Waiting on the Lord

Sermon: Waiting on the Lord

A Sermon by Rev. Coleman S. Glenn
12 February 2012
Dawson Creek, BC

Readings: 1 Samuel 13:1-15; Luke 12:35-48; Divine Providence 73:6, 7

“Our soul waits for Jehovah; He is our help and our shield.” (Psalm 33:20)

Wait on the Lord. Throughout the Word, this message is given over and over again. In Psalm 27 we read, “Wait for Jehovah; hold firm, and He shall encourage your heart; and wait for Jehovah” (Psalm 27:14). In the book of Isaiah, we read, “The youths shall faint and tire, and the young men stumbling shall stumble; but they that wait upon Jehovah shall renew their power” (Isaiah 40:30, 31). In these passages, we see a promise – that those who wait for the Lord shall be given strength and encouragement. The Lord will give hope to those who wait faithfully for him.

But there are times when this just does not seem true. There are times when we’ve been waiting for the Lord, and we’re continuing to wait, and wait, and wait – and He does not come. He does not seem to be strengthening us. We hold on as long as we can, but we feel our resolve slipping – because even as we’re trying to faithfully trust that the Lord will bless us, everything seems to be going wrong. Everything seems to be falling apart around us.

That is exactly what was happening to Saul in the story we read this morning. It was Saul’s first major battle as king of Israel – it was his chance to prove himself. And everything was falling apart. The Philistines were gathering an enormous force, much, much larger and more powerful than Saul’s force. Day by day, Saul’s already small army was becoming smaller, as his soldiers hid in caves and fled across the Jordan River. And yet, even as the Philistine forces were amassing less than 15 miles away from where he was in Gilgal, Saul could do nothing – could not sound a retreat, could not sound an advance. Because Samuel, the Lord’s prophet, had told Saul to wait in Gilgal until he arrived to offer sacrifices and to tell Saul what he should do next.

We can imagine the growing feeling of panic that Saul must have had as he waited and waited and things looked worse and worse. Maybe he was about to lose the kingdom he had just gained less than two years before. And we can imagine the even worse feeling, as the seventh day arrived – the day when Samuel had promised to arrive – and the day stretched on, and Samuel did not arrive. And the sun set – and Samuel had not come. Imagine that feeling of absolute despair – Saul’s one hope, the thing he had been waiting patiently for, was not happening. He was alone. And we can imagine a sense of panic setting in – if he did not act NOW, his kingdom would be lost.

And so, he decided to take control – to offer sacrifices himself – in direct contradiction to the Lord’s commandment. And right after Saul offered the sacrifice, Samuel arrived. And he told Saul that because he had disobeyed, the very thing he had been trying to gain by his impatient sacrifice – a secure kingdom – would be taken away from him and his descendants and given to another.

It’s easy to sympathize with Saul in this situation. Because he did wait for the Lord. He waited seven days for Samuel to come, and meanwhile he watched as the army around him fled, as things got worse and worse. He trusted the Lord – and then it seemed like the Lord had failed him.

We all wait on the Lord. And we expect that by patiently following him, life will gradually get better, even though it won’t happen in an instant. But sometimes it doesn’t seem that way at all. Sometimes it seems that patiently waiting for the Lord is leading to nothing but disaster. Our lives fall apart around us, and we think, this cannot possibly be right.

For example: imagine a person who loves the Lord’s promise of true marriage love – that a man can leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). He does what the Lord asks: prays for a true marriage, shuns lusts as sins against the Lord. But years of waiting turn into decades. And he feels lonely, and more and more hopeless. Things are getting worse, not better. The promise is not coming true. So he decides to settle – it doesn’t matter who it is, he just wants to be married. And so he marries a woman whom he does not love, who has completely different values from him, a completely different faith. And over time, the man finds that there is a deep seated coldness between him and his wife. He finds that in impatiently trying to get rid of his own loneliness, he’s become more lonely than he was before he was married – just as Saul lost the kingdom by desperately trying to hold onto it.

The same thing happens in other cases. Again, with the example of marriage, imagine a woman who finds herself married to a man she does not love. And rather than getting better, things seem to be getting worse – her life seems to be falling apart.  And in the hope of attaining the Lord’s promise of true marriage, she leaves her husband for a man who she thinks will make her happy. But that willingness to commit adultery undermines any marriage she enters, and again, she loses the thing she wanted so much by acting according to her own impatience, rather than trusting the Lord.

Or think about the case of the church. The church has so much to offer the world – teachings about the Lord as mercy itself and love itself. But there are harder teachings, teachings that are unpopular in our culture, that make it hard for people to accept the church – and so we see young people leaving the church, and fewer people joining it. The church seems to be falling apart. We can be tempted to teach only the easy truths, the truths that won’t chase anyone away. But the Lord says that it is those very hard teachings – the teachings that force us to change our lives – that will truly save the world. If we try to do it our way, we actually lose the very thing we were trying to gain.

In all of those examples, we are tempted to take things into our own hands because waiting for the Lord does not seem to be working. The Lord does not seem to be delivering on His promises, even after we have waited and waited for Him.  But what are we supposed to do when the Lord does not seem to be fulfilling His promises? There’s not a simple, easy answer. But the first thing we can do when the Lord does not seem to be fulfilling His promises is look at what His promises really are.

The Lord does not promise that life will be easy if we follow Him. In fact, He promises the opposite: He told His disciples, “In this world, you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). If we’re following the Lord, it is inevitable that we will go through times when He does not seem to be present, when everything seems to be falling apart.

But He also promises that although we may undergo hardships in this world, if we faithfully follow Him, we can come into eternal joy in heaven. He promises that everything He does in His Divine Providence is for the sake of people’s eternal welfare, their eternal happiness (see Divine Providence 214-220). Life does not make sense unless we truly take this to heart: that life in this world is only a shadow of time compared to life to eternity. And so even when we go through hard times that last for years, we can call to mind this eternal perspective, and ask for the Lord’s strength to continue to work for eternal goodness, rather than settling for temporary gratification. We can rest in the Lord in the assurance that although we cannot see how, every state that we go through is leading to a good end to eternity (see for example Arcana Coelestia 8480:3).

But the fact that Lord’s true blessings are eternal things does not mean that we are doomed to nothing but suffering here on earth. Although it’s useful to have the eternal perspective, we also need to be careful to avoid the attitude that this world is just a waiting room for heaven, merely something to be tolerated while we wait for heaven.  We are here for a purpose – that we can bring the Lord’s love into this world, down to the lowest level of creation. The Lord commands us to live in the world, even though we are not to be of the world (see for example John 17, Heaven and Hell 528).  The Lord came that we may have life, and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).  The Lord said, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). The Lord can be here now, and wants to be here now. The Lord promises that in this world we will have periods of joy – we will have moments where we do sense His presence.  And the Lord even told his disciples to rejoice when they were persecuted (Matthew 15:11, 12) – the fact that we are going through struggles does not mean that the Lord has failed in His promise, but that He is fulfilling it, because it is only by bearing that cross, struggling against our own selfish and impatient desires, that we can eventually learn what it means to truly rest in Him, to love Him, and from that to love our neighbour.

So the first thing we can do when we have been waiting for the Lord and He does not seem to be keeping His promises is to go back and remind ourselves of what those promises really are.  Secondly, we need to realize that waiting for the Lord does not mean being inactive. Waiting on the Lord means doing the things He calls us to with the faith that He will then bless us in those actions.  There’s a story in the Old Testament, when the children of Israel were at the edge of the Red Sea, with the army of the Egyptians chasing after them. Moses told the children of Israel to “stand still, and see the salvation of Jehovah.” The first thing for them to do was to stand and wait, to acknowledge that they could not save themselves. But then Jehovah said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward” (Exodus 14:13-15). The Children of Israel had to pray to the Lord and await Him – but they also had to act as if from themselves to go forward.

And so waiting on means waiting for the Lord’s guidance – but then it means going forward. Remember, Samuel – who represents the Lord’s Word – was coming in part to tell Saul what he should do. What if instead of doing it his own way, Saul had done everything in his power to track down Samuel and see what his advice was? Waiting for the Lord does not mean doing the same thing we’ve always done and expecting different results.  It means constantly seeking the Lord’s voice, constantly listening for new ways.

