“Wait on the Lord”
by DeVern Fromke
(A message spoken at a conference in Switzerland and published in “A Witness and A Testimony” magazine, 1968)
I want at this time, not so much to say anything new, but just to underline some of the things that have been said.
I think we have been realizing through the years that God is wanting to enlarge and stretch our inner man, by which I mean the stretching of the inner spirit and the renewing of the soul, and we are going to see what David says about this in Psalm 27. First we will read verse 14:
“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”
The word ‘wait’ in the Hebrew is an interesting one, for, as you know, the Hebrew is a picture language. When they write this word they are making a picture of a man making rope. Can you see him taking one strand, taking another strand, and another, and twisting them, and finally getting a strong rope? When God first makes a connection to our life, the strand is rather thin and flimsy, but through the years He is strengthening this connection and enlarging us so that there might be a greater flow of His life to us.
Now, beginning with verse 1 of this Psalm, let us see the secrets of which David speaks and by which this enlargement takes place:
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
Not an Experience – But a Living Relationship
I want us to get hold of this first of all. People so often think of the Lord’s working in their lives as a mere touch, or an experience that they have, but God’s way is to bring us into a living union, a living relationship with Himself. If we merely have a good experience, we are relating something to the past, but if we catch what this entering into a living relationship means, everything changes. I used to interpret this verse as: “The Lord gives me light and salvation’, but what it says is: ‘The Lord is – continually – my light and my salvation.’ You see, if you come to the conference and merely have a good and refreshing experience while here, then I will worry about you when I get home; but if you discover the secret of a living union, a living relationship, then you go home with something that will keep you. Before I discovered this wonderful secret I used to get down and pray that the Lord would give me a message for the people – like a package coming from heaven. Then I began to see that it was not something that He gives, but He just wants me to start, as it were, with a sense that He will give as I go along – He is my light continually.
All light that the Lord shares, or becomes to us, comes in two ways. First we learn the regulating law of life as it is revealed in His Word, but then He also gives the anointing which continually works to give direction. In the Old Testament they had the law and the prophets for direction, but now we have the inner law written in our hearts and the anointing (which works like the prophets) continually giving us the sense of direction.
Well, there will be no enlargement until we discover that there is this living relationship by which the Lord imparts Himself to us, and just as surely as we enter into this phase of life, everything seems to crowd in to try and break that connection.
“When the wicked, even my enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though a host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident” (verses 2 and 3).
Not Mere Trials – But Confirmation
So it is that God begins to enlarge a little further, and we must see that the trials and testings are the Lord’s means of confirming Himself to us.
Exodus 17 gives us a picture of this. Moses has just led the children of Israel across the Red Sea, and now they are wanting some water to drink. In verse 2 they come to Moses and say: “Give us water to drink.” Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?”” You see, when we begin to walk with the Lord and He brings us to a ‘no water’ experience, we are prone to think that we have missed His will. I want to ask you a question about this: At this point had the people missed God’s will, or were they where He wanted them to be? I think we know that God had led them right to this point. He wanted to confirm Himself to them, but it was a stretching time.
Has God ever led you to a time of no water? No job, no money, no friends, no help, or something else like that? How easy it is to imagine that we have missed God’s way when this comes, but He wants to confirm the verse: “My God shall supply all your need” (Philippians 4:19). That is a mere verse until He confirms it to us.
I remember several years ago, when I was ministering on the West coast of America, I arrived at my friend’s place and he handed me a whole schedule for the week. He had me running from place to place all day long – ten minutes here, twelve minutes there, thirteen minutes somewhere else. I looked at my brother and said: ‘Oh, you know me better than this! I can’t fit into this schedule. Brother, I can’t even read my text in twelve minutes!’ But when I went to my bedside to ask for the Lord’s help, He showed me this portion about the children of Israel. I knew about other kinds of ‘no water’, but not the limiting of myself to a few minutes, so I had to cry out for His strength and help.
Now I can tell you that that is the way I felt in coming here and having to speak with two interpreters!
You see, it is interesting that just before this the people of Israel had had the experience of the bitter water at Marah, but God is not just taking us back to another Marah each time. In verses 3 and 4 of chapter 17 it says: “But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.” God has no delight in just taking us through testings, but it is the only way He can confirm His Word or His promises to us. Every time He unveils a new promise there is a stretching to make it real. We might get to the place where we would like to have all the verses confirmed to us, but God does not want the diffusion of our energies on just verses.
