How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. Psalm 13:1-2,5
The theme of waiting saturates the whole redemption story. God waited a long time to send a Savior after the fall of Adam and Eve. Did they look for Jesus after they were banished from the garden? If they understood the prophetic words God spoke over them, they did. They had known the love of the Father in the garden and though the consequences of their sin were staggering, I’ve no doubt they knew that God would come to save.
In their lifetime however, He didn’t come. Though He made a way for their sins to be covered through the sacrifice of innocent animals, it wasn’t the same as a Savior coming to take away their sin and restore them to paradise. In fact, things just got worse. Their descendants saw evil compounded. The god of this world took center stage as He appeared to be the one who controlled everything. Where was God? Where was the promised Savior?
‘How long, O Lord?’ was the cry of the ages. Injustice, suffering, and the havoc created by an enemy who relished destruction appeared to have the last word as God’s people waited for their Messiah. It appeared that He was late and uncaring. Their lament through the ages filled His ears but so did their well-ordered proclamations of faith. They endured the scourges of many enemies and captivity in Babylon. They saw the destruction of their beautiful temple, waited four hundred more years through an interminable period of silence, and then bent under the weight of Roman rule before Jesus finally came. Their cries for rescue were so desperate that they couldn’t recognize the Miracle when He arrived. Never could they guess that their answer was a sleeping baby in an animal’s cradle.
Today, we are in a new waiting period. Emmanuel came once, stayed a while, but promised that He would come again. Though we saw the mystery unveiled in part at Bethlehem, mankind – and the earth he has destroyed – has not yet been restored to their original condition. Why is God, again, waiting so long to rescue? How can He restrain Himself from coming when evil is rampant upon the earth? The nature of waiting is to have unanswered questions. The challenge of waiting is to find the spiritual grit to make proclamations of faith while we scan the horizon for His appearing.
In every way you might be watching for His salvation this Christmastime, do not let Your trust in God be shaken. Rest in the mystery of His timetable. Grieve – but not without faith. Expect ~ but without a sense of entitlement. Question ~ but not with a fist. History will always reveal that love prevailed in the waiting.
You don’t always come sweeping in to make a grand statement. Many miss the salvation of a Bethlehem moment. Don’t let it be me. Amen