By Melissa McLaughlin
I have never met anyone who enjoys waiting.
Even the most patient and unhurried people I know do not have a deep desire to wait.
When in a place of waiting, we feel like a racehorse restrained at the starting gates, bridled in the stalls, chomping at the bit, straining to hear the starting gun, poised to leap forward the moment the gates drop. We stomp our feet, snort and fidget, prance in place and express the power of our presence held back. We let God and the whole world know we have things to do, places to go, races to run, prizes to win. Why hold us there even one second longer than necessary? Can’t you see who we are? Our wild stallion pride rears its unseemly head once more.
What could God be thinking, allowing our precious time to be wasted in waiting?
Interestingly, so much of our time is spent doing that most despised thing…waiting.
We wait in the grocery store checkout line.
We wait for a word of encouragement.
We wait for the paycheck to arrive.
We wait for loved ones to visit.
We wait in the doctor’s office.
We wait for answered prayer.
We wait for the phone call.
We wait for healing.
We wait for results.
We wait for spring.
We wait in traffic.
Do we wait for God?
In contrast to this, we say that we can’t wait for…
the retirement years
Do we wait for God with this same anticipation?
Do we seek His will by reading the Bible, praying, committing our lives to Him and waiting in His presence? Do we wait for God’s leading, God’s inspiration, God’s direction?
I was recently captivated by the story of God’s people, the Israelites, as they waited for specific guidance from the LORD.
The Israelites had recently been delivered from Egypt where they were enslaved for 400 years. While waiting for God to lead them to the promised land, they wandered through the wilderness day by day.
For the LORD, every moment in this period of what appeared to be aimless meandering was actually laden with deep purpose. God used this season to teach the people who He was and to establish and nurture His relationship with them.
No need is greater than knowing and connecting with Him who made us, who delivered us, who sustains us, who provides for us, who loves us and saves us. Though we may not recognize our great need, God does. Nothing could be more pressing than this.
As God desired to draw near His people, He provided carefully articulated designs for a place to meet called a Tabernacle, a term which means “dwelling place” or “tent”. Under Moses’ leadership, the people carried out the construction of every detail of this beautiful Tabernacle.
The story picks up here in Numbers 9:15-23 – On the day that the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony. And at evening it was over the tabernacle like the appearance of fire until morning. So it was always: the cloud covered it by day and the appearance of fire by night. And whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that the people of Israel set out, and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel camped. At the command of the Lord the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the Lord they camped. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. Even when the cloud continued over the tabernacle many days, the people of Israel kept the charge of the Lord and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was a few days over the tabernacle, and according to the command of the Lord they remained in camp; then according to the command of the Lord they set out. And sometimes the cloud remained from evening until morning. And when the cloud lifted in the morning, they set out, or if it continued for a day and a night, when the cloud lifted they set out. Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out. At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out. They kept the charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord by Moses.
The plan was simple. When God was meeting with the people, the Tabernacle was engulfed in a cloud, the visible sign of His presence. When the cloud of His presence covered the Tabernacle, they waited. They waited with God. They waited for God. They waited under God. No matter how long. They waited. When the cloud lifted, they moved on at God’s command.
One of the things that struck me was the explicit description used in this portion of the text.
“Whether it was two days,
or a month
or a longer time”
as long as the cloud covered the Tabernacle,
they waited with God.
So simple. Yet so profound.
What was God accomplishing while they waited? The text does not explicitly state, however, we know that as they waited they drew near His presence, they rested their weary bodies, they gazed upon His majestic power and they strengthened their hearts in Him.
I wish my dependence on the LORD had been so simple, so clear and so sure throughout my life’s meanderings.
Many times in my life, I have moved forward with my ideas, my goals and my plans, then later asked for God’s blessing. Sadly, this self-promotion lowered God to an afterthought and relegated Him to cleanup crew. If God is actually the LORD of my life, then I should first seek Him in the truth of His Word, go where He leads and carry out only that to which He is calling, anointing and empowering me to do.
Slowly but surely, I am learning to seek God’s heart through His Word and through prayer, asking God to help me see and embrace His plans for me. Then and only then do I begin to step out and move forward, while pausing often to ask for His guidance each step of the way.
Though I may be certain I was led by the LORD to serve Him in a certain way or carry out a particular task, I have learned to periodically ask Him to close any doors that were once open, if His plans for me have now changed.
My prayer is that day by day, I yield more and more of my life, my choices, my plans, my dreams and my heart to Him, for without the cloud of His presence in my life, there is really no point in moving forward. Human-powered plans accomplish only human-powered goals and are rife with human-made problems. As believers in Christ and partakers in His Kingdom work, we desire to get out of His way that He can do God-things through us! But that is more likely to come about if we are humbled in His presence, reading His Word and waiting for the move of His Holy Spirit and His call to follow.
Are you in a time of waiting? How do you remain humbled under the LORD’s presence in order to walk in step the LORD’s leading for your life?
As I close my morning prayer each day, I say these words…LORD, You made this day and You made me. May this day be Yours. May this time be Yours. May this agenda be Yours. Wherever I go, whoever I meet, whatever I do, may it all be Yours. As it already is, so may it be.
Please pray with me.
Dear Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your great love for us, which You have poured out time and time again, most completely through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins. As we remember Your redemptive work with Your people through the ages and Your redemptive work in our lives, may You be our first thought, not our afterthought. We know that anything done without the empowerment of Your Holy Spirit will amount to nothing at all. Help us LORD, to first seek Your presence through the covering of Your Word, Your Son and Your Spirit. Keep our thoughts from running ahead of You. May we wait for Your refreshment, Your inspiration, Your anointing, Your calling, Your leading. Let us lay aside any human-planned things. May we be so surrendered and yielded to You, that You have free reign to accomplish that which only You can accomplish. Do God-things, through us! May Your Spirit run swiftly through us leading us and others toward that most treasured prize, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. May this day, this time, this agenda be Yours. For Your glory! For Your kingdom! For Jesus’ sake we pray. Amen.
Racehorse photo courtesy of Andy Leung at Pixabay.
Waiting photo courtesy of WordPress.