“Watching & Waiting” Meditations: 22. Watching with Expectation
1 Kings 18:44 “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.”
We have commented before in these meditations that shear optimism can be misleading in the Christian faith. Optimism is having a positive hope or confidence in whatever is ahead. Optimism does not occur in the Bible but hope certainly does. Biblical hope is the assurance of the future working out well according to God’s design and will. Optimism is usually defined as a mental attitude while Christian hope is built on the word of God, the work of Christ on the Cross and the applied working of the Holy Spirit. Optimism can just be ‘a feeling’ that all will work out well. Faith, on the other hand, believes that it will work out well when God says it will. Hope is positive trust in the future because God has said this is what will be. Optimism is thus often godless, not anti-God, just lacking God’s input, and that is when it is dangerous.
For those who are God’s children, God’s servants, those perhaps who have determined to stand on the ramparts and watch and wait, there is another aspect to be noted, again we have referred to before, that of the prompting Holy Spirit. We said just now that faith is about believing because God has spoken, and hope is trust because God has spoken, but there is an in-between experience when we are serving God, have been flowing in His Spirit, but are now waiting for His next move – which we are sure is coming, but not sure when. We are writing this particular series and encouraging this watching and waiting attitude because we sense in heaven they are getting ready to do something new – perhaps revival that hits a nation (or many nations) or renewal that reinvigorates the church to then impact the world. But we don’t know which or when. Various hearts around the world have over the past two years or so, been expressing this same thing. That phrase from Isaiah 40, “Prepare the way of the Lord” has been ringing loud and clear for those who have ears to hear.
We find this same expectancy in one of God’s particularly obvious prophets. This was Elijah after having beaten all the prophets of Baal, and he goes up on the mountain and expectantly prays for rain. (see v.42). So expectant is he of God’s answer, he sends his servant seven times to look for clouds. Eventually he spots this little cloud. That’s enough! Tell Ahab to get home quickly before he gets drowned in the downpour! That is faith. That is a small answer that signals the big answer. That very small cloud was sufficient for the Spirit to confirm within him that the heavy rain was coming.
So the question for today perhaps should be, can we see “a small cloud”, an indicator of things to come, that may spur us into action as Elijah was. There is no point seeing the small cloud if we don’t take any notice of it.
Even Jesus spoke about learning to take note of the signs: “The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” (Mt 16:1-3) It is John’s Gospel that speaks so much about what Jesus did as ‘signs’ (Jn 2:11,23, 3:2, 6:2, 7:31, 9:16, 11:47,12:18,37, 20:30) but the amazing thing is that, despite him doing what were very obvious miracles, still the hard-hearted opposition in the form of the Scribes, Pharisees, priests, and traditional Jews, still demanded, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” (2:18) and “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do” (6:30)
The warning that comes from this is that is that people who zealously pursue ‘religion’ can be absolutely blind to the workings of God. Having lived through and experienced the so-called ‘Toronto Blessing’ at the end of the last century, having witnessed and experienced the amazing power of God that was transforming Christian lives and creating a hunger for God, for His word and for prayer in ways I had never seen before, I am aware, having watched the observers who came and sat in our congregation as a group, sitting like a little black cloud of judgmental condemnation but refusing to let God touch and transform them, it is so easy to see the ‘signs’ and yet write them off.
As we watch and wait on the Lord today, will our hearts be open to see or hear or catch the first signs of what may be the equivalent to a “cloud as small as a man’s hand” that is the initial stirring of His Spirit. On one hand there is in the Christian world a gullibility to accepting strange, off the rails, interpretations of Scripture while on the other hand, the other extreme is refusing to hear, see, sense the prompting of the Spirit. Sometimes God does things that we don’t find in Scripture – as we saw in the Toronto Blessing – but He never goes directly against what He has declared in His word. That must always be how we check. But miracles that turn people to God, as witnessed through Jesus, are commonplace. They may be very small ones, simple little examples of God turning up and moving, but nevertheless, if they are things that turn our hearts to Him, be open! So, have you heard something small from God recently about what He is going to do? Have you seen small signs of His preparatory activity? Get yourself prepared then for what is coming. Yes? Yes!!!!!