I don’t think I have ever heard someone say they enjoyed the act of waiting…on anything. For me it doesn’t matter whether I’m waiting on a train, waiting for a bus or taxi or just waiting too long at the drive through.
Good news or bad news, most of us just don’t like waiting. My kids unfortunately reap the benefits of my impatience often. How do you say? Five minutes is the upper threshold of my waiting. Soon after, I am doing the chores I had asked them to do.
Even when I’m looking forward to something good, like getting home from work to see my wife and kids. I can become impatient when stuck at the lights in traffic. If only I was more patient.
Impatience of Israel’s First King
When we open our Bibles to 1 Samuel 13, we can read of King Saul’s impatience due to feeling compelled to make a burnt offering and how it cost him his position as commander over Gods people.
Saul lost a lot because of his impatience and disobedience towards God. The Philistines had assembled a massive army after Saul’s son Jonathan attacked their outpost at Geba.
“Three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore.”
Saul’s army was stricken with fear but remained on the battlefield waiting on the prophet Samuel to petition the Lord. But Samuel didn’t arrive at the appointed time, and Saul’s army began to flee out of fear.
Soon after Saul’s army began dispersing, Saul “offered up the burnt offering” under the pressure of leading a dwindling army against a formidable enemy without the Prophet Samuel having petitioned the Lord.
1 Samuel 13:10-14 10 Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. 11 And Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, 12 then I said, ‘The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord.’ Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering.” 13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”
Unfortunately, for Saul he lost hope in God and took the situation into his own hands according to how he had felt compelled to do.
This resulted in him losing his anointed position of commander of Gods people. Why do you think you and I, even kings, struggle with waiting and trusting that Gods timing is better than our own?
Old Testament Words for Wait
There are two words translated as wait in the Old Testament.
Yakhal and Qavah.
Yakhal “Yakhal means wait.” (2) Like I’m waiting on the barista to finish pouring me a cup of black gold. Or, I’m waiting for my daughters prefrontal cortexes to fully develop…patiently.
Qavah Qavah means…you guessed it…wait. Why would the Hebrews use two words to express the same idea?
“Qavah is related to the Hebrew word Qav, which means cord. And when you pull a Qav tight, you produce a state of tension until there is a release. That feeling of tension and expectation, while you wait for something to happen, is Qavah.” Biblical (hope) is the (Qavah) tense expectancy for God to act.
What Does It Mean to Wait Upon the Lord?
I’m sure many of us can recall an instance in our lives where we were full of tense expectancy (Qavah) waiting on something or someone.
Often growing impatient as our petitions to God seem to not be heard. And the longer we are left waiting, the more our dearest friends…sometimes even our pastors…hear our complaints and prayer requests concerning Gods timing.
And what do we often hear? “You just need to have faith in God.” Translation… ”You need to trust God’s timing.” As much as we don’t like to hear such an answer, our friends and pastors are most likely correct.
So to wait upon the Lord is to put our faith and trust in God’s timing and not in our own understanding, opinions or impatience that could very easily lead us into the same trap that King Saul was led into.
To (Qavah) “wait on the Lord” is to trust in God with “tense expectancy” that God will fulfill his covenant promises according to the Bible.
Maybe a better question to ask would be “What would it look like in your life right now to be waiting upon the Lord”?
Now, imagine a stranger approached you on the street and offered you a hearty meal. No matter how hungry you were and how genuine and benevolent the person seemed some part of you would hesitate to accept, and/or eat the meal.
And I doubt that hesitation was a result of a realistic fear that the person was trying to assassinate you via a poisoned meal… At least I hope not. I know…I know…we live in a crazy world, and anything can happen. But bear with me.
Just because anything can happen doesn’t make it likely to happen. What is more probable is your hesitation was a result of a lack of “knowing” that person. Because if you don’t know them, you can’t reasonably trust them.
Food Made with Love
On the other hand. Imagine your spouse fixing your favorite meal. Handing you a cup of coffee in the early morning hours. Or baking, your favorite cookies after Church on Sunday.
Would you have any concern within yourself before you commenced digging into your favorite meal, sipping that hot coffee in the wee morning hours, or enjoying a cup of milk with your favorite cookies?
I think not! Because what was missing with the stranger is present with your spouse. Trust.
For trust to exist, it must be cultivated through an existing relationship. My trust in my wife stems from our mutual investment in our relationship which requires both of us to make our marriage a priority by purposely spending quality time together. The sum of our intentionality and quality time is trust.
So, “how we wait on the Lord” is by trusting in the Lord, and if we want to trust the Lord, we all need to make our relationship with the Lord a priority by spending quality time with the Lord through prayer and studying scripture.
Invest in Your Relationship with the Lord
The Exodus was/and is a formative story for the people of Israel and Christians because of its continual reminder of God’s past faithfulness. “God’s past faithfulness motivates hope for the future. We look forward by looking backward. Trusting in nothing other than God’s character.”
God is the reason we search for him in his Holy scriptures, pray, and attend Church in the first place. So, it’s sensible to make our relationship with the Lord a priority by deliberately setting aside time to read, meditate, and reflect on God’s word, pray, and fellowship in church so to corporately worship and do life with our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord.
That way, we (the church) are actively participating in the ushering in of God’s kingdom by living out the Two Greatest Commandments, “Loving the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and will all your mind and loving your neighbor as ourselves.” And we do those things because our “hope” and “trust” is rooted in God because he is our everything!
New Testament Words for Hope, Elpis, and Elpizein
According to the Lexham Bible Dictionary, “The New Testament, words for hope are the verb ἐλπίζειν (elpizein), and the noun ἐλπίς (elpis). Both have to do with trust and confidence; the expectation of what is sure to come; and the active,faith-filled waiting for God to fulfill that which He inaugurated by the power of His Spirit.
The word appears in the New Testament only as a verb or noun, never as an adverb or adjective. That is likely because the emphasis is not on the subjective states of mind we have when we say “hopefully” or “hopeful.” Rather, hope in the New Testament has an objective focus.” That being God Himself.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope (Elpis) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”
Why is it so important to wait upon the Lord?
Gods timing is always more important than our own timing. Even when we sometimes feel compelled to take things into our own hands, we are always better off waiting patiently for Gods instruction and timing.
This was the mistake that Saul made, he become impatient and took the situation into his own hands.
We can all fall into this trap sometimes but it always ends the same. Disobedience causes consequences, which we are always better off avoiding.
Putting our trust in God rather than in our own understanding shows God that we believe he knows what’s best for our situations no matter how they may seem or appear. God’s timing is crucial,
If we are to wait on the Lord, we must be able to trust in God. And if we want to trust God, it’s vital that we spend time reading his word. So, to look back and remember the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the promised Messiah.
As we pray into the future and participate in the ushering in of God’s kingdom as we seek to live out the Greatest Two Commandments to the best of our ability. Despite life’s many and varied circumstances.
Because our hope is rooted not in our own strengths but in our wonderful God, Friend and Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ.