as well. And we keep on doing these things until His help arrives. When we do, we will be able to proclaim with David, “I waited patiently for the Lord, and he turned to me and heard my cry for help.”
We may not have to wait any longer for Jesus’ first coming as David and those who lived after him on that side of the manger did, but we are waiting on His coming back. In this, we have much in common with our ancient forebears in the faith. And, like they experienced, there is still grace in the waiting if we are willing to wait with patience and hope. If you are in a place of waiting on the Lord in your life, keep waiting. The promise of the Advent season is that Christ has come once. And if that promise was fulfilled, His promise to come again will be as well.