Waiting for God
by Clifford Ogden
(Published in "A Witness and a Testimony" magazine, 1960)
"Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the Lord, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God"? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired, His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary." (Isaiah 40:27-31).
"Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land." (Psalm 37:1-9).
"Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him". The Word does not say, Rest in indifference; nor, Wait for events: it says: Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. That, I think, is one of our difficulties, perhaps one of our main difficulties - to rest in the Lord; to wait patiently for Him.
The Time Factor and Fretfulness
Fret and worry are of the spirit of the world; but they seem to have percolated into the Lord's people: fret and anxiety, leading to impetuosity and precipitancy. Those things are the products of time, and we are so governed by time. There is a story of a visitor from the East, from China, who, after a little while, said to his host: 'You find it strange that we in China have little idols, gods, that we worship; but you know, you in the West have a god that you worship. He sits upon the mantelpiece; his hands are before his face. He says, Do this, and you have to do it; Do that, and, again, you have to do it. He tells you when to eat, when to get up in the morning, and when to go to bed.' Well, there is a humorous side to that story, of course, but there is truth in it. How people are governed by time! How we, the Lord's people, are governed by time! We may have certain convictions; ideas of what ought to be: and how we fret, and how we worry concerning them. In the final analysis, their realisation may not be in our time - but is that of such importance? When D. L. Moody lay dying, a friend said to him: 'You have been praying for So-and-so for forty years; your prayers have not been answered; what about it?' D. L. Moody said: 'No, he is not saved yet, but he will be.' It did not depend upon the life-time of D. L. Moody: it depended on the Lord. These things that I have mentioned - fret, anxiety; our impetuosity, and our precipitancy - are the products of time. But rest and assurance and confidence and patience, are of the essence of eternity. We fret; God never does. God is never in a hurry; we are.
Haste the Product of Unbelief
Isaiah says that one of the marks of a believer, a true believer, is that he 'shall not make haste' (Isa. 28:16). Peter says: 'He shall not be put to shame' (1 Peter 2:6). And the Psalmist knew that these things are linked together - haste and shame; unhurry and unashamedness. 'He that believeth shall not make haste'. So haste is akin to unbelief: unbelief begets haste. Why are we in such a hurry? Because we do not believe. But faith begets confidence, and assurance, and hope, and accomplishment. The Lord Jesus was never in a hurry. As we read through the record of His life, how impressive is the absence of any sense of hurry - He was never in a hurry. God is like that - He is not in a hurry.
The Lord Jesus drew the strong contrast between all others and Himself: He said this, "My time is not yet come; but your time is always ready" (John 7:6). Now the language there is rather archaic, but what it means is this: 'You are always in a hurry'. How frantically we react to situations - it is time! it is time! we ought to do something! Time is passing; the moment, the opportunity will be gone; we must do something. And it would seem - I emphasise that - it would seem that the Lord is unconcerned: 'My time is not yet'. We will look at that a little more closely in a moment, in the incident of the raising of Lazarus.
The Unhurried Confidence of God
Even today, with all the chaos in the world, with the uncertainty of things - and how uncertain they are; when, as never before, men might well say, Why does God not do something? - God has said, and still says to His Son, "Sit thou on my right hand, till... till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet." (Acts 2:36). Could He not have done it following the Cross? Could He not have done it at least two thousand years ago? Could He not do it now? God says: "Sit thou on my right hand, till..." You see, it is not the calendar which is keeping God waiting; God does not work to days and times and seasons: God works to conditions and states. And God is doing something, even while He waits. It may be that, where you and I are concerned, He is waiting until we stop fretting, until our over-anxiety is cast upon Him, and we come to rest in the Lord. He is waiting for us to come to a place of quiet restfulness in Himself.
