Anticipationby Ed de la Cour on October 6, 2014
Genesis 15: 13 – 14 “ANTICIPATION” October 5, 2014
You can make a very strong case that the Bible is a book loaded with great expectations. Here is the story of the Almighty and Sovereign God who is on the move in history and who is accomplishing all of His purposes. What is so powerfully encouraging is that there is not one enemy who is capable of stopping Him, not one who can hinder His progress, forestall His plans, or re-direct His purposes. Our God is mighty!
In the Bible there are also strong feelings of anticipation expressed about what God is doing. There is an eagerness in the air, waiting for everything that God plans to do. When those anticipations are verbalized, we call it prophecy. In Amos 3: 7, God declares, “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets.” You and I live right in the middle of what God is doing on Cape Cod in these days. For those of us who seek to be sensitive to God, we are finding that we are being filled with increasing faith and a growing anticipation that we will see God move in our day and in our region.
We all enjoy anticipation, especially when we are waiting for something good to happen, like ice cream. However, sitting in the waiting room anticipating a visit with the dentist might not be so enjoyable. But when a child is waiting for Christmas morning, or when we are waiting for our vacation trip to begin, we know what it’s like to anticipate. Anticipation means there’s an excitement building in the heart. There’s an eagerness growing in the soul. Our pulses beat more quickly when we are anticipating what might happen next.
You will recall there were a number of anticipatory events that occurred around the time of the birth of Jesus. Each event foreshadowed the coming of the Kingdom. Each event was prompted by a heightened spiritual awareness in faithful people. Here are some examples: Zechariah and Elizabeth were going to have a baby, after a lifetime of fruitlessness. God worked in several ways to cause their hearts to anticipate with wonder and excitement what God was doing in their lives.
The Magi were struck with a sense of significance by the astronomical signs they observed and they drew conclusions that led them to travel a long distance to Judea, and that trip did not happen overnight. As they traveled, I’m sure they were anticipating what it all might mean.
During the night of Jesus’ birth, shepherds saw a vision of angels. How might that vision of choirs of angels impacted those shepherds? Do you think they might have been changed men after that encounter with the glory of God?
Simeon and Anna were elderly folks yearning for God to act in their day. A week after Jesus was born, they were led by the Holy Spirit to the temple in Jerusalem and they got to see the Baby Jesus and His parents. At just the right time, those old folks were drawn to meet Jesus. Their paths coincided with Mary and Joseph’s as they were bringing the baby Jesus to be presented to God. Luke 2: 25 says Simeon “was waiting for the consolation of Israel.” God had filled that old man with great anticipation. He had not retired to his recliner nor was he hopelessly waiting to die. Verse 26 goes on to say, “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” He was filled with eager anticipation because he had a great expectation that God was working, even at that moment.
A few verses later, Anna approached Joseph and Mary and Luke says, “she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” These two senior saints were not the only people in that day whose hearts beat in anticipation. God was moving, and they knew it! God was acting on behalf of His people and they were aware that something great was about to happen. In fact, that something great had already begun.
Anticipation. Expectation. I believe God fills His people with anticipation when He is about to move in a spiritually significant way. God gives His children a sense of expectancy. He provides them with increased faith and He helps them to verbalize their awareness of His nearness. They begin to sense the urgency of the hour. It is God who gives anticipation, and I think it’s a gift. When God gives the gift of anticipation, we begin to believe that God is working. We think that way because it is true. God really is working and He really is doing a new thing. God is moving in unprecedented ways and we have the privilege of seeing Him work.
Recently, I was reading in Genesis 15. During the course of God making His covenant with Abraham, God promised to bring Abraham’s descendants out of the land of their bondage after they’d been there for 400 years. Listen to how the Lord spoke to Abraham in verses 13 and 14. The description of the Exodus given in those verses is startling in its accuracy. I began to wonder if, while Israel languished under the burden of Egyptian taskmasters, whether any of them began to become excited about the prospect of being set free. As the end of those 400 years drew near, were there people among the Hebrews who began to think that their time of bondage was drawing to a close? I wonder if God provided moments in their times of worship as a community when, without any human manipulation, their faith began to soar. I wonder whether their hearts began to be encouraged, and all seemingly for no earthly reason. That would have been the gift of anticipation, given by to them by God.
Think about it: you know the Israelites would have paid close attention to anything that happened in the life story of their Patriarch Abraham. They knew all the details of how God made certain promises to Abraham, how Abraham believed God and how it was credited to him as righteousness. Certainly when they were in Egypt, they must have looked back into their history. They must have seen how God made promises that seemed to apply to their current reality, such as the one we just read. Is it possible that they could have been like so many churchgoers in America today? We read our Bibles, but we find no hope for our lives. We go to church, but we gain little to no life-giving encouragement for the difficulties we face. Is it possible they were so busy being slaves they missed receiving the promises God had for them?
