Abraham, My Friend
The Making of a Praying Man_41
wait I say on the Lord
Our previous devotional found Abraham waiting upon his visitors. His waiting upon God was not in order that
There was no secret ambition in his service; it was simply the instinct of his life. He was not trying to gain Gods attention to spring some long hidden request, but simply waiting upon Him. From this simple availability came two wonderful consequences; the specific timing of Isaacs birth, and a revelation of Gods plan for the world.
Lets take a couple of examples of waiting upon God; one from the Old and one from the New Testaments. The first is the prophet Habakkuk. Habbakuk is one of the most difficult Bible books to date, but as it happens this need not affect our current thoughts. It begins with a cry from the prophets heart that his prayer is unanswered. It is a classic cry that could have come at any point in earths history; God, why dont You do something? Habakkuks horizontal vision has only taken in the increasing wickedness, and the undermining of Gods law. His cry, as often ours, is How long? The answer must have taken his breath away.
"Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days-- You would not believe if you were told. (Hab 1:5 NASB) The NASB captures the divine protest; I am already doing something. Although the prophet had not picked it up on his radar God was already at work. He was doing something that was so extraordinary that there had been no point in sharing it with Habakkuk because Habakkuk would not have believed it anyway! This is humbling for a prophet! It reminds us of the Lords word to His disciples; I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. (Joh 16:12 KJV). God then reveals what is already at work; this is an aspect of prophecy that is sometimes forgotten. Prophecy is not always prediction, but it is always revelation. Prophecy is the divine focus; it may be in the future, the present or even the past. It gives the Gods eye-view of events.
For many decades the super-power of the day had been Assyria. Its grip seemed relentless and permanent; it had no real challengers. But God was at work. During the time of Uzziah, approximately 150 years before the event, He predicted that Tyre and Sidon would be overthrown by an upstart kingdom that no-one reckoned a real danger; Behold, the land of the Chaldeans--this is the people which was not; Assyria appointed it for desert creatures--they erected their siege towers, they stripped its palaces, they made it a ruin. Wail, O ships of Tarshish, For your stronghold is destroyed. (Isa 23:13-14 NASB) The Chaldeans and their capital at Babylon was one of historys yesterdays men. The Babylonian empire of Nimrod had slid into oblivion, and was not. From the graveyard of history God was creating a political prodigy; His word to Habakkuk is astonishing;"For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, That fierce and impetuous people Who march throughout the earth To seize dwelling places which are not theirs. (Hab 1:6 NASB). It was as if in answer to our cries for revival God were to say I am going to raise up the Nazis to do my purpose. It is not only historically impossible, it is morally unthinkable.
Habakkuk now has another reason for protest. Gods word has proved true; Habakkuk did not believe, though it was told him. He launches into a passionate argument as to why God cannot do it this way; Are You not from everlasting, O LORD, my God, my Holy One? We will not die. You, O LORD, have appointed them to judge; And You, O Rock, have established them to correct. Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You can not look on wickedness with favor. Why do You look with favor On those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up Those more righteous than they? (Hab 1:12-13 NASB) None of this squares with his theology; this is not the way God does things. What is a man to do with such a revelation?
Habakkuks second chapter find the prophet is a more reflective mood, and gives us a glimpse into the way he intends to cope with this revelation. I think it is significant that he does not launch into a prayer meeting, or worse still, form a committee for the public reformation of morals. His decision is profound in its simplicity; I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. (Hab 2:1 KJV) The KJV margin gives an alternate rendering what He will say within me. Here then is the prophets response to an impending tragedy of immeasurable proportions;
I will stand upon my watch he takes the place of the watchman, ready to give the alarm.
I will set me upon the tower he fixes his position in readiness
I will watch to see what He will say within me now he can do nothing more than listen to hear what God has to say.
God spoke to him and assured him that the predations of the Chaldeans would have their end too. In the midst of all the coming fog of war, its confused noise and garments rolled in blood, God has a final word for the nations; But Jehovah is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him. (Hab 2:20 ASV) The response of Habakkuk is a wonderful outpouring of heart. There is an interesting sequence to this minor prophets work; through its three brief chapters it moves from a burden which leads to a revelation which leads to powerful and confident intercession. I wont spoil it for you, please read Habakkuk 3 and see the power of this prayer.
