Language is so fascinating, and unfortunately, we can pass over it so quickly. There are many different verses with the phrase “waiting on the Lord.” The ones I want to focus on are in the Old Testament, using the Hebrew word “qavah.” Literally, the word means “to bind together,” as in, to make a rope by bringing many strands together. Figuratively it is used to mean “to wait eagerly, to hope, to expect.” I know I am in a state of waiting for the Lord in more ways than one in my life. Several other close colleagues of mine are also in this place. But does it mean that we need to sit and wait for the Lord to move? Let’s explore three passages:
Isaiah 40:31- But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Lamentations 3:25-27- The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.
Psalm 25:4-5- Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.
I see a lot of activity in those verses, even though each of them focuses on waiting. Isaiah says waiting on the Lord gives us renewed strength, lets us soar, lets us walk or run and not run out of steam! That’s awesome. So if we use the literal translation, it means that those who bind themselves to God will be empowered. That’s really cool. If we go more figuratively, it means those who hope and expect the Lord’s power will receive it. Again, really cool. But I think the clear implication is that upon having God’s power, we do something with it.
You know what it doesn’t say? Wait and God will take care of everything.
Lamentations puts the phrase of seeking after God in the same thought as those waiting for him. Continuing on in the same vein of thought, he says it’s good to be quiet as we wait for the Lord’s salvation. I think this is referring to the way that we like to tell God how we want things to be done. But instead of telling Him what to do, we need to remember it’s worthwhile to keep quiet. Jeremiah spends the first part of chapter 3 complaining about how hard he’s had it, and then he interrupts himself with the thought of hope in God. So, it might mean bearing a difficult situation, but God never said life would be easy nor that our definition of good is His (Romans 8:28).
Again, I say, the “waiting” in these verses is active. Seeking God, holding one’s tongue, bearing the yoke. Nothing about sitting around while God works, but us working with the understanding of hope in God (remember what hope is all about anyway).
In Psalm 25, we don’t see the waiting until the end, and additionally, all the imagery is about paths. For me, path implies that you are moving. What’s the point of asking God where you are supposed to go if you’re just going to stand by and look at it? “Yeah God, that looks cool, but I’m just gonna stand here and stare at it for a while. Thanks for revealing where I’m supposed to start heading next, I’m gonna wait till you start dragging me along.” That’s not a great way to use a path. I love what Charles Spurgeon has to say about Psalm 25: “Patience is the fair handmaid and daughter of faith; we cheerfully wait when we are certain that we shall not wait in vain. It is our duty and our privilege to wait upon the Lord in service, in worship, in expectancy, in trust all the days of our life. Our faith will be tried faith, and if it is of the true kind, it will bear continued trial without yielding. We shall not grow weary of waiting upon God if we remember how long and how graciously he once waited for us.” (https://www.biblegateway.com/devotionals/morning-and-evening/1739/07/08)There’s one other little point, but if we’re going to analyze words, let’s also analyze phrases. The translation is typically “wait for” and not “wait on.” I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that. We wait for doctors to call us back, we wait for people who are late, and we wait for food and drinks to be brought to our table at a restaurant. That’s a very passive activity (as long as you don’t ask a waiter!). On the other side, we wait for Christmas morning, and we prepare for it by getting and wrapping gifts and singing songs and such. We wait for the end of the work day, diligently accomplishing our daily tasks until it is time to clock out. We wait for the weather to change so we can go outside, but we typically fill our day with an alternate activity. “Waiting for” is active. It’s anticipating a change.
So, what are you doing? Are you sitting and waiting for it to happen, or are you waiting for it while continuing to move in the direction you are led?
Love in Christ,