One of the things that has struck me about our journey through 1 Kings is the patience and the time that God takes in working with his people. In the beginning of our study we encountered a period of three and a half years from the announcement of drought until the appearance of rain. This week in 1 Kings 20 we have a story that covers two years in which God is working in the life of his people. Overall, Ahab is on the throne for twenty two years. That is twenty two years of waiting for the people of God who have not bowed the knee to Baal! (Can you make some time to read 1 Kings 20 before Sunday?)
Waiting is one of the tools in the belt of the Christian. Patience is part of the Spirit’s fruit of love (see Galations 5:22f, 23). But waiting well is hard to do. This is especially true when the spirit of the age demands immediacy, such as is true now. We want our news stories now. We want our Amazon orders now. We want our bodies to instantly get in shape. We want it all and we want it now! Perhaps this is due to a perceived temporality on our part. We know that God sees time differently. For him a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day (cf. 2 Peter 3:8). We on the other hand feel our seventy years, or if by reason of strength eighty (cf Psalm 90:10), and feel that our clocks are ticking. Or perhaps our impatience is connected with our inability to see the complexities of a situation. How can Elijah see the way the Lord will use Ahab, or Hazael, or Jehu? One of those is apostate, one is a pagan, and the other he hasn’t even met. It is hard to be patient with limited knowledge.
Yet waiting is a grace that we are called to cultivate. The prophet Habakkuk in troubled times, when he is looking for the justice of YHWH to intervene says, “Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us. (Habakkuk 3:16)”. David famously in Psalm 40:1 says, “I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.” I think it is important to point out that the Biblical concept of waiting is not the same as passivity or inactivity. Perhaps it is helpful to think of a waiter or waitress. They are anything but passive. They actively watch those that they serve and are ready to spring into action when the time is right. Such is the nature of waiting on the the Lord. We watch him. We read his word. We listen for his voice. We are not passive, but we are patient; trusting that God keeps a different clock than ours. We wait, allowing for our limitations and surrendering to the fact that He see so much more than we can.
I trust that you see some encouragement for our present time. I think back over the ten weeks since our “disruption” occurred and I confess to feeling antsy, anxious to get back to life as normal. But then I remember the invitation to wait on the Lord. Active, Biblical waiting means keeping my eyes on him, not being distracted by everything going on around me. Spirit-filled patience involves listening for HIs voice far more than it involves making my own way. Remember the words of the prophet Isaiah to a people in exile, an exile that lasted so much more than a few months or even a year, “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 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(Isaiah 40:30–31)." What a sweet invitation waiting is!
In case you haven’t heard, as we continue to navigate worship during this time when gathering together “as normal” is unwarranted, we want to offer our “worship in the parking lot,” along with the home worship guide, as ways that are eminently safe, respectful of our governing authorities and communities, and as aids for the church “scattered” to wholeheartedly worship our great Lord. Wherever the Lord leads you to engage the worship of Him this Lord’s Day, know that you are warmly welcomed by the King of kings.
PS — thank you for the kind notes and calls in response to sharing my grief with respect to Darrin. Ministry has its challenges to be sure, but it is a joy and a high calling which I do love! If you are interested here is a solid reflection on the challenges of ministry, this one from my friend Scott Sauls. For several years Scott, Darrin and I met regularly for prayer as our paths converged in St. Louis. As Scott mentions in his reflection, by God’s grace I too am not one of those pastors hanging by a thread, being loved well and cared for by you all. I am humbled and grateful to continue to serve you waiting on the strength of the Lord.