Trusting God: Waiting on the Lord
1 Thessalonians 1:8
1 Thessalonians Lesson #012
November 6, 2014
Right now we’re on an independent study that is located within our passage we’re studying, 1 Thessalonians. When I get into a side study via a particular book study, I always like to go back and anchor it in the text of Scripture that we are studying. Too often, sometimes in doctrinal studies, it’s as if we sort of lose our Scriptural foundation when we start talking about doctrinal principles and theological concepts and forget that these are derived from the Scripture.
We’ve been studying in 1 Thessalonians and we started a study on the faith-rest drill, understanding how to walk by faith by claiming promises. We’ve been looking at a verse, in particular, in Isaiah 40:31, “They that wait upon the Lord…” So we’re focusing on waiting on the Lord this morning, leaning what that means to be able to claim that promise a little more effectively.
1 Thessalonians 1:8 records Paul’s praise for the Thessalonian believers that their faith toward God had gone out, not only in Macedonia and Acacia but in all of the Roman Empire. They have a reputation as a church and a congregation of faith. We sometimes say today that a congregation is people who go to church, who are involved in the church or religious activity but these were people who were focused on their day-by-day walk with the Lord. They were trusting in the Lord in order to make it through life, claiming promises.
Colossians 2:6 states, “As we received Christ [by faith alone] we walk in Him.” Now that faith in Christ was mediated through the Scriptures. We read promises such as Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” We claimed that as a promise in the sense that we trusted in Christ and believed that we would have eternal salvation.
Faith is always directed toward Scripture. It is always directed toward some instruction in Scripture, some command, some promise in Scripture. So 2 Corinthians 5:7 says, “We walk by faith and not by sight.” In 3 John 3 John tells us that this is a walk according to truth. So the truth is the Word of God. There’s always this combination of faith toward God based on what He has revealed in His Word.
When we looked at the steps of the faith-rest drill we talked about that first step which means to claim a promise. It’s interesting that several years ago when I was in Kiev one year I was teaching this as a series at Jim Myers’s church, The Word of God Church, and we were translating the notes into Russian. This was about a month or so before I was actually going there. The question came up, what does it mean to claim a promise? How do you translate that into Russian?
We use that term idiomatically. It’s transferred over from the concept of staking a claim. It’s like a miner would stake a claim who has found a place that he wants to mine ore. That’s an idiomatic sense of that term. It was interesting because when you say that to someone in English, that we’re claiming a promise, we know what that means. Trying to transfer that into another language led to some interesting discussions.
What we mean by claiming a promise is that we’re basically holding God to His Word. He had stated something in His Word that He’s going to do something. Many times it’s conditioned on something we do, that if we wait on the Lord, then something will result from that. Also if we confess our sins, something will result from that. And if we bring things to Him in prayer, something will result in that.
We have these kinds of promises and we’re holding God to that. We’re saying, “Okay, Lord. You said that if I confess my sins, you’ll forgive me and I’ll be cleansed. If I wait upon you, I will have strength and endurance. If, instead of being anxious, I bring my request before you in prayer, then I will have peace of mind and tranquility of soul.” So that is essentially what we mean when we say we are claiming a promise. We are mixing our faith with the Word of God.
It is never just faith in faith. It’s not just this idea that if we just trust or believe then something will happen. We often hear people say that. That comes out of a religious background in the culture but it’s sort of grown into an impersonal fatalism that says that if we just believe, somehow faith can change reality. That is not what the Bible teaches. That is the kind of faith that is emphasized in what is known as the “health and wealth” gospel, the “prosperity” gospel, the “name it and claim it” gospel which is popular in certain circles. That is not what the Bible says about faith.
Faith, in the sense we’re talking about, is a faith that is directed toward the Word of God and specific statements in the Word of God. To claim a promise, we have to understand the promise. We talked about faith being comprised of two essential elements. The first element is understanding. Classically in some theological systems, faith was broken down into three categories or three components. First is the Latin word notitia. Then you had assensus which means to agree with the principle and then they added fiducia a term meaning faith.
Basically you’re defining faith by itself which shows redundancy. That’s not acceptable when you’re defining something. You never define it by its own word. So essentially we showed that faith is simply agreeing with God, believing that something is true, and being convinced that something is true but it’s preceded by understanding it.
