The King was exasperated, and desperate. Wearing sackcloth was so irritating and what good had it done? The unending siege was driving people to insanity. Mothers were haggling over their own babies’ flesh! The King had had enough. He would have the prophet’s head, oh yes he would. After all, this trouble was undoubtedly from the Lord. Why not kill his prophet! And with that resolution he sent his messenger to relay it to Elisha.
“Why should I wait for the LORD any longer?!” he hollered through Elisha’s closed and bolted door.
The King was not far behind leaning on his trusty captain for support. They held out no hope of the Lord’s being able to save them from starvation. Even ‘if the LORD himself should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?’ (II Kings 7:2) was how the captain put it.
But there was a reason to wait and not to open the doors to the enemy hordes. Tomorrow things would be different. Tomorrow there would be an all-you-can-eat buffet. Tomorrow there would be plenty. If they could just wait for tomorrow…
Faith is like that. You can’t see the reward. You can’t taste it or touch it. The alternatives even start to look good, desirable, harmless. “Did God really say…” And we may begin to doubt that His instructions are our best bet. It may be true that without faith it’s impossible to please God. And it may even be true that faith can move mountains. But when the mountain is in your backyard blocking the sun and when it just doesn’t seem to be moving…it’s easy to doubt that waiting on God is worth the while.
The lepers were the first to discover God’s intervention. They had so little to lose. They lived outside the city gate in no-man’s-land anyway, outcasts. So they had ventured over to the Syrian camp to see if they might be shown mercy and given a little something to fend off starvation. And lo and behold, the camp was abandoned. The tents were there, full of provisions. The horses and donkeys too. But the besieging army, the Syrians, had fled for their lives out of fear in an unseen army they had heard coming. It was the Lord’s doing, His unseen way of saving His people just in time. It had been worth the wait. The siege was over. There was plenty for all, for the taking.
Only the captain who had voiced his doubts did not live to share in the feasting. He was trampled in the gate by the hungry surging mob.
Are you waiting for your faith to be sight—feeling like you’re starving in a besieged city and about to cave in to the enemy? Have you waited ‘forever’ for your prayers to bring results? your ship to come in? your God to show Himself strong on your behalf?
I’m reminding myself this week that God’s timing is impeccable. Never in a hurry, never late, He molds His own with their eternal well-being in view and He has literally all the time in the world!
While we think in terms of a tasty morsel, He has an eternity of dining with Him in view. While we wait for answers, he waits for us to listen to what’s on His heart. Peter put it this way. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
My requests can be so short-sighted, so happiness-oriented. I want to be happy. I want our kids to be happy. In short, it would be nice if everyone could be care-free, sickness free, accident free, and… well, HAPPY! But God knows there is no true happy without HOLY. And the route to holiness is not all happy, nor is it instantaneous! “He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.” (Heb.12:10)
It’s a good thing He does not give us everything we ask for. He has so much more in mind.
We may think the Lord slow to act, slow to answer, slow to race to our rescue and deliver us from all our enemies…but could it be that He is not slow, but patient with our slowness? Could it be He waits for us to be ready for rescue—acknowledging our dependence, watching and waiting.
I don’t know about you, but there are ‘unanswered’ prayers in my life that keep me coming back to God to plead ‘What is going on?!… What do I need to do?!’ and at last, to learn to listen more than I talk. And then I begin to see sin in me that has gone unacknowledged. I see I am to blame for consequences I am now trying to escape or undo… And I am brought to repentance, to a fresh understanding of God’s mercy, and to a fuller grasp of His grace, and yes, His patience with me and with the ones I pray for.
It is the kindness and patience of God that leads us all to repentance.(Rom.2:4) He wastes no time or circumstance. His patience is our salvation. We do well to wait for the Lord, always. “Then you will know that I am the LORD, those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.” (Is.49:23)
And in the waiting, He gives us His word to fortify our souls! Read the stories. Ponder the promises. Take note of the commands. Savor the grace. It’s all written down for our benefit!
“Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” I Cor.10:11 ESV
He’s worth the wait!
P.S. I am trying out a new way of reading the Bible this year—reading a chapter from all the different genres each day. And I am continually struck with God’s grace and man’s need of it. I love the way one passage comments on another when read in this way. If you have yet to make a plan to dig in to the Word of God this year, and would like to try something new and different, check out this system at the JUST READ IT! tab above,
or click here!
If you would prefer to read chronologically, here is a simple plan. The man proposing it, Keith Ferrin, came to speak in our town last week. His purpose is to spur believers on to LOVE the Word of God. All sorts of practical encouragement can be found on his website (including other plans; there is no one-size-fits-all plan!). I highly commend it to you. His chronological Bible reading plan can be found here.
“So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God." Hosea 12:6
“…Continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” II Tim.3:14-17 ESV
The LORD utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. …Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him… Joel 2:11-14 ESV
Jonah: "O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Jonah 4:2 ESV