Waiting for the Promise – May 13, 2018
Isaiah 40:21-31, Acts 1:6-14
May 13, 2018
“Those 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 40:31)
We’ve read those words quite a bit lately. And I don’t know, maybe they have taken on a little more meaning since Super Bowl VII! All of us, the entire Delaware Valley, mounted up with “wings like Eagles,” didn’t we?
Well, I want you to think a little about the first part of that verse as we begin today. “Those who wait for the Lord.” What does that mean? We’re all familiar with the idea of “waiting.” We are usually waiting for something.” You know it’s coming – a birthday, a bus, a special holiday. And there is anticipation as you look forward to whatever it is that’s about to happen. Advent is an entire season of the Church year, built around the anticipation – the waiting – for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. As a kid, those days until Christmas seemed to drag on forever! Didn’t they?
With that kind of “waiting,” the things we wait for are usually pretty specific. What I mean by that, is that if we’re waiting for something, we’re pretty sure what it is we’re waiting for, right? Well, in the Old Testament there is this idea of “waiting on the Lord.” We see it here in Isaiah 40, but it’s found throughout the Old Testament. And what that means is that we are in a state of anticipation, we are patiently waiting. (Or maybe not so patiently!) But we don’t exactly know what we’re waiting for. We’re seeking God’s presence. We’re waiting for him to act in our lives, but we’re not sure how. Do you get that? It’s that same state of anticipation, of seeking, of listening, of waiting for something, only without knowing exactly what we’re waiting for. “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.”
As we think about that, I want to pick up on something I said a few weeks ago. It is this. If you expect to be touched by God in some way, you need to put yourself in a position where you can be touched by God. Do you remember that? It’s important, but in our busy lives, it’s hard to remember to do!
Well one of the ways we do that is to “wait on the Lord.” That means putting ourselves in that state where we strive to be in God’s presence. That means being silent, being “still,” it means getting ourselves out of the way, and asking God to be present to us and act in our lives, even though we might not know how. When we do that, Isaiah tells us, we will renew our strength. We will “mount up with wings like Eagles.”
The reason I say all that is that the disciples were in just such a state. They were “waiting on the Lord.” But they didn’t know what they were waiting for! We know what they were waiting for – Pentecost! But remember that we the readers almost always know more than the people in the story. The disciples were told of a promise that was coming. But they had no idea what it would be. In fact, nothing in the past month or so for them was what they ever even imagined. And Pentecost would be no different!
So they were “putting themselves in a position where they could be touched by God.” They were “waiting for the Lord.” But I love this story because there was also a hint of “humanness” here! Maybe they weren’t being all that “patient.” Because right after this, we have Peter – “Impetuous” old Peter – calling for the group to draw lots to elect a replacement for Judas. Does that seem a bit odd to any of you? Perhaps even a bit bizarre? At the very least it shows some impatience.
Now, some have said that they were at least “doing something,” and that “doing something is better than doing nothing.” Did you ever hear that? Well, I’m not so sure that’s always the case! Maybe “doing something can in some cases be better than doing nothing.” But I’m not so sure that means “doing anything!” And in this case, I wonder. Because what they did seems to have no connection to the story. This is the only time we hear of this “election.” And it’s the only time we ever hear of the name Matthias – this man they “elected.” So it seems to me that this was not of God’s doing! It was their “humanness” showing in this story.
However, let me say that they did do something that was good! In verse 14 it says, “All these, with one accord, devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”
I think that means they were “waiting on the Lord.” They were putting themselves in that place where God could touch them. They we were seeking, they were anticipating, they were open to what God was going to do. And we’ll see in the next few weeks just how God did, and how amazing that promise was!
So I want you to think about all of this. Do you ever “wait on the Lord?” Do you do the kinds of things you need to do to put yourself in that place where God can touch you? Do you ever wait on the Lord, not sure what he is going to do? Or do you find that you get “prescriptive” about it? In other words, do you say, “Yes, Lord, I want you to touch me. Yes, I want you to act in my life. And here’s how.” Is that you? Or do you “Wait on the Lord” in this wonderful, Old Testament kind of way? Do you wait, do you seek, do you anticipate, and yet have no expectations? That’s not easy, is it?
I invite you to think about this. If you don’t already practice “waiting on the Lord,” try it. Spend some time sitting and concentrating on God’s presence as much as you can. Sometimes it’s a matter of saying to God in prayer, “Lord, I am waiting on you.” And then not saying anything – at least for a while. That’s not easy, because too often we think prayer means we have to be saying something. We feel awkward when we’re not speaking. Or we’re too easily distracted. But the people of old knew that sometimes God meets us best when we are waiting, when we are listening, when we are seeking to be in tune with his Spirit.
So I invite you to try that. And I invite you to remember this phrase as you go today. “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.” Try it!
Eternal God, help us to be still and to know you are God. Help us to learn to seek you with our whole hearts. Help us to hear your voice guiding us, and leading us in ways that are beyond our thoughts or our expectations. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, and for the sake of his kingdom in our midst, Amen.