“Wait on the LORD”
So many of the Psalms of David in the Bible were written during times of deep personal distress. The Holy Spirit moved David’s heart to pen the Psalms after the hand of God had placed David under extreme pressure, a pressure out of which his soul would tell God about all of his troubles and seek for God to help him.
David, for sure, had his troubles. If you are acquainted with the Scriptures, you will recall that, when David was a young man, Saul the king hated him, hunted him as a beast, and tried to kill him. David’s life was filled with one trouble after another. When he became an older man, his own son Absalom tried to kill him and take the crown from his head. And repeatedly throughout David’s life dear friends would turn on him and play the traitor.
Yet always, by the grace of God, David came to see that his help was of the Lord, that his strength was not of himself, that his deliverance would not be due to his cleverness or strength, but the Lord would deliver him. So he says, for instance, in Psalm 27:13, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
We also, as the people of God, have many times of trial in our life, times that bring us down to tears. There are times when all seems to go well and we can say with David in Psalm 30:6, “In my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved.” But then the Lord sends a trial, and everything begins to collapse upon us and we feel as if the roof is falling down on our head.
We begin to ask the question:
Does God love me?
Does God care?
What about this sickness, what about this affliction, what about the recurring troubles in marriage — insurmountable it seems at time — troubles in the home, troubles in church?
The child of God, just like David, is often led in the way of trial.
In Psalm 27:14 God comes to us with a final word of counsel, a final and all-sufficient word of wide application, and relevant to every one of us, no matter the trials we face today.
That word is this: “Wait on the Lord.”
“Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”
In the midst of our trials we say, “I can’t bear this for another moment. I can’t understand why this is happening. I might lose my job, and I have to support my family. My heart is breaking with this grief. Another moment will surely crush me. I’m afraid about death. I’m afraid about what is going to happen to me if I can’t walk. I’m concerned about my troubles and my children. Will I have enough to make it through? Will I survive?” As a young person, we can become filled with anxiety. We say to God, “My hope and my desires are being withheld from me.”
Then we look out into the world today and ask the question:
“What’s happening? Is there going to be war? What does this all mean?”
And we ask questions concerning the church:
“Will the church remain steadfast? Will the church keep her heart set upon the Lord? Or will the Lord in justice send troubles, troubles that can be traced to our own sin, sin of schism, of envy, of evil speaking?”
There is a word of God that comes to us, an all-sufficient word:
“Wait on the Lord.”
Be of good courage, He shall strengthen thine heart. That is a word that comes to you as a parent. It comes to you as a father and mother. It is a word that comes to you if you are grieving over the death of your loved one. It comes to you as a young man and a young woman who is confused and wondering what you ought to do in this present life. It is a word that comes to you as an elder, a deacon, or a pastor as you confront many trials in your church life and you wonder what it is all going to lead to. The Lord says, Wait on the Lord.
It is a word that comes right now. Maybe you say, “My problems and my needs and my circumstances are too complex for such a simple word. My situation is too unusual for that kind of counsel.”
It is never a healthy sign, child of God, when you begin to think like that and talk like that, as if your circumstances some how are too great for the word of God or for the power of the almighty God, who has been keeping His children now for many thousands of years. It is never a healthy sign when you begin to think, “My problems are too great for the counsel of God’s Word.” God says to every one of His children, and God speaks to you, saying, “Wait on the Lord.”
The counsel that God is giving to us in Psalm 27:14 is spoken in the context of suffering and sorrow and difficulty. That is what the word “wait” implies. It means that at the present time you are in a very difficult way, in which you do not want to wait. It is the time, then, when God’s purposes are being hid from our eyes and it seems that God is leading us in a way that is contrary to His promises. We desire relief. But that relief seems delayed and there seems to be no end to this moment of trial. And then fear begins to surround us and we are tempted to become bitter, impatient, or to take matters into our own hands in desperation.
It could be a time for you as a young man, when your heart secretly breaks for a wife, and you cannot figure out why the Lord does not give to you a wife. Or you cannot figure out what you are to do in respect to a calling in this world. It may be a time of sickness for you. The blood-work that the doctor did shows indications of cancer and you will have to go through a series of tests. It could be a time of troubles and there are no answers and everything seems just to be getting worse. It may be a time when a loved one in your family is being led in a way of darkness.