You have to understand the nature of the promise. This is part of the second step of the faith-rest drill which is thinking through the doctrinal rationales embedded in the promise. Any statement, especially an “if-then” statement, a compound sentence, has a structure to it. It has a thought behind it. It’s grounded upon certain assumptions so as we rehearse that in our mind, we need to focus on what’s embedded in the thought structure of that particular promise. We have to come to understand what is being said and why it is being said.
We think about a promise and this is what I find very helpful when memorizing Scripture. Just think it through. Write it down in various ways. Take a piece of paper and write it down. Someone asked me the other day how I memorize Scripture. I’ve used lots of different methods over the years. Sometimes I’ll write a verse down over and over again. Sometimes I’ll take it and break it down into phrases and then look at each phrase and see how they’re connected to each other. That’s sort of a rough outline or a rough diagram.
There are many different ways we can do that. Look the words up in a dictionary. Look up the English words to see what they mean. If you have a concordance, you can look up the English words in a concordance. For instance, a Strong’s concordance will have a number out at the side. If you were to look up the word “wait” in a Strong’s concordance, you would see to the right of that word “wait” a list of numbers. Some numbers are in italics, those are the Old Testament Hebrew words. Some of those numbers are in non-italics and that refers to the Greek words. That distinguishes between Old and New Testament. You can then look that number up in the back of the concordance and there’s a very, very basic rudimentary lexicon back there. So you look the word up and it gives you, not really definitions for those Greek or Hebrew words, but it basically lists the two or three way that word is translated into English. This gives you some understanding of the background.
“Wait” is sometimes translated “hope” in other passages and you can look up these other passages. This gives you a better idea of what the word means. That’s something of what we’re going to do some more of in this lesson. So we think through these doctrinal rationales that are embedded in the promise.
This is what the Bible talks about in the concept of meditation. As we think it through it in terms of identifying those rationales, then we realize that the verse expresses certain conclusions. It says that as a result of the fact that, for example, we confess our sins then God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The conclusion from that is that if we’ve done that, we are forgiven. There’s no reason to feel guilty or look back on the mistakes or to focus on our failures that we have made. God has forgiven us and wiped the slate clean so that we can go forward in the Christian life.
I want to go back and talk a minute about what the Bible says about meditation. Actually in the Hebrew there are several different words that are translated into English “meditate”. They are basically synonyms and they all have the same sense of thinking things through and maybe repeating the words out loud. One of the words is really interesting. It has the idea of moaning and groaning literally. This sort of reflects the idea that if you’re meditating on Scripture or memorizing it, you may be just mumbling it or saying it to yourself over and over again. This is how that word came to be applied to meditation.
Joshua 1:8 is a tremendous verse to memorize. This was instructions given to Joshua as he was taking over the leadership of the Israelites after the death of Moses. He’s told, “This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth but you shall meditate in it day and night that you may observe to do all that is written in it.” Notice the connection between mouth and meditation there. This is that idea of saying it over and over again. That helps us to remember it and to memorize it. It’s that idea that it should not depart from your mouth.
Day and night is a figure of speech called a merism which is where you take two opposites such as hot and cold or east and west. You take these opposites that indicate a totality of something so what the merism means here, “day and night”, means something you should do continuously. You shouldn’t just do it in the day or in the morning or night but throughout the day you should recall these verses to memory.
You shall meditate in it day and night for a purpose. It’s not just a matter of learning verses. It’s not just an academic exercise of getting this into our brain so we can recite Scripture. It is for the purpose of observation, application, implementing into our thought life and into our day-to-day life and what we do and how we do it. We meditate day and night for the purpose that we may observe to do all that is written in it. It’s not selective. It’s universal.
Then a promise was made. This promise was originally made to Joshua. There’s an implication here that if we do the same thing we will get the same results so we can apply this to ourselves. This has a direct application to Joshua only because he is the one to whom this promise is given. We see similar statements made at different times to different people in the Old Testament so we can universalize this and we’re justified in making an application to ourselves as well.
It goes on to say, “Then you shall make your way prosperous and you shall have good success.” What the Scripture means here must be understood in context. It’s that Joshua would be victorious as he was going about God’s will to conquer the Canaanites. By application what this is saying is that if we internalize the Word of God and apply it, then the result is that we will be successful in doing that which God has commissioned us to do.
