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The Nature of Waiting

I was recently skimming through Exodus as part of my Bible reading plan and wasn’t really feeling the need to focus much on the story of Moses parting the Red Sea. It’s one those I’ve heard plenty of times, but this time I kept reading. 

When Moses and the Israelites get to the sea, they’re all complaining in fear to Moses because Pharaoh is hot on their trail. Moses tries to calm them down:

Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today … The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still (Exodus 14:13-14).

The encouragement found in this verse is powerful! After I’d highlighted and bookmarked it in my phone, I kept reading: 

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on” (Exodus 14:15).

Move on? I had to stop and think for a minute, sort my confusion and read it again. I was so excited about Moses’ previous statements about being still that I didn’t go on to see it corrected by God in this verse. I needed to reconsider my highlighting.

Reading the Bible when I was younger, I remember noticing how often it encouraged us to “wait on the Lord” (Psalm 37:7, Isaiah 8:17 and Lamentations 3:24, etc.). Someone had once explained waiting on the Lord to me in a way so new that I’ve never forgotten it. He asked this question: “What do you call a person who takes your order at a restaurant?” A waiter. “What does a waiter do?” They serve you and wait on you. provides this definition:

wait on,

a. to perform the duties of an attendant or servant for

b. to supply the wants of a person

That definition challenged me to learn how to serve the Lord whenever I felt called to seasons of waiting — the word serve being filled with a meaning of action. 

In Acts 27:13-44, there’s a story of Paul being imprisoned and sent to Rome. The ship he is on is caught in a storm and is about to be shipwrecked. So Paul, the prisoner, begins to encourage his captors. He knows what God has told him will happen (that he will stand trial before Caesar in Rome), and he says:

So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island (Acts 27:25-26).

Paul was in a season of waiting for the “next thing” God had for him. How often do we feel we’re waiting on the next thing, sitting on our hands and growing impatient? Instead, Paul decided to be proactive. With amazing faith, he knew there were still practical things that needed to be done. He didn’t trust God and encourage others then sit there and wait as the ship sunk. He took the lead and initiative by suggesting something for the crewmen to do to reach safety.

Maybe right now you find yourself in a season of waiting, and you find comfort in verses like Exodus 14:13-14 and Acts 27:25, inspiring you to stand your ground and have no fear. But don’t forget to read what’s next, calling us to action and service.

Abundant life is not found simply in standing still and trying to convince ourselves to be patient when we’re doing absolutely nothing. The full life is experienced when we use any time we’re given to bring glory to God.

“Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” —Jim Elliot

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