Psalm 13
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
July 23, 2023

Human beings always want what they want when they want it, but these days everyone expects to have everything right away!  No one wants to wait for anything; and, for the most part, no one anymore has to.  We can get most products with same-day delivery and a ride or a table at a hot restaurant in a flash.  Movies, music and books download to our devices immediately.

The desire for instant gratification is nothing new, but what counts as an “instant” has shrunk to a second.  Thus, we now experience even a brief wait as intolerable!

Many today then wonder:  If I can have everything else instantaneously, why should I wait on, say, a slow developing relationship – even if it is one with God?

The answer of course is:  Some persons are well worth the wait!

David of the Bible thought that God is well worth the wait, and that cultivating closeness with Him is well worth the long effort.  In many Psalms David expressed his resolve to put in whatever time it took to grow a deeper and richer friendship with God.

Yet, like us, David often struggled with waiting.  At the start of today’s Psalm, he cried out in protest four consecutive times, “How long, O Lord?”  While one concern of his was that his enemies would “exalt over [him]”, his main concern was God and he had lost contact.  He lamented that God seemed to have “forgotten” him and to be “hiding [His] face” from him.  That caused David “pain in [his] soul” and “sorrow in [his] heart”.  For David was someone who continually “sought” God’s face – in fact, to such an extent that in another Psalm he declared, “One thing I asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: …to behold the beauty of the Lord…”  Since David so valued face-to-face interaction with God, he committed to persevere in his pursuit of it and waited patiently for it to come about again.

Because David “trusted in [God’s] steadfast love”, he expected not to have to wait for that forever.  In this Psalm he expressed confidence that one day he’d rejoice in God’s “salvation”, in God’s having “dealt bountifully” with him – most particularly, by allowing him again to “behold God’s face”, as he put it elsewhere.

David had the faith that, while God may take His time, God is never late.  Our waiting enhances our experience of what we are waiting for.  Such waiting does not, to borrow a line from Eugene Peterson, “diminish us any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother”.  Indeed, from our waiting we are enlarged, just as is our relationship with God.

Friends of God like David are always quick to wait on the Lord, but they know better than to seek the Lord and His gifts “on the fly”.  They know better, for instance, than to seek a word from God when rushing out the door to start the day and not lingering long enough in prayer to take in His reply.  While God is always eager to speak up, we’re not always eager to hear Him out!

And it takes time to become able to hear from God with any accuracy.  It’s as it is with the formerly deaf who are enabled to hear by a cochlear implant but who still have to learn how to process and make sense of what they are now hearing.  They have to develop the ability to distinguish sounds and sort out what they mean.  So too, we whose spiritual ears God has opened in order to hear Him well, have to undergo an extended process of adaptation to our new ability, one involving patient and hopeful waiting for good results.

We have to wait on our own development.  We also have to wait on God to set everything up for us so that we can make the most of our improved hearing and collaboration with God.  That requires deferring to God’s schedule, and not running ahead of Him. That requires our waiting on Him to make us, our allies and our circumstances right — before we jump into the action He’s told us we are to take. That requires our being patient about the arrival of the right moment. Hence, waiting in prayer often involves what Peterson calls “a disciplined refusal to act before God acts”.  In other words, until He calls us into action at the optimum point in time, we stand down in the trust that God is already working, out of sight and without us.  We hold on to our faith in Him and we hold out for Him to make the next move, at the moment He chooses, no matter how slow it is in coming.

In this new world of ours, we often don’t know how best to act, but the wise among us know that God will guide the patient and the attentive right on time.  The wise then are always quick to wait on God!

If we mean to plant seeds to grow a crop of correct action, we shouldn’t expect things to happen fast.  As Peterson noted, if we want potatoes for dinner tomorrow, we can’t get them by planting them in our garden tonight.  There must first be long stretches of waiting, often with no sign of progress, if we are to reap what we have planted.  We must persevere in cultivating, weeding, watering, nourishing and planting still other seeds – and then wait in hope, in the faith that the harvest will come for the patient and the persistent!

Let us wait quickly on the Lord!

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