Jeremy Sarber / The Bible Readers Podcast

For they that wait on the Lord will inherit his amazing promises

The Assyrian threat is real. The armies of the world’s greatest superpower could march over the horizon any day now. You and your neighbors could soon be trapped within the city walls. Even if it takes your enemy months to break through the stone, you won’t have enough food or water to survive the siege. If the Assyrians come, the end of your days will be inevitable.

“Do not panic,” says your king. “I have a plan. We will send word to Egypt, pleading for their help. Surely, they will come to our rescue.” You and the people rejoice.

“No!” shouts a prophet from the back of the crowd. “You will not turn to the wicked Egyptians for salvation. You will wait on the Lord.”

“Wait?” the king asks. “Wait for what? Our suffering? Our destruction? Should we sit on our hands as the Assyrians prepare to enslave and kill us?”

“Wait on the Lord!” the prophet repeats. “Thus says the Lord God: ‘With their faces to the ground [kings and queens] shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame’” (Isa 49:23).

The king laughs audibly at the notion and says, “You have gone mad if you think the Assyrian Empire will bow down to us. We will seek Egypt’s help and be saved.”

Egypt, however, never comes. Despite their promises, it was never in their best interest to voluntarily engage the Assyrians in conflict. God’s prophet warned you, but you did not listen. You chose to take matters into your own hands rather than wait on the Lord. Your patience failed you and fear prevailed. In the end, your city was utterly destroyed and its people were taken captive.

Battling impatience

Impatience is a sin because it is a form of unbelief. It is a denial of God’s wisdom and sovereignty. Impatience is what we feel when we doubt his providential timing and guidance.

The fruit of impatience is often a temptation to quit. When our plans are slowed or seemingly ruined, we throw up our hands and say, “Forget it then. It’s not worth it.” We may also be tempted to make rash decisions in a desperate effort to make the plan work anyhow. Regardless, we need to recognize the spiritual battle at hand. Impatience is not a meaningless, ordinary human flaw; it is a sin of unbelief which can have grave consequences.

The book of Romans says, “[God] will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (Ro 2:7). Hebrews says:

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:11-12)

Whether we battle with impatience in trivial moments such as heavy traffic on our way to work or much more significant circumstances of life such as physical disabilities, we are in the midst of serious spiritual warfare and our greatest weapon, our only offensive weapon, is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17).

The psalmist writes, “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope” (Ps 130:5). He doesn’t quit or attempt to force the pace to change. He does not despair nor does he allow himself to become impetuous. Instead, he patiently waits for the Lord by trusting his word.

The shame of impatience

When Israel was threatened by the Assyrians, they refused to wait. They did not trust God and his promises because danger seemed too imminent. If we don’t act now, they thought, in a way that seems best to us, we will surely die. “No,” said the Lord, “wait for me, and I will save you. Be patient, and I will protect you according to my timing and plan.” But they did not listen.

Isaiah reports what happened:

“Ah, stubborn children,” declares the Lord,
“who carry out a plan, but not mine,
and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit,
that they may add sin to sin;
who set out to go down to Egypt,
without asking for my direction,
to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh
and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!
Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame,
and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation.
For though his officials are at Zoan
and his envoys reach Hanes,
everyone comes to shame
through a people that cannot profit them,
that brings neither help nor profit,
but shame and disgrace.” (Isaiah 30:1-5)

What should Israel have done? Better yet, what should we do when obstacles pile up and frustration comes? How should we respond to the frequent temptations of impatience?

Isaiah answers, “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength’” (Isa 30:15). Then, he adds, “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him” (Isa 30:18).

Wait on the Lord

We all have hopes, dreams, goals, and ambitions, but we can’t stop the Assyrians from marching into our lives. No one wants tragedy to strike or circumstances that will ruin our expectations, but we don’t have the power to ordain our place or pace. Only by trusting in our sovereign God can we avoid impatience. We must believe with all of our heart that he is working for the good of his people no matter where he leads or what pace he sets.

I encourage you to be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb 6:12). Even when the Assyrian army stood ready to invade the city of Jerusalem, taunting them from outside its walls, unlike the Israelites to the north, King Hezekiah sought the Lord’s guidance. He would not make a move without waiting for the Lord, and God eventually responded, “I will defend this city to save it” (2Ki 19:34).

And that night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh. And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat. (2 Kings 19:35-37)

“Pray without ceasing” (1Th 5:17). “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk [of the word], that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1Pe 2:2). Trust the promise of God when he says, “All things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Ro 8:28).

Defeat the sin of unbelief by overcoming your impatience through prayer, Bible study, and daily reminders that God will bless those who wait for him.