This is the kind of prayer that those who wait upon the Lord may be empowered to pray. All readers of SermonIndex should read it carefully.
Lets take a different account; this time from the New Testament. It comes at a critical time in the development of the early church. Unexpected things have been happening in Antioch in Syria. The gospel chick has broken from its shell and the gospel is being preached to Gentiles. The results were so fruitful that Barnabas elicits the help of Saul of Tarsus, and for a whole year these two and others became an integral part of the church in Ephesus; And Barnabas went out to Tarsus to seek Saul. And finding him, he brought him to Antioch. And it happened that many of them were gathered to them (with)in the assembly a whole year. And they taught a considerable crowd. And the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. (Act 11:25-26 LITV) We are not to imagine Paul and Barnabas as the minister with the church under them, but Paul and Barnabas as integral members of the church at Antioch.
After a brief relief visit to Jerusalem the life in the church at Antioch continued, with a wonderful glimpse into the simple pattern of their gatherings; Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted
(Act 13:1-2 KJV) I have purposely cut this verse short so that we can give a little time to the process rather than the result. Five men are named. It may be that there were other prophets and teachers too. What would you expect the main responsibility to be of prophets and teachers; ministry to the people in prophesying and teaching?. That may not be the right answer. Apparently these men ministered to the Lord. It is a comment that reminds us of the choice of the first deacons and the reasons behind it; Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. (Act 6:3-4 KJV) Their first responsibility was to be continually available for prayer.
This is such a revolutionary idea in the 21st Century that we probably need to re-emphasize the fact. They were not ministering for the Lord in preaching and teaching, they were ministering to the Lord. Again it reminds us of another Bible saint; Anna who
was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. (Luk 2:37 KJV) I cannot help but note that she did not use fasting and prayer to pry things from Gods unwilling grip, but that she brought herself into His presence to serve God. The ministers of Acts 13 were ministering to the Lord.
This is the New Testament first use of this particular word for ministering but it is the word used in connection with the priestly responsibilities of the Old Covenant; And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: (Heb 10:11 KJV) Those priests who stood daily did so in their ministry to God. We now have a vivid picture of the saints in Antioch; they stand (in spirit) ministering to the Lord. These are genuine priests; not appointed by bishops or popes but by God Himself. They are waiting upon the Lord. Like Habakkuk they are watching to see what He will speak within me. And speak He did; the launch of the gospel towards the West did not come from a missionary committee or from a convention but from a prayer meeting.
Now we need to read the full verse; As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. (Act 13:2 KJV) This word separate is a very deliberate one; it is used of Paul to describe the cutting of the umbilical cord. (Gal 1:15) Barnabas and Paul has served God as an integral part of the church at Antioch; they were members of this body. Now the time had come for their amputation. Separate them says God for the work for which I have called them to myself (RB Lit). or as the NASB translates While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." (Act 13:2 NASB) The I have called them is the perfect tense. It sounds has though the calling was earlier than this, but now is the time for separation.
The church at Antioch immediately respond to this word from God. This time Ill use the Darby translation; Then, having fasted and prayed, and having laid their hands on them, they let them go. (Act 13:3 Darby) Darby brings out an important truth here. The church at Antioch did NOT send them away. apoluO is not send away but release. The church did what God had requested; they freed them. Whole missionary programmes are based on the sending church but the concept obscures an important New Testament truth than the first missionaries werent sent they were released.
In fact, the next verse shows very plainly who did the sending; So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. (Act 13:4 KJV) This time an entirely different word is used; ekpempō - despatched. It is a word that was used in the Greek of the day in commercial literature as export. What a vivid picture of New Testament missionary work this is. They wait upon God together, available to Him, listening to what He will say. The word comes to the church to cut Paul and Barnabas free. The church responds by loosing them, and the Holy Spirit exports them to their next field of service.
There are some who think waiting upon God is altogether too passive and pietistic, but Habakkuk waited and the word he heard caused a passionate prayer for revival to rise in his heart, and the saints in Antioch waited and the word they received launched a missionary enterprise that continues in its impact to our own day. Abraham waited and received the final promise of his son; he waited and the secrets of Gods heart were opened to him.
Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD. (Psa 27:14 KJV)
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.(Psa 123:2 KJV)