Who among us has not experienced the anguish, the stretching, the triumph of that word?
The season of Advent is upon us, the time when the church prepares herself to welcome her King. On this side of history, we lack something of the uncertainty shared by earlier generations when it comes to this season. After all, we know Messiah came in the fullness of time, and we are confident He will come again, according to God’s sovereign promise …
Or are we?
No matter how much practice we’ve had with waiting, it doesn’t necessarily get easier. Even after experiencing the fulfillment of something God has promised, we tend to find our faith tested all over again when a new season of waiting comes.
And isn’t that ever the way of God’s chosen ones? After all, we are His servants: waiting upon our Master is our chief occupation! We would be hard-pressed to find in Scripture an account that does not include some element of waiting in the lives of His people. It’s an encouragement to me to remember their stories, for in them, I see my own. I can relate to their yearning, to the doubts and fears that threaten to overtake them as anticipation is stretched thin. I rejoice with them at the evidence of God’s faithfulness along the way … and here is the key: whether or not they ever see with their own eyes the fullness of His promise fulfilled.
Walk with me, will you, through the pages of His-story, and view these lives again through the eyes of those who wait …
- Adam and Eve, the first to breathe and to speak with their Creator, were also the first to know the sorrow and shame of their own betrayal. They walked in the fullness of God’s promises, only to let it slip through their fingers. They witnessed the violent downfall of their own sons, and the havoc wreaked on a perfect creation by their own fall into temptation. They spent the rest of their shortened lives waiting for a way back into the Garden, but they never saw it come … paradise lost.
- Noah watched the young earth sicken and writhe with the corruption of mankind, whose every thought was only evil, all the time. He carried the promise of God through the long, lonely stretch of building the ark, enduring the mocking of his fellow men, who couldn’t fathom what he was about …
- Then there were Abraham and Sarah, called into a distant country to be keepers of the Covenant. How many times did they hear God’s promises, straight from His own lips? And yet how many long years stretched between blessing and fulfillment? Enough to allow for doubts and incredulous laughter and taking matters into their own hands. They faltered and repented and received, and still died without seeing the end of all God had promised them.
- Isaac himself, the child of their promise, worked and waited for years before receiving a wife from his own people. And then Jacob worked and waited for his own bride, and then worked and waited again for the right one. He waited in a foreign land before returning to make peace with his family, and then waited again for his beloved son to be restored to him.
- And what about that beloved son? Didn’t Joseph, too, know what it meant to wait? In the passion of his youth, God’s blessing on his life seemed certain. But then his faith was tested, his zeal tempered, by decades of betrayal, slavery, false accusation, imprisonment, and servitude, before his God-given dreams came true.
- Moses became the promised deliverer to generations of God’s people, who had waited through slavery and oppression for their cries to reach heaven, but not before his overzealousness led to exile and decades of obscurity as a shepherd in the wilderness … Where, after he witnessed the miracles of God bringing down the mightiest power on earth and bringing the fledgling nation of Israel from one side of the sea to the other, he was forced to wait again while that stubborn generation wandered in the wilderness forty more years. And even after all this, he never did enter the Promised Land.
- Speaking of years of obscurity as a shepherd, we can’t forget David. After being anointed king as a boy, he still had to face giants and foreign armies, not to mention running for his life from King Saul. The promise had been given, but much honing and hardship stood between David and the throne of his God.
From Hebrew children wandering outside the Promised Land to weeping prophets crying in the wilderness, longing to get back in, forever have God’s people been waiting to see His promises fulfilled.
And then, in one shining moment that was the culmination of ages of unrequited hopes, the Promise arrived.
Jesus, Yeshua Hamashiach, was not only the fulfillment of the promise spoken to Mary by the angel — and the child both Simeon and Anna had been waiting to welcome — but the One who would provide the sovereign Answer to every moment of waiting, on both sides of history. He is the pinpoint on which the whole of the universe revolves, the stone the builders rejected, but who became the capstone for all eternity.
What more can I say? I ask with the author of Hebrews. I haven’t time to tell of others who waited faithfully to see God’s hand move. People like Tamar, who waited for Judah to do what was right; Rahab, who waited on the walls of Jericho to be rescued by an unseen God whose miracles she had only heard about; Ruth, who waited in quiet barrenness, serving her aged, grieving mother-in-law, never dreaming she herself would be grafted into the line of the Messiah.
Even the Messiah, Jesus Himself, who knew His calling from before His birth, walked out faithfully the years of His human life, being taught obedience through what He suffered … while waiting.
Indeed, Hebrews 11 is an ideal encouragement for those who are waiting. Just don’t leave out the first few verses of chapter 12, which bring the whole thing to its stirring conclusion. Indeed, the weary runner can almost hear the shouts reverberating down through heaven’s grandstand …
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him, who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” ~ Hebrews 12:1-3
As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, what have we to do but wait upon our Lord? As His servants, but also His friends, our waiting will be made worthwhile as we fix our eyes on Him. Lest we grow weary in the waiting, overcome by all that is not right with the world, we must remember this crowd of witnesses. They, like us, were in search of a better country. They faltered and failed, doubted and feared, just as we do. But by God’s grace, they remained faithful.
And so will we, if we remember to find ourselves in their stories.
“For we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” ~ Hebrews 10:11