When we look at the life of Abraham, we see a man who learned to wait. Abram was 86 years old when Hagar bore Ishmael (Genesis 16:16), but he had to wait for 14 years until God finally spoke to him again at ninety-nine (Genesis 17:1). What did Abram learn in the waiting time? Here’s the text:
1When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” 3Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you (Genesis 17:1-6).
Why do you suppose God made Abram wait so long? What work does God do in a person by making them wait? Some of the greatest lessons I have learned have been in times of waiting. God does His best preparation work in His servants during waiting times. The prophet Isaiah gives us a picture of the preparation of a servant of the Lord:
Before I was born the LORD called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. 2He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver (Isaiah 49:1-2 Emphasis mine).
Every servant of God called to do an essential task for the Kingdom goes through a time of preparation compared in Scripture to the making of an arrow. First, there is a personal calling (v. 1). Secondly, part of their training involves preparing, cleansing, or refining what issues from their lips (v. 2). Thirdly, they are brought into an intimate relationship with the Lord under the shadow of God's hand (v. 2). Fourth, the polishing of their character speaks of the daily lessons that make us sharp. And lastly, there is the concealment in the quiver. During this phase of their training and preparation, a man or woman of God is not to do anything "seen" by the world, at least for a while. Their calling is to be in hidden ministry, waiting for God's timing to be brought out of the quiver and shot into ministry from the Lord's bow.
Think of Moses in the desert having to wait forty years while shepherding his father-in-law’s sheep in the wilderness of Midian. God made him wait until he was eighty years of age before the Lord used him to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt. He had to endure the hiddenness and waiting of the quiver! Imagine how hard it was for him to be raised in Pharaoh’s household, trained in the best schools of Egypt, and then do nothing seemingly of value while he shepherded his father-in-law’s sheep for 40 years in the desert. Think of Abram waiting all those years for God to do the impossible—enabling the couple to bring forth a son from the barren womb of Sarah. Think also of Jesus working in the concealment of the quiver in the woodshop of Joseph until He was around 30 years old (Luke 3:23). Why does God make a servant wait so long? The greater the task, the greater the training. It is hard to wait for God’s timing, but it is part of the Lord’s school. Keith Thomas