I have a confession to make: I do not enjoy waiting in lines, especially at the grocery store. I’m fine at first, but if something is taking longer than it should, I become impatient, frustrated, and hyperaware of how quickly every other line is moving. It doesn’t help that I often seem to choose the line which has some sort of difficulty- a faulty card reader, empty receipt printer, or the discovery of an open package prompting a dash through the store to find a replacement.
The people of Israel knew a thing or two about waiting. As we look over the Old Testament, we can see all the times waiting factored into Israel’s history. In nearly every book of the Old Testament the people were waiting for God to act or fulfill a promise or guide them.
Noah and his family waited for dry ground; Abraham and Sarah waited for their promised descendants; Isaac waited for the arrival of his wife Rebecca; Jacob waited to marry Rachel; Joseph waited for the fulfillment of his dreams; the people waited to be delivered from slavery in Egypt; Moses waited to lead the people out of Egypt to the Promised Land; Joshua and Caleb waited for forty years to enter the Promised Land; Rahab waited for the walls of Jericho to fall; Ruth waited to be restored by Boaz; Hannah waited for a child; David waited to be king; Daniel waited in the lions’ den; Jonah waited in the belly of the fish; the people waited for the end of the exile; and the prophets and the people waited for the promised Messiah.
So much waiting. And this is merely a glance through the Old Testament! Many others could be added to this list. Who would you add?
Waiting, it seems, is part of journeying with God. But in the list above, the kind of waiting differs from waiting in line at a store or sitting at a red light. The waiting we see in the story of Israel is a yearning, earnest, expectant waiting, and it is connected with hope.
Let’s take a look at the words of Isaiah 40:28-31:
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”Isaiah 40:28-31
We see here in Isaiah a statement of God’s greatness, creative work, and strength followed by an encouragement that those who wait on God will be strengthened and soar. Expectant waiting is rooted in God- in God’s character and in God’s work. This is waiting grounded firmly in hope- the confidence that God has been at work in our midst, continues to be at work in our midst, and will be at work in our midst regardless of whether or not we see it at the moment. This kind of waiting is bold, daring, and active.
Over the next several weeks we are going to reflect upon this theme of expectant waiting, exploring the first two chapters of Luke through this lens. Each week there will be Scripture to read, a few questions to ponder and discuss, and a spiritual practice to try. This can be done on your own or with your family or friends.
READ: In this first week of Advent, let’s continue to reflect on the theme of expectant waiting as seen throughout Israel’s history. Select one of the following people and read the Scripture passages listed.
- Noah: Genesis 6:8-8:22
- Isaac: Genesis 24
- Ruth: Ruth 1-4
- Hannah: 1 Samuel 1-2
PONDER & DISCUSS:
- How does expectant waiting show up in the passages you read?
- How does hope factor into the story you read?
- How has expectant waiting been part of your journey with Jesus?
- For what are you waiting right now?
PRACTICE: As we step into this season of Advent several times this week listen to the song “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” Below I have linked a beautiful recording of this song by JJ Heller. As you listen to this song, envision the words, and let them connect your heart with the Jews of the first century and their waiting for the Messiah.