Living on God’s Great Stage: Waiting for God
Some of us need to be challenged and encouraged to act rather than be passive. To say it a bit differently, some of us need to take the responsibility that God has given us, as active agents who are co-laborers in God’s great drama that is being played out on God’s great stage.
But quite a few of us are active by nature and find passivity almost intolerable. We are quite willing to own our part in improvising the drama of both our life and the lives of those we influence. Without question, the narratives of 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 Kings put David in this segment of the human population. David is quick to act, confident, ambitious, and expectant that God will go with him in his endeavors and bring great successes. (He is also very aware that he does not handle passivity or boredom well.)
So, how is it that a human with this kind of personality is also presented to us as someone who is willing to wait to see what God will do at some of the toughest moments in his life? Saul decides David is the enemy, and David has Saul’s life in his hands several times, yet David will not kill Saul. Instead, he is willing to live on the run, and to make his followers live in danger and on the run for decades, rather than to act. He simply believes he needs to wait for God.
Perhaps even more surprising, David makes the same choice when his own son Absalom leads a revolt and plans to assassinate David. David will not take control of a situation in which he explicitly says, “I will wait and see which of us God chooses; maybe my time is done.”
Very much the same attitude is taken by David after the narratives recording two of his greatest sins – (1) his seducing of Bathsheba and his assassination of her husband, and (2) his numbering of the people as a step toward more government control, pride, taxation, and military control. In both cases, once he moves from his active arrogance to repentance, he begins by throwing himself on God’s grace even though he despised the consequences his sins were causing.
Yet another example of this comes when David, who wanted desperately to build the Temple, instead waited, as God instructed him to wait. This took great faith, considering all he had prepared for the day it would be built, knowing that he would never be privileged to do the building or see the finished product.
Like all of us active and willful humans, David forgot sometimes that the stage of life really belongs to God, who graciously invites us to play a part. Like all of us, David sometimes acts like it is his stage, and it is God who is occasionally invited to show up for a bit part. And once in a while, again like all of us, David decides to do the drama without inviting God in at all for a while—always with disastrous consequences for both himself and others.
But what made David a person “after God’s own heart” seems to be his very genuine core belief that his life is first of all about God and only secondarily about him. The Big Stage is God’s, and we are invited to play a part as a gift from God. Only believing that reality at one’s very core allows an ambitious activist to “wait on the Lord,” when every fiber of your being says “take charge.”
Saul wouldn’t risk it.
Absalom, in every other way so much like his father, David, apparently never even considered living that way.
Yet David, again and again, returns to his core belief: “Who am I that you should care so much for me?…All that I have comes from you.”