Waiting on God
The psalmist begins with an acute awareness of the sins of Israel. Is there such a thing as corporate guilt? In the West, sin is usually considered the fault of an individual.
Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD;
Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.
After a botched investigation into the murder of a young, black man called Stephen Lawrence in London in 1993, the British government ordered an inquiry. The findings were groundbreaking. It labelled London’s Metropolitan Police as institutionally racist, as if the whole organisation was guilty.
When I was teaching in Kenya one of my students confronted me, asking me why my fathers had oppressed her fathers. I was teaching in Kikuyu country, where the Mau Mau had been most active. Her classmates immediately defended me, saying it was not my doing, which in many senses is true, but I have come to understand my student more.
The British Empire was exploitative as well as bringing progress, law, roads and industry. One of my ancestors was a ship’s captain involved in stopping the slave trade, but surely some of my forefathers benefited from it. There can be corporate shame.
The world looks on in horror as they see white American policemen killing black American men. It is shameful and it is evil. Black lives matter.
Before God, nations have responsibility for their actions and they can ask for forgiveness, for example Germany for the Nazi atrocities. They can look for reconciliation, as South Africa did after the fall of Apartheid or they can rewrite history for the school curriculum to show a different national story to the truth.
History is full of examples of man's inhumanity towards man
- think of the Tasmanian Aboriginals, Jews, Armenians, the Tutsi, the Rohingya to name a few of the ethnic groups who have been systematically killed.
The blood of Abel cried out from the earth, even though Cain tried to bury the sound, and God cursed the land. Without national repentance, the blood still cries out to God and the land is still cursed.
To my non-black sister or brother
This is not a call to feel weighed down by guilt or shame. We can recognise what part our ancestors played in the injustices in the world and recognise if this has bestowed on us an unlooked-for privilege. This may be humbling, but it shouldn't be overwhelming.
This is a call to repentance
The psalmist recognises the sins of Israel but he also knows that in the Lord there is forgiveness and redemption. So he waits for God.
Waiting for God
To us this sounds so unproductive.
When I have to visit the bank in Turkey, I have to wait hours. What a waste of time! It is so boring, but the psalmist is not talking about waiting passively.
He consciously puts his hope in God’s word.
His whole being waits.
He waits for the Lord more than the watchmen waits for the morning.
Have you ever been working on the night shift longing to go home to sleep?
Have you ever been clock-watching at the end of an exam?
Have you ever waited in a hide to photograph a rare animal or maybe to shoot one?
Concentrating. Focused. Actively looking. Waiting.
In the early days of the Pentecostal movement churches would hold tarrying meetings where they would call out to be filled with the Holy Spirit. These have fallen out of favour, as we realise that we receive by faith, and we don't need to plead with the Lord for him to fill us with the Holy Spirit or to tarry for hours. But, maybe as a church, we have lost something. Scripture calls us to wait on the Lord.
As we wait, we learn patience.
As we wait, we put our hope in His word.
As we wait, we remember God's forgiveness,
we feel His love and we see His redemption.
As we wait, we learn to trust Him again.
He strengthens our hearts,
He changes us.
There are other verses that call on us to wait on the Lord.
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait on the lord; Be of good courage and he will strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!
Psalm 27 v 13-14 NKJV
To my black brother or sister
If you have lost heart, it is understandable. David says that if he hadn't believed that he would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, that he would have lost heart.
But if you wait on the Lord, you are demonstrating your trust, and He will strengthen your heart, and help you to forgive.
This is a call to wait on the Lord
If we wait in expectant hope, we will not be waiting in vain. God is our heavenly father. He always listens to us. He always has time for us. He wants to spend time with us and give us things that are good for us. We wait in faith.
This is a call for faith and trust
As Jesus said
Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion?
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
Luke 11 v 11-13
This is a call to prayer
It seems that there is so little that I can do about world events,
but I can fast and pray and wait on the Lord - not in a passive, resigned way,
but in an active way, where my whole being waits.
This is urgent, because there are whole communities who need to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
I can pray for your heart to strengthened.
Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, over 50 years ago.
Yet only recently George Floyd was killed by a policeman in Minneapolis, USA.
How long must we wait, O Lord?
Taize – Our soul is waiting
The Taize community in France was founded in 1940 and has been inspiring meditative worship for decades. It was founded by Brother Roger and welcomes both Roman Catholic and Protestant monks. Although Brother Roger was tragically stabbed to death during mass by someone with a mental health illness, the community still practises Christian forgiveness.