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Waiting on the Lord

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Psa. 27:14 Wait for the Lord; Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.

Psa. 37:9 For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.

Introduction

The waiting room, a land where time seemingly stands still. It is a place where life is put on hold. In my doctor’s office, it feels like hours have passed, and yet when I look at my watch, it’s been only 20 minutes. When we are in the waiting room, it seems as if progress has come to a screeching halt.1

This short, but excellent article by Mark Wheeler formed the incentive for this series on waiting on the Lord.

One of the important exhortations of the Bible is the call to “wait on the Lord.” Even though God promises special blessing for waiting, waiting is one of the most difficult exhortations of Scripture. Why is it so hard? Because, as a part of fallen humanity, we are so prone to take matters into our own hands, to follow our own schemes. Yet, over and over again we are told in Scripture “wait on the Lord.”

We don’t like to wait and when we think of waiting we are apt to respond with the pun, “Wait? That’s what made the bridge collapse!” Of course, that’s weight, not wait. But then these two words, weight and wait are not always unrelated because one of our needs in waiting on the Lord is the need to cast the weighty burdens of life on Him.

The comment about the bridge expresses our normal dislike for waiting, especially in our “I want it now!” society. Ours is a society that has grown accustomed to immediate gratification. Due to modern technology and all our conveniences—telephones, refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, fast foods, airplanes, etc.—we have many things immediately at our fingertips. Just think of the speed of the latest computer technology in comparison with the computers of only a few years ago.

Even in our modern age of conveniences, waiting is still a big part of life. When we think of waiting, what comes to mind? We might conjure up visions of an airport terminal, a doctor’s waiting room, the line at the supermarket, or being stuck in rush hour traffic. The facts are, most of us are waiting for something most of the time:

  • Maybe you are in a job situation that’s really tough to endure and you are waiting and hoping that conditions will change for the better.
  • Maybe you are without a job and waiting for news on an application.
  • Maybe you are ill (or have a loved one who is) and waiting for your health to improve.
  • Maybe you are on a diet and waiting for your weight to drop a few pounds.
  • A single person may be waiting for Mr. or Miss Right.
  • Or maybe you are waiting for your spouse or child to become interested in spiritual things.

The simple fact is, in spite of our modern age and our dislike for waiting, life is full of waiting. And one of the most challenging exhortations of Scripture is “Wait.” But waiting, despite our impatience and our dislike for it, is a vital element in life. Indeed, waiting has a number of benefits that we will discuss in this study.

When we think of waiting on the Lord, there are a number of important questions that need to be answered and understood in light of the principles and promises of Scripture. Why? Because without these answers, we become like a long-tailed cat scurrying around in a room full of rocking chairs. We become fidgety, fearful, frustrated, anxious, and even angry. However, because the Lord tells us to wait, and since it has some wonderful benefits, we need to know what it means to wait and how that is to be done.

Some key questions we might ask are:

  • What does it mean to wait? What’s involved?
  • How are we to wait?
  • Who and what are we waiting for?
  • Why should we wait?
  • How long do we wait?

We will answer these questions with biblical answers so we can truly learn to wait for and on the Lord and experience the promised blessing of God. First, let’s take a quick look at the key words used in Scripture in connection with this subject.

Old Testament Words Used

In the NASB the word most often translated “wait” in the sense of waiting on the Lord is the Hebrew qavah. Qavah means (1) “to bind together” (perhaps by twisting strands as in making a rope), (2) “look patiently,” (3) “tarry or wait,” and (4) “hope, expect, look eagerly.”

The second most frequently used word translated “wait” is yachal. Yachal means “to wait,” or “hope, wait expectantly,” and is so translated in our English Bibles. The KJV sometimes translates yachal as “trust” as in Isaiah 51:5, but the NASB has “wait expectantly” and the NIV “wait in hope.”

A third word sometimes translated “wait” is damam. Damam means “to be dumb, grow silent, be still,” but it is sometimes translated “wait, tarry, rest” (cf. Psa. 62:5 KJV).

A fourth word for waiting is chakah, “to wait, tarry,” or “long for” (cf. Ps. 33:20; 106:13; Isa. 30:18).

The Old Testament emphasis is clearly on the daily walk and the need to wait on the Lord and His providential care in the pressures of life. As we will see, in the New Testament, the focus is on the promise of Christ’s return. The emphasis, however, in most contexts where the words for waiting occur, is on the impact waiting on the Lord’s return should have on our daily walk.

New Testament Words Used

Prosdechomai is the primary word used in the New Testament for the concept of waiting. It is a compound word from pros, “to or towards” and dechomai, “receive, accept.” Prosdechomai means (1) “to receive to one’s self, receive favorably,” (2) “expect, look for, wait for.”2 Compare its use in Mark 15:43; Luke 2:25; 12:36; Acts 24:15; Titus 2:13; Jude 1:21. The focus of this word is on the coming of the Lord in either His first or second advents.

The second most frequently used word is apekdechomai, a triple compound word made up of two prepositions, apo, “from,” and ek, “out,” and the verb dechomai, “receive, accept.” It means “to await, expect eagerly.”3 Compare its use in Romans 8:19, 23, 25; 1 Corinthians 1:7; Galatians 5:5; Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 9:20. Again, the waiting here is primarily prophetic of the return of the Lord and the glorious blessings that will follow.

The other word translated “wait” in the New Testament is anameno. Literally, it means to wait up as a parent might wait up for a child to come home. It means “to await one whose coming is expected, perhaps with the added idea of patience and confidence.”4 This word is used only once and, again, it is used of the return of the Lord (1 Thess. 1:10).

With these words in mind, let’s look at what waiting means in terms of some practical concepts. Each of these points are like strands woven into a rope which add strength in the process of waiting.

Essential Factors
in Waiting on the Lord

Waiting Necessitates the Passage of Time

When the psalmist wrote in Psalm 130:5-6: “I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord More than the watchmen for the morning; Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning,” he was comparing waiting expectantly on the Lord to the night guards of the city who watched the passage of time in anticipation of the coming dawn when they would be released from duty. The coming of the dawn was certain, but not without the passage of time. In our “I want it now generation” we must understanding and accept the fact that waiting on the Lord always involves the passage of time just as it does when we are waiting for the news, a special TV program, for a plane to arrive, or for retirement. Waiting on the Lord inevitably means enduring the passage of time, but it means more, much more.

Waiting Means Confident Expectation

That waiting includes the concept of hope is why the Hebrew word qavah is sometimes translated “hope” or “look expectantly,” and why yacha, which means “to wait” can mean either “wait” or “hope.”

WAITING and HOPING are wound together like the strands of a rope. Let me illustrate:

(1) When you wait for the inheritance you have been promised, you expect and hope the laws of the land will work to make it available to you.

(2) When you wait for the news on TV, you are trusting and expecting your TV to work, and that the station will be on the air and able to broadcast.

