Page 2 of 3

Joseph, the Ultimate Waiter

The last fifteen chapters of Genesis are filled with the story of a young man who learned first hand the art of “waiting.” As a young teen Joseph had a couple of dreams. His critical mistake was sharing those dreams prematurely with his brothers. When he told them that they would one day bow down to him, they didn’t receive it well.  Joseph paid dearly for that mistake.

One day his father sent him into the fields where his brothers were shepherding to take them some food. They seized the opportunity to get rid of him once for all–they grabbed him, ripping off his coat of many colors–and threw him into a pit. When traders heading to Egypt passed by, Joseph’s brothers sold him. Faced with the dilemma of what to tell their aging father, they dipped Joseph’s prized coat in animal blood and told dad he was killed. Jacob mourned, the brothers gloated and Joseph learned a new language in Egypt.

Joseph was sold as a slave to Potiphar, a high-ranking Egyptian official. He served flawlessly. His dreams seemed a not-so-likely reality as he managed Potiphar’s household. Then one day–oh the difference a day makes–Potiphar’s wife found Joseph attractive and threw herself at him. Joseph repeatedly refused.

So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her. (Genesis 39:6-10 ESV)

Joseph faithfully waited on his God. God gave him the dream and God would fulfill the dream. Though a slave, Joseph never lost sight of the God who gave him those dreams.  When he wouldn’t succumb, Potiphar’s wife accused him of trying to rape her and Potiphar threw Joseph in prison.  Again he actively waited. In a foreign land surrounded by strangers, Joseph waited longingly for His God.

Tomorrow we’ll discover the next chapter in Joseph’s life. His entire life was a holding pattern–he waited.

Perhaps you feel you’re in a holding pattern, waiting for your ship to sail. You feel bound to the shore, at a proverbial stalemate in your life. Joseph’s life is a testimony that there are no stalemates in God’s economy. Your suffering is his stage to announce his sufficient grace. Your poverty is his opportunity to show his plenty. Your emptiness is his opportunity to showcase his fullness.

Wait…longingly and faithfully.

Wait.

What Waiting Is

The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. (Lamentations 3:25 ESV)

It’s Monday morning and some of you are already anticipating Friday! You’re in “wait” mode. For you waiting is a daily exercise, a weekly routine. To think of waiting on God has no appeal to you. Yet here the writer of Lamentations applauds waiting. The Lord is good to those who wait for him. If that’s the truth (and it is…God’s Word is alway true), then perhaps we should spend some time thinking about what waiting on God is and isn’t.

Waiting on God isn’t waiting on an appointment at the dentist’s office. Waiting on God isn’t waiting on a meeting with your CPA to figure out how much taxes you owe. Waiting on God isn’t sitting outside the principal’s office because you’ve been caught…again.

The word “wait” in the Old Testament describes a longing feeling, a heartfelt desire accompanied by action. As a matter of fact, there’s something at work in the above statement that any of my Old Testament students could recognize (if they paid attention!). It’s called parallelism.  The two statements in Lamentations 3:25 are an example of synonymous parallelism–they mean the same thing.

In other words, waiting on God isn’t sitting idly doing nothing. Waiting on God is seeking Him. Waiting is an active endeavor. Waiting on God is getting dressed for that first date, making sure your hair is right and your cologne is evenly sprayed…because you can’t wait to see your girlfriend. Waiting on God is driving home from college and knowing where the first glimpse of the mountains is while anticipating the aroma coming from your mom’s kitchen. Waiting on God is rehearsing the questions you want to ask your mentor as you fly across the country to meet him for the first time.

So here’s my challenge for this week of Advent: wait on God by seeking Him through His Word. Read one chapter every day this week. Before you read, ask Him to speak to you. Clear your mind and heart and listen for His voice. If you seek Him, you will find Him.

The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks Him.

Revel in His long anticipated goodness this week.

