Waiting (Psalm 40)

Homily – Sunday, the 15th January 2023

Reading: Psalm 40:1-3

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.

Psalm 40:1-3

Introduction

Have you ever asked “How long will I have to wait like this further”.

Waiting can sometimes be much more difficult than we think it is.

We know waiting can be of different types- finite waiting and uncertain waiting, unexplained waiting and explained waiting, unfair waiting and legitimate waiting, waiting alone and waiting with someone, waiting with time occupied and waiting in vacuum. (David Maister)

I once asked a hotelier friend of mine- why do you have mirrors in the elevator. She said- it keeps the customer occupied as they wait to reach the top level floors- they enjoy looking at themselves.

A question often asked is- Is there anything more agonising than having to wait for something important, uncertain how long the wait would be?

A friend of mine was waiting for a biopsy result and for some reason it took more time than was expected. Sitting in a far away country I could hear those heart-beats of anxiety.

Does faith play a part in waiting- specially waiting in tough patches?

We trust God by waiting for hopeful   waiting requires lot of faith. Faith that God is in control even when the journey is turbulent. Faith that the journey in tears cannot last long. Faith that is intrinsically twined with Love and Hope.

Waiting is a thus a faith matter too.

The Context of Psalm 40

Patterns of life the saints of yonder have gone through, what their experiences were and how they journeyed through troubled waters always set a model for future generations to respond to similar crises situations in life.

Ps. 40 v.1-5 could depict any of the lean patches in life of David. Most scholars think that the occasion could have been his restoration to his throne after the usurpation of Absalom with his aids and abetters.

As David was fleeing he told Zadok the priest to take the Arc of the Covenant back to the city- I will wait at the fords in the wilderness until word comes from you to inform me.”(2 Samuel 15:28). His contention was clear If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. (2 Samuel 15:25). About that journey in verse 30 we read But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up. Absalom decided to pursue David and destroy him. Jonathan his son narrowly escaped because a woman of Bahurim hid them in a well. Absalom even publicly took his father’s concubines who were left to take care of the palace- adding further injury to the insult.

David mustered his army in exile and when Absalom arrived sent his commanders but with a gentle reminder- “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” (18:5). Over 20000 men were killed. As David’s men saw Absalom he fled but his hair got caught in a tree and was left hanging. People who found him informed Joab that David asked them to be kind. Joab said, “I’m not going to wait like this for you.” So he took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom’s heart while Absalom was still alive in the oak tree.

When the messengers brought the news of victory to David his question was- Is the young man Absalom alive? When he learned he was not he ran into the room and cried- “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”(18:33)

The story goes on but the waiting in those tough times was not easy- when your own son usurps and when you wage a war against your own son.

That could be emotionally traumatic adding the pain to the waiting

Waiting and Waiting

The Psalmist says I waited and waited

Hebrew repeats the word- In waiting I waited

That could mean I waited patiently- not impatiently but with hope. When he went through the tough patch in life David wanted to believe in his heart that the set back was temporary and that he would be able to return to normalcy soon.

When the Pandemic affected our lives we did sing that we will wait in hope for a new normal to come soon.

In waiting for Godot the reality of waiting is beautifully depicted by Samuel Becket

“Let’s go.” “We can’t.” “Why not?” “We’re waiting for Godot.” (Samuel Becket)

“Was I sleeping, while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now? Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today? That with Estragon my friend, at this place, until the fall of night, I waited for Godot?”

Days spent only in waiting was a picture of the world shattered by the World War.

Patience could be a fruit of the Spirit but could be for someone else- not for me- we complain.

Waiting is a hard reality of life several people live with

Waiting asking the question- will this waiting ever end?

Waiting and Waiting.

The five aspects of waiting (as per Elina and Nathalia) are Patience, Purpose, Process, Preparation and Promise

Waiting and the Inclining of God

It was in the waiting that the Psalmist experience the Lord as a shepherd bending over to lift a lamb in the gutter.

Imagine the shadow coming nearer and getting larger

Imagine the shepherd’s staff reaching out

Imagine the shepherd holding you close to the bosom

Imagine the shepherd whispering- the gutter was the safest place where I could hide you.

That image of the reaching out hand of the shepherd is an eternal image.

