She first met Jim in college, but after graduation she moved to Ecuador. A year after moving to Ecuador, she again met Jim. In 1953, the two would marry and continue missionary work to the Indians of Ecuador. Her husband had always hoped to have an opportunity to serve in a territory of an unreached tribe. The Aucas were an unreached tribe – a fierce group whom no one had succeeded meeting without being killed. After discovering the tribe’s whereabouts, Jim and four other missionaries entered Auca territory. It was first a friendly encounter with three of the tribe before Jim and his four co-workers were speared to death. It was January 1956.
Jim’s wife and 10-month-old daughter would, upon Jim’s death, stay in Ecuador serving and reaching people. In what can only be described as God’s remarkable providence, Jim’s wife would meet two Auca women. These two women would live with her and her daughter for one year. In this one year, the two Auca women would teach her their tribe’s language. This encounter and this one year would be the key to reaching the Auca tribe as Jim had hoped and prayed. Now listen to this; after this one year, Jim’s wife and now three-year-old daughter would set out to meet the Auca tribe; the same tribe that had killed this father and husband. Jim’s wife and daughter would successfully meet the tribe and live with them for two years as God’s servants.
Jim’s wife was Elisabeth Elliot. In 1988, she began hosting a twelve-minute radio program called Gateway to Joy. It would air for thirteen years. Listen to Elisabeth Elliot. “I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His [God] letting us have our way in the end, but by making us wait.” Did you hear what she said? The deepest spiritual lessons are learned by God making us wait. Do not miss her testimony. Deep spiritual lessons are not learned through the waiting, but rather deep spiritual lessons are learned when God makes us wait.
The Active Wait of God
What does that mean? What does it mean that God makes us wait? It could mean that it is like going to Chipotle when it is buy one burrito and get the second burrito for free. The line on this evening will encompass all four walls of the restaurant’s interior. And you will wait. Or it could mean it is like going to Chipotle on any other random night, when there is no special incentive to go to Chipotle, and the line is not encompassing all four walls of the restaurant’s interior, but you still have to wait…as if the line is encompassing the entire building. When God makes us wait it is not because the waiting is unavoidable like it is special burrito night. When God makes us wait it is because the waiting is intentional. It is intentional in what God is seeking to accomplish. I want to call this the active wait of God.
This kind of waiting is in Genesis, in the historical account of the global flood. This kind of waiting is at the beginning of this account and it is at the conclusion of this account. In Genesis 7:1, God commands Noah to “Go into the ark, you and all your household.” Now notice Genesis 7:4. “For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights.” Notice what is reiterated then in Genesis 7:6-10. Listen to verse seven. “And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood.” Now listen to verse ten. “And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth.” This family entered the ark seven days before the waters of the flood came upon the earth. What did this family do for seven days? They waited; God made them wait.
Now look at Genesis 8:13-14, but before you do, note when the waters of the flood came upon the earth. It is Genesis 7:11. “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of heaven opened. And rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights.” The waters of the flood came in the second month and on the seventeenth day of the month of the six hundredth year of Noah’s life.
Now listen to Genesis 8:13. “In the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry.” Since Genesis 7:11, notice how much time has passed. It has been ten months and about fourteen days since Genesis 7:11. Noah and his family have spent about 319 days in the ark. And doing what? Waiting. But then there is verse fourteen. “In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out.” Since Genesis 8:13, notice how much time has passed. It has been one month and twenty-six days, or approximately fifty-six days, since verse thirteen. That is a lot of time between two verses! Notice that this is part of the point of these two consecutive verses. The ground is dry and fifty-six days pass until verse fifteen.
Keep looking at Genesis 8:14. One year and ten days have passed since Genesis 7:11. One year and ten days have passed since the flood waters came upon the earth and Noah and his family spent all of it in the ark. And doing what? Waiting. But also consider this, in this time there is no record of God speaking to Noah. There is no record of Noah hearing God speak since Genesis 7:4. Noah does not hear God speak until Genesis 8:15. According to the text, Noah does not hear from God for three hundred and seventy-five days. Noah has been through quite an experience and God has been silent!