The People That Walked in Darkness

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (Isaiah 9:2 ESV)

Last night Hannah came home and announced that the sky was showering meteors! Immediately she and I went outside and stared up into the sky…and saw nothing. Well we saw stars like normal. So we came back in, googled it and headed out to a dark spot. We went into the darkness to see the light!

We loaded up (11 pm) in the Honda Pilot. Wendy, Hannah, Trent (and his two friends who spent the night) and I headed to a dark spot and waited. In the darkness we waited for the light. We peered into the sky to see falling stars. The sources of these meteors is as striking as the meteors themselves. Here’s what wired.com had to say about it:

Although most meteor showers happen when Earth passes through a path of debris left by a comet, the source of the Geminids is a 3-mile-wide asteroid-like object called 3200 Phaeton. When it was discovered in 1983, it looked like any other asteroid. But further observations using NASA’s STEREO spacecraft over the last few years have revealed that 3200 Phaeton has a tail like a comet. It’s now called a rock comet—yet another in-between object that seems to be part asteroid, part comet.

Imagine it–3 miles of light. The meteors came through; the light penetrated the darkness. We were in awe of the splendor and glory of God’s creation.

Imagine 400 years of darkness. 400 years of longing for God’s voice in the midst of the darkness. 400 years of silence. And out of the darkness piercing light erupts–like a shower of meteors out of a 3-mile-wide asteroid. Read the story of Jesus’ birth. The resounding refrain is light! Angels with glory shining around them. A star guiding magi from the east.

God dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16) but at Christmas he condescended to become one of us. Light penetrated the darkness. John said it succinctly, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Jesus is light worth waiting for. He is the meteor shower of all meteor showers.

Bold Requests of God

Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a king,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal Spirit,
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine own sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

This favorite Advent carol has six bold requests. Charles Wesley revealed his deep longing for God when he penned the words. I challenge you to make these same requests your own:

Come thou long expected Jesus. Do you really want Jesus to invade your space? To call your heart His home? To become your boss? To be Lord of all of your life? Ask Him. I dare you.

From our fears and sins release us. What is your worst fear? Your greatest temptation? Do you believe He can set you free from it? Do you believe he can break the chains of sin that bind you?

Let us find our rest in thee. Are you weary? Tired of the rat race? Frustrated with the hectic season called Christmas? Tired of trying to keep up with your neighbors, outdo your coworker, impress you relatives? Rest in him. Jesus himself said, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest.”

Now thy gracious kingdom bring. Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done…on earth as it is in heaven.” What kingdom thwarting habit are you practicing? Who has been reached through your obedience?

Rule in all our hearts alone. This is a bold request. “Jesus, rule…alone!” No one else. Nothing else. No selfish ambition. Just Jesus.

Raise us to thy glorious throne. Jesus, change us from the inside out. Replace hopelessness with hope. Fill our emptiness with your fullness.  David talked about this in Psalm 40:

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. (Psalm 40:1-3 ESV)

Notice when David was raised to God’s glorious throne–after he patiently waited.  If you are in a pit, put your hand in his and let him draw you out and raise you to his glorious throne. He’ll change your tune! (my paraphrase of “he put a new song in my mouth.”) Then many will see and fear and say, “What happened to her! What’s up with him!”

Today, pray those six requests of Wesley’s old hymn. The next time you sing it, be careful what you ask for!

What a Day that Will Be

Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work. (Psalm 62:11-12 ESV)

Once. Twice. This is a play on words. David is saying, “God is speaking loud and clear but we easily miss his voice.” Elihu, the young man who gave Job good advice (compared to the bad advice from his three friends) said this, “For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it.” (Job 33:14)

Here’s my question for you: What is God saying to you? How many ways has he said it to you? How many times has he repeated himself? When are you going to listen?

Here is his resounding message in Psalm 62: power belongs to God. In other words He can do anything. Your problem doesn’t catch him by surprise. Your worries don’t trip him up. Your fears don’t frighten him. Power belongs to God. Do you get it? Will you hear it this time?