For example, if we work at a job that does things we are morally opposed to, waiting on the Lord does not necessarily mean staying in that job. It may mean leaving that job for work somewhere else, because we feel we cannot work there and keep the Lord’s commandments. Or maybe we do stay there – but we see that the Lord is calling us within that job to try to change the work environment. Waiting on the Lord means faithfully following where He leads, not just standing still.

So, first, we can try to recall the Lord’s promises, and what they actually are. And second, we can see if the Lord is calling us to act in a different way. And finally, and most importantly, when we’re feeling like we have waited too long for anything to change – we can turn to the Lord God Jesus Christ and ask for His patience in our lives. When He was in the world, the evil spirits of impatience attacked the Lord. He was tempted by them – and in all those temptations, He defeated them. And because He defeated them, He can defeat them as they attack us.

The Lord Himself was tempted to act from impatience. When the devil took Him out into the wilderness, the devil tempted Him to act instantaneously to change things – to miraculously turn stones into bread, to immediately become king over everything in the world (Matthew 4, Mark 1, Luke 4). The Lord was tempted to immediately save everyone, whether they wanted to be saved or not.

The Lord could have instantaneously brought the entire human race into heaven. He could have forced salvation on the human race in an instant, rather than letting them continue to suffer. But that would destroy human freedom, and would destroy His very purpose in creation – that He could love free, independent beings outside of Himself, so that He could bless them (True Christian Religion 43). If He had instantly saved the world, he would have actually been losing the very kingdom He came to establish – just as Saul did. But think of the Lord’s patience. Think of this – while He was there in the world, when He was conscious on the Divine level of His mind, He knew the hardship that every single person who ever had lived or ever would live would go through. He knew the struggles you would go through. He knew the long years of pain you’d endure. And he wept because of that suffering – He wept over His people’s pain.

He had the power to instantly end all suffering – and yet, He knew He had to allow it. Even now, He allows it. He allows suffering even though He hates it, because He sees the good that comes out of it. And He is never absent during it. In fact, in the times when He seems furthest away from a person, He is actually most present, fighting with all His might for the person (see Arcana Coelestia 840). He wants to come into our lives; He wants to arrive and end our long night of waiting.

And even when we reach the brink of despair, when it seems like things cannot possibly go right, when it feels like the world is crumbling around us – even then we need to trust that He will come if we follow His Word. In fact, those moments are the most important ones of all. Because it’s in those moments – when we feel like we’re going to lose everything – that we truly and fully make that decision to love Him and to love our neighbour our own. We say, “I will love you, and I will love others, and I will obey, no matter what.” Those moments of despair become the very moment that the Lord arrives (see Arcana Coelestia 2682, 2694, 8165).

The Lord knows our suffering, and the Lord knows the suffering of the world. Because this is not just about us – the whole world is broken, and awaiting the Lord.  But the Lord has promised – He will come to us, even if we have worked and waited months and years and decades with no apparent change. And the Lord will come more and more fully into the world with the light of His second coming, the truths of His love and mercy. We can rest in that promise; we can rest in the sure knowledge that He is coming. The Lord hears our cry, and He will answer. In the last chapter of the book of Revelation, we read, “He who testifies these things says, “Yes, I come quickly, amen.” Yes, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). Amen.



A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinJune 25, 1995


I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. (PS 130:5)

Patience is one of the most challenging disciplines to develop. When we desire something, we want to enjoy it now. In fact, the more we value an object or an achievement, the more impatient we tend to be if we do not have it. It is not easy to simply wait to obtain or possess the objects or goals that we yearn for.

Not only is it difficult to wait for things we presently do not have, we are especially anxious for our personal trials to end. We can easily identify with the story of the Israelites which we read in our lesson from the Second book of Kings. The Israelites were surrounded by the Syrians in a city in Samaria. A famine soon gripped the Israelites who were within the city walls. Finally, hunger had arisen to such a height that the king heard of a woman who boiled her son and ate him. When the king heard this, he said, “Surely this calamity is from the Lord; why should I wait for the Lord any longer?” (II Kings 6:33) Things appeared hopeless at this point. But Elisha, the prophet, promised that the following day the Syrians would flee away, and the cost of food would return to its normal price.