(3) When you wait to hear whether or not you have been accepted for the job you’ve applied for, you are not only hoping to get the job, you are hoping your credentials and qualifications are more than sufficient.

Compare again Psalm 130:5-6.

5 I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope. 6 My soul waits for the Lord More than the watchmen for the morning; Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.

When we, like the guards of the city, wait for the morning, we are waiting for more than simply time to pass. We are waiting for the sun to rise and day to break, for the light to replace the darkness, and the cold to be replaced with the warmth of the sun.

Waiting involves an expectation of something special. Waiting means anticipation, expectation, confident hope in something that will take place. Ultimately, waiting on the Lord is like waiting on the sun to rise—waiting expectantly for the Lord’s answers to human needs as the sun brings the warmth of the day.

This naturally leads us to our next point and the third strand in our rope which adds more strength:

Waiting Involves an
Expectation Based on Knowledge and Trust

Without knowledge and trust, we simply won’t wait—at least not without a great deal of anxiety—and usually not without taking matters into our own hands.

Based on its past performance, we wait for the news to come on at six o’clock because we believe the TV station will be operating. For many years they have continued to do so, and so we trust the staff to give the news at six o’clock.

Or, we know that throughout our lives we have seen the sun rise every single day. It has never failed even once. We know or believe, therefore, we can count on it based on its past performance, so we wait for the light and the warmth. But above all, we are expecting God’s laws of creation to continue to work.

Thus, the emphasis of the Bible is that our waiting is a waiting on or waiting for the Lord and His lovingkindness. At least 28 of the passages that deal with waiting have the Lord as the object waited for and as the confidence of the one waiting. Again note the emphasis and the object of the Psalmist’s confidence in Psalm 130:5-8:

I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope. 6 My soul waits for the Lord More than the watchmen for the morning; Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD; For with the LORD there is lovingkindness, And with Him is abundant redemption. 8 And He will redeem Israel From all his iniquities.

As the watchman waits for the sun because he knows it is reliable, so the Psalmist waits for the Lord even more because he knows the Lord is more reliable than the rising of the sun. In other words, waiting is fundamentally wrapped up with knowing, trusting, and believing in the Lord and His person (His character) and in His promises.

The ability to wait on the Lord stems from being confident and focused on who God is and in what God is doing. It means confidence in God’s person: confidence in His wisdom, love, timing, understanding of our situation and that of the world. It means knowing and trusting in God’s principles, promises, purposes, and power.

In each of the following passages, the call to wait and rest is based on God’s character and His faithfulness.

Psalm 52:8-9 But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever. 9 I will give Thee thanks forever, because Thou hast done it, And I will wait on Thy name, for it is good, in the presence of Thy godly ones.

Psalm 62:1-12 For the choir director; according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David. My soul waits in silence for God only; From Him is my salvation. 2 He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken. 3 How long will you assail a man, That you may murder him, all of you, Like a leaning wall, like a tottering fence? 4 They have counseled only to thrust him down from his high position; They delight in falsehood; They bless with their mouth, But inwardly they curse. 5 My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him. 6 He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken. 7 On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. 8 Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.

9 Men of low degree are only vanity, and men of rank are a lie; In the balances they go up; They are together lighter than breath. 10 Do not trust in oppression, And do not vainly hope in robbery; If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them. 11 Once God has spoken; Twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God; 12 And lovingkindness is Thine, O Lord, For Thou dost recompense a man according to his work.

Psalm 37:7-9 Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. 8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret, it leads only to evildoing. 9 For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.

Psalm 39:7 And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in Thee.

Where is the Psalmist’s hope? In the who and what of the Lord!

But when we think of waiting, we often face the question, “What am I to do during the waiting process?” Does this mean we sit back and do nothing? Yes and No!

Let’s consider our next principle, the fourth strand needed to strengthen the rope.

Waiting Involves Negatives and Positives

When we think of waiting, we might envision just sitting back, not doing much of anything, just waiting for something to happen. But that is not the kind of waiting the Bible is calling for. Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of waiting is learning to hold the negatives and the positives in proper balance.

Waiting involves a passivity and an activity—negatives and positives—things we should do and things we should not do. These negatives and positives in relation to waiting are closely wound together like the strands in a rope. When wound together properly, they give great strength, courage, patience, and endurance.

As to activity, waiting involves three things:

(1) Things we do—doing the right things.

(2) Things we are not to do—refraining from the wrong things.

(3) Things that happen to us, in us, and for us in the process of biblical waiting.

These three elements are intertwined and can be difficult to sort out as we go through the process of waiting on the Lord, but basically, they involve careful obedience by faith in several biblical injunctions that are associated with the concept of waiting in Scripture.

Note the positives and negatives in this passage which are woven together as part of the waiting process as one trusts confidently in the Lord.

Psalm 37:7-9 Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. 8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret, it leads only to evildoing. 9 For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.

Psalm 37:1-6 A Psalm of David. Do not fret because of evildoers, Be not envious toward wrongdoers. 2 For they will wither quickly like the grass, And fade like the green herb. 3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. 4 Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. 6 And He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your judgment as the noonday.

Waiting Involves Seeking the Lord

Lamentations 3:25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.

On the positive side, waiting always means seeking the Lord. When we enter God’s waiting room we are not to just sit as one might in the doctor’s chair. Rather, we need to spend time seeking Him. This means:

  • Time in the Word studying, seeking answers, and claiming God’s promises;
  • Time in prayer praying about the issues, praying for wisdom and discernment;
  • Time meditating on who God is, what He is wanting to do in us and through us, and on what we need to do by way of answers and direction. Included in this might be our need to examine and evaluate our motives and attitudes, our values and priorities, and our goals and objectives in life.

Compare Psalm 119:43, 49, 74, 81, 114, 147 (yachal); 130:5 (uses qavah twice and yachal once); Lam. 3:21-24 (yachal).

Waiting Involves
Taking Action at the Right Time

There is a time to plow, a time to sow, and a time to reap, but they are never done all together or at the same time. For a few years, my father was a rice farmer and as a boy growing up on the farm, I had the privilege of working on the farm and being involved in the rice growing process. The most important and exciting seasons were when we planted and harvested the rice, but they were weeks and weeks apart. We would plow, disk, and harrow the soil, and then we would plant the seed. After the rice had sprouted a few inches, the fields with their levies were flooded with water. For the next months, the job was to maintain the proper level of water on the rice and wait for the rice to grow. Daily we walked and watched the fields to see that the water lever was just right. Finally, after weeks of waiting and watching and anticipation, it was time for the harvest and in would come the combines and the trucks. But the whole process involved doing the right thing at the right time.

Waiting on the Lord is like that. God is in the business of growing a spiritual harvest in our lives, but this takes time and our cooperation in doing the right things at the right time.

Waiting Involves
Resting in God’s Timing

Psalm 145:15 The eyes of all look to Thee, And Thou dost give them their food in due time.

Galatians 6:9 And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.