In the New Testament in the Church Age, God has commissioned us to be witnesses, to grow to spiritual maturity first, and then to be witnesses to others and to serve the Lord in the local church through serving one another, loving one another, praying for one another, strengthening one another, and encouraging one another. These are the kinds of promises that say that as we grow and mature we will be successful in our spiritual life.
This is very similar to another statement in Scripture that is a more universal application of meditation. This is in Psalm 1:2, “His delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in His Law he meditates day and night.” Now in both of these passages you have an emphasis on meditating on the Law. For both David, who wrote Psalm 1, and for Joshua, Law referred to the torah primarily. The word torah which we usually translate Law has the root meaning of instruction. It’s talking about the instruction of the Word of God. For David that would have included more than torah because there were additional books that had been written by his time, even though the Old Testament canon had not been completed. For us, the term Law of the Lord can apply to all of Scripture.
If we look at the context of Psalm 1, it begins with a statement of blessedness or happiness related to a person who is a believer walking with the Lord. Psalm 1:1 reads, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the council of the wickedness, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers.” So when we come to Psalm 1:2 the one who “delights in the Law” is the one who is not living in the world system. He’s not living according to his sin nature. He’s not living in autonomy or independence from God but he is living his spiritual life and walking in dependence on the Lord.
There is an emphasis here on his focus on the Word of God. He delights in it and he meditates on it day and night. The results are given in Psalm 1:3, “He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither and in whatever he does, he prospers.” The results given in verse 3 are parallel to the results given to Joshua in Joshua 1:8 which is the concept of prosperity, success, and productivity. This does not mean that you will always be materially successfully or necessarily financially successful in business but it means you’ll be successful in your spiritual life. That which you do in fulfilling the plan and purpose of God will be successful.
The contrast is given in terms of the wicked and what happens to them in Psalm 1:4-5, “The wicked are not so. They’re like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous for the Lord knows the way of the righteous but the way of the wicked will perish.” We have a great Psalm here to meditate on and to tell us the importance of focusing on God’s Word and walking consistently with Him. The result of that is success, prosperity, and happiness in contrast to the one who disobeys the Law.
The focus is meditating on the Word with the idea of thinking something through over and over again so we come to understand what is being taught and what is being said. In Psalm 119 the word meditate is used several times. I’ve just picked one example from that in Psalm 119:15, “I will meditate on your precepts and contemplate your ways.”
Psalm 119 is a fascinating psalm to read through and to think through. It is a psalm that extols the virtues and the values of God’s Word and His revelation. The psalmist uses numerous synonyms to express God’s Word. In fact, you can go through and see many of these and identify these. He doesn’t just use words for Law but he uses different terms. For example in verse 2 he says, “How blessed are those who observe His testimonies.” In verse 3, “They walk in His ways.” Verse 4, “Ordain your precepts.” Verse 5, “Keep your statutes.” Verse 6, “Commandments”. Verse 7, “Righteous judgments.” Verse 8, “Statutes.” So each verse says something about God’s Word using these various synonyms to describe God’s revelation.
Psalm 119:15 is the one that says “I will meditate on your precepts and will contemplate your ways.” He’s focusing not only on what God has revealed in terms of His precepts and in terms of His instructions in the Law, but then he goes beyond that to think on God’s ways. In Isaiah we’re told that God’s ways are not our ways. We only learn of God’s ways through His Word so we need to spend time reflecting upon God’s ways.
Psalm 119:48 says, “My eyes are awake through the watches [at night] that I may meditate on your word.” He stays up late in order to think about God’s Word. Sometime if you can’t sleep at night, for one reason or another, it’s helpful just to think about God’s Word and to reflect on those promises that you have memorized and stored in your soul.
In Psalm 143:5 we read, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all your works.” In these previous verses I’ve chosen, the focus was to meditate on God’s Word, on His precepts and learning about His ways. Here the focus is on His works, what God had done. We can reflect historically on how God has redeemed His people and upon how God gave the Israelites victory over the Canaanites and the many other ways God has delivered them. That would be part of His works. His works would also relate to the creation, thinking about His works of creation and coming to understand them, that they, in turn, might teach us something about our Creator. “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all your works; I muse on the works of your hands.”
