What It Means To Wait Upon The Lord

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But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength.

Isaiah 40:31

The calling of the Christian life is to go and follow Jesus. He set an example for us and did only that which the Father commanded when He commanded it. He walked in complete trust and obedience and that is what He commands of us. As He says in Matthew 6:33,34:

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

I want to highlight what Jesus says in verse 34 about taking it one day at a time. This is such an unnatural and challenging way to live. To worry is to be human. And yet God’s will for us is to devote ourselves to obeying His commandments, today. He commands us to love the brethren, walk in the light, confess our sins, seek forgiveness and forgive others, and give cheerfully, among other things. If it is not going to happen today then it is beyond my control and should not concern me. It takes everything in us to be faithful for just today, to say nothing of tomorrow. It is a relief to only concern myself with today’s evil but it can also be a challenge to my patience, hence the verse in Isaiah 40.

What Christ calls us to do requires us to be servants of God. We are yielding and making ourselves available to God to do with us as He pleases. We are saying that we will go, do, and say whatever God commands us. The one whom you obey is your lord and you are his servant. We read in Psalm 123:2:

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Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us.

The heart of what it means to wait upon the Lord is to attend to His desires as a servant attends to his master. This sense of the word lies is what defines the purpose of a waiter, or waitress, in a restaurant. It is his job to wait on the customers, that is, to attend to their needs and desires. In medieval times noble households were filled with men and women who attended to the various needs of the lord, or king. These jobs were filled by men of noble blood, not just peasants. Indeed, to be a royal cupbearer was considered a high honor in England even though his job was to stand there during dinner and give people refills.

Thus waiting on the Lord means that we are attentive to His desires and anticipating His next command. It means going to Him in prayer without an agenda and expectations for Him to fulfill. I came across Albert Barnes’ notes on this verse which does a good job of elaborating on the meaning of this phrase:

The phrase, ‘to wait on Yahweh,’ means to wait for his help; that is, to trust in him, to put our hope or confidence in him. It is applicable to those who are in circumstances of danger or want, and who look to him for his merciful interposition. Here it properly refers to those who were suffering a long and grievous captivity in Babylon, and who had no prospect of deliverance but in him. The phrase is applicable also to all who feel that they are weak, feeble, guilty, and helpless, and who, in view of this, put their trust in Yahweh. The promise or assurance here is general in its nature, and is as applicable to his people now as it was in the times of the captivity in Babylon.

Before you do anything, and apart from it all, make sure that you are at least waiting upon the Lord. If you are not even concerned with seeking the kingdom and His righteousness then do not expect your prayers to be answered. Even those goals that seem very Godly and biblical must be laid at His feet. He is our Lord and He has a purpose for each of us to fulfill. His desires must dictate our course. When we seek our own ambitions and dreams we make ourselves useless servants. Such servants that did nothing for the king ended up being fired and punished, sometimes with death even. Jesus is the Lord of lords and so it is all the more important that we do a good job of serving Him. The task may seem mundane but it is truly a great honor to serve Him, even if it is to hold His cup.

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