Waiting means resting in God’s timing and activity while taking care of our responsibilities—the things we can do and should do as set forth in the Word of God.

On the one hand we are to rest and be still. This stands opposed to running ahead of the Lord and taking matters into our own hands and turning to our own human strategies. For instance, when one’s spouse is acting in disobedience to the Word (as it is perceived by the other spouse) the great temptation is to nag and brow beat the other partner with arguments and complaining, etc., but Peter’s direction to us in such situations is far different. Our responsibility is to seek to win them by Christlike behavior while we wait on the Lord to work in their lives, using our testimony if He sees fit to do so.

1 Peter 3:1-2 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. …

With this in mind, let’s look at Psalm 37:7.

Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.

“Rest” in this verse is the Hebrew damam which is sometimes translated “wait.” Its basic meaning, however, is “be or grow dumb, be silent, still, motionless,” or “stand still.” Note that it is given in a context where twice we are told to “wait on the Lord” (verses 7 and 9).

This word is used of the sun standing still in Joshua 10:12 and where it includes the idea of stopping normal activity. How we need time from our normal activity to get alone with the Lord.

So, damam is likewise used in the sense of getting quiet for the purpose of quiet meditation on the Word or on the Lord (Ps. 62:5 [uses damam with tiqvah, hope from qavah]; Ps. 4:4, “be still”).

We might compare a well-known verse, Psalm 46:10, “Cease striving (“be still”) and know that I am God …” Though a different Hebrew word is used, this verse stresses a similar idea. The key word here is rapha, “relax, become motionless, hang limp, let go.”

On the other hand, Psalm 37:34 points us to the other side of the coin. “Wait for the LORD, and keep His way, And He will exalt you to inherit the land; When the wicked are cut off, you will see it.”

Waiting for the Lord includes keeping His way or doing what is right. It involves us in positive actions, but biblical actions of faith in God’s goodness and provision according to His promises and His timing. Again this stands in contrast to turning to man’s way or to our solutions which are the ways of death and defeat.

Waiting Means
Trusting in God and His Goodness

Lamentations 3:25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.

Psalm 62:5-8 My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him. 6 He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken. 7 On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. 8 Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.

Isaiah 8:17 I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob. I will put my trust (look unto, hope) in him. (NIV)

These verses and many others teach us that the essence of waiting is trust or faith in the nature and character of God. No one can wait on the Lord if he or she does not truly trust in God as the rock of their strength and refuge in all of life. Waiting means claiming God’s promises by faith and resting in what God is doing in our lives so we can faithfully follow God’s principles and keep His values, priorities, and pursuits.

The opposite of waiting and resting by faith is turning to our solutions of self-protection because of anger, fear, and jealousy. We fret, we moan and groan, we withdraw or run from the problem. We may try to control others, call attention to ourselves to bolster our feelings of inadequacy or to defend ourselves against the comments of others. Out of fear of failure or loss, we may compromise our convictions or what we know is right. But fear, which has displaced faith in the Lord, causes us to lean on the arm of the flesh.

Waiting Involves
Taking the Right Action

As we rest in God’s timing, goodness, and eternal purposes, taking the right actions includes avoiding the negatives like:

(1) Refusing to retaliate or take revenge (Pro. 20:22).

(2) Refusing to pass judgment, i.e., to judge the motives of others, or to evaluate by human standards (1 Cor. 4:5).

(3) Refusing to get a divorce rather than committing oneself to working on reconciliation and biblical solutions which is God’s way.

(4) Refusing to marry on the rebound.

(5) Refusing to change jobs or run from some other circumstance because of difficulties without first seeking the Lord.

(6) Refusing to resort to the manipulation of others (like one’s husband or wife or child) because we don’t want to wait on the Lord to work. We want change now!

(7) Refusing to fret over the prosperity of others, or be jealous, envious, resentful, frustrated, and angry when our situation is not so good. As seen above, such attitudes can cause us to turn to the typical human strategies like gossip, pouting, revenge tactics, or seeking our happiness by climbing the ladder of success in work, in a position, in popularity, etc., at the expense of family, health, or our walk with the Lord.

But waiting on the Lord also means doing the things we can and should without panic or running ahead of Him. For example, if we need a job or think we need a change of employment, we should pray and ask God for wisdom, for information, and for His sovereign leading, but we may also need to prepare for a job with education and training. Then we need to pursue looking for a job by putting together a resume, checking the classifieds, submitting applications, talking to friends, and going to employment agencies. We don’t expect an employer to come knocking at the door while we sit in front of the TV.

Waiting Involves Learning to be
Content with God’s Provision and Timing

To wait on the Lord means to be content and patient because we are clinging to God and resting in His love and wisdom. This element of waiting, however, is the most difficult aspect of all for two reasons.

(1) Contentment and patience are difficult because they are so contrary to fallen humanity and how we naturally think even after we are regenerated by the Spirit of God. It takes constant renewal in the Word, fellowship with the Lord, and growth through struggle to change.

(2) Contentment and patience fly directly in the face of the cunning delusion Satan constantly seeks to pass off on the human race, namely, that man does not need God and can find security, satisfaction, and significance apart from the Lord through his own solutions and human wisdom.

To wait on the Lord means learning to be content and patient as we cling to God in a fallen world and rest in His love and wisdom. Key to this is knowing that someday we will be in a perfect world that is everything this world is not.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18. Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

On the one hand, being content and patient means learning to be independent of the things we think we need for our significance, security, or satisfaction in life.

Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

On the other hand, it means learning to cling to the Lord in the midst of a fallen world. It means resting in His goodness and being committed to His purposes and glory no matter how things seem.

Though believers generally recognize Satan’s big lie for what it is—a lie—we still tend to buy into part of his sales pitch concerning his substitutes and strategies for life. And to confuse or complicate matters, our susceptibility to Satan’s system is aided by our own natural God-given longings for happiness, joy, acceptance, love, meaning, and purpose in life.

Though God-given, these longings were never intended to replace our more fundamental and basic longing and need of God. Indeed, our ability to properly experience these longings rather than abuse them (make them into our gods) has always depended on our relationship and dependence on the Lord.

We naturally long for many things such as love, acceptance, purpose in life, food, clothing, comfort, pleasure, and security. And these are all legitimate desires. However, because of our natural needs and desires, we fall prey to Satan’s lies and follow Satan’s strategies (as well as our own) to meet our needs and fulfill our desires.

(1) We tell ourselves we can’t be happy unless we have certain of the details of life—a particular kind of car, or home, or furnishings for our home, etc.

(2) We believe the lie that we can’t be significant and find meaning in life unless we obtain the position we are coveting, unless we are accepted by a particular group of people, or unless certain people respect our opinions. (You fill in the blank.)

When we believe these kinds of lies, we become discontent as Eve was in Genesis 3. Then, in our state of discontent and false belief, we turn from waiting on the Lord to our own strategies as did Eve. We reach into our own little bag of tricks to get what we want. Regarding this Jeremiah wrote:

Jeremiah 2:12-13 “Be appalled, O heavens, at this, And shudder, be very desolate,” declares the LORD. 13 “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, The fountain of living waters, To hew for themselves cisterns, Broken cisterns, That can hold no water.”

