Advent. Coming. The arrival.
But what do you do in the meantime? You wait.
“Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.” – Dr. Seuss
In Isaiah chapter 7, Ahaz, the king of Judah (the southern kingdom of Israel), was in quite a pickle, waiting for a way out. The king of Assyria had his eye on Israel, inching westward to attack. The kings of Israel and Aram were equally concerned about being gobbled up by Assyria, so they joined forces in hopes of protecting their respective kingdoms. When Ahaz didn’t join in on the plan, he was the next guy on the hit list.
Ahaz was in a place of uncertainty. With the threat of an attack, he didn’t have a plan; he didn’t have an answer. Enter Isaiah. Isaiah gives Ahaz a word from God saying, “It shall not stand nor shall it come to pass…If you do not believe, you surely shall not last…Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”
I really like how David Mathis from Bethlehem Baptist Church plays out this conversation between Isaiah and Ahaz.
“‘Chill, Ahaz. You can trust God. Don’t tremble at these two smoldering cigar butts a-comin’ to terrorize you in order to get you to do their will. God will handle of them. Trust him.’ And then comes the punch line: ‘If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.’ If you do not believe, you will not last. ‘As a matter of fact, Ahaz, a child will be born, Immanuel, and by the time that child knows right from wrong those two kings will be long gone.’ Translation: don’t dread wicked kings in order to survive. But alas. Ahaz thinks he has to survive at all costs, and so he goes off to the big bad King of Assyria and makes a deal, pays incredible tribute, brings Assyrian things into Judah, and so begins a string of dark days.”
Ahaz and myself have a thing or two in common. I hate waiting. I always lick the brownie bowl because I can’t endure the 28 minutes it takes to bake the brownies.
But you name it: careers, health, plans, finances, relationships, circumstances – we wait. Everything we want in life does not arrive on a silver platter at our whim.
Ahaz waited for his kingdom to be restored.
Hannah waited years for a child.
Paul pleaded with God over and over to remove the thorn in his flesh, with no relief.
The Hebrews waited for deliverance from Pharaoh.
Job waited through gut-wrenching heartache losing his home, his wealth, his family.
The Israelites wandered 40 years before ever making it to the Promised Land – an entire generation never saw it.
David waited to build the temple – and didn’t, his son Solomon did.
Abraham waited for God to make a great nation from him.
The man at the pool in John 5 waited 38 years to be healed.
Jesus spent 40 days waiting in the desert before starting his ministry.
The list goes on, but with every person, every scenario some wait well and some don’t. Some receive what they’ve been waiting for, some don’t.
As hard as it can be, waiting does include whining about my circumstances, it is not a chance for me to make my own plans (because we all know how that ends up…), it is not a time for me to boast in my know-how and can-do.
Pastor Bowman said it well Sunday.
“The most important thing you’ll receive from God is not what he can give you, but the most important thing you’ll receive from God is being in his presence.”
With Christmas approaching and the true advent of Christ, I’m reminded to wait, even though I’m not very good at it. Just as those who waited for Immanuel, I want to celebrate his birth and rest in his presence.