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WAIT!

WAIT!

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD
and put their trust in him.

Psalm 40:1-3

“Wait” is one of those ugly four letter words, and one of my least favorite things to do!  I don’t like waiting – whether in line at the post office, grocery store, or waiting for test results from the doctor.  But in today’s text David shows himself as one who knows quite a lot about waiting.  David had to wait 15 harrowing years from the time he was anointed to be king, to the day he actually became king.  David spent a lot of time in wilderness caves and desert dens, waiting. 

There is probably no other person in the Bible more grounded in waiting than David (Psalm 27:14; 37:7; 62:1,5; 69:3, etc.).  Israel’s history reveals that the long years of waiting refined David’s faith, teaching him to live by God’s timetable rather than his own.   David comes to understand that, as important as what he waits for, is what God is doing in him while he waits.  “Biblically, waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be.” (John Ortberg, published sermon in “Preaching Today”)

Notably, David does not begin today’s psalm passage with his problems, but begins with waiting for God.  And David is doing more than just waiting it out and marking time.  He is waiting for God.  And therein lies a big difference!  There are about a dozen Hebrew words in the Psalms translated by our one English word, “wait”.  Waiting is a big word, and essential word in the psalmists’ vocabulary of faith. 

The Hebrew word qava, translated in today’s text as “wait patiently”, has the idea of eagerly looking, expecting, hoping, as one waits.  Implicit in the word qava are the ideas of patience, hanging in there, and hoping.  David does not know how God will act on his behalf, but David knows that God will act.   David is determined to wait patiently for God.

In just a few lines David spells out a wondrous sequence of spiritual truth:  David waits patiently for God  —  God hears  — God acts!.   Then God gives to David a “new song” to sing, a new story to tell of God’s grace and saving help.

We are fortunate that David says nothing more about his problems other than God delivered him from “the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire”.   That means that we are free to fill in the blanks; we get to tell our own story of slimy pits, mud and mire, and waiting for God.

Notice the significant change of pronouns in these lines as David changes from “my” to “our”, including you and me in his song; he makes this a hymn of praise to “our God”.    We all have our slimy pits, and we wait and wait for God to give us new songs of deliverance.   

David begins today’s psalm asking that this psalm be given to “the director of music”.   With that we see that David wants future generations to join with him in his “new song” of praise to our God.   Because David has told us his story of slimy pits, waiting, and deliverance, “Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.”

The popular spiritual writer Henri Nouwen said that our greatest gift to the world is our story.  What have been your slimy pits?  What has waiting for God been like for you?  What is the new song or story God is giving to you? It could be a gift to the world!

Grace and peace,
Tim

 

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