The Expository Files

For What Am I Waiting?
(Psalm 39)

Waiting is part of life. Some businesses have thrived on reducing wait time. That is the purpose behind drive through lanes at the bank and at fast food restaurants. That is why there are so many checkout lanes at the grocery store. But, inevitably, we still find ourselves waiting in lines and waiting rooms. Waiting is sometimes necessary: The farmer waits for his crops to mature. The batter waits for his pitch. The runner waits for the starting pistol.

But waiting is sometimes dangerous. Many illnesses can be treated if caught soon enough. A person who is flailing about in the water is not interested in being asked to "wait a minute" before being tossed a rope. Spiritual minded people would think of the danger of waiting to obey the gospel or teaching the lost about Jesus.

Why do so many wait to make things right with God? Why not follow Him today? Why put off things we know need doing? Many times we fail to act because spiritually we are unprepared; we are too distant from God. But such neglect is a dangerous thing; the opportunities to save ourselves and others slip away (1 Timothy 4:15,16).

Consider the Psalmist David who, because of his own sin and estrangement from God, for a time could no longer speak for the Lord (he was ashamed to teach righteousness when he himself had been so negligent). Listen to him: "And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You." (Psalm 39:7). That is a good question. When it comes to being what the Lord wants me to be, then what am I waiting for? Consider the thirty-ninth Psalm.

Waiting to Speak

I said, "I will guard my ways
That I may not sin with my tongue;
I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle
While the wicked are in my presence."
I was mute and silent, I refrained even from good,
And my sorrow grew worse.
My heart was hot within me,
While I was musing the fire burned;
Then I spoke with my tongue:
(Psalm 39:1-3).

Sin and neglect makes it awkward for us to communicate any spiritual truth to others. We are commanded to tell others of Jesus; to encourage obedience to His gospel and to teach against sin. We are told to have the proper spirit and attitude as we do so (Ephesians 5:11; Titus 3:8; Galatians 6:1,2). But we cannot help others see their need to repent of wrong if we refuse to do so ourselves (Matthew 7:1-5).

The Psalmist also tells us that to continue in neglect and sin only makes matters worse (vs. 2). The Psalmist David's "sorrow" and inner "pain" grew worse. His sin had many bad effects, both temporal as well as spiritual (Romans 7:24; 1 Timothy 6:9,10). David saw clearly opportunities and the need to speak (vs. 3). He was so eager to speak to the need of the moment (like Jeremiah; Jeremiah 20:9). God expects you to be prepared to obey Him and speak His will as well (Acts 4:19,20). "And now Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in Thee".

Time Does Not Wait For Us To Act

LORD, make me to know my end
And what is the extent of my days;
Let me know how transient I am.
Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths,
And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight;
Surely every man at his best is a mere breath.
Surely every man walks about as a phantom;
Surely they make an uproar for nothing;
He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them.
(Psalm 39:4-6)

Life goes on. It would be nice if we could call "timeout" and life would just stop while we attended to our business, and then when we were ready to take care of the Lord's business; we could start the clock up again. Like Jesus, we need to be "about our Father's business" (Luke 2:49; cf. Ecclesiastes 12:13,14; Joshua 24:14-15).

It is possible to wait too long. There is not always tomorrow. Paul was brought before the governor Festus and King Agrippa. Festus never seemed to be all that close to heeding the gospel, but Paul's preaching "almost persuaded" Agrippa to become a Christian. But think: how much better off in eternity is Agrippa than Festus? He is no better off! Being "close" to acting is not enough (Acts 26:24-29).

The Scripture often warns against assuming that "there is always a tomorrow" (Luke 12:19-21; James 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3).

Hopelessly Waiting

And now, Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in You.
(Psalm 39:7)

Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry;
Do not be silent at my tears;
For I am a stranger with You,
A sojourner like all my fathers.
Turn Your gaze away from me, that I may smile again
Before I depart and am no more.
(Psalm 39:12-13).

The time to prepare is now. A day without the Lord is a day without hope. (Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:12; Hebrews 3:12,13). There is no good reason to end this day without God. The Bible encourages speedy action on those who know what the right thing to do is. Today is the day to make preparation and take action (Hebrews 4:6-7; 2 Corinthians 6:1-3 ). David said; "For I am a stranger with You" (vs. 12). Don't allow the Lord to become a stranger to you! (Matthew 7:21-23).

Pain and sorrow is not always a bad thing. It woke David up as to his soul's true needs. It caused him to ask, "And now Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in Thee."

It would have been foolish for David to have waited further. It would have been wasteful and could have had made tragic circumstances even worse.

Deliver me from all my transgressions;
Make me not the reproach of the foolish.
I have become mute, I do not open my mouth,
Because it is You who have done it.
Remove Your plague from me;
Because of the opposition of Your hand I am perishing.
(Psalm 39:8-10).

Like David's, our hope is also in the Lord. Like David, it is foolish for us to wait as well. There is too much at stake. It cannot be worth it. The consequences for neglect are too steep; and the reward for seeking God in righteousness are too wondrous. Our hope is in the Lord.

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 11.4, April, 2004