Waiting Through the Psalms | David's example of faithfulness
“You’re where!?” a choir of voices demand, echoing through the busy airport. Such is the sound of weary travelers settling into the abiding practice of waiting. In a surrender of control, waiting is an orienting responsibility that takes our needs and desires and places them into the hands of someone else. It's a humbling experience, leaving us only to choose whether we will wait poorly or wait well.
As Christians, how we wait is a regular spiritual decision. Like our biblical ancestors, when and how we want God to act often finds itself in contrast to when and how God actually does. Waiting then becomes a part of our spiritual formation (our growing in trust). The Bible's authors called it "waiting on the Lord," a discipline of which one figure in particular, David, was a veteran. In this month's post, we'll take a look at David's formula for faithful waiting as depicted in July's Scripture focus, Psalms 37-40.
How to Use
Our hope in Children and Families Ministries is to provide resources that support families as you follow God's call to teach, care for, and disciple your children. One of the ways we aim to do this is by offering supplemental material to the Sunday morning sermons. Our encouragement for parents is to read the commentary after each Sunday, and then pick one or two meals a week to talk about questions and pray about it.
- Section 1 - Psalm 37
- Section 2 - Psalm 38
- Section 3 - Psalm 39
- Section 4 - Psalm 40
- Gospel Impact
- Family Application
- Closing Questions
- Family Prayer
Section 1 - Psalm 37
Adopting a Faithful Posture
Our Christian growth has a lot to do with attitude. When we come before the Lord, the posture and condition of our hearts is so vital. Therefore, humble Christians will often pray, "Lord, I need your help. I can't do it on my own." This kind of prayer reminds us of our ever-present need for God's power. In Psalm 37, David commends the wisdom of a discipline called "waiting on the Lord." In the process, he describes a characteristic of those who faithfully wait as "meek.” Sadly, oftentimes when people hear this term they mistake it for timidity, weakness, or even cowardice. But this is not its meaning. When David says, “blessed are the meek,”1 he is referring to those people who thoughtfully recognize their weakness and look to God for strength—it’s about humility. Waiting on the Lord requires we recognize our own limitations and trust in the Lord to make up for them.
We must be meek.
Reflecting on God’s Promises
Once we have adopted an appropriate spiritual posture, the next step David demonstrates is to reflect on the goodness of God and His promises. For us, this primarily means spending time in God's Word studying it attentively. In Psalm 37, David teaches us that the righteous man finds security in the Lord, a principle which he contrasts against the fate of the wicked who wind up broken and cut-off from God. Even when the wicked try to harm the righteous, the Lord is the righteous man’s stronghold (a safe place), rescuing him from his enemies.
Consider marking Psalm 37 in your Bible; when you are discouraged, turn to it and be reminded of God's goodness towards His people.
- Why is it important to understand our own weaknesses and limitations?
- Why can we trust God with our difficulties?
Section 2 - Psalm 38
Trusting Amid Trouble
The idea of “waiting on the Lord” might cause us to imagine fields of angelic crowds all waiting in tender peace for the sky to part and the Lord of Glory to descend. Admittedly, it's a lot easier to endure periods of waiting when they coincide with our quiet, peaceful moments. But what about the other 90% of our lives? In Psalm 38, David reports that he is suffering under the burden of sin and the Lord’s indignation over it (God's anger). David's sin has made him weak even to the point of sickness. And to make matters worse, his own friends are avoiding him just as his enemies are closing in. Sufficed to say, David's circumstances seem discouraging and bleak.
Like David, our lives too can be trouble filled. Sometimes our suffering comes from the outside—from Satan and the world—but frequently it comes according to our own sin. The times during which we experience the consequences of sin and evil are the times when a meek spirit like David’s should shine through. In response to his dire situation, David becomes “like a deaf man…a mute man,” one who does not hear the taunts of his enemies nor speaks a rebuke in return. Instead, David repents of his sin and chooses to trust wholly in the Lord, declaring, “but for you, O Lord, do I wait; it is you, O Lord, who shall answer.”
Waiting on the Lord isn’t always easy. Sometimes our most important waiting happens when everything around us feels upside-down. With David as our example, we can appeal to a spirit of meekness, trusting in the Lord for deliverance from trouble including our own sin.
- What does it look like to wait on the Lord when we are in trouble?
- How does David exhibit meekness?
