Pastor Sherry’s message from December 6, 2020.
Scriptures: Isa 40:1-11; PS 85:1-2, 8-13; 2 Pet 3:8-15a; Mk 1:1-8
WE hate to wait, don’t we? We are used to fast food, fast times in the ER, ATM’s that work quickly, vending machines that pop out a soda or water in seconds, and rapid computer start-ups. And we can get very impatient if things take longer than we expect them to.
But God doesn’t appear to mind having us wait. First of all, He operates out of KYROS –God’s time, not KRONOS —our time, chronological time.
Secondly, God has things to teach us while we wait.
Our Scriptures today all have something to tell us about waiting:
In 2 Peter 3:8-15a, Peter reminds us that God himself is patient. He calculates time differently than we do–vv.8-9–With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promises, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
It may seem like He is slow to keep His promises (a day is like 1000 years); but, even so, He patiently delays because He wants to give us time. He wants everyone possible to come to a saving faith in His Son, Jesus. Consider what God told Abraham about the Canaanites: He said Abraham’s numerous descendants would sojourn as captives in Egypt for 400 years, until the time of the Canaanites had come to an end. Apparently God was informing these pagans about Himself during that interval and they rejected Him. He gave them 400 years to come to Him and they apparently refused. So, when the Israelites came into the Land of Promise, God told them to wipe out all the tribes of nonbelievers who were there. If you want to stop smoking, you don’t hang out with smokers. If you want to quit drinking, you don’t hang around drinkers. God wanted His chosen people to remain faithful to Him and not adopt pagan ways. The Israelites were disobedient. They fraternized with the non-believers then let live and became idolaters, bringing upon them God’s punishment.
On the other hand, when God takes action, the swiftness with which He moves will blow your hair back! He’ll move when you least expect it, v.10–But the day of the LORD will come like a thief. We’ll all be shocked at how quickly He acts then. So, we need to be prepared, to be ready. The season of Advent reminds us to prepare our hearts to celebrate His first coming, and to anticipate His second coming, His triumphant return in majesty and authority. Thus, we might be able to better bear up under waiting if we can remind ourselves that God Himself is patient.
Our Old Testament reading is from Isaiah 40:1-11. These famous words are sung in arias in Handel’s Messiah. 1st, the Lord speaks a word of reassurance: verse 1–Comfort, comfort my people; speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
The double comfort is an emphatic reassurance of God’s tenderness and goodness. God is announcing, through the prophet, that their 70 year captivity in Babylon is ended. The people have paid for their sins, and God is about to engineer their release and return to Jerusalem.
Verses 3-5 explain that John the Baptist is going to show up and point out the Messiah. Our Gospel (Mark 1:1-8) lesson echoes this passage and identifies John the Baptist as the long prophesied forerunner of Christ. Mark quotes from Malachi 3:1–“See. I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to His temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. Then Mark recites Isaiah 40:3—A voice of one calling [John] in the desert, prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.
In verses 6-8–God reminds us of how short our lives are compared to the eternal value of God’s Word—His Word written, the Bible; and His Word made flesh, Jesus. You may recognize verses 9-11 as another of the arias in Handel’s “Messiah.” The prophet tells us that Jesus will come with power at His 2nd Coming; but He will be a tender and gentle shepherd during His 1st Coming. In other words, we can wait patiently because wonderful things are sure to happen! And did you notice that our God loves to comfort us!
The portions of Psalm 85 we read today, remind us that God keeps His promises to His people: Messiah is coming. When He comes again, He will bring a world-wide peace. Furthermore, the psalmist speaks of several qualities as if they were living beings, saying thatlove and faithfulness will meet at Jesus’ return; righteousness and peace will kiss each other;faithfulness will spring forth from the earth;and righteousness will look down from heaven. In other words,Jesus will arrive with these four attributes: love for us;faithfulness to God’s direction;righteousness, or right living; and God’s deep shalom Peace.
Jesus is coming, John the Baptist will prepare folks for His arrival, and Christ will demonstrate peace, love, holiness, and faith.
We hate to wait, so what thoughts might help us wait with grace? It has been said that we can bear any how if we know the why.
First, I believe we need to understand that waiting can reveal to us our true motives. Waiting requires that we are committed enough to take some time for things to unfold. If we cannot wait, we might just have to ask ourselves how committed we are to God or to someone else we are waiting upon. If we are so “me focused” that we are impatient, we may lack that commitment and perhaps are unwilling to postpone our own gratification.
Second, waiting builds the spiritual fruit of patience. The old saw goes, Don’t pray for patience. If you do, God will put you in a situation that requires that you develop it. God will and does answer that prayer, but you may wish He had taught you that virtue another way.
Third, waiting builds anticipation, so that we better appreciate those things that did not come to us immediately. One Christmas, my daughter located all of her gifts that I had hidden away prior to wrapping them. On Christmas morning, she asked where a purse was that I had gotten her. I had forgotten it and even where I had put it. She knew where it was and that gave her secret away. I asked her if it had been worth it to have found everything ahead of time. She was sorry that she had spoiled her surprises. Similarly I think when we have to work hard for something and wait to gain it, we tend to value it more when it comes to us.
Fourth, waiting builds intimacy with and dependence upon God. As we wait, we either come to believe that God is not answering our prayers and lose heart—or even get angry with Him—or we deepen our faith in Him. As we see Him then resolve what we had asked Him for, we become more dependent on Him, more surrendered to His will.
Finally, we want to remember that waiting is the crucible of the saints! Waiting is a grand Biblical tradition:
- Abram waited 25 years for Isaac; (his descendants waited 440 years to inherit the Land).
2. Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, worked for his shifty Uncle Laban 21 years before returning to “the Promised Land” as Israel.
3. Moses waited 40 years + 40 more years (in the back of beyond as a
shepherd) before he led the Israelites out of their Egyptian bondage.
4. King David was anointed by Samuel, then waited 20 years to actually become king.
5. Even Jesus waited. He could have been teaching and preaching from age 12, but God sent Him back to Nazareth to grow in stature with God and humans before beginning His ministry at age 30.
Waiting molds and shapes our character. God uses it to train us (to help us learn to trust him and to persevere in doing the right thing). God uses the time to burn off such impurities as impatience, pride, lust, greed, etc. God uses waiting to make us dependent upon Himself. The prophet Isaiah extolls the value of waiting in Isaiah 40:31àThose who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not grow weary; they shall walk and not be faint. The psalmist of Psalm 27:18 writes—O tarry and await the Lord’s pleasure; be strong and He shall comfort your heart; wait patiently for the Lord.
We have a God who keeps His promises, and who often requires us to wait!
Let us wait in faith. Let us not grow anxious or weary, but, instead, let’s trust in God’s goodness and loving kindness towards us, and in His perfect timing! Amen and Amen!
©2020 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams