Series Title: Going Up with the Psalms of Ascent (chapter 11)
These edited transcripts are taken from Dwight's most loved audio series, Highways in Their Hearts. Click here to see the downloadable audio version in our online store.
I pray that our faith is characterized—in times of blessing and trouble—by spiritual tenacity. That our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us (Psalm 123:2). Learning to wait on the Lord is an essential aspect of our pilgrimage, so it comes as no surprise that it is a recurring theme in the Psalms of Ascent. Yet, it may be the hardest discipline to practice.
The key Hebrew word for wait is kavah. It is used in this familiar text:
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait [kavah] 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.
Kavah can be translated wait or hope; it means both. Because it is used in relation to the LORD, it is waiting in hope with a sure expectation of good.
To have kavah is to wait in hope with an eager and strong trust. It implies a firmness and a constancy of mind. The biblical concept of waiting means being steadfast, enduring in confident expectation that God will act on behalf of his people. Why? Because he is on your side, he is for you. The national anthem of Israel is called The Hope (Hatikvah). Tikvah comes from the root word kavah.
Jeremiah captures this beautifully when he proclaims the LORD, the hope of Israel is also the fountain of living water (17:13). Biblically speaking, you can hope in the hope of Israel. You can be confident in his character because of his covenant faithfulness. Therefore, we can say, biblically speaking, to wait is to hope and to hope is to wait.
But all too often, we don't wait. We face the continual temptation to take matters into our own hands. We get an inner feeling, an impression, a sense that God is saying something to us. But rather than waiting we rush ahead; we push forward without confirmation because we want to see it done. But the way of the Lord is waiting.
At one point in time, my wife and I desperately had to sell our house. The bank was about to foreclose and it seemed the ministry was going down the drain. We tried everything. We even had two good offers which were withdrawn due to very peculiar circumstances. We were undone as the deadline approached. Having tried everything, we were about to lose everything.
Then, God showed up.
After a year on the market, a couple from up the street came to see the house. The man couldn't even climb the stairs so we didn't take it seriously. You guessed it, they called back two days later, made an offer, and bought our house. They installed a lift so the husband could go up and down the stairs.
We learned two kingdom lessons about waiting on the Lord: When we give up striving, He shows up, and the last five minutes of faith are always the hardest.
As one Bible teacher observed, "God is never late but he doesn't always come when you expect." If we're being honest, waiting on the Lord goes against the grain for most of us. We get to the limits of our waiting and decide to act as King Saul did instead of waiting according to the prophet Samuel's instruction. Then, we want God to certify the action because it made perfect sense and even sounded spiritual.
Western culture mocks waiting. We in America suffer from "instanity." We want what we want... now. But in the spiritual realm—the kingdom of God—those who look wholly to God as their Father learn to wait in hope with a sure and confident expectation in Him. These are those who find their strength renewed. In the prophetic imagery of Isaiah, they shall walk and not faint.
One of the biggest challenges in spiritual growth is not weakness, it is unsubmitted strength. Said another way, our ability to do things in our own power without God's help hinders our pilgrimage. The Scripture reminds us that it is, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts (Zechariah 4:6).
My subject is the kind of faith that remains faithful in difficult situations.
Please understand this calls for discernment.
I am not talking about presumptuous faith. I had a friend whose technique for finding the will of God was what he called the pinball method. He bounced around until he found an opening and figured that was the will of God for him. It never ended well. That is one extreme.
I am not talking about apathetic faith. Sitting back, wanting a dramatic leading of God—some writing on the wall—is another extreme. This can lead to confusion and an unreasonable fear of making a mistake.
The biblical idea of waiting upon the Lord is not a passive state. It is, rather, a state of submitted strength characterized by an eagerness, an anticipation, and a readiness. It is an active expectation that God will decisively show you the way; and when he does, you will act upon it.
In Exodus 24:12 where the children of Israel had come to the mount, the Lord calls Moses up to the top and says something that has always struck me as wonderful. He says to Moses, Come up to me on the mountain and be there. We are not accustomed to just being there in the presence of God, we have got to be doing.
Sometimes, when our Father is about to reveal something to us, it is preceded by a period of silence.
Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud (Ex 24:15-16).
What were the children of Israel doing while Moses was present with the Lord? They got tired of waiting for God to act. The result? They made an idol in the form of a golden calf and said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!" [...] And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play (Ex 24:4-6).
Waiting on the Lord is a lesson in dependence and trust, one that goes against the grain of our rugged individualism and self-sufficiency. We are self-made men and women. Yet heaven is looking for and earth needs God-made men and God-made women. Who among us is willing to set aside their pride that his kingdom may prevail?
I am convinced that the single greatest prayer of faith you can utter—if you mean it—is, Thy will be done! The pilgrim's prayer is characterized more by an exclamation mark than by a question mark.
During the time of testing I mentioned earlier, my wife and I had to get to the point, out of desperation, where we didn't even ask anymore, "What is your will?." In our brokenness, we simply affirmed, "Your will be done!" With our conscious understanding or without it, with our co-operation or without it our pilgrim's prayer became... Your will be done! It was at that point we experienced the enormous liberty that comes with knowing God is for us.
My fellow pilgrims, remember this: The hand of the Master that disciplines us is the same hand that was pierced for us.
Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.
Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.