Waiting is such a difficult pastime.
Young people can’t wait to grow up. They can’t wait for the school holidays, or for Christmas day. Others can’t wait for pay-day, or holidays, or to see how their book ends.
How good are you at waiting?
At the traffic lights, or in a bank queue so slow moving that you feel like a phrenologist studying the head of the person in front of you.
How do you go when you call a business and there is an extended sequence of buttons to push, warnings that other people may be listening to the call, no options that match what you’re after, and 20 minutes of Pachelbel’s Canon following tuneless bells.
Waiting can be tough.
A young husband was shocked prior to church one Sunday when his wife handed him the children’s clothes and said, ‘Here, you get the kids ready today, I’ll go out the front and honk the horn.’
A young mum called a gas shop and asked how long she needed to cook a 5kg turkey in her new stove. ‘Just a minute,’ said the expert as she reached for her book.
‘Thank you,’ the caller said as she hung up.
I would guess we people are not that good at waiting these days. Many of you know what it is like to wait. You saved before you bought that lounge, that nice house, the car you had always wanted. Many today feel like all we need is a sympathetic bank manager and we can have it all.
Sometimes we are not good at waiting spiritually, which is why we have this period called Advent. Advent means waiting, but we want answers now.
God’s people wanted answers, but God made them wait, and wait. By Jesus time, they were ready for the waiting to be over. For over thirteen centuries there had been hints that God would do something special in human history.
Back as far as Moses it was said, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.’ Christ was more than a prophet, he was the ultimate prophet foretelling God’s word.
The Psalms, such as Psalms 2 and 110, are too filled with teaching that there is one to come who will fit these words. Isaiah says in Chapter 9, Verse 66, ‘For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’, plus the suffering servant songs of Isaiah 52, 53 and 61.
Words which though have some meaning in their day point to a greater fulfilment beyond their day.
Micah even goes so far as to say where the Messiah will be born. In Bethlehem.
From the thirteenth century BC through to the end of the prophetic period around the fifth century BC book of Malachi, the Jews were told to wait. He is coming.
When suddenly John appeared after some 400 years of silence. The Jews knew God was up to something. The word Messiah was in the air as much as the words ‘sale’ and ‘bargain’ are in ours today. God had let them wait for over four hundred years until they had a spiritual hunger for Him, His words and plans.
They hoped for a Messiah, but He gave them much much more, His very own son.
Does God need to be silent for you sometimes to kindle a hunger for Him, His word and His life? How do you go in times of silence? In times when God doesn’t seem interested in you? When there do not seem to be the answers you need? When God seems distant when once He was so close? How do you handle God’s silences like the protesting psalmist who says, ‘Lord, why do you no longer march with our armies?’
I have a wonderful book at home called If God Does Not Die? It is about a minister who is wrestling with faith and is just burnt out from the demands and circumstances for which he was never trained. He wanted to preach the gospel, but finds people more concerned with candle wax dripping on carpets. He makes an appointment to see a distinguished counsellor who books him in for some weeks ahead. He tries to set out what is happening in his life and sees that he has to let his image of God die in order to be reborn into his current circumstances.
His prior understanding of God was not adequate enough or true enough to sustain him in his times of dryness. And so he must leave his inadequate faith like a snake sheds an old skin, only to emerge with a new one.
As he faces with honesty his struggles with faith, he lets his immature understanding of God fade, he is reborn in faith and he cancels his appointment.
Each of us had to let our image of God die before we became Christians. For most of us he did not seem interested in us, especially as we had little interest in Him. But then we shed the skin of our unbelief and see what we have never seen before.
We can trust this incarnate God who is waiting for us.
You may have to do that sometimes in the silences, let God be reborn within you. God’s silences are often calls for us to grow, and to develop a new spiritual hunger for him.
Waiting helps that hunger to grow.
By George Robert Iles