This series of definitions served as the basis for a study I did on waiting in the Bible. I am still working on a more complete theology of waiting – hopefully in service of understanding if and how God himself waits. I believe then, even with the differences aside between us and God, we could see a fuller picture of God’s intention and expectation in and for delays (as that is the best word I can use to describe situations which demand our waiting, although the disruptive connotation inherent in the word may not be accurate). I hope these continue to be an encouragement.
Wait as – service to or responsibility for
(Shamar, Tsaba, Yad, Amad, Sharath, Proskartereo*, Tsaba)
Typically our idea of waiting pertains more to what we cannot do than to what we can. We wait for lights to change, we wait for food to eat, we wait in lines to accomplish something. This second category of wait attempts to flip that idea on its head by focusing on the service aspect of waiting: “she served Naman’s wife” (2 Kin 5:2), “appointed to be in charge…performed the service” (Neh12:44-45), “who waits on/protects his master” (Prov 27:18). A wait is not necessarily meant to be understood as a void. Instead it can be an opportunity in humility and in other-centered action.
The majority of these verses take place in the situation where one is under the authority of another; the subject is often the one under authority: “the duty of the Levites was to help [wait on] Aaron’s descendants” (1 Chr 23:28), “Then the prophet went and stood by the road waiting for the king” (1 Kin 20:38). It would appear that the one waiting is both reliant on and subject to the will of the one for whom they are waiting. A servant of the king does not act until he is called upon; there is a degree of submission in any wait.
In many cases, by waiting that individual is accepting some responsibility. In Numbers 8:24 the wait described included assembling those worthy of service. In first Chronicles 9:18 those who wait were the gatekeepers for the camps. In the negative sense this concept also applies to what was observed in category one, men were waiting to cause harm because they had the responsibility of carrying out such a task (see Arab references).
In summary, wait can be used to describe action not merely the lack of action. In many cases the term carries with it a degree of submission and furthermore a responsibility, though the responsibility is not always connected to the subject of submission.