All of us were supposed to have been schooled in New Testament anticipation. We spent our childhood years going to church and Sunday School. Urgency, hope, expectation, anticipation – these are all words that carry relatively little meaning for us. Yet, Paul wrote in Romans 13: 11, “The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” While this is very clearly taught in the New Testament, today our sense of anticipation has been worn down to the nub. We don’t see the day of our salvation as near at all. We have been caught up in mortgage payments, school sports, and who is sleeping with whom on the TV shows everyone watches. We have been lulled to sleep. American churches are far more concerned with bake sales and bazaars than in reaching the lost. We no longer have expectations about what God might do on our behalf. As a result, there is very little sense of anticipation or urgency. There is almost no excitement about what God is doing, or what He is not doing, because we are all otherwise engaged. God says, “The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”
It is God’s desire to make some changes around here! Way back in the 17th century, Matthew Henry wrote: “When God intends to bless His people, the first thing He does is to set them a-praying.” That is not a new thought. It has been God’s practice throughout redemptive history. God has begun once again to set His people on Cape Cod praying. Are you responding to God’s invitation to come together, to seek His face, and see Him work? The next prayer meeting will be here on the fourth Wednesday. Come, and let God set you to praying!
Do you have any sense of anticipation about the possibilities of what God can do in your family? Do you have any feelings of excitement about our town coming to see Jesus for real? Do you have any eagerness in you to witness the things of God coming to pass in your life? You can see, then, how much we need to wake up and come to life.
Let’s consider one more passage of Scripture to see how God works this sense of anticipation to further His purpose. Please open your Bibles to Daniel 9. Daniel was simply minding his own business one day when the Word of God leapt off the page and impacted his life. Daniel became excited as the Spirit of God applied God’s truth to Daniel’s heart. Read verses 1 - 3.
In order for any of us to be excited in our relationship with God, we have to be in receiving mode when it comes to God’s Word. We must find a way to immerse ourselves in Scripture, so that as we read, we are taking in what the Lord is saying to our hearts. Daniel read the Scriptures and he felt the Word being applied to his own life. He believed it for himself and he believed it for his people. He opened his pocket planner and counted off the years since the exile began; and, as he counted, he began to realize the time for the exile to end was coming very soon. By the power of God’s Spirit, he began to see that God was on the cusp of doing in real time what He had foretold through Jeremiah.
A sense of anticipation began to well up within Daniel as he became aware that God was on the verge of doing something great. There was an urgency birthed in his spirit, and so Daniel entered into prayer and fasting. He took what he learned from reading God’s Word seriously. He began to seek the Lord with all his heart. The problem we face is that many of us lack that sense of urgency in our spirits. Daniel’s walk with God was most likely pretty intense, and our relationship with God may well lag far behind that level of commitment. Please do not allow yourself to let any lack of intensity in your own heart excuse you from seeking after God today. Rather than giving up, dig deeper! Don’t wait for God to drag you kicking and screaming into His presence. There are some times in life when you simply need to take some initiative!
When you engage in the spiritual disciplines you are putting yourself in a place where God can speak to you. If you are too busy with life, or if you are simply uncaring, then you will not be open to God, nor will you be able to receive from God when He speaks. Many churchgoers find themselves in that situation. They go to church and they go through the motions of piety. They sing the hymns and sit up straight, but they are senseless and they are unable to perceive the moving of God and unable to discern the voice of God. The Christian, however, is not senseless, but is sensible. The Christian is able to perceive the possible meaning of events in the spiritual realm as well as in the natural world. A Christian who is spending time with the Lord in His Word will know what the voice of Jesus sounds like. In John 10: 27, Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice.” A Christian will do whatever is necessary to have the lines of communication between himself and God open, and to be able to receive when God speaks.
If you are engaged in fasting, even if you just started fasting one day per week as we are suggesting, you may have found you have already become more sensitive spiritually. It’s amazing, but it doesn’t take long! Spiritual sensitivity is not something you make happen, but it is something God simply does. It is God’s sovereign act. It is a blessing, a gift. By increasing our spiritual sensitivity, God demonstrates His favor in the heart of the Christian. Fasting heightens the sense of anticipation.
Is God giving you the gift of anticipation? Does your heart beat with expectation as you think about what you sense God is doing today? Something great is about to happen here on Cape Cod. Don’t miss it! God’s people are coming together to pray and to seek His face. When people who never had an interest in fasting and prayer begin to feel that is what God is inviting them to do, this is significant!
Edmund C. de la Cour, Jr.