One of the greatest evidences of our fallenness is our propensity to seek to get from this world what only God can give us. God has given us all things to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17), but never apart from Him either as the source of our basic satisfaction in life or apart from His direction. Without the Lord, even in the midst of great prosperity, life becomes like parched ground and we end up like a gerbil on a wheel, running, running, running, but going nowhere and facing only discontent and boredom.

To wait on the Lord means to learn contentment with His provision and timing in any given situation through fellowship with God—knowing Him, clinging to Him, and trusting Him.

The Israelites were to be God’s people, distinct, and living under His protection, direction, and provision as they experienced His fellowship and manifested His glory.

Psalm 106:13-15 shares some insightful lessons from which we can learn much in the realm of learning to be content which is so vital to waiting on the Lord.

    The First Problem: “they quickly forgot His works” (13a)

I believe the two parts of this verse stand to each other as cause and effect with the effect, “forgetting God’s works,” placed first for emphasis. The emphasis is on the fact of their lost focus on the mighty works of God. “His works” is a reference to the mighty deeds of God’s love and deliverance beginning with Israel’s deliverance in Egypt through the Passover lamb, and then out of Egypt by God’s power at the Red Sea, and extending on into the wilderness in one great event after another.

And what did these works show? God’s works manifested God’s person as loving, gracious, powerful, and committed to His people by special covenants as first spelled out in the Abrahamic covenant and later in the Mosaic covenant (cf. Rom. 8:31-32).

So what happened? They quickly forgot all that the Lord had done. “Forgot” is the Hebrew word shakach which carries the idea of being oblivious to something. How sad! But they forgot because they lost their focus on the Lord, and they lost their focus because they failed to wait on God’s counsel.

    The Reason: “They did not wait for His counsel” (13b)

What is God’s counsel? The Hebrew word here is etsah, “counsel, plan, purpose, design.” Ultimately this refers to God’s Word, but in particular it refers to God’s purpose and plan for the nation as His people, along with His principles by which the plan would work, and the promises of God’s love and provision. This counsel was given that they might walk with Him through that counsel and manifest themselves as the people of God, a priesthood nation. But they forgot who they were as God’s people because they failed to reflect on God’s counsel. (Cf. Ex. 19:4-6; with 1 Pet. 2:5-11.)

How did they fail to wait? It means they failed to cling to the Lord and rest in the promises of His love, provision, timing, and wisdom as it pertained to their needs and His purpose for them. “Wait” here is chakah which originally may have meant “to adhere, cling to,” and then “to wait.”

When we fail to wait on God’s counsel (i.e., fail to cling to Him through prayer and fellowship with Him in the Word by which we reflect on His love, faithfulness, purposes, and resources), we quickly not only lose our focus and forget who God is and what He has done, but in a spirit of idolatry and human foolishness, we begin to look to and depend on (a) the details of life, the things of the world like pleasure, position, power, and prestige, and (b) our strategies to get what we want or think we need for our happiness, security, and satisfaction.

With verse 14, we turn to the second problem mentioned in this passage, the struggle we all face in learning patience and contentment in God’s provision, timing, and plan for each of us.

    The Second Problem: “But craved intensely in the wilderness” (14a)

First, notice the place where this occurred. It was in the “wilderness.” In Scripture, the wilderness or desert represents the testing places of life, the places and conditions God’s uses in our lives to train and develop our faith, enhance our walk with Him, and prepare us to be the people of God.

In addition, the term wilderness serves to remind us we aren’t in Eden. We are in a wilderness-like world filled with problems and barrenness; a world that, without the Lord, is a parched ground (Ps. 143:6).

“Craved intensely” shows they were anything but content with God’s lot for their lives or with His plan and direction at that particular moment. Rather than resting in what God was doing in their lives at that moment, they looked back on the past and craved after some of the pleasures of Egypt—the meat, fish, cucumbers (six inches of indigestion), the melons (ninety percent water), the onions, leeks and garlic (these speak for themselves). How quickly they forgot the slavery under the whip of their task masters. They were coveting the details of life, and the New Testament defines coveting as a form of idolatry (cf. Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5).

Why is covetousness a form of idolatry? Because when we covet the details of life (position, power, praise, pleasures, possessions, comfort, etc.), we value and worship them as though they were gods with the power to give security, significance, and satisfaction—things which only God can truly give.

Again, let’s remember that the desire for food, clothing, pleasure, comfort, love, significance, and security are all legitimate desires given to us by God who gives us all things to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17). These desires are not in themselves sinful. They only become sinful when they control our lives or when we seek our happiness in them rather than in God. They are sinful when they cause us to abandon God’s purposes and His timing so that we turn to our own strategies to grasp after our wants what we perceive as our needs.

With the words, “they tempted God” the Psalmist defined the nature of such coveting. When we fail to wait on the Lord and crave after the details of life as our source of happiness, we are tempting God. But what exactly does it mean to tempt God?

Men test God by behaviour which constitutes in effect a defiant challenge to him to prove the truth of his words and the goodness and justice of his ways (Ex. 17:2; Nu. 14:22; Pss. 78:18, 41, 56; 95:9; 106:14; Mal. 3:15; Acts 5:9; 15:10). The place-name Massah was a permanent memorial of one such temptation (Ex. 17:7; Dt. 6:16). Thus to goad God betrays extreme irreverence, and God himself forbids it (Dt. 6:16; cf. Mt. 4:7; 1 Cor. 10:9ff.). In all distresses God’s people should wait on him in quiet patience, confident that in due time he will meet their need according to his promise (cf. Pss. 27:7-14; 37:7; 40; 130:5ff.; La. 3:25ff.; Phil. 4:19).5

    The Results: “So He gave them their request” (15)

In other words, they received what they thought they needed to be happy. They finally got what they wanted. So now, they would be happy and satisfied, right? Absolutely not!

God does not force His will on us, and sometimes He allows us to get what we think we must have. He sometimes allows us to live by our own strategies and substitutes through the energy of the flesh. The results, however, are always disappointing and often disastrous to some degree. The only blessing to come from such self-centered, self-dependent living is when, in the face of our disappointment or the problems incurred, we come to the end of ourselves, repent of our rebellious ways, and return and cling to the Lord.

    Further Results: “But sent a wasting disease among them”

Literally, “but sent a leanness or scantiness of soul among them.”

Historically, the Psalmist had in mind the events of Numbers 11:1-35, and in particular, the incident of the terrible plague with which the Lord struck the people (vss. 3-34). Because of this incident, the place was named Kibroth-hattaavah, the graves of craving. This is a sad and tragic story, but very instructive for all people of all times. Especially is it true for us in our consumeristic country so filled with the details of life.

