Waiting on the word
It is as we wait to hear the word from God that the Spirit begins preparing us to be fitted to what He is about to say. Revelation involves more than what we can think up for ourselves. It involves a gracious work of redemption whereby the Holy Spirit draws us up to Himself, crossing the infinite chasm between our limitations and God’s wisdom, and making us adequate to resonate with His speaking.
It is no wonder, therefore, that we have to be patient to let his work be done in us as we wait for Him at full stretch, pointing all our attention towards Him.
It is at this point that most people give up just because they feel so distant from God, so distracted and so “out of it” with respect to the presence of God. This is understandable because for many people the seeming silence of God and the background noise of other voices is discouraging.
Yet the psalmist is assured that God will speak, and what He speaks will ultimately be a word of peace; not destruction or ruin. Though we don’t know what He will speak, we are convinced that the word He speaks will call into being a new order that is shalom in our land.
Waiting to hear involves an alignment of expectation in accordance with God’s intentions of peace to us. The framework of listening has to be an obedient one. This is one of the ways that we prepare our hearts with obedient expectations.
When the word is heard, when it comes, it hits us not as a data point, but a transformative encounter. You are done to by it, apprehended by it; not merely controlling or applying it.
In a culture that values strategies for making oneself heard, listening involves a whole set of opposite practices and attitudes relating to receiving, welcoming, understanding (as in “standing under”) and humble non-presumption. Patience is an essential part of listening, and necessitates being hospitable to the voice of God. Think about it!
In 2 Corinthians 3:15-18, we see a quantum change in perception when a certain veil is removed from before our eyes. In this transformation, although we were not able to see spiritual things, now when we turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away and we have liberty and sight because the Spirit is present. We begin to see things we never saw before. Things strike us differently. Our view and attitude to things and people is now colored with love. Our outlook is touched by faith and trust. The panic and dread is replaced by hope. Instead of looking at things, we seem to be able to look into these same things. It’s as if new spectacles have been put on that make us see things in multi-dimensionality, rather than to see things “flat”.
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
It is as we turn to the Lord and listen for the word of Shalom, that we enter into a different dimension in which “salvation is at hand to them that fear Him”(v9). That is, while we may ordinarily think that a long process is needed before we see God’s deliverance, now the distance between us and deliverance is collapsed, and made near. Space-time experiences the shortening of distances between ourselves and salvation. That’s because we are not counting the distance of time between now and the things we think will take a long time to come to fruition. As we draw near to God, we find that it is in God, rather than the things themselves, that deliverance is found. Our mistake is often to fixate on things that we want to happen, and their distance from our present, but when we find ourselves in God, these distances are relativized “in the light of His glory and grace”. That’s why an extraordinary thing happened when the disciples toiling against the wind in the boat on Galilee, received Jesus into the boat. Immediately, the boat found itself arriving on the other side of the sea!
We are often put off from engaging in faithful processes because of how long they would take. That may be true if we are in the dynamics of Jesus’s absence. But when we totally surrender to Him and indwell His presence in obedience, we enter a different dimension-that of His presence. In this dimension, 5 loaves and 2 fishes become enough to feed 5000 people with plenty to spare.
The psalmist goes on to point out that steadfast love and faithfulness kiss each other, so that the land will yield its increase. Faithfulness and truth spring up from the ground, and “set us in the way of His steps”.
It’s funny how faithfulness is so little valued in contemporary culture. Yet faithfulness has to do with consistent faith-full action in spite of the fact that these actions may not amount to much, certainly not what is needed to achieve what is desired. But faithfulness that is directed towards God is like the 5 loaves and 2 fishes that when put in the hands of Jesus, miraculously multiply beyond their natural limits. This is not some dogged, inane ineffectuality. It is the subversive obedience to the Kingdom that breaks the oppressive power of the Empire of this world.
Two things combine to cause our land to yield its increase – faithfulness, and seeds. The word of God is dropped into our spirits. And as that happens, if there is amidst all the instability of our times, a rhythm of faithful, repetitive, incremental nurturing of it, an amazing thing happens. That faithfulness will cause the growth of the seed to outpace and outlast the pulls and temptations to cease faithful watering. Regular, faithful prayer is one of the chief aspects of faithfulness that will cause growth in our loved ones, and in our outreach. For some it would mean calling your children who are living away from you regularly. For others, it would mean turning up at meetings whether you feel like it or not. Faithfulness can be cultivated, to the extent that it becomes no longer a chore but a delight. And it is faithful actions that cultivate to harvest, a vision that came to you initially as no more than a seed word.
“Righteousness will go before Him and make His footsteps a way”.