We have three terms for intellectual activity: remember, meditate, and to muse or contemplate. These are important concepts in understanding the faith-rest drill. As I pointed out what’s important in the faith-rest drill is to have Scriptures stored in your soul. That means you need to memorize Scripture so that we can then claim those promises.
This, I find, isn’t emphasized as much today as it once was in churches. We are typical of many churches today in our structure. We don’t have a Sunday school hour preceding the worship of the church. I would hope that one day we might be able to expand to that. Many Bible churches have done away with that hour. They will have their morning worship service at the same time they have prep school for their kids but we lose a certain format of training and teaching when we don’t have a Sunday school time for both adults and children. It gives and provides a little more time for instruction and training than you can just accomplish in just the hour or so in a morning worship service.
In days gone by, churches would meet for Sunday school hour and then a church service on Sunday morning. At night you’d have a service. Often historically congregations would be taught new hymns at night. They would be taught how to sing the different parts in the different hymns so that the congregation was truly a part of the choir. Once they had mastered this at night, and even though attendance may be lighter at night than in the morning, that would provide a core group that would ground the congregation in the morning when they would sing these new hymns.
Those would be some things that would be accomplished. You would have the kids for a couple of hours instead of just one hour. You can have little competitions. You can memorize the books of the Bible. You can memorize Scripture and you just have more time to teach and to learn and to be trained in ways that aren’t necessarily possible in just the lecture format that we have during the morning worship service.
People are left on their own to figure out how to memorize Scripture. Some people are good at it and some people are not but we all need to do it. That’s one of the reasons I put together the little book on promises and why I repeat promises over and over again before classes so that if you hear them enough they will become embedded in your own thinking and you will have memorized them. You need to plan your life in such a way that you have time, maybe in the morning, maybe in the evening, to set apart a time free of distractions and interruptions when you can read through chapters of Scripture and focus on verses to memorize.
Just work on one or two verses a week and at the end of a year you could have 104 verses memorized. At the end of a couple of years you’d have over two hundred verses memorized. You’d be well on your way to having a good reserve of promises that you can claim in times of difficulty and times of trouble.
One of the things I’m doing in this series of lessons is to give us some ideas of how to claim promises and how to think through those promises. Last time we started on Isaiah 40:31, looking at various aspects in that verse. It’s a great promise. Many of us have memorized this. You’ve heard me recite it many times. “But they who wait upon 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.”
This is from a tremendous chapter in the book of the prophet, Isaiah. If we look at the context we see there’s a contrast here. The verse begins with the word “but” and that contrasts human strength and human ability with the ability or strength that comes from God. The contrast is with the youths who faint in Isaiah 40:30, “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall.” There’s a contrast between those who wait on the Lord who may not be young or vigorous and may not have much strength in themselves but unlike the youth that is full of energy and enthusiasm and motivation and optimism and is strong physically and mentally, the believer who is trusting in the Lord, no matter what his physical circumstances may be, has an edge. He is superior to the youth that is trusting in his own ability and his own strength.
That was one of the first things I noted last time, that human ability is limited. The second thing we see here is this emphasis on waiting on the Lord. We saw the Hebrew word here is the word qavah which primarily has the meaning of hopeful expectation. It’s not just waiting. Think about the times you are waiting. Perhaps you’ve been called in for an IRS audit. You have to sit out in the waiting room and you have no idea when they’re going to call you in. Or some of us have gone down to challenge our property taxes at the Harris County Appraisal District. We have to go out there and take a number and you wait and wait and you wait. There’s not really a hopeful expectation in either of those scenarios. There’s just waiting.
That’s not the idea here. It’s not just waiting for waiting sake. It’s waiting with a hopeful expectation and a positive anticipation of how God is going to work in our life. That’s the idea of waiting here. I pointed out last time that in older lexica in Hebrew based on previous studies the idea was thought to relate to the weaving of a rope. That’s pretty much been debunked now. In current lexicons that weren’t available in the early 20th century, the idea for this word is really that of confident expectation, much like the Greek word ELPIS and has that emphasis on waiting expectantly for something.
It is often used in parallelism with the word hope. For example, we looked at Psalm 39:7, “And now Lord, what do I wait for…” That’s the word qavah and it’s parallel to the last part of the verse, “My hope is in you.” This brings out the hopeful optimism that is present in the word wait. It’s not simply being patient and just sitting somewhere not knowing what will happen. There’s this positive expectation of something that is going to take place, that no matter how long it might be, God will intervene. He will intervene from His grace and from His justice. He will give us His aid that we need for whatever the circumstance might be.
