So. I’ve confessed that waiting is difficult for me. Now, what must we do to be able to wait with grace? I’m indebted to Ben Patterson for putting words to my thoughts … In order to wait with grace we must cultivate two basic characteristics: HOPE (this blog post) and HUMILITY (future blog post)
Luke 2:21-38 (NASB95)
21 And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.
22 And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord
23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”),
24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
25 And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law,
28 then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,
29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word;
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 A Light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.”
33 And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him.
34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—
35 and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,
37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.
38 At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
The thing to here is that there has been little, if any, revelation from God since the end of the prophet’s writings in Malachi. There had been no distinctive revelation from God for 400 years. The people of God had been waiting since the Fall and then there was even more silence!
In those 400 years there developed various groups of Israelites:
- Pharisees – self-righteous, legalists, who followed rules that they made up. They determined to make up the rules. They determined what messiah would be like and who he would like, and they filled their lives (and others) with self-righteousness and put their hope in their rules.
- Sadducees – just decided that it wasn’t worth the wait. Basically they bought into the current world thinking and found no use for things like a messiah, or spirituality … (no resurrection).
- Essenes – a group of mystics and ascetics that still believed in God, but they pulled away and put their hope in their escape from culture, from life.
- A believing remnant of Jews who still looked for Messiah … they had hope that he would come. Of this group we are introduced to Simeon and Anna.
It seems that Simeon and Anna were faithful, they didn’t give up hope even though they continued to wait. The indication is that they were waiting in hope. More than merely maintaining a “wishing” hope, they had a “faith” hope that acted upon the promise given:
- Simeon (v. 25) was looking (i.e., active waiting) for the Consolation of Israel (a title for Messiah). And the Holy Spirit chooses him to see the Messiah and bless him.
- So too with Anna – she was (v. 38) among those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem (i.e., the coming of Messiah!)
Faith and hope go together, as Hebrews 11:1 makes clear: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. In other words they believed God! He said Messiah would come, and like others that passed the word down from generation to generation, they believed it, they actively put their hope in that promise from God. They had not given up when it took a while, they didn’t put their hope in other things that might seem to give life meaning like living a life of duty rather than grace; or giving up on God all together like the Sadducees.
They had hope because God is trustworthy. They knew the promise, believed it and lived it as if it was true. And they saw Jesus! They did see Messiah as promised, despite the long wait.
“Winter” ended and Christmas came to use the Narnia metaphor.
Today we still wait for Jesus to make all things right. And we are called to put our hope in Jesus:
1 Peter 1:10-13 (NASB95)
10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries,
11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.
12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.
13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
We are called to put our faith, our hope, in the one who is trustworthy and we wait for Him to bring things promised to fruition in His time.
One writer says that many of us don’t even fix our hope partially on God’s grace. For some Christians it seems that heaven is actually plan “B” – the backup plan; If what I am trusting in now doesn’t alleviate the stress of waiting, then I’ll hope in Him. And I will try something else if I get tired of waiting for God to act. When I’m unwilling to wait for his perfect time, I will tend to put my hope in something else that I believe will end the waiting. I’ll fall face first into the scum that our enemy Satan holds out as the answer to deaden the pain of waiting and/or I will seek a short-cut to end the waiting.
If we wish to learn to wait graciously – we must first learn to hope well and let it affect the large and small issues of the life we now live. We must learn as believers to hope actively in the one thing that matters – that Jesus is at work in the world, that he will return, and that the redemption begun will be completed.
This will help us not only in the big things like finding a job, or a spouse, or a home; but also the little ones. How much easier it will be to wait in line, to wait in traffic, to wait for a slow moving toddler, when I realize that my meaning and value is not ultimately tied to how fast I live my life, how much I get done, or how well I save 2 minutes on my commute. I hope in the return of the king who will value all things rightly.
The first rule of waiting is cultivating hope in the one who is trustworthy even if he doesn’t do things on our timetable!
Philip Brooks was pacing around the room, agitated at the seeming slowness of the work he was doing when he finally concluded that “Philip Brooks in a hurry, but God is not”. And he began to graciously wait.