Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Approximate Wait Time is 24.....Years?!

I hate waiting.  Thought I'd get that out there right off as a beginning.  To clarify, though, I don't mind waiting as long as I have something to do in the meantime.  I have this drive to always be doing something productive or I feel like I'm wasting time.  For example, I don't mind waiting rooms as long as I have the foresight to bring something along to do.  The last time I was at the dentist in a waiting room, I brought along a suitcase ( may think I'm kidding, but it was  a legitimate duffel bag) filled with books so I could study for a Bible study.  I've brought along schoolwork, Bible quizzing cards, etc., just so I have something to do.  I'm a busy man, and my time is valuable!  I can't waste time waiting!
Even if I'm not doing something strictly productive, a lot of times I feel like I just need to be doing something with my hands or my mind.  If I can double up on things and multi-task I jump on it.  If I have to unload the dishwasher, I'll put on a CD or prop up a book to glance at.  When I put a TV dinner in the microwave, you think I'm going to stand there idly for three and a half minutes to wait for the timer to ding?  Ain't nobody got time for that!  I'll run over to my computer and type something up.  When I'm driving, I feel restless unless I'm listening to a sermon or story or talking to someone on the phone.  A drive of 30 minutes is an opportunity to have a conversation with someone I've been meaning to talk to or to instruct myself further on something.  I can't let that slip by.  It doesn't even matter if it's strictly productive, as long as I'm doing something.  For some reason though, I don't think God always shares my point of view.
Recently, there have been situations that I want God to move in and do something about.  When He doesn't automatically step in though, it scares me.  I want to trust Him, but when it doesn't seem like He's going to do anything, particularly not in the time frame I want Him to do it, I'm tempted to immediately jump to figure out my own plans, and find some way I can fix the situation, without waiting to see what He wants me to do, because He isn't answering me at the time.
At times, it seems the Bible studies I'm teaching conspire to emphasize the same point...usually one that I need to work on in my daily walk with God.  The Bible studies I taught over my winter break at school were no exception.  Two sections of Scripture we happened to be studying in two separate studies really stood out to me and were emphasizing similar things.
One of the sections of Scripture was Isaiah chapters 7-12...which are amazing, and all of you should go do an indepth study on them as soon as you finish reading this blog post.
The Scriptures start out with a situation between King Ahaz and Isaiah. Ahaz was facing an intimidating situation.  The kings of Syria and northern Israel had formed a treaty to come against him and replace him with a puppet king that would do what they wanted.  The Bible says that the hearts of Ahaz and all his people were shaken like when trees are shaken with the wind.  God told Isaiah to meet Ahaz by the water source of the city, which comes into play later.  Listen to Isaiah's advice from God to the worried king.
Isa 7:3-9  Then said the LORD unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shearjashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field;  (4)  And say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah.  (5)  Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying,  (6)  Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal:  (7)  Thus saith the Lord GOD, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass.  (8)  For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people.  (9)  And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah's son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.
Basically, God's advice to the king is not to focus on his own plans, but to trust in God.  Just believe that God is going to do what He says.  God even offers to give Ahaz a sign, but Ahaz refuses because he is so wrapped up in his own plans and ideas and has placed his investments in something other than God, and doesn't want to consider the possibility that all he needs to do is wait and trust God.  It's a scary thing to wait, because I think we oftentimes don't really believe God will really come through.  We don't think He really interacts with us.  I love that God tells him to be quiet.  Just be quiet, Ahaz!  But Ahaz didn't.  We learn what he did in 2 Kings.