Not Human Energy – But Divine Priority
In the next verse of our Psalm we get the thing toward which God is stretching us. There are many of the Lord’s children who would expend themselves in doing so many good and needful things. I know what it is to look around and see needs in every place, but here will come a very difficult stretching for us: God wants to work into us a sense of priority. Every need does not constitute a call. People can be so busy giving themselves to good activity but they miss the real priority that God wants. The prophet Hosea said of Ephraim: “Strangers have devoured his strength” (Hosea 7:9), and how meaningful this should be to the Lord’s children who feel pulled in every direction by the needs which they see! Listen to the sense of priority in this verse, as David tells us:
“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell 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” (Psalm 27:4).
Beloved, I do not believe that one can go on very far in inward stretching without this one thing, this Divine priority, becoming very real. The Apostle Paul said: “This one thing I do…”, and Jesus said of Mary, who was sitting at His feet, “Mary hath chosen that good part” (Luke 10:42).
What is this ‘one thing’ of which David is speaking? Oh, how our soul-life will pull at us to get us into busy activity for God! I know a little bit of what it is like to have our emotions touched by the suffering of people, and you can expect this kind of inner argument to go on. Your inner spirit will say: ‘It is time to be quiet and dwell,’ while your soul is rising up to say: ‘Get to work! Look at all the needy people!’ Listen to this verse where the spirit is speaking to the soul: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me?” (Psalm 42:5). In my own words I would say: ‘Soul, you be quiet and listen to the spirit!’ You see, the soul wants to run away and act independently of the inner spirit, but God made the soul to be subservient to the spirit, so he ends it by saying: ‘Soul, you be quiet now and give praise for the help of the Lord.’
Now, remember, when we talk about ‘waiting’ we are not speaking of passive waiting, but an active waiting. Oh, how many of the Lord’s children are wasting their strength with just activity!
I remember how a few years ago the Lord taught me this lesson in a very real way. I had been away from my family, about two thousand miles from home, for ten weeks, and oh! how I was looking forward to being home! As I drove in that afternoon I met my wife and my little boy in the drive, and I hugged them and thought: ‘Oh, it is so wonderful to be home!’ but in about a minute my little boy was gone. I said to my wife: ‘Where is DeVon? I am home and I want to be with him.’ So I walked to the garage door, where I heard him, and said: ‘Son, Daddy’s home. Don’t you want to be with him?’ His little voice answered back: ‘Oh, Daddy, I am so busy!’ and I realized that you cannot force fellowship when it is not wanted! So I began to get busy myself, but I was hurting deep within. The next morning, as was our custom, we went up town to the Post Office, for he always loved to come with me. But, as I was coming down the steps of the Post Office, I chanced to see the other side of my car, which I had not been able to see when I got into it. It looked so strange that I wondered if it really was my car! There, plastered all over the side of the car, were pieces of paper and cardboard, attached with my best insulating tape! Then it was that I realized what he had been so busy doing, and when he saw that I was observing all his handiwork, he looked up at me with such glee, as if to say: ‘Don’t you like it, Daddy?’ I was about to scold him, and then the Lord spoke to me. He seemed to say: ‘This is the same trouble that I have with you, My son. You get so busy doing things I have not asked you to do.’ So all I could do was to pick DeVon up and say: ‘Daddy likes it.’ But from that day on the Lord began to make this sense of priority much more real.
It is so easy to be busy going from here to there, preaching and teaching and doing, but what is the one thing that the Lord wants most? It is to know intimate fellowship with the Lord. I do believe that if this priority becomes very real in us, God will cut off a lot of good and apparently important things – but how do things really measure up in the light of eternity? This can apply to us in so many ways. For over twenty years I have gone here and there, holding meetings, but more and more the Lord is saying: ‘A sharper focus on priority.’ About the time that we sense the flow of life we feel that we really want to go out to help, but it is quite a stretching thing when the Lord begins to restrain us to this one thing. I believe that ‘to dwell in the spirit’ means for our spirit to be very sensitive to the Holy Spirit instead of to all the pulling of the soul.
It is very strange, but about the time we decide: ‘Oh, Lord, this is a wonderful priority!’, it is then that the Lord will say to us: ‘No, I don’t want you to stay on your knees all the time!’
