by Mike Ratliff
Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you. (Psalms 143:2 ESV)
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:3-4 ESV)
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. (Lamentations 3:24-26 ESV)
Despite the prevalent “Christian” teachings in our time that suffering is never God’s will for His people, a close, sober, and honest study of scripture reveals that the fires of tribulation are used by God to form and refine His people. The view that God desires of each Christian to always be healthy and prosperous is based on many false assumptions. One false assumption is that salvation is somehow deserved and those who profess faith can claim anything they want from a god who is bound to meet all their requests. Another false assumption moves the focus of salvation from God glory to the person’s glory and their “having their best life now.” Sin is seen as simple mistakes that God overlooks because He is all love.
What does it mean to wait on the Lord? In the 21st century waiting is an ugly word. No one wants to wait for anything. I have noticed how angry some people become when the driver in front of them hesitates for a few seconds when that traffic light turns green? Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s my employers wanted to always be able to contact me so they gave me a pager to carry. Cell phones were way too expensive back then so if I was in my car and received a page, I had to look for the nearest pay phone. The delay in my getting back to whoever paged me was tolerated because everyone understood the limitations. However, now it seems that everyone has a cell phone.
When I was at my daughter’s wedding a few years ago, a relative came up to me at the reception holding out one of those cell phones that is more computer than phone. He was upset because ever since he had arrived in Oklahoma his internet browsing capability had diminished tremendously. I looked at the “phone” and told him that Verizon works fine everywhere but Oklahoma. He grimaced and stomped off. I found it interesting that he could not bear to be separate from the Internet long enough to enjoy the wedding and reception. I ask again, what does it mean to wait on the Lord?
Here is the introduction from the 1560 edition of the Geneva Bible for Psalm 130.
“The people of God from their bottomles miseries do crye unto God and are heard. They confess their sinnes and flee unto God’s mercie.”
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities. (Psalms 130:1-8 ESV)
The psalmist cries out to God from the depths. What are the depths? This is an alliterative term in Hebrew probably referring the the depths of the sea. In the Old Testament we see references to the depths of the sea in cries of lament describing a condition of seemingly being in a set of circumstances that are overwhelming. We can relate to that can’t we? We are dishonest if we claim to always be all positive and God focused in all we do and say and think. None of us are always as we appear when we show up in church on Sunday mornings. No, we all struggle. There are days in which we cannot sense the presence of God at all. We struggle with temptation and find ourselves in the midst of sins that we thought were defeated long ago. Those close to us get sick or die. We lose our jobs. We have rebellious children. We have our car stolen or broken into. I am sure you could come up many more examples. What we must remember is that this walk before the face of God is full of trouble. That is why it is called a narrow difficult path.
The Psalmist cries out to God and pleads with Him to hear his voice and pleas for mercy. Again, we see that believers are not immune from needing God to intervene in their lives as only He can. In v3 we read, “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” I like the way the Geneva Bible renders this, “If thou o Lord, straitly markest iniquites, o Lord, who shal stand?” The Psalmist is saying that we cannot be just before God, but by forgiveness of sins. When we struggle with circumstances that seem to overwhelm it is a very good thing to review the Gospel and marvel at our salvation. “But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” Notice how the psalmist ties together forgiveness of sins with the fear of God. There is a teaching in our time that states that we should not fear God. This teaching is rooted in the misunderstanding of the true nature of our salvation. We make a huge mistake in assuming that our salvation is not the most incredible miracle and work of God that He ever performed. We should always view our salvation as totally undeserved and the fact that we are now standing before God blameless when we actually deserve nothing but Hell, as the most indescribable example of power and mercy by a God who is completely beyond our understanding.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. (Psalms 130:5-6 ESV)
The psalmist describes how we are wait for the Lord. We are are to wait with trust and hope knowing full well that He is going to answer our prayers and it will be always be the right answer. The watchman on the wall at night knew that the most dangerous time for the city was when it was dark. However, the Sun always comes up. Morning always comes. So, as he watched he also kept an eye to the East for the coming of the daybreak. He knew that once the Sun came up that he would be relieved until the following evening. This expectant hope should always mark how we wait on the Lord to rescue us from the depths.
God is using the fires of tribulation in our lives to mold us and conform us unto the image of His Son. Also, it is through our “waiting on the Lord” that we find true fellowship with Him. My brethren, let us keep our eyes on the Lord. Let us make our chief aim to live for His glory. Let us view this life as the temporal and just a vapor that will soon be over. When we look at eternity we must understand that it will last forever, but this life will soon be over. Shouldn’t we be laying up treasure there instead of trying to build kingdoms here? Therefore, let us wait on the Lord by fully trusting that He is always going to do right.
Soli Deo Gloria!