What does waiting on the Lord mean?

Study Topics

Waiting on the Lord

In last week’s article, Seek the Face of the Lord, there was a verse in Isaiah that caught my attention which stated:

Isaiah 8:17. “And I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.”

I’ve read that type of phrase many times but never studied it and it seemed a natural extension of that blog post. This got interesting as I went through looking for information on the topic and I thought it would be informative for others to see how to reference outside materials for greater understanding so the first part of this post is sort of a tutorial about how to search and use resources like Blue Letter Bible and Bible Hub in a real example. You’re welcome to skip to the bottom if you’re already familiar with those resources or just skim part 1 for a few insights.

Part 1 – Study Setup – Waiting on the Lord

Initial Searches

I began my study with a search for:

Wait* and Lord – 49 results

Then realized it would also have results for:

Wait* and God – 31 results

So you can do a single search for:

Wait* and (Lord or God) – 70 results (indicating 10 verses contain both Lord & God which holds out true if we search for:

Wait and Lord and God – 10 results. No need to put them in twice.

We’ll start with the 70.

Preparing to study the verses and remove irrelevant ones, I want to understand the meanings of the word “wait” and any Hebrew or Greek meanings as well.

Webster’s 1828 Definitions

From Webster’s 1828 dictionary I pull in these definitions relevant to the topic and remove things like “lie in wait” as in ambushing someone.

  • To rest in expectation and patience
  • To stop or remain stationary, till the arrival of some person or event
  • To stay; not to depart
  • To be ready to serve; to obey
  • To look watchfully

Hebrew Meanings

Then I click the links button next to a relevant verse in the Old Testament and open up Blue Letter Bible (BLB) to see the Hebrew definitions.

Verse Links

The word is “qavah” (pron. kä·vä’). It’s mostly the same general definitions but one thing stands out. A related usage of the word is:

  • To collect, bind together

This has a particular meaning to me because to bind together sounds like using rope or twine, and I previously wrote an article on having an eye single to the glory of God which uses this imagery in the definition of braiding or twining our eye to God as a way to strengthen our connection and prevent turning away from him. This feels like a related concept. We need to get our eyes single to God and wait for the miracle, without looking away.

That reminds me of the story when Joseph Smith was teaching a congregation and a flock of geese flew over and most in the crowd became distracted and looked at the geese. Joseph stopped and walked off the stand saying,

“If you are more interested in the quak [sic] of a flock of geese than in what I am saying it’s all right.” (Edwin F. Parry, Stories about Joseph Smith, the Prophet (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1934), 22-23.)

How often do our simple distractions lead us to lose focus and turn away from the Lord?

We are also informed from the Strong’s BLB page that the King James translators translated this word in several different ways:

  • Wait
  • Look
  • Wait for
  • Look for
  • Gathered

This is a great way to find synonyms for what you’re searching for, and often find little gems of meaning to enhance your understanding of a topic. I didn’t expect to see “gathered” in this list and I will be sure to look for those uses.

Seeing the word “look” I now do a Scripture Notes search for:

Look* and (Lord or God) – 158 results

That’s more verses than I want to read through, especially when looking at the verses shows a high number of them are clearly irrelevant for my topic.

The easiest thing to do at this point is go with my original list, but use the BLB site to look for verses that I should individually add into my collection.

The way to do this is in the translation count box.

BLB translation count - wait upon the Lord

Clicking each word or phrase link shows you only the verses where this Hebrew word is translated as those items: wait, look, wait for, look for, and gathered. I do not know what the numbers next to each word use mean (ex. 29x), but it’s not the actual verse count or even a rough ratio relationship between the verses. Sometimes it comes up empty. If someone knows, please post a comment below.

Browsing the ones that don’t use “wait” (which I already have in my search results from above), I see some verses omit both Lord and God but are relevant verses to this study topic. I will look for such verses to include in my collection note as well.

Greek Meanings

Now I turn to the New Testament and the Greek translation. This is often a different set of meanings, nuances, and uses of the same word than the Old Testament Hebrew.

I start by clicking from Scripture Notes into one of the New Testament verses that uses the word wait and click into the BLB site from that verse. The first discovery is “prosdechomai” (Pron. pros-de’-kho-mi) and I discover definitions that relate to the idea of:

  • To receive to one’s self
    • To admit one, receive one into intercourse and companionship
    • To receive one (coming from some place)
    • To accept (not to reject) a thing offered
  • To expect: the fulfillment of promises

Looking at the verses this word is used in, I think there are other verses that use the word wait that are not in this list.

I find another New Testament verse that uses “wait” that isn’t on this first listing and discover the word ekdechomai (Pron. ek-de’-kho-mi) which is very similar to the word above. Only the prefix changed. This word has definitions that encompass:

  • To receive, accept
  • To look for, expect, wait for, await

I see the word “tarry” among the translation count for this word which reminds me of the verse in Luke 24:49 where the Lord told his disciples “tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” The word tarry here is telling them to wait until some event occurs and it comes from the Greek “kathizo” (Pron. kä-the’-zo). This word has meanings that convey these ideas:

  • To make to sit down, to seat down (ie. Appoint or confer the kingdom on)
  • To sit down
  • To settle down (have a fixed abode or sojourn and settle down)

When looking at these verses on the BLB site, most of them relate to either the simple act of sitting, or else sitting in places of authority and glory. They don’t really convey the idea of waiting. Yet that verse in Luke takes on a special meaning knowing it is lumped in with these verses. To tarry means to wait or linger, but in this instance it appears to be a use denoting something very special.