By the phrase, “a wasting disease” or “a leanness of soul,” I think the Psalmist had two things in mind—one spiritual and one physical. Perhaps through a kind of play on words he was pointing to the root and real cause of the plague.

The primary reference is to the plague as God’s judgment on their spiritual condition. But the plague was ultimately the result of a deeper spiritual problem—the problem of “a leanness of soul.” I think this is supported by the name given to the place where the plague occurred which meant “graves of craving.”

There was a spiritual leanness to their inner life. This portrayed (a) their erroneous belief that the things they craved would give them security, joy, and satisfaction, and (b) their lack of faith and confidence in the living Lord. Out of this leanness of their walk with God, they craved the details of life, and in their craving they turned to their human schemes. They reached into their bag of tricks to get what they wanted. They murmured, complained, and blamed both God and Moses.

Let’s turn to the historical passage which the Psalmist had in mind, at least in part, when he wrote Psalm 106:13f and see if we can glean more insight into this matter of man’s tendency to lustful cravings rather than trustful waiting. The children of Israel were complaining of adversity rather than waiting confidently in God’s goodness.

Numbers 11:1-20 Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the LORD; and when the LORD heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. 2 The people therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the LORD, and the fire died out. 3 So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the LORD burned among them.

The children of Israel were testing God’s grace and love. Note the words “became like …” in verse one. The word “became” suggests a process, the result of their leanness of soul was the result of failing to wait on the Lord and feed their souls on God’s counsel.

Verses 4 and following concern a different set of events, but they are related and they show us something of the process and the cause.

And the rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? 5 We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, 6 but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.” 7 Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. 8 The people would go about and gather it and grind it between two millstones or beat it in the mortar, and boil it in the pot and make cakes with it; and its taste was as the taste of cakes baked with oil. 9 And when the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna would fall with it.

10 Now Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, each man at the doorway of his tent; and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly, and Moses was displeased. 11 So Moses said to the LORD, “Why hast Thou been so hard on Thy servant? And why have I not found favor in Thy sight, that Thou hast laid the burden of all this people on me? 12 Was it I who conceived all this people? Was it I who brought them forth, that Thou shouldest say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries a nursing infant, to the land which Thou didst swear to their fathers’? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me, saying, ‘Give us meat that we may eat!’ 14 I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. 15 So if Thou art going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Thy sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.”

16 The LORD therefore said to Moses, “Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and their officers and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. 17 Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit who is upon you, and will put Him upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you shall not bear it all alone. 18 And say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, “Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well-off in Egypt.” Therefore the LORD will give you meat and you shall eat. 19 You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, 20 but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you; because you have rejected the LORD who is among you and have wept before Him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’”

“Greedy desires” in verse four represents the same Hebrew words translated “craved intensely” in Psalm 106:14. In both cases, the Hebrew reads, “desired desires,” an idiom which means something like “they had intense cravings.” The point is they were being controlled by their desires because they believed Satan’s delusion that happiness comes in having one’s wants met.

Verse 4 also shows how people are easily and wrongly influenced when they are not personally in touch with the Lord. Israel was wrongly influenced by the “rabble” among them. This serves to remind us that we can’t get by on someone else’s spirituality. We each need to maintain our daily walk with the living God.

The weeping and the question regarding the meat to eat displays their discontent and is an obvious form of complaining rather than trusting.

Verse 5 illustrates the foolish and ironic product of a wrong focus. While they quickly forgot the pain of their slavery, their focus turned to the temporal delicacies of Egypt— the cucumbers, melons and onions, etc. Rather than remembering the mighty works of God which manifested His love, grace, and power, they were thinking about temporal things such as cucumbers and garlic. Think about it.

Verse 6 illustrates the discontent and dissatisfaction that occurs when we buy into Satan’s lies and take our focus off the person and plan of God. As you read this verse, keep in mind the great blessings God had in store for the nation once they reached the land, a land flowing with what? Milk and honey!

Verse 18 is a warning to get right with God. It shows them the problem was not their food or lack of what they wanted, but the condition of their heart, their focus, and their lack of faith.

Verses 19 and 20 reveal the disappointment and the irony. That which they thought they had to have for their happiness failed and left them empty. These verses serve to remind us again that the details of life, while they may give pleasure for a season, can never satisfy the primary and deepest longings of our heart. So the things they craved soon become loathsome.

Principle: Things cannot satisfy. Unless we enjoy a vital and dependent relationship with the Lord, we will invariably tire of “things” and end up in the never ending pursuit of new relationships, better working conditions, new hobbies, greater pleasure, etc. But something will always seem to be missing. We will never truly be happy or content. Why is that? Because we are looking for the right things but in all the wrong places. Our focus and our basic foundation for life must be anchored in the Lord. While waiting on Him, we need to prayerfully look to Him to lead us and supply our needs and wants in His timing and in the way He deems fit.

Verse 20b gives us the reason things cannot satisfy—“because you have rejected the Lord who is among you …” Note the “because” that introduces the last half of this verse. The meat became loathsome—they grew tired of it. It wasn’t because they had it every day, but because they were seeking their satisfaction and happiness from their food and the details of life rather than from a vital relationship with their Lord. Scripture calls this rejecting the Lord.

As the text shows us, their cravings, followed by their dissatisfaction, constituted the rejection of God in a number of ways. By their cravings and their complaining, they were saying in essence:

  • God is not enough
  • God is not sufficient for the adversity we are facing
  • God does not know what He is doing. He has brought us out here to die in the wilderness

In their complaining and questioning as to why they had ever left Egypt in the first place, they were not only failing to rest in God’s wisdom, love, and timing, but they were rejecting God’s purpose for them as His redeemed people who needed to be trained and developed as a nation of priests to the nations.

Why did and does God do this? Please note the following passage:

Deuteronomy 8:1-11 All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your forefathers. 2 And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. 4 Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. 5 Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. 6 Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. 7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; 9 a land where you shall eat food without scarcity, in which you shall not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. 11 Beware lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today;

Verse one reminds the children of Israel of God’s primary purpose for them as His people. Verse two reminds them of God’s plan and methods. Verse three declares the purpose of God’s testing as well as the reason things never satisfy. They are designed to teach us the need of contentment through a vital walk with the Lord whereby we learn to cling to Him as the foundation for all of life.

We were created for God with a vacuum which only He can fill. God created us so that we could enjoy the blessings of this life, but without a dependent walk with the Lord, one in which we are truly resting in His love and grace, we will be empty!

Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Why We Should Wait on the Lord

What are some of the benefits of waiting on the Lord and what are the consequences when we do not?

To wait on the Lord, we must know what waiting on the Lord means and involves. But we also need to know why. One of the keys to obedience or appropriation of something is motivation. There is, of course, great motivation to wait on the Lord.

Because of Who
God is and what He is able to do

Waiting on the Lord means learning to have a single and consistent focus on God as the source of life because of all that He is as God—holy, just, sovereign, good, righteous, merciful, gracious, loving, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise, infinite, truth, and eternality.