We know that David’s life was spent in such situations. David constantly had to learn anew, each day, to wait on the Lord. Even our children know all about the life of David, I trust, of all of his many troubles as I related to you briefly — about Saul and Absalom — and there were so many more. His whole life seemed to be spent from one trial to the next. No sooner was one finished and another came upon him. It was constantly moments of discouragement and difficulties.
God is pleased to lead His children in ways of suffering and sorrow. We read in Acts 14:22 that when the apostle Paul established the young churches, he taught them that it is only through adversity that we shall enter into the kingdom of God. Adversity and trial are the only path that God leads His children upon. We know that. We confess that God is sovereign. That means that God rules over every event. There is no such thing as chance. We confess then in the words of Jeremiah 18 and Romans 9 that God is the potter, we are the clay. And as children of God we say to each other, “God works all things together for good.” Although we believe all of that, yet our sinful flesh, in the moment of trial, rebels, everything seems hopeless, and our faith becomes so little.
We are reluctant to accept our place in this world as pilgrims. God has promised to us a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God; but we want to send down our roots in this world. We want the things of this present world — its prosperity and its health. We so often are unwilling to bow before the sovereign ways of God. We become bitter and resentful.
We ask the Almighty, Why?
We will not accept what He is doing. We seldom, perhaps, openly criticize God, but we can divert that criticism to others and we become angry, irritable, at the circumstances and at other people’s failures.
And we lack faith in the goodness of God. We are suspicious of God.
Oh, yes, we are!
The devil sowed that into our nature and it is always there. He cast doubt into Adam about God’s goodness. And we follow that up. We really wonder sometimes if God seeks our good.
Then we are also influenced by our present age. Our generation is the generation of “me,” and we must have it immediately. If we have to wait, that is no good. Yet God does not lead that way. He is not concerned about you being all that you can be. He is concerned about His own glory in Jesus Christ in us. That is life. Life is when you lose yourself, your sinful self, and find it all in Christ.
God is a skilled craftsman. Looking at things from an eternal perspective, we see that He is constantly directing us toward eternal purposes. And God does not use easy, instant, prefabricated methods. The Lord leads us in trial.
Is it with your child today?
Perhaps the prayers of your heart go out for your grown child who is walking in a way of disobedience.
Is it with your marriage today?
You cannot resolve the problems. They just seem to keep coming back. You are getting tired and weary.
Is it some sickness of your body?
Is it depression of your mind?
Is it fear of tomorrow?
Is it the chance of a heart attack?
Or do you look out at the world today and say, “What about war with Iraq? What about nuclear threats? What about the abounding sin that comes against the church through the Internet, TV, video, music, and Sabbath desecration? How are we going to survive? Will we be able to continue to hold fast the truth of God? Will we have elders who bring us the Word? Will we have ministers who preach to us the faithful doctrines? Will there be congregations that will be able to stand? Is there, then, a Word of God for us?”
And the answer is, Yes.
“Wait on the Lord.”
You say to me, What does that mean — wait?
Does that mean, do nothing?
Is that like sitting down in an easy chair and blocking out reality?
Oh, no. Waiting on the Lord is an intense, spiritual activity of the child of God. It means that you believe that God will fulfill His promises and He will supply you with the grace that you need. It is the grace of patience. You fortify yourself in your God — that God will supply you with what you need to obey Him in order that you might continue and endure as His child.
It is not panic, it is not hopelessness, it is not a “what’s the use” attitude, and it is not self-pity (Poor me!).
But it is waiting on the Lord. It is abiding in His holy will. It is trusting in God’s time and in God’s way and believing that the Lord is good, and asking Him only for grace that you might obey Him.
Waiting on the Lord is such a rich, biblical truth. It means, first of all, that we become silent before God. “My soul in silence waits for God, my Savior He has proved.” To wait is to confess that I lack wisdom.
Who am I?
I am a sinner before the holy God. I am dust before the infinite and the eternal majesty of God. So we bow in humble silence.
We do not storm the throne of grace and say, “Why?”