Not Lopsided Intensity – But Balance
We are such creatures of extremes! If a thing is good, why, we just do that all the time. So it is not lopsided intensity, but balance that the Lord has to work out. There are some people who, because of their temperaments, would like to become hermits, and for these people I am now saying that this intensity can become lopsided. Hosea, in the chapter from which we have already quoted, says that Ephraim is like a cake half baked. He is burned down one side, but raw on the other. Now, don’t misunderstand: this priority of giving ourselves wholly to dwelling with Him is very wonderful. I have seen mothers who determined they were going to give some hours each day to waiting before the Lord, but more things happen to the children about that time. Everything tries to hinder us from this sharpening of priority, but about the time we would like to live the hidden life with the Lord, He says: ‘Now I want to use you.’ And we are so prone to say: ‘Lord, I am content just to dwell with You,’ but He does not want a cake raw on one side.
Let us go back to our Psalm, where we read in verses 5 and 6:
“For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion; in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me; therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.”
About the time we would like to know the hiding away, God says: ‘No, now is the time to set you on a rock, for I want to use you.’
We go back to Exodus 17, when the people of Israel had no water and Moses cried out to the Lord for help. ‘Lord, what shall I do? This people are almost ready to stone me!’ And do you know what the Lord says to Moses? ‘Moses, you get up on that rock over there.’ ‘But, Lord, I will just be a better target for their stones!’ But this is the way that God demonstrates through a life. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock…”. Can you see that this is the way that we can get water for others? God has a way of stretching us until we become fruitful and can meet the need of others. “…Thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it.”
So you can be sure that when you become too intense in one thing, the Lord has a way of balancing the other side.
Not Striving After Jesus – But Occupation
Finally we come to the cry of the heart:
“When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek” (Psalm 27:8).
The Lord is concerned for one thing, and that is that we learn to be occupied with His lovely self. It is not a striving to express the Lord Jesus, but when I am occupied with His face something happens to my face. You can tell what people look at continually. When people are looking at the dark, dangerous and fearful side of life, the lines are written all over their faces, but you can always tell when someone has been occupied with the joyful, the bright and the living side. Have you ever noticed that when a husband and wife look at one another for fifty years across the table they begin to look more and more alike? I wish I could say that they always look like the prettier of the two! Really, you would be surprised how many of you here are beginning to look alike. It is the law, for it says in the Bible: “As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man” (Proverbs 27:19). Seriously, now, I have met some who have really reflected the loveliness of the Lord Jesus. John says: “We shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
Several years ago I was privileged to meet an elderly saint, who was then about eighty-seven. For over fifty years she had been an invalid and confined to her room, but if ever I saw anyone who lived face to face with the Lord, she did. Dozens of pastors throughout that whole valley made their way to this humble little cottage. The first time I went into her room, I had only been there about ten minutes when I fell on my face on the floor, for the glory of the Lord was so real and all I could say was: ‘Lord, I am unclean!’ It seemed that every other phrase that she spoke was praise to the Lord. She adopted me as one of her sons. It was strange how, when she read something from the Word of God, things that I had known so well suddenly became piercing. She kept reading from a special book when I went to visit her, and one day I said: ‘Mother, you may not be here too much longer. Would you give me this book when you are gone?’ Every time she read from it it seemed that God just cut my heart open. One day when I went into her room I said: ‘Mother, it is a shame that you sit here like this. Don’t you know that God heals people?’ She looked up at me with such sympathy, and replied: ‘Oh, yes, my boy, I know God would have healed me a long time ago,’ and then in her broken English she said: ‘And den I would have runned around like all de oder womans!’ She had no desire to be in any other place, but just dwelling with God and seeking His face, and I believe she had a ministry that touched more people than many others I have known.
One day a package came to my home by mail, and when I looked at the ‘return address’ in the corner I knew what had happened. I was sorry that she had gone, but my heart leaped: at last I had this wonderful book! I got alone by myself and started to read – and I am ashamed to admit this. I discovered that it was not the book, but the person who made the difference. I read the book, but it does not speak to me as it did.
Let me just say in closing, dear friends: God wants to stretch our inner life, but it will only be as we learn to wait, and wait… and wait. It will only begin with a living relationship, through confirmation, by new priority, a real balance, and preoccupation with Himself. If you go away from here with more than an experience, with a living relationship, then my heart shall rejoice.