But notice Genesis 8:13. In Genesis 8:13, Noah removes the covering of the ark and with his own eyes sees that the face of the ground is dry. Fifty-six days pass between Genesis 8:13 and 8:14 and notice what verse fourteen is all about. The ground, the earth is most definitely dry. And what does Noah do? Nothing. He does nothing in verse thirteen and he does nothing in verse fourteen, but wait. Why the long time even between Genesis 8:13 and 8:14? God was making Noah wait. It is then in verse fifteen that God finally speaks and commands Noah to leave the ark.
Why does God make Noah wait? Listen to this relatable testimony. Waiting can be agonizing. It’s hardest to wait when I am uncertain about the outcome. When I’m trusting God for the best, while at the same time preparing for the worst. It would be much easier if I had a guaranteed good outcome. Or at least a promise from God to hold on to. Or some reassurance to anchor my prayers. But God often seems silent when I’m waiting. I have no idea whether he’ll ever answer my prayer, so it feels like I’m waiting in the dark. I have read and reread Psalm 13:1–2, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?” O Lord, how long? I have asked that question many times. If I knew God would eventually answer my prayer with “Yes,” it would be different. But with no such assurance, even a “No” would often be easier than “Wait.”
But God Remembered Noah
Even though between Genesis 7:4 and Genesis 8:15 there is no record of God speaking to Noah, God had not forgotten Noah. Listen to Genesis 8:1. “But God remembered Noah.” The word remembered is not meant to suggest that God forgot about Noah and the ark and all the animals. Instead, it means to think about. In all the time that passed, in all the waiting done by Noah, God had not forgotten him. God thought about Noah.
It is when God remembers or thinks about Noah when the flood waters no longer triumph over the earth. The waters triumph on the earth for only 150 days. But when God thinks about Noah is then when the waters begin to retreat. When God thinks about Noah is then when the ark then comes to rest upon the mountains of Ararat (8:4).
When that ark comes to rest upon the mountains, what is Noah thinking about? He opens a window and sends forth a raven. What is Noah thinking about? He then sends out a dove, “to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground” (Genesis 8:8). What is Noah thinking about? The dove returns and Noah, notice it, waits another seven days and sends the dove out again (8:9-10). What is Noah thinking about? This time the dove returns with an olive leaf in her mouth. It is a freshly picked olive leaf (8:11). What is Noah thinking about? Notice verse twelve. “Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore.” What now is Noah thinking about? God is thinking about Noah and Noah is thinking about dry land. And, again, Genesis 8:14, Noah pokes his head out of the ark and sees that the land is dry. God is thinking about Noah and Noah is thinking about getting out of that boat. God is thinking about Noah and God makes Noah wait. After Noah sees that dry land, God makes him wait fifty-six days until he tells Noah, “Go.”
Why Did God Make Noah Wait?
Why was God making Noah wait? Better yet, why does God make you wait? Throughout the Bible are testimonies of men and women waiting and exclaiming, “How long, O Lord?!”
God was thinking about Noah and Noah was thinking about life after the boat. Why did God make him wait? Why does God make anyone wait for anything? What is there to be had or to learn in the waiting? Just give me a “yes” or a “no!” Listen to this: In retrospect, I can see that “wait” is the most precious answer God can give us. It makes us cling to him rather than cling to an outcome. God knows what I need. I do not. He sees the future. I cannot. His perspective is eternal. Mine is not. He will give me what is best for me. When it is best for me.”
Why does God make anyone wait? It is to make us cling to him rather than to the outcome. Listen to Isaiah 26:8. “…in the path of your judgments, O Lord, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul.” We wait for You. It is true! God makes us wait so that we cling to him, not the outcome. Notice what Noah does after leaving the ark. He does not cling to the ground instead he clings to God. He worships. He builds an altar (8:20). Genesis 8:21 is the significant part of the whole flood account. “And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma…” God was pleased with Noah’s worship. What was God seeking to accomplish by making Noah wait? He wanted Noah to cling to him! God was pleased. Noah was clinging to God.
What Sort of People Ought We to Be?
The New Testament has a lot to say about waiting. “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting…we are waiting…Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation” (2 Peter 3:14-15).
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