In God’s appropriate time God would intervene. Many a times we do not have an answer to the question Why? But even in tough timeswe must rest assured that in the right time God would lean over and be near.

Waiting and the hearing of our cries

The Crying King is a painful image. The people who decided to stick close to him were crying too.

Imagine the king realising his own son is rebelling

His own son is plotting against him

His own son is the reason of his fleeing

His own son is leading a charge to destroy him

Imagine a king in war sending word- be kind to him

Imagine David living in temporary camps and fleeing hearing news of the pursuit

Imagine hearing about the life threat to Jonathan

Imagine hearing the news that his son is pursuing and is in sight

Imagine waging a war with the plea- be kind to him

Imagine having to hear of the death of his own son

Not easy

But the consolation is that through it all he knew that the Lord was listening to his cries

He knew that before the Lord Tear Drops Will Not Go in Waste

Silver lines are for some people the balance sheet of the tryst with tears

Why do people cry?

There could be several reasons including Pain, Hurt, Disappointment, Loss, Loneliness, Unworthiness, Inability to Cope- Stress,

Crying processes our emotions and vents out our feelings of helplessness

In those moments of helplessness it is truly strengthening and comforting to be able to trust in God who hears our cries.

Bishop AnanthaRao Samuel was my tutor in Seminary. He always used to tell us- Remember the pews are full of people in tears- you just do not see them. Unless you attend to those tears pastoral ministry is incomplete. Some of you would have read the story of the Bishop. He lost his beloved wife burnt before him as the car was set ablaze. He lived through injuries for some time and then decided to be mentor to ministers.

Yes People Are Crying- Not far away in war zones

But in and around us

It could be one of us

It could be me and the message is God hears our cries.

Waiting and the drawing up from desolate pit and miry bog

This King’s Pit is an experience several people go through

The Pain About Your Children rebelling or acting in strange ways you would never ever have imagined

In “Spare” a younger son wrote about his encounter with the elder one, “he grabbed me by the collar, ripping my necklace, and he knocked me to the floor. I landed on the dog’s bowl, which cracked under my back, the pieces cutting into me. I lay there for a moment, dazed, then got to my feet and told him to get out,”

It’s the emotional trauma for parents that cannot be explained in words.

Mire is deep, soft mud in water or slush, like wet loam or potter’s clay. Literally it is muddy clay.
David wants to convey the idea of being desperately trapped in abysmally dark circumstances

The same situation depicted in Psalm 69:2 Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me” 

The situation could what Saul brought in pursuing him or the episode of Absalom and what his own sinfulness brought in with the encounter with Uriah but David had learnt to cry out

“Rescue me from the miry mud; don’t let me sink. Let me be rescued from those who hate me and from the deep water”(Psalm 69:14)

Have we experienced a miry hog

Or our carol night roads- feeling unstable, unsafe

Whatever be the miry hogs the promise is the Lord is able to lift us up.

Just wait in faith.

Waiting and setting the foot on a rock and making steps secure

From whatever situation he was in the Lord delivers him by pulling him up out of his horrible ordeal. God sets David’s feet on a solid, secure rock and establishes his steps.

The MSG translation reads
I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip.

The Voice version reads

He reached down and drew me from the deep, dark hole where I was stranded, mired in the muck and clay. With a gentle hand, He pulled me out To set me down safely on a warm rock; He held me until I was steady enough to continue the journey again.

Imagine that moment when you think you are almost done trying and begin giving up the fight against the mud suddenly your feet feels a rock. A rock wherein you find a footing. A hay string for the drowning one. One foot first, then another and then to your utter joy realising it is a solid rock under your feet now.

The hopelessness suddenly turns into a new hope. You realise that the Lord has made your steps secure now.

This is the transformation that the Lord can bring in when we do not give up our faith or lose hope.

Waiting for a new song of praise in our mouth

He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God.

On Friday night at the meeting of the Wise Ones we had eight people reflecting on graceful aging and how they would envisage their days a few years from now.

I was reminded of Robert Browning

“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!”

The beauty of waiting for the beyond trusting what is coming would be good and beautiful is what makes waiting worth the wait. New songs are born out of experience and we should sing such new songs each day

Vinod Victor

January 15, 2022

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