2Kings 16:5-18  Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to war: and they besieged Ahaz, but could not overcome him.  (6)  At that time Rezin king of Syria recovered Elath to Syria, and drave the Jews from Elath: and the Syrians came to Elath, and dwelt there unto this day.  (7)  So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, saying, I am thy servant and thy son: come up, and save me out of the hand of the king of Syria, and out of the hand of the king of Israel, which rise up against me.  (8)  And Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king's house, and sent it for a present to the king of Assyria.  (9)  And the king of Assyria hearkened unto him: for the king of Assyria went up against Damascus, and took it, and carried the people of it captive to Kir, and slew Rezin.  (10)  And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus: and king Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar, and the pattern of it, according to all the workmanship thereof.  (11)  And Urijah the priest built an altar according to all that king Ahaz had sent from Damascus: so Urijah the priest made it against king Ahaz came from Damascus.  (12)  And when the king was come from Damascus, the king saw the altar: and the king approached to the altar, and offered thereon.  (13)  And he burnt his burnt offering and his meat offering, and poured his drink offering, and sprinkled the blood of his peace offerings, upon the altar.  (14)  And he brought also the brasen altar, which was before the LORD, from the forefront of the house, from between the altar and the house of the LORD, and put it on the north side of the altar.  (15)  And king Ahaz commanded Urijah the priest, saying, Upon the great altar burn the morning burnt offering, and the evening meat offering, and the king's burnt sacrifice, and his meat offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their meat offering, and their drink offerings; and sprinkle upon it all the blood of the burnt offering, and all the blood of the sacrifice: and the brasen altar shall be for me to enquire by.  (16)  Thus did Urijah the priest, according to all that king Ahaz commanded.  (17)  And king Ahaz cut off the borders of the bases, and removed the laver from off them; and took down the sea from off the brasen oxen that were under it, and put it upon a pavement of stones.  (18)  And the covert for the sabbath that they had built in the house, and the king's entry without, turned he from the house of the LORD for the king of Assyria.
I realize these are a lot of verses and blog posts are supposed to be short, but I wanted to put this all out there to make a point, and maybe it will be beneficial to someone.  Notice what Ahaz did.  Rather than doing what Isaiah told him to do (trust the Lord), he made his own plans and put his trust in something else.  The very reason he was by the conduit of the upper pool in the first place was likely because he was checking out the water supply for the city...solidifying his own plans in case of a siege rather than trusting in God.  What he did probably made sense to the political minds of his day.  His secular advisers probably approved.  He was being attacked on all sides; he needed to DO something!  So he did.  He sent to Assyria, and it seemed to work, right?  He got rid of Syria and Israel's threats, which is what he was aiming to do.  Do you see what else Ahaz did though?  The last verse says he turned from the house of the LORD for the king of Assyria.  If we look at what Ahaz was doing in terms of investments, it is very clear to see where his trust was.  In a sense, the investment was already in the house of the LORD, but he took it out of the house of the LORD and put it into Assyria.  He used the gold and silver of the only One who could really help him, and put it right into his own plans, which he figured would save him.  This hits me hard, because I think it is exactly what we do.  It doesn't seem as blatant to us, because in the middle of our circumstances we often do what is practical and makes sense to us.  But we often invest in our own plans rather than in God.
What are you investing in?  We can invest many things...our time, our talents, our money, etc.  Whatever we put into something is usually how much we value it.  Are we putting more of these things into the kingdom of God, taking time to pray, to read our Bibles, to tithe, to encourage people in the Lord, to come to church, to teach or sing or whatever for Him?  Or are we putting all our effort and energy into college, our job, our career, our friends, or even our family?  We think, "I need to prepare.  I know God promises abundant life, but I have to do some things to make sure I'm taken care of."  Obviously I'm not saying we should just throw out our job, college, friends, family and the rest...I'm just asking what we're putting our trust in.  Our own plans or God?  We see a different perspective of what Ahaz did in 2 Chronicles, and it spells out pretty clearly what the result was for him.
2Ch 28:16-24  At that time did king Ahaz send unto the kings of Assyria to help him.  (17)  For again the Edomites had come and smitten Judah, and carried away captives.  (18)  The Philistines also had invaded the cities of the low country, and of the south of Judah, and had taken Bethshemesh, and Ajalon, and Gederoth, and Shocho with the villages thereof, and Timnah with the villages thereof, Gimzo also and the villages thereof: and they dwelt there.  (19)  For the LORD brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel; for he made Judah naked, and transgressed sore against the LORD.  (20)  And Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria came unto him, and distressed him, but strengthened him not.  (21)  For Ahaz took away a portion out of the house of the LORD, and out of the house of the king, and of the princes, and gave it unto the king of Assyria: but he helped him not.  (22)  And in the time of his distress did he trespass yet more against the LORD: this is that king Ahaz.  (23)  For he sacrificed unto the gods of Damascus, which smote him: and he said, Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, therefore will I sacrifice to them, that they may help me. But they were the ruin of him, and of all Israel.  (24)  And Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the house of God, and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and shut up the doors of the house of the LORD, and he made him altars in every corner of Jerusalem.
The result of Ahaz's plans seemed to work out in the short run, because Assyria fixed the short term problem, but it caused so many more problems.  God protected Judah and Ahaz as king, as He said He would do for His greater plan (bringing forth Immanuel), but Ahaz's plans to fix the short term brought about all kinds of problems for his country and people and for him and his family.  The LORD brought Judah low because of Ahaz.  And the very thing Ahaz was trusting in backfired on him.  Tiglathpileser, king of Assyria, came and distressed Ahaz...but strengtehened him not...he helped him not.  He sacrified to the gods of Damascus which smote him, thinking it made sense, but they were the ruin of him and of all Israel!  Why?  Why would Ahaz do this?  Because it can be hard to wait for God to do what He says He will do.  We want to immediately jump in with our own plans and 'help' God out, when it seems like we're being attacked on all sides and He isn't coming through....which brings up the next illustration I saw in Bible study.  Abram and Sarai.
I noticed something the last time I was studying the story of Abraham.  We read about God's promise and all the things that happened to him in a couple chapters, and sort of focus on the part where God says, "By this time next year, you will have a son."  But do you know when God first promised that to Abraham?
Gen 12:4  So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. 
Genesis 12:1-3 is the first time God makes mention of making of Abram "a great nation."  This is slightly ridiculous already at the outset, because Abram is already 75 years old, and is wife is barren and childless.  Abram brings this up in chapter 15, when the promise still hasn't come to pass years later.  
Gen 15:2-5  And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?  (3)  And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.  (4)  And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.  (5)  And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
God specifies that it will be one from Abram's own bowels, and Abram believes God.  The trouble is, almost ten years later, Sarah starts to get practical, and thinks maybe they should help God out.  He made this promise but it still hasn't been fulfilled, and it's been ten years.  Maybe God wants them to put a little action behind their faith and make their own plans.  So she does.
Gen 16:1-3  Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.  (2)  And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.  (3)  And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.
This was a custom of the day and seemed logical...even seemed to fit what God told Abram.  After all, the promise was referring to Abram's bowels, not Sarai's.  The problem is that it wasn't God's plan.  He wanted them to wait and be faithful.  We know the story.  As is often said, Abram and Sarai took matters into their own hands, and now, as a result, we have the whole Middle Eastern Crisis.  Guess how long they had already waited though?
Gen 16:16  And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram. 