Section 3 - Psalm 39
Staying the Course
Psalm 39 offers us a unique perspective into the heart and mind of David as he struggles with aspects of his existence. David seems frustrated and bewildered by the brief nature of life, the vanity of man, and the Lord’s enduring correction for sin. The guiding question of the chapter is, ‘why does God so consistently discipline such small, finite creatures like us?’ Just as Job before him,2 David is wearied by the Lord’s correction to the point of being consumed. But David’s wonderings are not born of conceit or disregard for the goodness of God’s reproof, but of continued loyalty3 and faith.4 David seeks to know the “measure of his days,” yet makes it clear he understands himself to be nothing but a breath. It seems David simply wants to understand God's lessons for this life better.5
Finally, amid his confusion and the weight of God's discipline, David says, “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?” Meaning, David has thought it over, he has considered the brevity and vanity of life and arrived at the climatic question, 'what should I hope for? for what am I waiting?' To which he himself confidently responds, “my hope is in You [Lord].”
Sometimes we encounter things in this life that just do not make sense to us. We might even feel the discouragement of sin on account of the very faith that has set us free. David shows us that, no matter what form of difficulty we experience—even divine correction—we should remain intent on waiting on the Lord and trusting His goodness.
- When we are feeling discouraged under God's correction for sin, why should we run even harder towards God?
- What is our ultimate hope for this life and the next?
Section 4 - Psalm 40
The very first words from David in Psalm 40 are, “I waited for the Lord.” What follows is an 11 verse anthem of praise for the ways in which the Lord has responded with grace and mercy towards David, explaining how the Lord has pulled him from the pit, set him securely upon a rock, and placed a new song of thanksgiving in his mouth. So multiplied are the Lord’s wondrous deeds toward David that he cannot keep from proclaiming them in the “great congregation."
David’s primary response to God’s faithfulness is worship. He is experiencing the promises of Psalm 37 fulfilled in his life, and all he can do is recognize God as the source of his deliverance and proclaim His glory to the masses. This is the proper response—the culmination of our waiting—to see God for who He is, to acknowledge Him as worthy of our praise, and to give it.
Waiting on the Lord is an act of faithful expectation. Time and time again the Lord has shown Himself to be faithful, both in Scripture and our lives. In our waiting, we should avoid asking, “will God be faithful?” and instead consider, “what will we do when He is.”
Not the End
Unfortunately, before Psalm 40 is complete, trouble has returned to the house of David.6 Trouble always returns, doesn’t it? It's one of the guarantees of this life. But David’s memory is long, and he knows what to do. After lamenting his plight, he turns again in verses 16-17 and says:
But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, ‘great is the Lord!’ As for me I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God.
Our waiting on the Lord is a lifelong practice. Each summit He carries us over is met with a valley in which we must trust Him. However, one does not ascend to the level of patient faith that David displays overnight. The ability to endure the hardships that each Christian faces is cultivated through daily perseverance in trusting and waiting on the Lord. Because of God’s Word, we can be confident that He will never abandon His people, and that any single moment spent waiting on Him is never wasted.
May we all grow more comfortable praying, “help me, O Lord, for I am poor and in need.”
Our position as humans is subordinate to God; He towers over us in a way of an infinite distinction. As Christians, we recognize God as being beyond us, perfect in holiness and power. On the other hand, we know ourselves to be rebellious and sinful. But where this distinction is infinite, so is the quality of Christ’s sacrifice. In the fullness of Christ's revelation, we understand the majesty and transcendence of God alongside His intimacy and nearness to us. For this reason, we can expectantly wait for Him. Because not only is He the only One who can save us, but He also cares for us deeply. On our end, we are to be growing in meekness and waiting on the Lord for all our needs, including our salvation.
For children especially, waiting and enduring hardship can be difficult and confusing. Consider covering these questions with your family as part of your study of Psalms 37-40.
- Based on David’s example, what does “waiting well” look like and what does it not look like?
- Is there anything redemptive about the act of waiting itself? How can the act of waiting grow us closer to God?
- What should we do when we feel like we’ve been waiting a long time, but God doesn’t respond?
This month consider praying with your family about biblical waiting.
Here is a simple prayer to get you started.
Your Word and our lives reveal your faithfulness. Thank you for teaching us to wait well and for using waiting to bring us closer to You. Teach us to wait humbly with trusting, expectant hearts, and keep us from grumbling when the waiting is long. Continually make us more like your Son Jesus, who always trusted you perfectly.
1Cross Reference: Mt. 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
2Job 10:20, “Are not my days few? Then cease, and leave me alone, that I may find a little cheer;” Job 7:16-17, “I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are a breath. What is man, that you make so much of him, and that you set your heart on him?”
3Ps. 39:1, “I said, ‘I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence.’”
4Ps. 39:7, “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.”
5Ps. 39:4, “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!”
6Ps. 40:12-15, “For evils have encompassed me beyond number… Let those be appalled because of their shame who say to me, ‘Aha, Aha!’”
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