Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD
For my whole life I’ve thought the word “wait” another of those not so nice, not to be said, four letter words. I didn’t like my mom telling me “wait”. I didn’t like having to “wait” till Christmas morning, or having to “wait” for my driver’s license. Even today I don’t like the crosswalk light commanding, “wait”, or a clerk telling me, “wait”. Waiting feels so counter-cultural in our Amazon Prime, instant messaging, fast food world. Yet, the Bible is filled with commands for us to “wait”. What are we to make of Scripture repeatedly telling us to wait, to wait for God?
When I was first learning Hebrew vocabulary I was surprised at the many Hebrew words to be translated by our word “wait”. The ancient Hebrews were obviously virtuosos at the art of waiting. They didn’t have a mindset of “It’s got to be now!” The psalmists and prophets drew on a rich vocabulary of words for waiting, such as, “waiting patiently”, “waiting silently”, “waiting long” and more. At the core of their different words for waiting was the idea that God was well worth waiting for.
The Hebrew word most often translated in our Bibles as “wait” was qavah, meaning, “to wait expectantly”. Qavah was often paired with the Hebrew word for “Hope”. It was hopeful waiting, believing that the Lord was worthy of trust and always faithful to His promise. Old Testament scholar George Klein has a description of what it means to wait for God that I like to ponder:
“The Old Testament never views waiting for the Lord as the result of weakness or resignation to fate. Waiting is not mere silence, believing that circumstances will surely improve, naïve optimism, as it were. Waiting on God is not fatalism. Waiting on the Lord means never surrendering to grief or disappointment, never yielding to fatigue, never giving up. Further, waiting is not a passive state. In contrast, waiting is confidence in God, seeing the Lord as gracious, full of loyal love (hesed), and willing to save.” (George Kline, Eschatology: Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches, ed. D. Jeffrey Bingham, Glenn R. Kreider)
This active, dynamic and expectant waiting for God to show up was demonstrated by David in his adventurous life and spelled out in many of his psalms. For instance, see David’s prayer in Psalm 25:5: “Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait (qavah) all day long.” We see this same expectant waiting again in Psalm 130:5: “I wait (qavah) for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.”
In the darkest days of God’s people the prophet Isaiah foretold great blessing to those in the Babylonian Exile if they would “wait” (qavah) for God: “But those who wait (qavah) 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” (Isaiah 40:31). Those who would wait expectantly for God to act would find themselves renewed and strengthened by Him.
In the New Testament book of Romans the apostle Paul is also writing in dark times to Christians amidst a culture increasingly hopeless and degenerate (See Romans 1:18-32). The question was, how could Roman Christians be unaffected and “saved” from the culture’s decline. Paul reminds Christians on how they had been saved and urges them to continue:
“For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24-25, emphasis added)
They must continue to hope for what they do not yet see, because God keeps His promise.
Today, we wait with hopeful patience for those demoralized by what is going on in our world. We wait with hopeful patience for those suffering in hospital beds. We wait with hopeful patience for those who are brokenhearted. God always keeps His promise. We don’t know how or when God will act, so we pray, “Lord, surprise us!” What God does in us while we wait is as important as what we wait for. So, “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!”
Grace and peace,