Jeremiah wrote,

Are there any among the idols of the nations who give rain? Or can the heavens grant showers? Is it not Thou, O Lord our God? Therefore we hope (Hebrew = qavah, wait, look to, hope) in Thee, For Thou art the one who hast done all these things (Jeremiah 14:22).

David wrote,

My soul waits in silence for God only; From Him is my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken (Ps. 62:1-2).

In Psalm 25:5 David said,

Lead me in Thy truth and teach me, For Thou art the God of my salvation; For Thee I wait all the day.

In each of these passages, we can quickly see it is because of who God is that we should wait on the Him rather than take matters into our own hands. As the familiar commercial might remind us, we are “in good hands” when we are in God’s caring, powerful, wise, and loving hands. But because of our natural tendency to wander and go our own independent way, one of the issues we face is how can we maintain a spirit of dependence with a single and consistent focus on the Lord.

Obviously, as mentioned above, we must recognize that waiting includes seeking the Lord. As we saw, that includes study and meditation on the Word and prayer, those spiritual disciplines that help to keep our eyes and confidence on the Lord. But still, how do we maintain consistency in seeking the Lord?

Several of the verses on waiting reveal some interesting reminders of a number of biblical principles that are quite fundamental to our spiritual life. These principles sometimes get lost in the busyness and routine of everyday life. Sometimes they get lost in our spiritual life too because we can so easily fall into the rut of a deadening religious routine. Remember, the only difference between a grave and a rut is a rut has the ends removed.

If we have been going our own way—too busy to take time with the Lord—we need to acknowledge that and return to the Lord with a view of waiting on Him. Hosea 12:6 looks at this very need of returning to the Lord in an attitude of confession with a view to looking to (waiting on) the Lord for His salvation. “Therefore, return to your God, Observe kindness and justice, And wait for your God continually.”

In Psalm 39:7 we see David’s determination to wait and hope in the Lord rather than the futility of anything he might be prone to trust in. But David’s determination is an acknowledgment based on the realization of the futility of his own resources to handle life, especially due to its brevity. “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in Thee.”

The words sometimes translated “wait” are at other times translated “look” in the sense of dependent expectation, and included are the ideas of focus and attention.

Note Psalm 123:1-2:

A Song of Ascents. To Thee I lift up my eyes, O Thou who art enthroned in the heavens! 2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress; So our eyes look to the LORD our God, Until He shall be gracious to us.

In Psalm 145:15 none of the regular words for “wait” listed earlier are used, but the concept is the same. “The eyes of all look (Hebrew = sabar, “to wait for, hope”) to Thee, And Thou dost give them their food in due time …” (cf. also Isaiah 5:17).

Psalm 52:9 reminds us again of why we should wait on the Lord: “For I will wait on Thy name, for it (God’s name) is good.”

What’s the point? How do we wait on God’s name? Remember that names in the Bible have great significance—especially the names of God. The reason for this is because the names of God stand for His character, for who He is, what He is, and will do. They stand for the principles and promises of the Bible. For instance, the name Yahweh means God is the self-existent and independent one, the God of revelation and redemption. As such, He has revealed Himself as El Shaddai, “Almighty God,” as El Elyon, “God Most High,” as Yahweh-Jireh, “the Lord will provide,” and as Yahweh-Tsidkenu, “the Lord our righteousness,” among others.

So the Psalmist declares that he waits on God’s name because it reminds Him of God’s character and His promises.

Application:

(1) Are you in an impossible situation? Do things seem out of control? Then wait on God as the Almighty and as God Most High, the Sovereign One.

(2) Are you facing a problem of need? Then wait on the Lord as the One who will provide, but be careful to wait according to His timing and purposes.

(3) Do you lack assurance of your salvation, or are you facing feelings of guilt or insignificance? Then wait on the Lord as your righteousness, the source of significance through His provision in Christ.

Psalm 62:5-6 again reminds us of why we should wait on the Lord: “My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him. 6 He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken” (emphasis mine). In this Psalm, David said he would wait on the Lord because He was like a rock and a stronghold. As names are used to portray God’s character, so pictures are used in Scripture to portray certain aspects of God’s character and provision and life’s situations. Here David used the pictures of an immovable rock and a impregnable stronghold.

Life is full of battles and enemy attacks. We need defenses that will be able to stand against the enemy. So we wait on the Lord for our security and our strength. But let’s turn to our next reason to wait on the Lord.

Because of Who We Are
and What We Are Not Able To Do

Obviously, as mere humanity, even though we are created in the image of God (an image flawed by sin), we have neither the wisdom nor the ability to get along without the Lord.

Psalm 52:6-7 And the righteous will see and fear, And will laugh at him, saying, 7 Behold, the man who would not make God his refuge, But trusted in the abundance of his riches, And was strong in his evil desire.

Prov. 14:12 There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

Jeremiah 10:23 O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself, it is not in man who walketh to direct his way

Psalm 37:9 For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.

In contrast to the mighty man is the godly one who waits on the Lord. The mighty man is the person who thinks he is sufficient in himself and thereby refuses to wait on the Lord. He’d rather trust in himself and his own plans or tactics for life. He works evil, and gets ahead (he thinks) by using others and by selfishness. But the Lord cuts him off, uproots him like a tree. God will meet the needs of those who wait on Him and fulfill their lives.

Why bother to wait on the Lord? What happens when we wait? A number of marvelous things happen to us, in us, and through us.

Benefits of Waiting on the Lord

Waiting Sustains and Satisfies
(or Allows the Lord to Do So)

Psalm 145:14-16 The LORD sustains all who fall, And raises up all who are bowed down. 15 The eyes of all look to Thee, And Thou dost give them their food in due time. 16 Thou dost open Thy hand, And dost satisfy the desire of every living thing.

While the word “wait” is not found in this passage in the English translation of the NASB, the concept is clearly here. Note the words, “The eyes of all look to thee.” “Look” is sabar which means, “look, wait, hope” and is so translated in the KJV. Compare its use in Psalm 104:27-28 where it has the idea of “be dependent on.”

But can’t the words of Psalm 145:15, “in due time,” perfectly describe those periods in our lives when we are sitting in one of those places God has marked with the words “Waiting Room”? But how does it describe us? As fallen, bowed down, yet looking, waiting on the Lord to supply and sustain, but in His season, in His time! Every time we encounter one of the variegated problems of life, we are faced with a very important choice—to look up and wait, or focus on the problem and choose our own strategy—to worry, to run away, throw in the towel, or run ahead of the Lord.

When we react rather than respond by waiting (seeking, trusting, focusing, praying), we suffer various kinds of serious consequences. It is the law of sowing and reaping:

(1) Some are physical and we become prime candidates for ulcers, migraines, high blood pressure, etc.

(2) Others are financial (like the burden of debt or bankruptcy).

(3) Others are relational (like the heartache of a marriage in turmoil, divorce, or rebellious children).

