As children we wait with expectancy for birthday gifts and the presents around the Christmas tree to be unwrapped. Similarly as children of God we have all received many promises of gifts from our heavenly Father. These might relate to marriage, family, health, ministry, career and so on. Over the years I have had some personally astounding revelations concerning God’s plans for the world and the city where I live in. The difficult part is that great majority of these promises are yet to come to pass. If you are anything like ‘ME’ , waiting for a promise of God to come true is usually a difficult experience. Those who know ‘ME’ in person have in the past described me as serious, agitated and even stern when it comes to godly things. In recent days however I have been sensing a major shift in my spirituality when it comes to waiting for God to fulfil his Word. This transition finds its substance in the experience of Jesus on Holy Saturday, the great day between his death and resurrection.
What is Happening?
Most of the Bible’s story line is filled with pauses between promise and power. Adam was commissioned to “fill the earth”, but in Genesis two and three he is still located in a garden. The patriarchs are promised Canaan, but never inherit; Moses must wait 40 years in the wilderness, before the critical pledges of God to deliver Israel are fulfilled. Similar lengthy pauses occur in the life of Jesus and Paul (Luke 3:23; Gal 1:17-2:1). However the example that speaks most clearly to ‘ME’ comes from the life of David.
Anointed as a youngster to be coming king he must wait 30 odd years to rule over all Israel (1 Sam 16; 2 Sam 5). In the midst of this “delay” is a critical testing when David is driven by king Saul into the wilderness. Seeking refuge in the desolate cave of Adullam, the very opposite of a palace, a bunch of refugees and rebels are attracted to his presence (1 Sam 22:1-2). Isolated from worldly pleasures this rag-tag mob become David’s “mighty men” who will loyally follow him through thick and thin to the end (2 Sam 23:13-17). David himself will emerge from the wilderness as a man only after God’s own heart, for the naturally ambitious ‘ME’ who had been promised so much has become someone who wants only the will of the LORD (Acts 13:22). Adullam is the place of isolation and apparent failure where David learns the true meaning of holiness as separation to God alone, apart from all successful human activity. Between God’s promise and power he was learning to be set apart from all things, even the divine promises, to wait on God for who he is not what he gives (Ps 142).
David is a tremendous illustration of the “pregnant pause” of God, but in the end even this greatest king of Israel failed (2 Sam 11-24). The time of success reveals that the ‘ME’ of the (then) model king was not wholly put to death in the wilderness when nothing seemed to be happening. Only Jesus can truly teach us about waiting as an act of holiness.
The greatest waiting period for Jesus lies between his dying exclamation, “it is accomplished” (John 19:30) and the resurrection. The Father could have raised Jesus at any time after his death, what then was his purpose for the beloved Son between death and resurrection. One passage from Acts stands out as an explanation.
“God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,“ ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’” (Acts 2:24-28).
In the safe hands of the Father the soul/spirit of Jesus was delighting in the fullness of the divine presence and at perfect rest from his labours (Luke 23:43, 46; Rev 14:13). As the Holy One of God Christ knew that it was impossible that any promise made for him should fail, he was absolutely at peace in the heavenly Sabbath that God had always prepared for humanity to enjoy (Ps 16:10; Acts 13:35; Gen 2:1-3). His waiting for resurrection was a time of supreme adoration. Jesus however was not basking alone in the presence of God, he was gladdened by the fellowship of the saints in heaven (cf. Ps 16:3; 142:7; Heb 12:23). Great was his pleasure in dwelling with those who had loved God for who he is rather than what he gives. In the great waiting of Holy Saturday the Lord was filled with eager expectation that every promise would be fulfilled, even in ways which would surprise him. This is part of his joy in being a true Son of the Father.
The Spirit is telling ‘ME’ that if I am seeking the heart of God the pause between promise and power is not to be a time of disillusionment and despair, as though the delay was caused by my spiritual poverty. Our Holy Saturday is a blessed time when we are called to delight ourselves in the Lord alone (Ps 37:4). It is a time of waiting as a discipline and personal refinement so that we may be purified to more intensely enjoy what the Father has prepared for us and which will surely come (Luke 12:32).
Let us not be deceived, the time when “nothing is happening” is not the time to retreat into our various “happy places” away from the Lord – TV, books, porn, work, computer games and so on. Most insidiously, let us not be filled by the impure intensity of Church services which seem unable to wait for God at all!! Our Father wants to entrust to us the resurrection power of the kingdom, but the Spirit of Christ wisely knows that power without holy sonship will always end in disaster. Let us be assured that, like David and Jesus, if we remain faithful and trusting through Holy Saturday the unblemished joy of fellowship with saints who love us for who we are, rather than what we can give, shall come.
The greatest promise Jesus ever directly made to ‘ME’ was on the 7th day i.e. Sabbath/ Saturday of a week of prayer almost 20 years ago. This was at a time when folk were departing the gathering saying, “Nothing is happening”. I am now convinced that both the timing of that great revelation I received from heaven and the seeming “delay” in its fulfilment lie within the maturing purposes of Holy Saturday (Hab 2:3). Between you and ‘ME’ I can honestly say that I am more relaxed than I have felt for many a year; this is the hidden potency of the period between death and resurrection that only Jesus can teach us.
This teaching is not for some restricted period of life. The Lord will always give us new promises that seem to be delayed; in various domains of life there will always be a call to embrace “Holy Saturday”. (Jesus himself is still waiting to return for his Holy Bride.) Let us then ask our Saviour to grant us his own blessed restfulness as we wait upon the timing of our Father to turn promise into power.
 The prophecies of the resurrection would not then be after “three days”.