Abraham, My Friend
The Making of a Praying Man_40
they that wait upon the Lord
And then after the sitting, running, lying, and working comes the standing; And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. (Gen 18:8 KJV) He is the servant here, waiting upon His Lord. He has no agenda and no petitions. There is no sitting now, he stands while his Guest eats; Abraham is simply available to God; Unto thee do I lift up mine eyes, O thou that sittest in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their master, As the eyes of a maid unto the hand of her mistress; So our eyes look unto Jehovah our God, Until he have mercy upon us. (Psa 123:1-2 ASV) To such men God will reveal his secrets. This is such a fundamental in the making of a praying man that we must give more time to the topic.
As we read Genesis 18 slowly we get a definite feeling of the hustle and bustle of Abraham as he prepares for the wellbeing of his guest, and then suddenly it all slows to a complete halt; And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. (Gen 18:8 KJV) The previous verbs are very graphic; he ran to meet the guests, he bowed, he hastened to instruct Sarah, he instructs make ready quickly, he runs to the herd, he hasted to dress it
such preparations are fitting. But when he sets it all before them, he stood by them under the tree. We live in a day when the techniques of prayer are constantly advocated and in an era peculiarly given to method we are inundated with How to
manuals. An earlier generation was wiser; Samual Chadwick wrote A season of silence is the best preparation for speech with God. (The Path of Prayer) The first criterion for prayer is not need consciousness but God consciousness.
This chapter reveals Abraham as he receives the final promise of the seed; the promise will find its fulfilment now. It also reveals Abraham as an intercessor; a man who pours out himself in prayer for others. In both cases we discover that these events are preceded by a season of Abraham waiting on the Lord. (Gen 18:8,22) Later when the judgements fall we find Abraham watching them from the same spot; And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the LORD: And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace. (Gen 19:27-28 KJV) Central to the events of the fulfilled promise and the expression of Gods will upon the earth, we find Abraham waiting upon the LORD. Before we examine the promise and the judgement lets pursue the topic of waiting upon God.
The first thought is of silent attentiveness to the person of God Himself. We are so anxious to get on with the job that we forget the qualifications for the job; And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, (Mar 3:14 KJV) The order here is not accidental. A man may have great power in his oratory, but if he has not received his message, he has nothing to say. If he has not come from the presence of the Lord how can he be described as sent? For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (1 Corinthians 1:17RSV) Was there ever a more sobering verse for preachers?
Later in Israels history God ordained the priesthood whose life is summed up in one of the shortest psalms; Behold, bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD, which by night stand in the house of the LORD. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD. (Psa 134:1-2 KJV) This is an wonderful picture of priesthood. These men are not busy in the outer sanctuary with the rituals of Israels faith; they are not occupied with ablutions or bloody sacrifice. They are the servants of the LORD who stand in the house of the LORD. It is a glimpse into a forgotten aspect of priesthood; they stand by night. They wait upon their God separate from the busy-nesses of the day; they have passed beyond the sight of ordinary men. This service is unseen by Israel; they are the servants of the LORD. In the outer sanctuary they will wash, kill, heave, cut, flay, burn, cleanse
but here in this hidden service they stand.
Israels worldly sanctuary was an amazing structure, designed, not as a canvas church building but, as a mobile palace. The tabernacle was not pretty from the outside; its outward aspect was of the shape of a shoebox and was black. Three coverings separated and insulated the inner sanctuary from the outside world. When the door-hangings fell back into place those inside were oblivious to all that was outside; they were deaf and blind to all worldly activity. The priests stepped into a little embassy, a bit of heavens territory on earth. Day and night were the same there, as was war and peace or summer or winter. They were shut in with God; the world no longer existed for them.