(4) Still others are geographical and situational placing us in difficult circumstances and places.

(5) But always, when we refuse to wait, there are spiritual consequences—loss of fellowship with the Lord, loss of spiritual strength and wisdom, loss of our witness, loss of eternal rewards, and being out of the Lord’s will.

Waiting Strengthens and Enables

Isaiah 40:29-31 He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. 30 Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, 31 Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

As we look at this passage, we might think about the following:

(1) While there are obviously other causes, continued weariness and a lack of strength to carry on may be the result of failing to wait on the Lord as it’s defined above. (Cf. verses 29-30 with verse 31.)

(2) We all become not only physically tired and weary, but emotionally and spiritually depleted. That’s human. But God says part of the solution along with good health habits (diet, rest, exercise, etc.) is “wait for the Lord.”

Isaiah is telling us we often grow weary because we fail to wait on the Lord. When we run around in our own strength and operate by our own insufficient resources we are going to sooner or later run out of steam.

The key question is, why don’t we wait on the Lord? Often it’s because we do not believe sufficiently in God and all that He is. For some reason, we begin to think and act like God is simply not involved or doesn’t understand.

Isaiah 40 is a chapter designed to bring comfort to its readers. Let’s never forget—God is the God of all comfort. He wants to comfort His people, but this doesn’t mean He always removes the sources of our pain. This chapter is written against the background of 39 chapters announcing judgment against Israel, Judah, and the nations. Israel would suffer and go into captivity. In fact, even this captivity was a result of God’s love. But later God would take Israel back to the land, bring forth Messiah, deal with her sin problem, and one day establish the promised kingdom. In the meanwhile there was not only the comfort of what God would do, but strength for the present through who God was (and is for us).

Isaiah 40 is also the “Behold Your God” chapter. Six sections call on the reader to behold or lift up their eyes to see their God. People not only need the Lord, they need to possess the constant vision of their God in all the wonder of His being. This chapter contains 23 questions challenging us to calculate the greatness of God, to evaluate our understanding of God, and to realize nothing can compare to the God of the Bible. It demonstrates the effect this should have on our daily lives in our attitudes and actions.

Nothing or no one has God’s wisdom, or knowledge, or power—no nation, nor philosopher, no ruler, and certainly not our man-made idols. No one instructs Him. No one counsels Him. And He cannot be compared to any likeness created by man (which likeness would only distract from His infinite being). Not even the vast heavens can compare. They are His creation, He marked them off like the span of a man’s hand and stretches them out like a curtain or like a tent in which men dwell. He sits above the vault of the earth with its inhabitants like little grasshoppers.

Let’s look at the problem as it is explained for us in Isaiah 40:27-28.

Isaiah 40:27-28 Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”? 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.

I dare say few Bible-believing Christians would ever openly say this. Indeed, we would emphatically affirm it. Yet we are saying exactly what this verse says every time we ignore God’s plan, ignore His principles of life, resort to our solutions or plans whether in the form of manipulation of others or by the use of some defense mechanism to protect our fragile egos, every time we lose our tempers because life isn’t going our way, or in any way run ahead of the Lord. Intellectually we acclaim God’s care, but practically, we often deny it.

So verses 28-30 challenge our knowledge and how well we are really listening to the Word, and then they quickly focus our attention on God as the one who is all-powerful, full of wisdom, and faithful to strengthen us in the struggles of life.

The idea of the questions of verses 28-29 is this: Since God is not only the Creator but also the Preserver of all things, even the heavenly bodies, nations, and individual men, why do you and how can you as God’s people with such privileges say and assert what you are saying, that God has forsaken you?

No information is given as to the precise circumstances under which this complaint is uttered … It is a universal complaint, raised in times of difficulty and adversity.6

It is a question designed to rebuke and expose in order to get them (and us) to evaluate their thoughts and actions in the light of God’s person, His principles, and His promises. Why? So they can see just how far off they had drifted from anchoring their hope in the Lord as those who wait on Him.

Let’s note the promises of verse 31:

Isaiah 40:31 Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

First, there is a general promise, “… those who wait … will gain new strength”: It is the promise of new strength to do what is needed. This would include emotional, moral, and spiritual strength, and undoubtedly, physical strength is to be included since it is often affected by our spiritual condition.

Then there are three specific promises:

(1) “They will mount up with wings like eagles.” This would seem to point to the ability to rise above the problems of one’s life through one’s heavenly experience or relationship with the Lord by waiting on Him.

(2) “They will run and not get tired.” The analogy to running because of the stress involved would look at the strength God gives to handle particularly stressful situations that come up in life. The tougher the situation, the more we need to draw on the Lord and literally cling to Him.

Compare Deuteronomy 10:20, 13:4 and Joshua 23:8. The Hebrew word there is dabag, “to cling, cleave, keep close.” But also compare Deuteronomy 13:17 and Joshua 23:12. Jeremiah 13:11 gives us an illustration of the meaning of this word, like the waistband on a pair of trousers, or a belt around the waist.

(3) “They will walk and not become weary.” Walking portrays our everyday life with all of its daily and often humdrum activities or routines. Even when things aren’t particularly stressful, we still need to wait on the Lord.

What a beautiful and complete way to describe the blessed consequences of waiting on the Lord.

Compare Psalm 42:1-5.

For the choir director. A Maskil of the sons of Korah. As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for Thee, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 4 These things I remember, and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. 5 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope (Hebrew = yachal, “wait, expect, hope”) in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.

Picture in your mind a deer that has been running over the mountain terrain and stops at a water brook for rest, refreshment, and renewal. The word “hope” in verses 5 and 11 is the Hebrew yachal, which is often translated “wait.”

Waiting Straightens and Builds Character

One of the emphases in the following three passages is on what happens in us and to us as we learn to wait on the Lord. It builds our character because through the process of waiting, we learn to depend on the Lord alone and to find our source of strength, security, and joy in Him which is the lesson the Apostle learned and refers to in Philippians 4:11-13. But let’s look at Psalm 37.

Psalm 37:1-11 has three challenges:

(1) Look Ahead. Verses 2, 9a, and 10 are absolutely true of everything that is rooted in time and not in eternity. We must learn to wait on God’s time and purposes and turn away from human schemes (vss. 7-9). Compare Philippians 3:20.

(2) Look Up. An obsession with problems, with rivals, with painful circumstances and the consequent harmful attitudes and strategies cannot simply be switched off, but they can be exchanged or removed by a new focus which rests and waits on the Lord (vss. 3-8).

Remember our explanation of what it means to wait on the Lord? It included spending time getting to know and love the Lord. Look at verse four “…delight yourself …” This means “take delight” or “find delight.” Remember Paul and Silas in prison who were singing as well as praying.

(3) Be Productive. This is put forth both in the positive and in the negative. This is seen in “do good” and “dwell in the land” (verse 3), and in the negatives of verses 1 and 8.