When you’re studying through a passage, it’s helpful to think about a word and to look that word up, as I pointed out. You can look it up in a Strong’s concordance or with computer programs we have today. It’s easy to do these kinds of searches in the original language. You can use programs like Logos, Bible Works, Accordance, Bible Search and things of this nature. There are some online places you can go as well. All you have to do is do a right click with your mouse on the word and you get the option to search the Hebrew word. They’ve sort of hidden or embedded a Hebrew text behind the English text so this allows you to search through these words. The English word wait might translate two or three different Hebrew words or two or three different Greek words. This way you can focus your search just on the word here.
Another verse that parallels hope and wait is Psalm 130:5, “I wait for the Lord and in His Word I do hope.” We see that the focal point for wait and for hope is in God’s Word. It’s always in God’s Word. It’s important for us to understand that when we are in spiritual combat what we should use is the Word of God. When Jesus was being tested by Satan in the wilderness he didn’t give Satan a theological dissertation. He did not describe the various abstract principles derived from Scripture. He quoted Scripture verbatim in terms of its application.
Now that doesn’t mean there’s not a place for understanding the doctrinal rationales that are there because that’s embedded there. Jesus is using the Scripture itself, showing the importance of Scripture. That’s why Psalm 130:5 says it’s in God’s Word that we hope. I keep coming back to that. One of the things that’s gotten a little off-balance is something I hear in people’s language. We need to think about how we use the term “doctrine”. Doctrine is a very important word. It refers to instruction or teaching and it talks about the instruction of Scripture not only in terms of abstract theology but it takes it all the way through to application.
Sometimes the way people use the words “Bible doctrine” it’s almost as if it’s some kind of a code word that focuses more on the abstract doctrines that are taught than the Bible. One of the flaws we have seen from that approach is people who know a whole lot of doctrine and principles and rationales but they are abysmally ignorant about the Bible. If you don’t know the Bible along with your theology, you don’t know squat. You have to know the Bible. That’s the foundation. We have to be become much more biblically literate in Scripture. We have to read through the Bible again and again and again.
We have to know the events of Scripture. That’s what gives us the ability to be self sustaining because we can understand what has happened in people’s lives in the Bible. We can rehearse those stories, those episodes, and those events in the Old and New Testaments. We can derive comfort and strength from parallel circumstances and situations. We have to know the Bible. The focus of our faith is always from the Word and these principles derived from the Word. They’re not separated from the Word. Too often we know abstract principles but the anchor to the Word has often been slipped so we just have this free floating principle that we’re trusting in.
How is that different from just having a philosophy? That’s a question we need to ask. A lot of people hold to different philosophies of life but we hold to a relationship with God that is mediated through His word. That’s what’s emphasized again and again.
Another set of verses that are helpful in understanding the word wait are found in Psalm 25:3-5. Turn back with me to the 25th Psalm and we will think through these verses. This is a psalm of David. It’s always helpful when we look at promises to look at the context. David begins with addressing God as Yahweh, focusing upon God as the covenant God of Israel. David is saying he lifts up his soul and in God he trusts. He asks not to be ashamed and not to let his enemies exult over him.
What we see in this psalm is that David is going directly to the Lord in prayer. We see that he pleads with the Lord on the basis that he trusts in God and that he asks God to somehow intervene in his life so his trusting God will not be a source of embarrassment and will instead vindicate David’s trust and God will give him victory over his enemies. He is initially praying to God to give him victory that he might not be ashamed but he goes on to apply this to a broader spectrum of anyone who is a believer and trusting in God.
Psalm 25:3, “Indeed let no one who waits on you be ashamed.” There’s our word qavah. He’s asking that God not fail anyone who is putting their trust in Him because that would be an embarrassment. They would be ashamed. They would be brought to a position of failure in their life and this would bring dishonor to God’s glory. That’s the embedded rationale that’s here. He’s saying, “God we’re to glorify You. If You don’t support us and vindicate us on the basis of Your Word, then you’re not going to be glorified. In fact we will be embarrassed and ashamed and this will bring dishonor to You.”
