I was listening to a Christian radio station a few weeks back and happened to hear one of those little call-in promos such stations do. This promo featured a woman who had called the station to voice her appreciation for the station’s influence in her life. I listened as she explained how she had interviewed for a job she really needed and been forced to wait a week before finally hearing that she got the job. Upon hearing the news, she called the radio station and through tears talked about how we all just need to learn to be patient and trust God. So there I am, driving down the interstate, listening to this woman’s heartfelt testimony, and I’m thinking, “Wow, you had to wait a whole week, huh? I’ve been waiting over twenty YEARS on the fulfillment of a couple of promises that I feel God has made to me.”
Now, I don’t use that illustration to devalue that woman’s experience. I’m sure that to her that week seemed like an eternity. But to those of us (and you know who you are) who have been waiting a long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long time for God to do a certain thing, one week seems like child’s play, right? Can I get an “Amen”?
The Bible stories, of course, are numerous. Abraham and Sarah waited twenty-five years to hold baby Isaac (Genesis 12:4, 21:5). Isaac and Rebekah waited twenty years to hold their twin babies, Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:20-21,26). Joseph waited thirteen years to become a ruler in Egypt (Genesis 37:2, 41:46). Moses waited forty years in Midian before returning to Egypt to lead the Israelites (Acts 7:30). Depending upon precisely how old David was when Samuel anointed him as king (1 Samuel 16:1-13), he waited ten or more years before reigning over the southern portion of Israel and another seven-and-a-half before reigning over the whole land (2 Samuel 2:4, 2:11, 5:4-5). The woman with the issue of blood waited twelve years before Jesus healed her (Luke 8:43-47). The woman who was stooped over and couldn’t raise herself waited eighteen years before Jesus healed her (Luke 13:10-13).
Keep in mind now that, as far as we know, not one of these people added even one day to their waiting because of their disobedience or lack of faith. The appointed times of their waiting were all somehow preordained by God, and all the praying in the world wouldn’t speed Him up any. His process had to run its course, and that’s all there was to it. While there are some Bible cases of people adding years to their wait time —the Israelites adding forty years to their conquering of Canaan is a classic example — there are more cases in which the characters don’t do one thing to deserve the incredibly long years it takes God to answer their prayers.
I often think of the people of Israel and their 400 years of bondage in Egypt. What were they doing in Egypt anyway? God had pulled them out of Canaan and sent them down there so that Joseph could sustain them during a great famine. At that time the family patriarch had been Jacob, who had ended up spending the last seventeen years of his life in Egypt (Genesis 47:28).
All was well for Jacob’s family in Egypt until Joseph died and eventually a new Pharaoh, one who “did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8), came to power. When this new Pharaoh looked at the people of Israel, all he saw was a threat from a race who reproduced at a far greater rate than the Egyptians and could potentially align themselves with Egypt’s enemies during a time of war (Exodus 1:9-10). In the new Pharaoh’s mind, the Israelite threat had to be curtailed, and his way of doing it was to set taskmasters over them and force them to build cities for Egypt (Exodus 1:11). Thus began not only four centuries of enslavement for the Israelites but also four centuries of them crying out to God and begging Him to deliver them.
You see, Israel didn’t do anything except mind God to get themselves into that fix, and they couldn’t do anything to shorten their days of waiting on His deliverance. Whether they understood it or not, they were living under the time clock of a prophecy that God had spoken centuries earlier to Abraham, the father of their race. God had told him, “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them for four hundred years” (Genesis 15:13). Really, the length of Israel’s waiting in Egypt had as much to do with God delaying judgment upon the inhabitants of Canaan as it had to do with Israel (Genesis 15:16).
And so how should you, today, apply all of this to your life as you continue to wait on God to do that certain something in your life? Allow me to suggest two ways. First, You should consider the possibility that your waiting has more to do with others than it does you. The mere fact that God is making you wait doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s all somehow your fault. I suppose it could mean that, depending upon your situation, but it doesn’t have to mean that. Instead, it might just be that God is sorting some things out in the lives of others in your orbit.
Second, If you know that God has promised you something in your life, hang in there with Him and keep expecting the fulfillment of that promise until you receive it. Never forget that it’s always too soon to stop believing. The Israelites in Egypt got no warning whatsoever that Moses was going to hit town one day with their deliverance as his destiny, but suddenly there he stood with Aaron (Exodus 4:27-31). What had changed? Had the Israelites finally somehow stumbled upon just the right words in prayer? Nope. Had they finally managed to do everything God wanted them to do? Nope. Had they finally perfected their faith? Certainly not (as Moses would come to learn all too well). What had changed was the fact that God’s time clock had finally struck midnight and it was time to begin a new season in the nation’s history.
Here’s hoping that your clock is about to strike midnight like that. But before it does you should make sure that you know how to handle the deliverance. The best advice I can give you is to follow the Israelites’ example. The Bible says:
So the people of Israel believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped. (Exodus 4:31, NKJV)
That three-step reaction (believe, bow, worship) will still work today to show God that you are not only ready for His deliverance but appreciative of it. It’s so much better than saying, “Well, it’s about time, Lord! What took you so long?” So you keep this in the back of your mind as you keep on looking for your Moses to hit town. Who knows? Today really could be the day.