The phrase occurs so often in the Psalms because King David feels that it is worth repeating. 1 and 2 Samuel provide us historical context and understanding for this exhortation occurring in many of David’s Psalms. Life is full of bad surprises: betrayals, conspiracies, battles, diseases, reversals of fortune, slander, hatred, and the like. David experienced them all—repeatedly. He was forever finding himself in endless conflicts and perils that he spent much of his time waiting for God to do something he couldn’t do for himself.
We can be thankful for David’s life and experiences. He presents the worst case scenario on what can happen to any believer, and then role models how to approach God and plead our cause before him. That’s why Martin Luther prayed the Psalms as though they were his own. Luther, like most of the Reformers, found himself faced with deadly circumstances, as well as dangerous people (highly religious people) who, much like those in Jesus’ life, had the power to remove him from earth in no time.
From David’s roller-coaster life of faith, complete with the very high and the very low—thrilling victory, tragic defeat, sins of all kinds, judgment, forgiveness, restoration, and exultation, we learn the reasons to wait on our loving God:
1. God is in charge.
God knows the “end from the beginning, and from ancient times things not yet done” (Isaiah 46:10). He chooses his own time and way to bring us his gifts of rescues, guidance, wisdom, faithful friends, and providential, coincidental arrangements of circumstances.
2. God takes his time to bring about our best.
There are no short-cuts to a happy ending (Isaiah 40:31). When the apostle Paul wrote Romans 8, he had in mind the entire faith journey of King David, and every other key Old Testament figure. Verse 28 summarizes it perfectly: “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” In addition to the Psalms and Romans 8, even a superficial reading of the other books of the Bible reveal that the working out of all this good took time, and lots of it (Habakkuk 2:3).
3. God teaches us patience and trust in him.
Even in the long experience of Joseph, or in Paul’s preparation for ministry after his conversion, it took years for God’s plans to unfold. This is a shock to those of us who want God to take decisive action in our behalf no later than next week! Our vision narrows with the microscopic, reverse time warp of the immediate, the right now. When we expect God to bring about the good we pray for in the very near days, weeks, or months ahead, we lose vision of both history and the future. We aren’t like the butterfly or the bee, who live very short lives, but generally decades, and this is the time frame in which God chooses our life’s play to run, from the opening scene to the conclusion. Waiting helps us to understand that God hears our prayers (Micah 7:7).
4. God takes his time because he has a purpose for time.
Our relatively short segment within the longer, main plot is tied into all that has gone before, and all that is yet to happen. Our brief appearance on the stage is very important, but it isn’t the whole story. Each particular role, and the entire play encompassing the entire world, makes perfect sense only in the thrilling conclusion—our entrance into eternal life. We “wait for God,” because his perfect timing is working itself out in the midst of all the other roles and players involved. He chooses for everything to work out for his decreed purpose, and for the good of his people.
Finally, there are in this world only two kinds of people, those who wait for God, and those who wish they had. So wait patiently and expectantly for God! Be thankful and rejoice that he is the way he is, that his will is perfect, and all his mysterious ways are steeply slanted in our favor.
John I. Snyder is an international pastor (currently serving at Starnberg Fellowship, Starnberg, Germany), conference speaker, and author of the book Resenting God: Escape the Downward Spiral of Blame (ranked #1 on Christian Ethics in Theology on Amazon) from Abingdon Press. His highly acclaimed prayer guide Your 100 Day Prayer: The Transforming Power of Actively Waiting on God (ranked #1 on Meditations on Amazon books, #1 on Prayer on Amazon Kindle, #9 on Christian living on Amazon) from Thomas Nelson Publishers has transformed the lives of readers all over the world, taking them on a 100-day journey in prayer over a specific issue or circumstance in their lives. John received his Master of Theology and Master of Divinity degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey, and he received his Doctor of Theology degree magna cum laude in New Testament Studies from the University of Basel, Switzerland. John has been featured on Focus on the Family, Moody Radio, Fox News, Faith Radio Network, Cru, American Family Radio Network, In the Market with Janet Parshall, The Bottom Line with Roger Marsh, Miracle Channel, Bill Martinez Live, and many more.