Instead of being ashamed, in contrast, he says, “Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause.” This is the enemy. We don’t really know who the enemy is when he’s first mentioned in verse 2 but in verse 3 we learn that this is someone who has treated David or the Davidic house treacherously. He has been betrayed. I think in a lot of the psalms a specific incident is indicated but in psalms like this where no specific incident is identified it allows us to universalize these principles in terms of application.
As we look at this, we recognize that he’s dealing with the fact that someone has betrayed him. We’re all faced with that at some time or another in our life. We’ve been taken advantage of. We’ve been lied to. Wave had a friend betray us and someone who as not been honest with us. Maybe it’s been an employer or an employee; someone may have stolen from us. All of these different situations fit within the category of someone who has dealt treacherously with us without cause. David's praying that God would not cause him or any believer who has trusted in Him to be ashamed, but instead those who have dealt wrongly with us are the ones that should be dealt with in justice. So we are those who wait upon the Lord. That’s how he’s characterizing a believer.
In Psalm 25:4 he says, “Show me Your ways.” So in this period while he is waiting on the Lord we are to be taught and we are to learn of God. He says, “Show me your ways; teach me your paths.” There is a synonymous parallelism there where the “show me” is paralleled to “teach” and “your ways” is paralleled to “your paths”. Here the prayer is that the Lord would instruct David how to live and how to walk with the Lord.
This is further developed in Psalm 25:5, “Lead me in Your truth and teach me.” The focal point of how we learn God’s ways and God’s paths or are taught by God is in that first line of verse 5. It’s in the truth of God’s Word. We take that and apply it to what the New Testament says that we’re to walk in the light and walk in the truth. Then this is the same thing as walking by the Spirit where to always focus on the word of God. That is what we have to learn.
When we are walking in the truth, when we are walking by faith, there are two aspects to that. There’s an active aspect and a passive aspect. The active aspect tells us there’s something we should do in obedience in relation to the promise. For example in 1 John 1:9 we are to confess our sins. That’s what we should do. We should admit or acknowledge our sins to God the Father. So we do something. In Joshua 1:8 what do we do? We meditate. We carve out time in our schedule to reflect and read and to think through God’s Word. These are the things that we do.
Then there’s a passive side to the faith-rest drill where after we do what God says to do, we relax and wait on Him and He will bring about the consequences. Think about the battle of Jericho. They were told to do something. They had to trust God in doing what He told them to do. They were to walk around the city each day in silence. They were to walk around the city outside the walls and then go back to their camp. They weren’t to engage in battle. They weren’t to respond to any of the catcalls from the inhabitants of Jericho from the walls. They just walked around the city each day in silence. Then the last time they walked around it seven times, blew their horn, yelled, and the walls came down. Their focus was to do what God said to do. Then they were to wait and rest upon God to do what He promised to do which was to give them victory. In that event we see both the active sense as well as the passive sense.
The claim there in verse 5 is to be led in God’s truth and taught by God. Then there is an explanation, “For You are the God of my salvation.” Is this talking about salvation in terms of justification or is this talking about salvation in terms of deliverance from David’s trials and from those who have betrayed him and have opposed him? I would suggest this is not talking about justification salvation. This is talking about deliverance from the trials and testing David is going through. In fact, most of the time in the Old Testament, the word salvation does not refer to salvation from sin and eternity and the Lake of Fire. It’s talking more in terms of deliverance from some sort of trauma and some sort of attack or situation in this life. Mostly it’s some sort of situation in the here and now.
David says, “For You are the God of my salvation and on You I wait [qavah], in You I hope all the day.” There’s a confident expectation that God is going to intervene in the negative consequences of our life. He is the One who is going to provide for us. Let’s go to another verse, Psalm 25:21. At the end of this psalm David prays, “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me.” He’s really focusing on the character of God. He knows that God is the One who’s going to preserve him. The Hebrew word here for preserve is a synonym for the word salvation. Here again we see that his focus is on deliverance from his current crisis or calamity. He’s not talking about spiritual deliverance from the penalty of sin. He’s talking about survival in the midst of the current crisis.
He focuses on the character of God. That’s one of the things we see so often in the psalms. The psalmist rehearses the character and attributes of God and is calling upon God to intervene in his life and preserve him because of who God is, because of His character. He focuses here on the integrity and righteousness of God as the source of his deliverance. He continues to say that he waits expectantly on God’s intervention.
