Getting Ready While We Wait

A meditation by Michael Pahl on the Second Sunday of Advent, December 8, 2019, called “Getting Ready While We Wait.”

Here is a written excerpt from the introduction:

“How long, O Lord?”

It’s a common refrain in the Bible, found nearly twenty times from the Psalms to Revelation.

“O Lord, how long?”

It’s a common refrain in the Bible, because it’s a common experience of God’s people: stuck in a time of waiting, in a space of discomfort or pain or sorrow, longing for peace and joy and life, feeling as if God is ignoring us, as if God has abandoned us.

These are the Advent seasons of life: waiting for God to come, yearning for God’s salvation, longing for God’s deliverance.

“How long, O Lord?”

We might tend to think of this as the cry of an individual person in their individual circumstances. There are a few of these in the Bible, like David in Psalm 13. But most of these cries of “How long?” arise out of the collective experience of God’s people.

There’s Psalm 94, for example:

O Lord, how long shall the wicked,
how long shall the wicked exult?
They pour out their arrogant words;
all the evildoers boast.
They crush your people, O Lord,
and afflict your heritage.
They kill the widow and the stranger,
they murder the orphan,
and they say, “The Lord does not see;
the God of Jacob does not perceive.” (Ps 94:3-7)

Or there’s the Prophet Habakkuk’s opening complaint:

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrongdoing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous—
therefore judgment comes forth perverted. (Hab 1:2-4)

We can understand these feelings, can’t we? We, too, look around our world and see the migrant child being left to die, the evildoer boasting, violence rising around us like the rising seas, justice being perverted, and the wicked exulting over it all. We cry out to God, but God does not seem to be listening. God does not even seem to see the evil we see, being committed in plain view.

“O Lord, how long?”

Nearly twenty times in the Bible, both Old and New Testament, this cry goes up from God’s people: “How long, O Lord? How long must we wait for justice, for peace, for salvation from our oppressors and vindication of our just cause?”

God, what are you waiting for?

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