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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Waiting on the Lord




Waiting on the Lord

 

 

The Bible says “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”  (Psalm 37:7)  Waiting upon God is often necessary in order to feel His presence and to hear His voice.  Often we have to wait for the things we want the most and there are times when we will need to keep waiting and knocking and asking and seeking and fasting in order to receive what we are praying for.  God’s timing is not always our timing. 

 

Hannah was a Jewish woman who lived about 1,100 years B.C. and she prayed and waited on the Lord for many years before her prayer was answered..  Hannah was married to Elkanah, but Elkanah had another wife, Peninnah, as well as Hannah.  It was a common practice in ancient times for men to have multiple wives.  Over the years Peninnah gave birth to many children but year after year Hannah remained childless and barren.  Peninnah would make fun of Hannah because she could not become pregnant and Hannah would cry.  In ancient cultures a woman was something of an outcast if she was not able to bear children. 

 

Year after year Hannah prayed to God, crying out to Him for a child, but the years passed by and she remained barren into her middle age.  Once a year she would go with her husband and his other wife, Peninnah and their children to Shiloh to worship God and to sacrifice before Him.  And she would bring sacrifices to God and pray before Him at the altar. 

 

Finally one year when they went up to Shiloh to worship, Hannah spent an extra amount of time in prayer before the Lord.  When the high priest, Eli passed by, Hannah was bowing down before the altar and praying and crying before God.  Eli the priest thought that she was drunk and he asked her if she had been drinking.  But Hannah assured Eli that she was not drunk she was just crying and begging God for a child.  She had promised God that if He would give her a child she would give it back to Him.  After Eli, the priest listened to Hannah he said to her: “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him.”  (1 Samuel 1:17)   

 

Soon after that trip to the altar in Shiloh, Hannah finally became pregnant and she had a son and named him Samuel!  Hannah was so overjoyed and thankful that she sang jubilant praises to God and because God had answered her prayers and given her a baby, Hannah gave her baby back to God.  When Samuel was just a young child she took him to Shiloh and  gave him to Eli, the high priest so that he could learn to serve God.  Samuel stayed in the temple with Eli, the high priest and served and learned God’s Word.  In the end God gave Hannah and Elkanah more children and Samuel grew up to be a great man of God.  Samuel was used by God to prophesy and guide and bless the Jewish people.

 

  We can only wonder whether Hannah would have gotten pregnant and given birth to Samuel, if she had not pounded on the closed door of her childlessness and prayed and waited on the Lord for so many years!  There are blessings of the Kingdom that are only given when we do not give up!  When we wait on the Lord.    

 

One of the Bible’s most mysterious stories is told in Genesis 32:24-32.  It is the story of Jacob wrestling all night with an angel.  Jacob was traveling to meet his brother Esau and he was worried that Esau might try to kill him as he had threatened to do.  Jacob had wanted God’s blessings so badly that he had stolen them from his brother Esau many years earlier.  And then many years later he was about to meet Esau and his armies.  Jacob was alone in the evening praying to God for help when Scripture says that a Man appeared before him and wrestled with him all night.  When Jacob was winning the Man touched his hip and the socket of Jacob’s hip went out of joint.

 

 At dawn the Man (an angel) said to Jacob, “Let me go for the day breaks.”  And Jacob answered, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”  (Genesis 32:26b)  And the Man (angel) answered: “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”  (Genesis 32:28)  Jacob told everyone that he had wrestled with God and the prophet Hosea later wrote that Jacob wrestled with an angel.  This story holds many unexplained mysteries.   

 

Some Bible scholars believe that Jacob limped after he wrestled with God, because when we move out in God’s power we faced heavy persecutions.  Or perhaps God gave Jacob this painful hip that was out of joint for the same reason that Paul was given his thorn in the flesh.  Perhaps Jacob needed to be given something to help keep him humble since God blessed him with such special blessings.  St. Paul also had a physical problem – a thorn in his flesh -because God had given him visions and power to heal and do miracles and evangelize.  Both Jacob and Paul moved in the Spirit with more power and were given more blessings than most others.  It might have been easy for them to have become proud and use their God given power the wrong way if they had not also been given physical problems.  I don’t know! 

 

The name “Jacob” means “Supplanter” or “Deceiver”.  Jacob had supplanted his brother Esau and deceived his father Isaac in order to get God’s blessing.  And the name “Israel” means “Prince with God” or “He strives with God” or “May God Persevere”. In spite of his sins and his character weaknesses, God commends Jacob for being a fighter and not giving up and for wanting all that God had to give him.  So he is given a new name. Scripture says that all of God’s children will also receive a new name! 

 

Hosea sees Jacob as a model to be emulated whenever one is facing difficulty, or asking for a needed blessing.  (Hosea 12:2-6)  For some blessings we may want, God may choose to make us part of the process by encouraging us to contend and ask and wrestle in prayer for what we need.  Very occasionally the Holy Spirit may urge us to wrestle in prayer and contend for the blessing.

 

God was pleased that Jacob wanted more of God in his life – more of His power and more of His will in his life and more of His blessings.  And God was pleased that Jacob wanted to walk in His ways and obey His commandments.  And God will be pleased if we want more of Him and want to walk in more of His ways too. 

 

Sometimes we don’t know how to pray.  But hopefully we want what God wants for us.  But Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit is a great Helper when we prayer.  “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for.  But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”  (Romans 8:26)

 

 In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught us to pray: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  (Matthew 6:10)  Christians in humility are to lay themselves and their prayers at the feet of God to be taken care of as He in His love and wisdom sees best.  We pray “in His will” or submit to God’s will, remembering that God loves us and He is all merciful.  We can trust God to do what is best.

 

Constantly coming to God with our prayers and not giving up keeps our focus on Him.  Jacob and Hannah both contended and wrestled with God over a long period of time and God was pleased with each of them and blessed them.  Their prayers were answered and they were blessed.  Jesus invites us to do the same when He gives us the parable in Luke 18:1-5.  Persistent prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but it is laying hold of His willingness. 

 

 

 

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