Another psalm we see where the word wait is used is in Psalm 27:14, “Wait on the Lord.” It’s a command, an exhortation. “Wait on the Lord. Be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart.” That is, strengthen your soul. To edify us. To give us courage in the midst of crises. To give us strength to handle difficult circumstances and what seem to be oppressing circumstances. David ends, “Wait, I say, upon the Lord.”
He repeats this concept in Psalm 37:34, “Wait on the Lord and keep His way.” Here we see the passive idea of waiting and the active idea of keeping His way which is being obedient to the Lord. “Wait upon the Lord and keep His way and He shall exalt you to inherit the land. When the wicked are cut off you shall see it.” When we look at Psalm 37:9 we see this concept of inheriting the land, owning the land, possessing the land. Psalm 37:34 commands us to wait upon the Lord and to keep His way. Israel was not to enjoy the blessings of the land unless they were to obey the Lord.
The psalmist is saying when we wait on the Lord in obedience, the result is that God is the One who will give victory and ownership and possession of the land. That means the wicked will be cut off and not have an inheritance or possession in the land. It also indicates that waiting on the Lord is something that has a long-term focus. It’s not something we’re going to wait this year, next year, and maybe three years from now and we will see the end result. It may be that the end result does not come for generations or centuries. This is certainly true of Israel’s full and final possession of the land.
In terms of waiting on the Lord, we need to develop a long-term vision. It might not bring about complete judicial resolution in this life. It may wait until the final judgment of God. So the emphasis is on the fact that God is the one who ultimately brings the blessing and ultimately exalts them to inherit the land.
Looking back at Psalm 37:9, David also uses the concept of waiting on the Lord there and he says something interesting in that verse. “Evil doers will be cut off but those who wait for the Lord will inherit the land.” Now in that context beginning in verse 7 he’s talking about the passive part of waiting patiently for the Lord and not fretting. If someone seems to be very successful and to have gotten away with whatever they’ve gotten away with such as lying and cheating and stealing and frauds, whatever it may be, don’t let that overwhelm you.
Sometimes we get that way when we think about politics and politicians. They won’t get away with their misdeeds. “Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, who carries out wicked schemes.” We are to cease from anger, forsake wrath, and not fret or worry because it leads only to evil doings. Our natural response sometimes when someone has taken advantage of us, cheated us, and stolen from us, is that we react in anger and wrath. That compounds the problem by doing something which is wrong and criminal and destructive.
We have a similar statement in Matthew 5:5 where Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount says, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” That word meek is a misunderstood word. It has the idea of authority orientation. Those who are oriented to the authority of God and are obedient to God are the ones who will inherit the land and the coming Kingdom. Those are the ones who will have and enjoy an inheritance. That’s parallel with what David is saying here. Don’t respond to evil with evil but remain obedient or under the authority of God and the result is that you will inherit the land.
This is the same thing that Jesus is saying. The word that is translated earth in Matthew 5:5 is really the word that should be translated land indicating a promise of the land for Israel. Remember Matthew 5:5 is still in the context of Jesus offering the Kingdom and bringing it in for Israel at that time.
Then in Psalm 52:9, just to wrap up with one last verse, “I will praise you forever because You have done it and in the presence of your saints I will wait on Your name for it is good.” The idea of waiting on God’s name indicates a focus on God’s character. The name is often that which relates to the character of God. This becomes a source of comfort for us and strength. We’re reminded of the character qualities of God, the essence box of God. His righteousness, the standard of God’s character and justice, the application of that standard to His creatures and His eternal love for us.
He is eternal life. He knows all things. He is present to everything in His creation which is His omniscience and omnipresence. He’s omnipotent. He’s able to do that which He desires to do. He is true in all that He does which is veracity and He is immutable. We can focus on some basic characteristics of His character as His integrity, His righteousness, justice, love, and truth. These are part of His character and that becomes the foundation of why we wait on Him because we know that He is a righteous God. We know He loves us. We know the way He deals with us is perfectly just and on the basis of truth. Therefore we can wait upon the Lord.
This is our challenge from Isaiah 40:31 that we can claim and relax and wait upon Him in obedience. We’ll come back and talk about the verse and these principles some more the next time.