Impatience a Hindrance to God
But our impatience is not merely negative where God is concerned; it is a positive hindrance. I want to turn to the Scriptures: there are many illustrations of this principle; we will take a few of them:-
It is strange to associate Abraham with unrest in the Lord - fret - but it was there. On many things he had come to rest in the Lord. Basically he was believing in the Lord, but there was one thing, just one thing, and it nagged at his heart. "What wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless... and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir" (Gen. 15:2,3) - it was this longing, this desire of Abraham's for a son. And we know the story. Abraham could not wait for God. Stirred up by Sarah, he moved. Time was passing. Soon it would be too late; he must do something. And he did. He could not wait for the Lord; he was moved out of his place of rest; his patience was at an end. So Ishmael was born. There are many who know the tragic story of Islam - the posterity born of Abraham's impatience. He could not wait for the Lord - even Abraham! And notice, Abraham's impatience had to do with something that God had promised. Oh, the trouble that Abraham caused the Lord by his failure to wait patiently - and what trouble we cause the Lord! even in relation to His things, by not being prepared to wait. And the issue at stake was nothing less than the grand purpose of God, for Abraham was the one whom God called out in order to initiate His eternal purpose amongst men; the Seed, which is Christ, was in view: and Abraham could not wait. The fruit of his impatience was Ishmael; and if you want to know how much trouble such impatience caused the Lord, read the Galatian letter.
Jacob could not wait for the Lord. The Lord had given him promises, had set His heart upon the fulfilment of the covenant made to Abraham; but Jacob could not wait. From the moment when he flies for his life, there begins the sad history, through all the vicissitudes of his stay in Padanaram, years and years of feverish, fretful, impatient activity, he could not wait for the Lord. When he comes back to Jabbok, he has to confess: I have not obtained the birthright-blessing; I have achieved nothing. And if he were to speak the truth, he would say: I have delayed the Lord; I have held Him up. He has been waiting. The Lord was waiting for him at Jabbok - still waiting! (Gen. 32).
Moses could not wait for the Lord. When they came the second time to the place of need for water, Moses went out with Aaron at the bidding of God, and his impetuosity, his impatience, carried him away - impatience with the Lord's people. Crying out: 'Ye rebels, shall we bring you forth water out of this rock?...' he struck the rock a second time! (Num. 20:2-12). Only the act of a moment, but it shut him out of the land! Impatience may be momentary, but it is an awful thing.
Aaron was amongst those who could not wait (Ex. 32:1-6). Moses had gone up into the mount to receive the tables of the Law. At the foot, there remained the people of God, and Aaron. The people became impatient: 'What has become of Moses we know not; we have been waiting now...' They had not waited long! Aaron is caught in this; Aaron could not wait. And so, in a very weak kind of way, he gives in to the people, and the product is the 'golden calf'. You notice that God does not excuse Aaron, and in reading it again, I see how unwilling he seemed to be to go with the people; he did not want to do it; yet he made the 'golden calf'. I believe that in the back of his mind was this thought: 'Well, after all, there is the thought of sacrifice, and if I make it into something that the people can see, I am not doing any harm! I will come down to their level, and I will draw them up again!' For you notice, he says, when he had made the 'golden calf'; "Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord"! But the fact remains that Aaron could not wait for what was happening in the mount, and his impatience shut Aaron out of the land.
Saul is the classic example of impatience in the Old Testament: the man that could not wait for God. His final setting aside was, of course, when he spared Agag - his incomplete obedience. But if you will read the history of Saul, you find that it went back earlier than that: he was rejected from being king, because he could not wait for God (1 Sam. 13:8-14). Samuel had evidently instructed Saul to wait until he came to offer the offerings. And you can picture the scene. The days are passing; the seventh day has come; the evening of the seventh day, and Samuel has not come. Saul must do something! he begins to fret, to be anxious: and he offers the offering; he cannot wait. It cost him his kingdom!
(6) The Children of Israel
They could not wait for the Lord. Now that is specifically said in the Psalms - let me read it to you. The Psalmist sums up their history like this: "The waters covered their adversaries; there was not one of them left" - that refers to the Red Sea, surely; He had done wonderful things for them - "Then believed they his words; they sang his praise. They soon forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel" (Ps. 106:11-13) - they could not wait. And again and again, in the wilderness, in the history of this people, you find them an impatient people, not prepared to wait for the Lord. And it cost them their inheritance. How important is this matter of waiting for God! Impatience cost the children of Israel their inheritance; they lost their place in the purpose of God.
