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Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins.
Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look on us, we pray, for we are all your people.
In the opening verses of 1-3 we can sense that the prophet is longing for God to show up: “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down” (64:1). Then in verses 4-7 the longing for God shifts toward recognition that our sinfulness might be the culprit for the distance we have with God: “for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities” (64:7b). Yet verses 8-9 point to a hopefulness that our longing for God is not in vain: “remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people” (64:9). Longing for God is what Advent is about and perhaps Advent is exactly what we need.
Yesterday was Black Friday and Cyber Monday is coming up. Since people dislike waiting, most shoppers are happy that holiday sales keep getting earlier. A society of instant gratification means that we expect same-day delivery, instant rides from our smartphones and even instant dating opportunities using location based apps. But there is a price for immediate gratification and it’s the formation of impatient people. We are no longer able to wait.
One study recorded the habits of 6.7 million video streaming users over a period of years. How long were people willing to wait for a video to load before they started losing interest? Thirty seconds? Ten seconds? The answer: two seconds! We have lost the ability to wait. But learning to wait is one of the primary skills God desires for us.
With tomorrow being the first Sunday of Advent, I want to suggest this season of intentional waiting is a perfect context for leaders to grow in this discipline. In Advent we ponder the magnitude of “God in our skin” which results in a longing for the Eternal Son to take on our brokenness and lead us toward a renewed life. We learn to wait on God to come in this season of Advent as the prophet in Isaiah demonstrates in his prayerful cry to his faithful God.
So I’d like to suggest as we approach Advent that God wants us to grow in our ability to wait. I hope you’ll take the opportunity to ask God how he wants to shape you during Advent. I hope you’ll discover the longing within you for God to reveal himself in your every day life. Lastly, I hope God will use your life as proof to a doubtful world that he is a God worth waiting for.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Do you consider yourself someone who doesn’t like to wait? What is something you are longing for in your ministry, workplace or personal life?
How can you combat this need for immediate gratification in your sphere of influence? Do the longings of the people you lead direct them more towards God or cause them to feel distant from him?
Do you ever feel like God has “hidden his face” from the brokenness you see in the world or in your personal life? How does feeling distant from God affect your ability to lead?
Father, we are grateful for a purposeful season of waiting in Advent. Make us a more patient people as we grow in confidence that you are for us and that you have not abandoned us. Use us to bring healing to our fractured nation and world as we continually seek the reconciling power of Jesus. We long to see your goodness this Advent season; in our lives and in the lives of the people we lead. Give us the patience to wait on the Spirit to enlighten us and empower us. Amen.
P.S. from Mark D. Roberts – Sunday begins the Christian season of Advent. You may be familiar with Advent and glad for its convictions and practices. But if Advent is new to you, you might appreciate something I wrote for my blog: What is Advent? An Introduction to Advent. Also, I have written an Advent devotional guide for individuals, friends, and families: Advent Devotional Guide – Preparing for the Coming of Christ. Both of these resources are available without cost from my website. Have a blessed Advent!
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Work’s Ultimate Meaning (Isaiah 60ff.)
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