A Season of Waiting

December 1, 2019, is the first Sunday in Advent, a season of expectation and waiting.  Most of us enjoy the expectation part, looking forward to the promised return of Jesus the Messiah.  It is not hard to let one’s imagination go trying to anticipate what it will be like when Jesus returns to earth at the end of time.  Scripture only gives us glimpses but we know that it will be glorious, with Jesus and His angels suddenly appearing in all their splendor. 

But the waiting part is another matter altogether.  Since the time Jesus first ascended into the heavens, the people of God have been waiting for His return, with the promise His return is imminent. But with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day (2 Peter 3:8).  And so 2000 years later we are still waiting for the Lord to fulfill His promise.  Peter goes on to tell us that God is not slow in keeping His promises but purposeful “not wanting any to perish.”

A lost message in the season of Advent is God’s call to “suffer long,” to hold on to the promises of God in the midst of purposeful delay.   That the human race has struggled with God’s call to develop patience in this way is evident throughout Scripture, even in the lives of those called people of great faith.  Abraham, for example, was 75 years old when God promised he would have a son.  Abraham is 86 years old when he and Sarah get tired of waiting and take matters into their own hands.  Sarah convinces Abraham to conceive a son with Hagar, her handmaiden.  But as soon as it happened it results in tremendous suffering for them and the generations that followed.  Neither does it help them realize the promise of God.  It would be another 14 years or 25 years in total, with a lot of life in between, before Isaac is born to Abraham and Sarah.  God’s promise was fulfilled in His timing and in a miraculous way.

In our own lives, we are tempted to believe that God’s delays are arbitrary but Scripture reminds us they are purposeful, even if those purposes are hidden to us.  God is often building faith, developing character and sovereignly developing other storylines to accomplish His will and purposes in us and in the people around us.  The obvious question this Advent season is what promises are you waiting for God to fulfill?  Are you feeling tempted to fulfill God’s promises in your own way?

Isaac and Ishmael stand as constant reminders to us when we find it hard to wait for God’s answers.  For Isaac, God’s supernatural answer, we have to wait but Ishmael, our attempts to fulfill God’s promises our own way, we can have any time.  But when we wait patiently, we can know God is building our faith and developing our character so that we can fulfill the good works He has prepared for us.  For a little different journey this Advent season, study the life of Abraham in Genesis 12-22 and see how God moved in Abraham’s life.  May we all find encouragement to wait patiently for the Lord’s imminent return.  He is indeed coming again when we least expect Him. 

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