And they stood. They had no other option; there was only one seat in the Tabernacle. In this mobile palace only the King had a seat in the most Holy place of all, and there He sat between the golden Cherubim. The Holy Place had lamps and incense and bread, but no seats; here the servants of the Lord stood perpetually. This standing position of the priests is so characteristic of their role that the writer to the Hebrews uses the fact to show the absolute uniqueness and finality of Christs priesthood; And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; (Heb 10:11-12 KJV)
The picture here with Abraham and with Israels priesthood is of someone who waits upon God as a trusted servant would wait upon the King. They stand because they are constantly poised to move into action. They function like a professional waiter; their only business is to be available to fulfil the diners wishes. They wait in inconspicuous attention, ready at a moments notice to fulfil anothers will. There are angels who wait upon God too. His will is converted into immediate action by these wonderful beings. Ezekiel says; And under the firmament were their wings straight, the one toward the other: every one had two, which covered on this side, and every one had two, which covered on that side, their bodies. And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host: when they stood, they let down their wings. (Eze 1:23-24 KJV) As they stand in Gods presence they veil themselves with their wings, but when they move to execute Gods will they are like lightning! In fact, they run and return like a flash of lightning And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning. (Eze 1:14 KJV). For those who have tired calculating how many angels can dance on a pinhead here is a new project; how fast can they travel? A return journey like a single flash of lightning makes them the fastest creatures known, travelling at 362000 miles per second!! I like to think briefly of these creatures who wait, with let-down wings until they know the will of God and then, before you knew they had gone, they are back waiting for the next job.
Impossible things are possible to the man or woman prepared to wait upon the Lord. But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isa 40:31 KJV) This is well know verse but the KJV hardly does it justice. This is not renewing in the sense of replenishing or refurbishing but renewing in the sense of replacing old with new. They they wait upon the LORD shall exchange their strength
The eagle of the Bible is almost certainly the Griffin Vulture. In 1973 a griffon vulture was sucked into the intake of a jet flying at 11,270metres (37,000ft) (7 miles) over West Africa; this is the highest altitude at which any bird has been identified. Sometimes Christians seem to regard prayer as a religious way of worrying, but you dont get to that height by flapping but only by utter reliance on another power; with the Griffon Vulture, the thermals, for us, God Himself.
In Isaiahs day Israel might be justified in thinking her time was over; her glory all in the past but this is not the truth. (40:27) The remainder of the chapter and the first verse of the next are a call to faith and dependence upon this God; not a frantic call to action but a strong call to faith; the refrain of these verses is 'fainting'. Israel's God neither faints nor grows weary; his resources are never depleted. (40:28). And this limitless resource is available to those who do faint and whose resources are absolutely exhausted. (40:29) An older man views the apparent inexhaustable energy of the young with envy and wonder; but their resources too ultimately pass away and they too will faint and fail. (40:30) But they that wait upon the Lord exchange their strength
they, and they alone
shall renew their strength
shall mount up, effortlessly like the eagle
shall run tirelessly
and in the steady requirements of the daily plod; they shall walk and not faint. (40:31)
The culmination of Isaiah 40 is in Chapter 41. Bustle and business is prohibited. Spiritual energy is not renewed by technique or determination; or by our decisions or promises. The revelation of an eternal truth is followed by an invitation which has a telling sequence; Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the peoples renew their strength: let them come near; THEN let them speak; let us come near together to judgment. (Isa 41:1 ASV)
Do we always draw near before we begin to make our requests? Lets imagine an eastern court or throne room; the king sits in splendour and his servants 'wait on him'. They stand at the edges of the room instantly available but never imposing their presence upon their king. As they wait upon him, they are equipped to serve him. They cannot serve him at their own bidding but must wait for His. He guides them with his eye upon them. His signal gives them permission and authorizes them to serve him in undreamed of ways. Now, and only now, they can draw near and having drawn near they can speak. Weariness is no disqualification now, nor is previous failure an excuse; the ruins of the past are no impediment, and weakness is no cause for discouragement. And now having drawn near they hear his voice; Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven. (Neh 2:4 KJV)
Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD. (Psalms 27:14 KJV)