And that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. What if God were powerful but not loving. He would be a despot, a tyrant. We would run in fear of Him. An omnipotent God who isn’t love would be a terrorist. Power is his.  But also steadfast love is his.  And this makes him just. For you will render to a man according to his work.

God can do anything.

God loves you no matter what.

God sees your faithfulness…and will render to you according to your work.

Perhaps you feel unnoticed. Like a nobody. A failure. A mistake. You don’t see any good coming from your work. You’ve prayed and seemingly heard nothing. You’ve taught your son or daughter and they haven’t listened.  Take heart. The God who has power and steadfast love is just. One day…keep waiting…He will make all things right.

Advent is a reminder that the world waited for the loving, powerful God to invade their space. And He will again invade our space. If you are his, one day He will return in power and love for you.  Then He will sweep you off your feet and into His arms. The groom will embrace His bride.

What a day that will be.

All Before the Almighty

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah (Psalm 62:8 ESV)

Waiting is more bearable when you trust the person you’re waiting for. Psalm 62 is all about waiting…waiting for God, longing for Him through the ups and downs of life. Advent is about waiting–400 years of silence separated the Old Testament prophets from the angel’s announcement that the Messiah was on his way.  Imagine a world without your favorite podcast, your Christian music stations, or a stirring worship service. Would you still trust God if you didn’t hear His voice?

To a longing soul the silences of God are almost unbearable. What do you do when God is silent? How do you react when silence is as thick as the darkness around you? David says, “Trust.” Trust in him at all times.

All means all. Webster adds, “the whole, total amount, quantity or extent of.”

In short, all means “all.” Trust in God at all times. This may surprise you but sometimes it is hardest to trust God when things are good. We are prone to think we accomplished something, we figured it out, we made it happen. We trust ourselves instead of God. Sometimes we trust others instead of God. We think our spouse can fill the emptiness, our friend can fill the void, or a new relationship is all we need.  At times we trust other things instead of God. We rely on our bank account, our success at work, our academic achievements.  Often we trust our health instead of God. We feel invincible, as if nothing can happen to change our current status.

None of these is ultimately trustworthy. Money fails. Health wanes. Friends disappoint. Work wearies.

It’s almost as if you can hear the pleading in David’s voice when he says, “O people; pour out your heart before him.” When God is silent, don’t stop praying. When your praying seems ineffective, pour out your heart before him. Don’t substitute others or other things. At all times pour out your heart before the Almighty.

Why? Because God is a refuge for us. He is a safe place. He can handle your cries. David also said…

You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? (Psalm 56:8 ESV)

God counts your sleepless nights.  God bottles your tears. God journals your fears.

O, people pour out your heart before him.

Suffering…Hope’s Distant Cousin

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. (Psalm 62:5-7 ESV)

David returns to his opening thought. (see verse 1)  For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence. Why? For my hope is from him. As I am writing this the forecast is calling for snow tomorrow. I hope it snows–I really do! That idea of hope is not what David means here. Most of the time we use the word hope for “wish.” I wish it would snow tomorrow. I wish the Panthers would win. I wish…

Biblical hope is far more than a wish. Biblical hope is the sure promise of future reward. Paul talks about this kind of hope in Romans 5:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

Paul tells the believers in Rome that they can rejoice in sufferings. Why? Paul isn’t advocating an emotionless response to the very real pain of life. No! Rejoicing in suffering is possible for the same reason a mother endures the pain of giving birth to a child: the hope of holding that child in her arms as a newborn. Our hope is fixed on the glory of God–we live to honor Him. And strangely enough it comes through waiting and suffering.

Suffering initiates a domino effect: suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Hope grows best in the soil of suffering.  Notice the distance between suffering and hope. Suffering is followed by endurance (which takes time).  Endurance is followed by character (which is built over time). Character produces hope.

For some of you this has been the worst year of your life. Your suffering is so intense that hope seems a distant dream, a far-flung idea. Don’t despair. Hope is coming! Endure–don’t quit!

