Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! Psalm 27:14 (ESV)
When I looked at the original language of this verse, I found something unexpected, what seems like a vivid contrast, or even an oxymoron.
I have always thought of waiting as a still (maybe frustratingly so, like sitting in a traffic jam) and almost sedentary activity, and patient waiting as almost an impossibility.
The Hebrew word qavah (קָוָה), translated wait, is used twice in the verse. It means to look for, wait patiently, tarry, wait for, wait on, wait upon. It has this underlying meaning of the “tension of enduring, waiting.”1 But the words translated “be strong” and “take courage” are far from still or sedentary in their meanings.
The word translated “be strong” is chazaq (חָזַק). It means “to be or grow firm or strong, strengthen.” In its various verb tenses it carries the meanings of prevailing over, the sound of a trumpet growing louder and louder, securing a kingdom. It means to seize, grasp, take hold, retain, and keep, restore to strength, make strong and encourage. In Nehemiah it is used of the repairing of the walls of the city.
Wow, these biblical images sound familiar and do not sound like passive waiting. They almost don’t seem very patient either.
The word translated “take courage,” or be courageous is amets (אָמַץ). This word means to confirm, be courageous or of good courage, steadfastly-minded, be strong, make strong, strengthen yourself, fortify, to be alert, physically (on foot) or mentally (in courage), increase, prevail.
So, the psalmist appears to be saying we have something to do while we wait:
Wait for the Lord. But while you are waiting for Him, secure the Kingdom. Seize, take hold, restore. Sound the trumpet of the Good News. Strengthen yourself and others in the Lord. Repair the broken walls of the church. Be alert for the attacks of the enemy and resist him.
It seems like the psalmist is saying while you wait conquer, prevail over the enemy, bring the lost into dwelling place of the Most High, our most loving God. And I absolutely believe that is true.
But to tell you the truth this study has left me feeling guilty and deficient. I am in a place right now as a caregiver where I cannot do much for the Kingdom – or so it seems. I find myself overwhelmed, burdened with necessary responsibilities, unable to do one more thing, even sometimes it seems to take one more breath. Obvious, visible doings like volunteer work and helps ministries are impossible right now. And I feel sad and stymied.
But then the Lord showed me something. Could it be that by waiting patiently – yielding to Him and the place He has me in right now, serving Him though “the least of these” – focused on Him and together with Him, I conquer my self-life, prevail over oppression in the unseen spiritual realm, I witness to my faith, and encourage others by my perseverance. Maybe in this waiting-yielding time I become better, as Chris Hendrix recently blogged Becoming Better.
Maybe this is a refining time for me. I have always wanted to do big things for God, maybe for the wrong reasons. Maybe I have wanted to be wonderful and seen, when He wants me to be hidden in the One called Wonderful. And who is to say whether our patient waiting and enduring and persisting in love is not as powerful an encouragement and witness to others as physically sounding trumpets and repairing broken walls? Aren’t the faithful prayers of one person powerful and effective according to scripture (James 5:16), even though only heard by God?
So, if you are with me in that place of impossible burden, feeling guilty and useless, not just hidden but buried, be encouraged. Put on your armor, grow strong, stand your ground, hold on, keep loving the hard to love, keep lifting up your prayers. Maybe be still and let God repair some broken walls in your soul. Cultivate the fruits of the Spirit. Let them beautify walls made whole. And you and I will come out of this with a witness of God’s faithfulness. We will come out better.
But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Jude 1:20-21
Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. 1 Timothy 1:18-19
For our struggle (fight, conflict, wrestling bout) is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground (take a complete stand against, withstand, resist, oppose, refusing to be moved, to keep one’s possession; ardently withstand, without giving up), and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:12-13
Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40
… Occupy (do business, make legitimate gain, bear much fruit, the opposite of being fruitless) until I come. Luke 19:13 (KJV)
… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23
1All definitions from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Discovery Bible, NAS Concordance of the Bible, and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon.
Image, Pomegranates hanging over wall on our climb to the castle, by ralmonline alm, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pomegranates_hanging_over_wall.jpg