by Dr. Bob Yarbrough, Professor of New Testament
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.” (Psalm 39:7; ESV)
Living in the country as I do, you do a lot of waiting. You wait for rain so things will grow. You wait for the grass to dry so you can mow it. You wait for firewood to season so it will burn cleanly. In winter you wait for the snow to stop falling so you can plow the road.
Scripture teaches us to “wait” on the Lord. This does not mean he is absent or tardy. It means he wants us to look to him expectantly. That’s why the Psalmist (see verse above) says, “My hope is in you.” In the midst of all of life’s activities, his heart was set and his eyes were fixed on God.
Here’s the problem: we are tempted to set our hearts and fix our eyes on all that is not God. Some “wait” on the news—call them news junkies. Some wait on their favorite sports team to sweep the championship. Some wait on interest rates—will the Fed raise them? Lower them? Keep them the same? Others “wait” on the weekend, their next vacation, their next relationship, or their next purchase. Or, with trembling, their next credit card statement or medical report.
Nothing wrong with weekends, holidays, relationships, or buying what we need. And yes, we all have things in our future that we dread. (How about the dentist?) But is Christ central in our thoughts, actions, and longings? It’s awfully easy to crowd him out.
This past August, millions of people waited for a glimpse of the total solar eclipse that briefly transformed the heavens from day to night. But what about “our great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God” (Heb. 4:14 ESV)? People get more excited about a total eclipse than about truths from the God who made the sky and all that is in, below, and beyond it.
At the time of Jesus’s birth, people like Simeon were “waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25). Anna and others were “waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). They were waiting for God’s Messiah. These were normal, everyday people like us. But they harbored an inner longing for God. They already trusted the Lord and served him. But they awaited something dramatic, something fresh, something climactic, that was still to come.
The advent season reminds us of their long wait for the Messiah, and though we live on the other side of his first coming, we wait now for his promised return and the ultimate restoration of all creation. Who knows how long that wait will be? We may ask with the psalmist, And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? Elsewhere, Scripture reminds us that “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).
We find life’s deepest contentment when Christ alone is truly our deepest hope.
This reflection originally appeared in a slightly different form in The Voice, the monthly newsletter of St. Mark Lutheran Church in Lindenhurst, Illinois, where Dr. Yarbrough serves.