  • Doing good involves living for the Lord and positive ministry. It means living out of deep dependence on the Lord.
  • Not fretting, ceasing from wrath and anger which leads only to evil doing means setting aside our strategies for handling pain or getting our desires (cf. vs. 4b).
  • Doing evil, the product of fretting rather than waiting and resting, constitutes our human substitutes and false routes to joy, a common ingredient:

All false routes to joy, …  have one thing in common: they represent strategies for living that in some measure we can control. They do not require us to yield our core commitment to independence. God’s message is consistent: utter dependency is the route to satisfaction.7

The results of all this is verse six, the Lord is free to bring forth our righteousness as the light, and our judgment as the new day. The result is nothing short of godly character with wise choices reproduced in the life of those believers who learn to wait on the Lord by way of patient faith rather than by self-assertion. These are the meek who will inherit the earth.

Psalm 39:7-8: Deliverance From Sinful Patterns.

Psalm 39:7-8 And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in Thee. 8 Deliver me from all my transgressions; Make me not the reproach of the foolish.

Psalm 40:1-9: Stability With Obedience

Psalm 40:1-9 For the choir director. A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD ;And He inclined to me, and heard my cry. 2 He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay; And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. 3 And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear, And will trust in the LORD. 4 How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood. 5 Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which Thou hast done, And Thy thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with Thee; If I would declare and speak of them, They would be too numerous to count. 6 Sacrifice and meal offering Thou hast not desired; My ears Thou hast opened; Burnt offering and sin offering Thou hast not required. 7 Then I said, “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me; 8 I delight to do Thy will, O my God; Thy Law is within my heart.” 9 I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation; Behold, I will not restrain my lips, O LORD, Thou knowest.

Waiting Lifts Us Out of
Despair and Causes Praise to God

Psalm 40:2-3 He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay; And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. 3 And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear, And will trust in the LORD.

Psalm 42:5-11 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence. 6 O my God, my soul is in despair within me; Therefore I remember Thee from the land of the Jordan, And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. 7 Deep calls to deep at the sound of Thy waterfalls; All Thy breakers and Thy waves have rolled over me. 8 The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life. 9 I will say to God my rock, “Why hast Thou forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” 10 As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 11 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance, and my God.

Psalm 43:5 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, The help of my countenance, and my God.

Psalm 145:15-21 The eyes of all look to Thee, And Thou dost give them their food in due time. 16 Thou dost open Thy hand, And dost satisfy the desire of every living thing. 17 The LORD is righteous in all His ways, And kind in all His deeds. 18 The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. 19 He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them. 20 The LORD keeps all who love Him; But all the wicked, He will destroy. 21 My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD; And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.

When we are in despair or depressed, we moan and groan, whine and complain. But waiting on the Lord gets our eyes focused on Him and our glorious future. It puts a song in our hearts and praise on our lips.

Waiting Encourages Others
and Gives Greater Ability to Witness

Psalm 40:1, 5, 9-10 For the choir director. A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me, and heard my cry. …5 Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which Thou hast done, And Thy thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with Thee; If I would declare and speak of them, They would be too numerous to count. … 9 I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation; Behold, I will not restrain my lips, O LORD, Thou knowest. 10 I have not hidden Thy righteousness within my heart; I have spoken of Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation; I have not concealed Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth from the great congregation.

Psalm 119:43-44, 74 And do not take the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, For I wait for Thine ordinances. 44 So I will keep Thy law continually, Forever and ever. … 74 May those who fear Thee see me and be glad, Because I wait for Thy word.

We must never discount the impact of our lives on others both for bad and for good. It is hard to have a positive word and a positive witness to others when we haven’t been waiting and aren’t resting on the Lord.

David wrote Psalm 40, a psalm of praise (vss. 1-10) and petition (vss. 11-17), while surrounded by trouble. First, he praised God for past deliverance and declares the blessedness of those trust God (vss. 1-4).

Psalm 40:1-12 For the choir director. A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me, and heard my cry. 2 He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay; And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. 3 And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear, And will trust in the LORD. 4 How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.

Second, he declares the incomparable nature of God and offers his life in dedication to God and His purposes (vss. 5-10). Verses 6-8 go beyond David and apply to Jesus.

Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which Thou hast done, And Thy thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with Thee; If I would declare and speak of them, They would be too numerous to count. 6 Sacrifice and meal offering Thou hast not desired; My ears Thou hast opened; Burnt offering and sin offering Thou hast not required. 7 Then I said, “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me; 8 I delight to do Thy will, O my God; Thy Law is within my heart.” 9 I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation; Behold, I will not restrain my lips, O LORD, Thou knowest. 10 I have not hidden Thy righteousness within my heart; I have spoken of Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation; I have not concealed Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth from the great congregation.

Third, he then brings his present needs before the Lord, but it is his knowledge of the Lord and His truth which preserve his heart in the midst of his plight (vss. 11-12).

Thou, O LORD, wilt not withhold Thy compassion from me; Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth will continually preserve me. 12 For evils beyond number have surrounded me; My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to see; They are more numerous than the hairs of my head; And my heart has failed me.

Finally, he cries out to God for deliverance and vindication from his enemies, but in it all, though asking God not to delay, his motive is “The Lord be magnified.” Therefore, he is committed to waiting on the Lord as his only help and deliverer (vss. 13-17).

Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me; Make haste, O LORD, to help me. 14 Let those be ashamed and humiliated together Who seek my life to destroy it; Let those be turned back and dishonored Who delight in my hurt. 15 Let those be appalled because of their shame Who say to me, “Aha, aha!” 16 Let all who seek Thee rejoice and be glad in Thee; Let those who love Thy salvation say continually, “The LORD be magnified!” 17 Since I am afflicted and needy, Let the Lord be mindful of me; Thou art my help and my deliverer; Do not delay, O my God.

Conclusion

I don’t know what you may be going through at the moment, but whatever it is the challenge of Scripture is to wait on the Lord because, unlike temporal man and the fleeting world in which we live, the sovereign Lord of the universe loves us with a steadfast love and personally cares for us like a father. So David wrote in Psalm 103:13-19:

Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. 14 For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. 15 As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. 16 When the wind has passed over it, it is no more; And its place acknowledges it no longer. 17 But the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children, 18 To those who keep His covenant, And who remember His precepts to do them. 19 The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; And His sovereignty rules over all.

Wait for the LORD;
Be strong, and let your heart take
courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.
Psalm 27:14


1 Mark S. Wheeler, “Hurry Up and Wait,” Kindred Spirit, Autumn 1991, p. 11.

2 G. Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, 3rd edition, T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1937, p. 384.

3 Ibid., p. 46.

4 Ibid., p. 31.

5 The New Bible Dictionary, J. D. Douglas, general editor, InterVarsity, Downers Grove, 1982, electronic format.

6 Young, The Book of Isaiah, Vol. 3, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1971, p. 64.

7 Larry J. Crabb, Understanding People, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1987, p. 109.

Related Topics: Spiritual Life