There are events or disturbing things that enter our lives that can bring about a sense of hopelessness. Like the king of Israel, we may wonder why we should wait for the Lord. We are strongly tempted to take matters into our own hands and do what appears to be right in our own eyes. We are no longer concerned if our approach is consistent with the Lord’s Word.

The expectation for immediate results is especially perpetuated by the instant gratification philosophy within our modern day culture. We are living in an age where we want conclusions without delay. The more we want instant gratification, the more we are frustrated when our physical or spiritual infirmities are not swiftly healed.

The Writings for the New Church is clear that spiritual growth is a long and gradual process. It is not instantaneous. We will have to deal with corrupt affections and delights that will not immediately go away. There will be many adversities that we want resolved, but they seem to linger with us, with no visible signs of their removal or correction. Despite all our attempts, the problem remains just as strong as at the beginning. There may be bad habits or a sicknesses that we can not break free from. It is while we are dealing with these difficulties that we must cope with a sense of hopelessness that we will never be free from our troubles. There may even develop a significant doubt that the attitude that the Lord teaches us will not work for our own set of circumstances.

The Word does refer to waiting on the Lord many times. The words of our text is one of many places in the Psalms that speaks about waiting for the Lord. We must wait with an assured confidence that eventually the Lord will deliver us from our troubles. Certainly, the Psalm, in which this passage is taken, speaks of being in a great deal of affliction, yet, maintaining the hope that allows us to remain receptive of the Lord’s guidance. The Hebrew word for “wait” implies an expectation. We are to wait upon the Lord, not with an attitude of a gamble that things will be cured, but with the expectation that He will come and deliver us. Just as the Israelites had the assurance from Elisha that their troubles would end, we must have the same confidence in the Lord’s wisdom and love that He will conquer our troubles. The Lord will bring the greatest possible good from any troubling situation. If this is the attitude we have, it will become far easier to maintain our allegiance to the teachings that the Lord set forth in the Word.

In the short Psalm, from which our text was taken, we read of four components that will allow us to remain steadfast in the Lord’s teachings. First, there must be a genuine desire of being united with the Lord, whereby the Lord can hear our supplications. Second, there must be repentance. We must have the acknowledgement that our deliverance is solely of the Lord’s mercy, not from our own power. Third, we must have a desire for the Lord’s guidance. The goals and direction that we have are designed to bring forth a greater manifestation of the Lord’s love and power. And fourth, we must have the expectation that if we are faithful to the Lord’s commandments, our deliverance will surely come.

First, we must genuinely desire that we have a personal bond with the Lord. The most fundamental desire that we should have is to be united with the Lord. This desire becomes the inspiration to remain faithful to the Lord’s teachings in His Word. At times of temptations, our commitment to comply with the Word is attacked and may appear to become weakened. However, there must always be the firm resolve that regardless the troubles we are called upon to face, we will always have the devotion to apply the Word in all aspects of our lives. No matter what we are called upon to face, we will never abandon our desire to obey the Word. When we do have a personal bond with the Lord that is unshakable and unwavering, we will have the joy and the assurance that we can present our supplications before Him. Like the Psalmist, we cry these words when we are in the depths of despair, “Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.” We know that the Lord is with us, fully aware of what we are going through, and supplying us our daily bread to effectively endure and eventually overcome the difficulties that we must face.

Second, we must have repentance. This not only speaks of times when we do fail and stray from following the Lord’s teachings, but also speaks of our constant attitude that without the Lord’s active presence, we would indeed be hopelessly lost. We agree with the words of the Psalm, “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.” (PS 130:3&4) This confession is heartfelt and without doubt. When we lay our afflictions before the Lord with a repentant heart, we are sincerely acknowledging that our deliverance is only from Him. If we have an active repentance within us, we will never abandon our effort to apply the Lord’s Word in all areas of our lives.

