Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Posts tagged ‘waiting’

Four Hundred Years of Waiting

How long is 400 years?  Just about that long ago the Mayflower set out with its load of pilgrims to settle the New World.  A long time!

As the Advent season begins, we step back into the sandals of the Israelites 400 years before Christ.  The last Old Testament prophet, Malachi, had finished his work, and no word came from heaven during those four long centuries.  How dark!  Were they still expecting the promised Messiah to come?  Had they given up hope?  Maybe some did, but from people’s response to Jesus when he did come(“Could this be the Messiah?”) we know that many were still watching for Him.

Another period of 400 years in biblical history was the Israelites’ time in Egypt, much of that under slavery.  What a long time!  By the time God sent Moses to rescue them, had they forgotten God’s promises to Abraham to make them a great nation?  If they had, God certainly hadn’t, and He fulfilled that promise.

Still another 400-year period stretched from the beginning of the Israelite kingdom under Saul until the northern half of it toppled to the Assyrian army.  (The southern half lasted for 125 years longer.)  What were God’s people doing during this time? Following God at times, but drifting farther and farther away until the predicted punishment for their treachery against God was upon them.

At the end of each of these 400-year periods came a sudden, climactic event.

–After the Israelites’ slavery, they were suddenly freed, through the Red Sea on dry ground, and on their way to their own homeland.

–After the 400-year kingdom, during which they thought the threatened punishment would never happen, they were suddenly destroyed by Assyria and taken into forced exile.

–After the 400-year “silent period” between the Old and New Testaments, suddenly came to live among them as a man, fulfilling the hopes and promises of millenia!

Which is why we celebrate this time of year.  These hopes and promises are for us today.  And while we celebrate Jesus’ coming as a baby and then dying a horrible death to provide forgiveness for our sin, we look forward to the day when He comes in awesome power and glory to set everything right.  May we never get tired of watching for Him.  Let’s be ready whenever He makes His appearance!

Waiting, p.s.

I just found this poster which would have gone great with my last post about waiting.  This throws a whole new light on what may often seem to be an irritating waste of time.

Waiting

Waiting …

We are all waiters of one sort or another.  WAIT is a word we don’t much appreciate in our era of instant gratification, but there are different kinds of waiting. 

Waiting in line (traffic, ATM, in a waiting room ) 
   Focus:    accomplishing a goal
   Mood:     irritation
   Activity:  just pass the time reading, chatting, listening to music, etc.

Waiting for an anticipated event (Christmas, birth of baby, Christ’s return)
   Focus:    desired future event
   Mood:     excitement
   Activity:  preparation

On the other hand, there is also waiting in dread, as for the results of a biopsy.
   Focus:    anticipated bad news
   Mood:     dread, sometimes denial
   Activity:  sometimes paralysis

Waiting on someone (at a restaurant, being a “lady in waiting” to royalty, waiting     on God)
   Focus:    the one being served
   Mood:     devoted attention
   Activity:  anticipating & complying with the desires of the one being served

Waiting means…

…my time is not my own.

…not needing what I want when I want it. 

…trusting that God will work out what’s best in His time—for me and for the whole world.

…letting go of my own preferences and focusing on God and others.

But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength.
They will fly high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31

A Long Wait

Another workweek has come and gone, and before we know it, the weekend will be gone, too.  Time doesn’t wait for anyone, and that can be scary.  (Except for the day when Joshua asked God to make the sun stand still, and it did–for a whole day to allow the Israelite army to finish an important battle!  See Joshua 10:18.)

On the other hand, time can drag interminably if you’re…

…languishing in prison as Joseph was on a false charge.  (Genesis 39 & 40)

…or serving as slaves in Egypt for 400 years as the Israelites were (Exodus 1)

…or exiled to the desert for 40 years as Moses was (Exodus 2)

…or dodging a mad king for years on end as David did (1 Samuel 18 to 29)

…or…you fill in the blanks for the worst times of your life!

But their stories didn’t end there!  Those long periods of seemingly wasted time were part of God’s plan for building character and for getting ready the next step in the life of each one and as benefit to myriad others:

Joseph suddenly became governor of Egypt and supervised a strategy to save them all during a seven-year famine. 

The Israelites became a large nation through which God displayed his glory and power to the world.

Moses was used to liberate some 2 million people from slavery lead them for 40 years.

David became the greatest king of Israel and the composer of scores of Psalms that have encouraged God’s people for thousands of years.

What is the end of your story and mine?  I admit that I get tired of waiting as
     day follows day,
          week follows week,
               and year follows year. 
Is anything happening?  Yes, God has amazing plans. And when he says it’s time, things could change very suddenly and decisively.  Are we ready for God’s next act? 

Waiting and Working

Jesus’ disciples were bewildered and confused.  After all that their Messiah had gone through (including suffering and death which they certainly hadn’t expected), surely there need be no more delay for the long-awaited Kingdom that Jesus had been talking so much about–right?  (See Acts 1:3 & following.)

Finally they just had to ask outright:  “Are you going to set up the Kingdom now and be our King?” 

Jesus:  You’re not being copied on the details, but I have an assignment for you:  You will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  Then He takes off! 

Still bewildered, they gaze into the sky until He disappears from their sight and an angel assures them that Jesus will be back.  Still, though, they weren’t told when!

Why the delay?  As the disciples obeyed orders, God’s wonderful plan unfolded in a way they had never really understood before.  It was time for the world to hear and be included in God’s kingdom—including Gentiles like me!  (By the way, Judas couldn’t wait, accept, and obey.  When the Kingdom didn’t materialize on his schedule, he became disillusioned and—well, we know that story….)

Living with ambiguity isn’t easy for me.  I want to know what’s going to happen and when, and what my part is in it.  I have much to learn from these first believers:  waiting, trusting, obeying one step at a time.  Still, as I watch and wait and work on my “assignments,” my heart cry is… “Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!”

Maranatha!  Come, Lord Jesus!

How Long a Wait?

So the world didn’t end on December 21.  Does that mean it never will?  What has anyone learned from this false alarm?

NH 0052

I remember when when my little sister and I were kids, excited about the arrival of our cousins from several states away. In the morning we took up our vigil, sitting beside the road on a piece of an old tire.  But it was midnight before they arrived, and of course we’d given up our post long before that.  The visit that followed was great fun, and soon we forgot about the frustration of waiting.

We watch for our Lord’s return.  He told us to!  We can be sure He will come, though it might not be as soon as we wish. 

     In the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.”
     But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.
     But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.*  But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.
     And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.
  (excerpted from 1 Peter 3:3-14 NLT)

Maranatha!

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