Abram was already 86!  He was promised this when he was 75!  That's a long time to wait!  I don't like the sound of that.  10 or 11 years down the road, when time seems to be getting short, making my own plans and helping God out seems to make a lot of sense to me.  But it wasn't God's plan, and God makes this clear.

Gen 17:1  And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. 
Gen 17:15-21  And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.  (16)  And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.  (17)  Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?  (18)  And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!  (19)  And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.  (20)  And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.  (21)  But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.
By this time, Abraham was already 99 years old.  That means he had been waiting for this promise to be fulfilled for 24 years!  That's a long time to wait, but it is always worth waiting when it is God's plan you are waiting on.

I'll admit freely that I'm speaking to myself in this post.  This is an area I'm struggling with, so I'm not pompously posting with some pretentiously pious perspective.  (And that's actually an amazingly awesome alliteration, amen? ;) )
The reason this is so important to me, and why I spent so much time on it is because it is something that has been hitting me between the eyes recently, and I keep coming to it.  I hate the concept in my flesh.  I want to get answers, I want to figure things out intellectually, I want relationships to be restored, I want friends of mine to come to know God, I want debates to be settled, I want to feel God's presence and hear His voice right now, and know exactly what His map for my future is.  But it seems like He keeps telling me to wait.  And wait.  And wait.  I want to jump in and beginning making my own plans to protect and solidify myself, but that's not the way He wants me to do things.   While I want to make sparks and walk in the light of my own fire because I'm in the dark, He says to just trust and wait on Him.  (Isa. 50:10-11)  It sometimes seems like I've been waiting for a long time, but He is trustworthy and faithful, and I certainly haven't been waiting as long as Abraham.  So I'm going to keep plugging away and I encourage you to do the same!   
As a clarification, I am certainly not advocating sitting back and doing nothing, and demanding God to do what you want Him to do.  You are His servant, not the other way around.  Keep your eyes on His hands (Psalm 123), and seeking Him and doing what you already know to do.  (Abraham and Hezekiah are good examples.)  All I'm saying is that sometimes serving involves waiting and watching what the Master is going to do, rather than jumping in with your own plans.

God bless you as you wait!

Isa 8:12-17  Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.  (13)  Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.  (14)  And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  (15)  And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.  (16)  Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.  (17)  And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.
Isa 10:3-4  And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far? to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory?  (4)  Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
Isa 10:20  And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.

Isa 40:26-31  Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.  (27)  Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?  (28)  Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.  (29)  He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.  (30)  Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:  (31)  But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.