Third, we are constantly open and receptive of the Lord’s guidance in our lives. This means that the vision we have for what we would like to become and what we would like to have happen, involves a greater visibility of the Lord’s mercy and power. In other words, we want deliverance not just so we are more comfortable, but that our deliverance will bring a greater manifestation of the Lord’s love to everyone. We want release from our afflictions so we are better able to share the life of heaven with others.

And fourth, we have the expectation that the Lord will bring the greatest possible good. There is nothing that ever happens that the Lord, in His providence, can not bring some positive result from it. We must have this unshakable trust that if we are faithful to the Lord’s commandments, our deliverance will surely come, and some good will come from it. These words to Israel can have a personal meaning to us, “O Israel, hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” (PS 130:7&8)

Conversely, we are taught of improper ways of waiting that can bring ill effects upon ourselves and upon others. Sometimes we can wait for the perfect time and opportunity to inflict some harm on someone else. We can be very patient, while we plot and plan revenge upon our enemy. It is not difficult to wait for the opportune moment to exercise our wrath upon our opponent.

Also, we can be disorderly patient with a false belief. For example, there may be a mystery or some aspect in our doctrinal beliefs that we are willing to accept and tolerate. We are willing to maintain the belief, even though it may lead to contradictions and irrational conclusions. The doctrine that the Trinity consists of three separate Persons is one example of such an occurrence. Many sincere and devout Christians are patient with the doctrine of three separate Persons and are willing to hold to the belief and wait until they can understand it after they leave this world. However, we are to pursue a study of doctrine that we can understand and apply to life. If any aspect of our doctrinal beliefs are contradictory or does not make sense, we are to prayerfully make the effort to resolve the issue, through study and reflection. We are meant to know and apply the fundamental beliefs of an angelic life, while we are living in the natural world.

Also, patience can be a disorder when we merely hang our hands down and await influx from the Lord. This is not taking an active part in trying to deal with our challenges. This is one of the dangers of faith-alone. If we have the attitude that the Lord can bring our salvation, regardless of the manner of our lives, it can discourage us from taking an active role in co-operating with the Lord in our spiritual growth. The Writings make clear that it is of order that we make an effort to deal with our problems as best as we can, yet always acknowledge that our victory and accomplishments are from the Lord.

When we properly wait upon the Lord, we will receive heavenly blessings that we can sense, even if our problems remain with us. We wait upon the Lord simply by keeping the Lord’s commandments. This involves trying to deal with our problems that is consistent with the Lord’s Word. If we do this, we will be taught, on a continual bases, more and more truths and their applications in life. We will have a greater depth of awareness of our quality of life. Especially by exercising patience during times of temptations, we will have a greater understanding of ourselves and the use that we are best able to perform. Also, we will be in a continual hope towards the Lord. There will always underlie within us an assurance that the Lord will raise us up from our oppression. When we obey the Lord’s commandments, that ability to obey is from the Lord in us. This will give us the ability not to be swayed from the course we are taking despite the successes that the wicked are enjoying.

When we are able to effectively wait upon the Lord, there will be significant results. We will have a positive impression upon others. Other people will see the strength and contentment as we patiently wait for the Lord’s coming and guidance. This could very well leave a meaningful impression upon them. Also, Our strength will be renewed. At times, the Lord appears to be hiding (though in reality He never does) so that we can be stronger in the end. By becoming stronger, we can increase our understanding of truth and have a deeper resolve to fulfill the Lord’s teachings. Also, anxiety about the future will be lessened. As we read in our lesson from the Arcana Coelestia, when we have a confidence in the Lord’s providence, regardless of what we must deal with, there will be an underlying assurance that there is nothing that is beyond the Lord’s control. This confidence will enable us to endure our challenges and not be anxious about them. And our freedom will be protected. While we wait, we will always have the opportunity to abandon the Lord’s commandments. But when we choose to remain faithful to the Lord’s instructions, we will enter into a greater state of freedom whereby we will think about the Lord and abstain from evil practices and delights. Therefore, let us place our full confidence in the Lord’s providence and mercy. If we do, we will experience joys and the assurance that no matter what disorders we are confronted with, we are safe in the Lord’s loving hands. It is then we can say these words with a personal conviction, “The Lord shall preserve [our] going out and [our] coming in form this time forth and even forevermore.” (PS 121:8)