But we close our mouth in confession that He is God.
It means that we trust God.
“Trust in the Lord and be thou still,
with patience wait His holy will.”
To wait upon the Lord is to look upward to the Lord, to fix our eye upon Him. It is to turn our eye away from the things that are seen and away from our own hands and strength and to gaze upon Him who has showered eternal love upon us and has promised to give us grace sufficient for every trial.
And it means, further, that we have a spirit of confident expectation. We know what we are waiting for. We are not waiting in perplexity. We are not waiting in doubt. But we know that our heavenly Father will work all things for the glory of His name in Jesus Christ.
“And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.”
We know. Not, we hope. But we know He will order all things for His glory. And He will give us all of our needs. That is what it means to wait. It means that you become silent before God. You look up in trust to God. And you live your life in confident expectation.
No, it is not sitting down on a rocking chair and blocking out reality. It is getting down on your knees in prayer before God. And you wait there on the Lord.
That explains how we can be silent. For we wait on the Lord. The Lord, here, is Jehovah. It is that glorious name in the Scriptures that means “I AM THAT I AM.” It is the name that He told Moses to use when he came to the children of Israel. It is the name that means that God always is what He is. It is the name that declares His constant faithfulness, His immutability. He changes not.
Wait on Him. That means that you have to know Him. That means that you have to understand good, sound, biblical doctrine. You have to be taught about the truth.
Is that what is going on in your church?
Good, biblical truth?
Are your children being catechized?
You do not take your child out of church, do you?
The service begins and you take your child out of church?
You do not do that, do you?
Your six-year-old, your five-year-old, your four-year-old, your eight-year-old?
You do not whisk them away, do you?
They need to know!
They need to know in the way that God will bring that knowledge to them — through the preaching of the Word. They need to know everything about God so that they can wait on Him.
Be of good courage. In those words I see the captain of the Lord’s host — the Lord Jesus Christ — walking among us as the soldiers of the cross, walking up and down the aisles of the church and through the ranks of the believers as we are frightened and quivering bowls of jelly and we are discouraged and we are hopeless. And I hear the mighty Son of God, the Captain of the Lord’s hosts, saying, “Be of good courage. Stand fast. Look at Me. You will not have to fight in this battle, for the battle is the Lord’s.”
It means, then, that we direct our eye to heaven and renounce our self-confidence and fix our trust upon God.
“Wait on the Lord.”
Then the psalmist comes back to it:
“Wait, I say, on the Lord.”
He says it twice, as if God would say, “Now, did you hear?”
As if God would say, “I know all about you. I know that under the stress of your present trial you don’t listen.”
No, we do not listen.
In the midst of that trial, our ears become blocked and we begin to lean upon ourselves, and we go spiraling right down.
So He says it again:
“Wait on the Lord. Wait, I say, on the Lord.”
Don’t turn to yourself!
“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”
That word “shall” is not futuristic, that He will do that someday. But it is a shall of certainty, divine certainty. That is a most amazing thing of God’s Word.
God’s Word says, “I shall do this.I will presently strengthen your heart. I will do that without any doubt. I am able to strengthen you right now under your present load of trial. I will strengthen your heart.” That is, God says, “I won’t do a superficial work. I won’t simply whisk you away from your present trial. But I will do an eternal work, a work within your heart, in that spiritual center, within the deepest part of you. I will create you anew in Jesus Christ. And I will strengthen that spiritual life in Jesus Christ implanted within your heart. I will do that by the Word. I will do that through your prayer. I will do that through the preaching of the Word of God from Reformed pulpits. I will strengthen your heart.”
Do you wait upon the Lord?
Do you respond to your present trial with resignation saying, “Well, I can’t do anything about it, so why worry?”
Do you respond to your present trial and distress by turning to your own strength, to your own way?
Or do you try to run away, thinking that you can put distance between you and your trials?
All of these are vain and empty. They will not avail you.
No, rather, by faith let us put our trust in the Lord. Let us wait confidently and silently and humbly before the eternal Jehovah. And He will strengthen our hearts. For he who waits upon the Lord shall see the Lord and will experience the Lord’s loving kindness breaking through and will feel eternal glory in his heart.
By Carl Haak