David writes: He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Today, lean in on God. Wait on him–quieten yourself before him. He is your refuge, your safe place…your hope.

Worth Waiting For

How long will all of you attack a man
    to batter him,
    like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.
    They take pleasure in falsehood.
They bless with their mouths,
    but inwardly they curse. Selah  (Psalm 62:3-4)

David’s quiet waiting on God is punctuated by a reminder that his enemies are real. Often the silent times of our lives reveal our deepest fears. David is in a desperate place. He likens himself to a leaning wall and a tottering fence. Leaning walls are in danger of falling. Tottering fences can easily be compromised. He is under constant attack.

Perhaps that’s where you are today. You feel like a leaning wall, a tottering fence. You wonder how much more you can take, how much pressure you can endure.

Every believer has three enemies: the world, our own sinful nature, and Satan. Our enemies combine forces to do what David describes: they only plan to thrust him down from his high position. Jesus reiterated David’s words in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.” The world will allure you, your sinful nature will appease you and Satan will attack you. They take pleasure in falsehood. The world lies. Your sinful nature lies. Satan is the father of lies. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. Sin always has a facade–behind it lies the smell of death.

Selah. Why would David have us pause and think about this?

Here’s why. You will appreciate your rescuer when you realize what He has rescued from. Pause today and reflect on where you would be without Jesus. In John 10:10, Jesus went on to say, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” That’s worth waiting for.

I Will Not Be Greatly Shaken

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. (Psalm 61:1-2)

Waiting can be exhilarating or excruciating. Airports unveil both the excitement and the misery. I once sat in an un-airconditioned plane for more than an hour on the tarmac because we couldn’t “take off yet.” On the other hand, I have watched moms hug their sons they haven’t seen in months, seen children run into the arms of their fathers and watched a soldier relish the embrace of his wife. Waiting is both exhilarating and excruciating.

What changes how you wait is who you’re waiting for. In Psalm 62 David says, “For God alone.” Often we wait for what God brings, not for God Himself. At this time of year it is a timely reminder that God is not a divine Santa, He is a dear Savior. David says, “from him comes my salvation.”

On this Sunday morning as you come into worship we will have a time of silent waiting.  As you wait reflect on the God who is your salvation. If you are a born again follower of Christ, He saved you. If you have gone out of darkness into light, He led you out. If you were “sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore” then his “love lifted you.”

When God rescues you, you are secure. You can say with David, “I will not be greatly shaken.”

Whatever seems to have a hold on you stands no chance. God’s grip is greater than your strongest temptation, your bitterest enemy, your greatest fear.

Unrealized Love

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.  Matthew 1:25 (ESV)

I enjoy weddings. I really do! I have a unique advantage. Thirty minutes before the wedding I get to hang out with the groom. I’ve watched them pace, sweat and squirm. I’ve heard them chatter, tell not so funny jokes to pass the time, and wonder how many guests are arriving. Grooms are generally a nervous bunch.

I wonder what would happen if I told the groom that the wedding was on but the honeymoon was off. Many have saved themselves sexually for marriage. Joseph had. Premarital sex was unheard of in his day and punishable by death! Yet when Mary came to him announcing her pregnancy and Joseph was told by an angel to marry her anyway, everything changed. Obedience for Joseph wasn’t an easy road.

He took his wife. He properly married Mary.

But knew her not. He skipped the honeymoon. No sex. No physical expression of his love for her.

His obedience to God preempted his ability to have sex with his wife. Did he desire Mary sexually? Of course! Did he anticipate sexual intimacy with her? Every fiancé does! Was he sexually attracted to her? Absolutely!

He waited. Joseph chose the path of unrealized love because he realized Jesus’ love for Him and the world.

What do you want desperately but God says, “not now?” What are you tempted to do but shouldn’t? What sin entices you, draws you in, calls your name? He is Immanuel, God with you. He’s enough to give you power over sin and over your selfish desires.