Waiting Gives God His Opportunity
Now the Scripture is not lacking, on the other hand, in illustrations of the value to God of quietly waiting. There are several; I have picked out one or two.
Ruth the Moabitess. Naomi's counsel to her was: "sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall" (Ruth 3:18). 'Rest in the Lord' - and how effectively she did it. Quietly, confidently, she waited for Boaz - put the matter into his hands, and then waited. Her confidence and her patience gave God His opportunity, for Ruth became, in the providence of God, the great-grandmother of David, and David was the 'man after God's heart', to bring the people into the inheritance, fully; and through his son, Solomon - at least for that time - finally. They inherited. In the thirty-seventh Psalm from which we read, the Psalmist repeats this matter of inheriting several times: If we wait for the Lord, we shall inherit. Ruth waited for the Lord.
And Ruth's great-grandson, David, is surely the outstanding example on this side, as was Saul on the other. Go through his Psalms. If he does not mention the word 'wait' in a Psalm, you will find that the spirit is that of waiting for the Lord. There is a Psalm which was written in the darkest hour, when he was in the cave (Ps. 57; 1 Sam. 22:1,2), when everything seemed hopeless; if you will read the Psalm, you will find that it breathes this very atmosphere of rest in the Lord. David was one who could wait for the Lord.
(3) The Lord Jesus
But of course, if we are to see this thing at its highest and its fullest and its best, we must come to the Lord Jesus, the Man who could wait for God - and He did. He could wait until it seemed too late. Our trouble is that we put our confidence and expectation in a time or a place or an opportunity. The Lord Jesus did not: He put His confidence in God. Now the raising up of Lazarus makes that very clear (John 11). Look at the setting around Him: look at the general atmosphere. "If thou hadst been here, ...", but it is too late now! too late! They come to the tomb, and to the command, 'Take the stone away...' - the protest is: It is too late! The opportunity has gone! If only you had been here!
Is that not largely our trouble? If... if... if... if only the Lord would... if only the Lord would do this... if He would come just when we think He ought to. But the Lord Jesus was not resting in circumstances, not in events, He was resting in His Father. So He comes to the impossible situation, the 'too late' situation, and God works! God can work if we can wait.
Waiting for God is not Indifference
Now, I do want to make one thing very clear, for I am sure in some minds there is something passing like this: Yes, that is all very true, that is all right, but we can wait too long! This waiting for the Lord does not mean that we are supine, indifferent, nonchalant. I am not saying that there is never a time when the Lord says, Go forward; He does; He did with Moses: "Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward" (Ex. 14:15). When the Lord has said, Go forward, All right! To linger when God says, Forward, is unbelief. Surely the counsel of Isaiah is a true one, and a very comforting one; I want to read it to you: "Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant? he that walketh in darkness, and hath no light, let him trust in the name of the Lord, and rely upon his God" (Isa. 50:10). When there is no clear, definite indication of the way, the thing to do is to wait for the Lord, not to try to press in, not to try to remedy things. Abraham tried that; Saul tried that. The thing to do is to wait for the Lord. "Wait for the Lord". When the Lord moves, move with Him, but if He is not moving, fret not thyself.
Waiting for God is Active
That word 'wait' means to hope - it is an active word, not a passive word; it means, 'to expect', 'to wait', 'to look for', 'to reach out after'! This word 'wait' has about it the nature of the actively-passive.
The Lord would have us be those who do not fret, but rest in Him, rest in the Lord. Let us face and resolve the question, once for all: Is the Lord able to do the things we desire or not? If He is, let us rest in Him; let us move out of ourselves, into Him. In New Testament language: Let us 'Abide in Christ'. He has said: "Abide in me" - and He assures us that if we do that, the works will follow; the fruit will follow.
"Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord." (Ps. 27:14).