Strengthened in the Waiting

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On Sunday, our text for the day was Psalm 27. David’s enemies are spreading lies about him and threatening violence against him, which is why we see this plea in verse 12:

Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,
    for false witnesses have risen against me,
    and they are breathing out violence.

Despite this outward pressure from life’s circumstances, David expresses unabashed confidence in God:

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me
    to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes—
    they shall stumble and fall.

The key to this confidence in God is captured in the last verse of the Psalm, a verse where David addresses his listeners (notice the change in pronouns—from I/me/my to your):

Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!

His experience tells him that if we want to be strong, and if we want a heart that takes courage, then we need to wait in a certain kind of way—wait for the Lord.

But as I pointed out in the sermon, it’s even deeper than that. The Hebrew word in this verse is qavah, and it’s an injustice to translate it simply as “wait.” It’s a certain kind of waiting. In order to understand qavah in it’s fullness, I contrasted it with two other kinds of waiting:

In Genesis 8:10, we find Noah waiting for the waters of the flood to recede. The rain that caused the flood had ended months ago and the water level was going down. But he had sent out a raven that wandered above the waters and a dove that returned without finding a place to set its feet. As he waited to send out the dove a second time, he was fretting — at least, that’s what we read in the Hebrew, but in the English, you read this:

He waited another seven days, and again he sent out the dove from the ark (Genesis 8:10)

In rather plain English, we read that “he waited another seven days,” but in the Hebrew, it is the word chiyl, which means to twist, writhe, or be in anguish, and thus, to wait anxiously or longingly. 

During those seven days, Noah’s waiting was frantic. He’s anxious about what will happen when he sends out the dove again. As recorded in verse 11, “the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth.” In other words, the situation changed. Consequently, Noah’s whole outlook changed. However, you wouldn’t know that from reading verse 12 in English:

Then he waited another seven days, and sent out the dove; and it did not return to him any more. (Genesis 8:12)

Seems like it says the same thing as verse 10, doesn’t it? … But the underlying Hebrew uses a completely different word! The word in 8:12 is yachal meaning “to await or expect”—the kind of waiting that can be patient because we know what to expect. We’re awaiting it, not anxiously, but patiently, knowing that it will happen. That’s Noah’s posture because the situation has changed.

And yet, neither of the Hebrew words used in Genesis 8 are the Hebrew word used in Psalm 27:14, despite the fact that all three verses use the English word “wait.”

The word in Psalm 27 is qavah. As with many Hebrew words, it has two meanings. Just as chiyl means both to twist and to wait because it’s describing an anxiety-ridden waiting, this word has two meanings: to bind together and to wait.

The reason these two definitions go together is because life can feel frayed and unraveled, with loose strands everywhere. But when we lean on the Lord and feel the Lord’s presence, life is bound together again. In other words, qavah describes the kind of waiting that actually fortifies a person. Thus, the reason we’re making a weaving on the platform:

David is facing a moment in his life where things seem to be unraveling. But God’s presence keeps him strong and gives his heart courage.

Though an army encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
    yet I will be confident.
One thing I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
    and to inquire in his temple.

It’s easy for us, in seasons of pain and sorrow and confusion, to think that perhaps God isn’t with us. Perhaps He isn’t going to “make all things new?” Perhaps it isn’t until this darkness lifts that we will begin to see Him again?

But David reminds us that it is in those very moments that God wants to meet us and strengthen us with a deeper understanding of who He is—reminding us that He is indeed forever faithful in our lives.

That’s what it means to qavah. It stands in contrast to chiyl and yachal.

As we proceed through the rest of Advent, we will continue to dwell on qavah. How will you qavah?

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