Reading Other Translations

I decide to open up Luke 24:49 on the Bible Hub website and look at 28 other translations. There I see tarry, stay, remain, wait, and abide. All come from this word “kathizo” which in this verse’s context seems clear that this isn’t just a command to settle down and live in the city, but an expectation of something majestic happening. They will be endowed with a special appointment or conferral. They will be “made to sit down” and receive authority in a soon to happen event. They must “wait upon the Lord” for this to happen.

This is enough searching for definitions for me. I now have a flavor for these words and can proceed with my verse study (some of which has been happening as I’ve gone through these pages). All these tabs are open in my browser to reference them as I study, and to look at verses specifically on the BLB website.

You can dig as deep and wide as you want, and you can stop at any time. It’s just according to your desire and where the spirit leads you.

What that Foundation Gives Me

To summarize some of what I’ve just learned and what I’ll carry into my study of these verses:

While thinking about waiting on the Lord, the definitions above seem to convey to me several meanings. The word wait doesn’t just mean to delay yourself and pass time. Sometimes it carries an expectation of receiving something. It can mean to be ready and watchful. It can mean to bind, collect, or gather together. It can mean to bring one into companionship with you, and to appoint one who waits to a position of authority or blessed state.

Studying the scriptures and keeping these things in mind is like adding salt to a piece of food to enhance the flavor.  I wrote about that in a recent post.

Part 2 – What I learned about waiting on the Lord

Now I’ll share a few insights on scriptures of interest that popped up in these results. I eliminated anything that means to just wait and pass time, or wait in ambush, or wait on others. Those are not part of “waiting on the Lord” that I’m looking for.

1) General use

Many verses fall in this type of general category of waiting, and stating an accompanying blessing.

Psa. 62:1. Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation.

Here is a quick list of what blessings come from waiting on the Lord, or what we are waiting on him for:

  • Salvation (Gen. 48:18)
  • For good and light (Job 30:26)
  • For strength to our heart (Psa. 27:14)
  • Inherit the earth (Psa. 37:9)
  • Help, shield, defense (Psa. 33:20; 59:9, Zeph. 3:8 assistance and protection)
  • Receive an inheritance (Psa. 37:34)
  • Deliverance from transgressions (Psa. 39:8)
  • Answers to our prayers (Psa. 40:1; D&C 98:2)
  • Mercy and redemption (Psa. 130:5-7)
  • Renewal of strength and power (Isa 40:31)
  • Not be ashamed of the Lord for he will fulfill his word (Isa. 49:23)
  • Inconceivable eternal blessings (Isa. 64:4; D&C 133;45)
  • The kingdom of God to be revealed (Mark 15:43)
  • Receiving spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 1:7)
  • Revelation to act in accordance with God’s will (Mosiah 21:34)
  • His coming (Alma 13:25)
  • The angels are waiting upon the Lord for the word to be given to destroy the wicked (D&C 86:5)
  • Deliverance in spirit prison (D&C 138:49)

One verse that really touched me shows the two-sided waiting that takes place.

James 5:7. Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.

8. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

In the first instance, the husbandman (Christ) waits with great patience for the precious fruit (us) which is going to receive some rain to help it grow.

We, as this precious fruit, are to establish or make firm our hearts to prepare for the coming of the Lord/husbandman.

2) To Gather

I looked at the 3 uses of “qavah” that related to gathering. With the current heightened awareness of “the gathering” of Israel, this was of particular interest to me. The verses show

a) God gathering together the waters in the creation (Gen. 1:9). Not very relevant to waiting on the Lord…

b) The husbandman gathering stones (non-precious objects/obstacles) out of his vineyard (House of Israel) to clear it and plant his choicest vine (men of Judah) and protect it (Isa. 5:2). Unfortunately, the vine brought forth wild grapes instead of tame ones and the husbandman removed the protections of the vineyard and it was destroyed.

c) A millennial day when the Lord will gather all nations to his throne seat of power in Jerusalem (Jer. 3:17). This last verse is the most relevant example of people throughout the world “waiting” on the Lord to gather them in a millennial time. This is their expected blessing.

3) A Curious Use – Finding Gems

Often when searching the scriptures you will find one or more unexpected gems along the path that make you stop and think. This is one of those verses. Hebrews 11:35 states:

35. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:

The word ‘accepting’ here is the Greek word prosdechomai (Strong’s 4327). It’s an offer to accept. This verse implies that some people had an offer of deliverance at some point but rejected the thing offered to them in order to obtain something better…a better resurrection. This would probably have been deliverance from torture or death, but they turned it away, expecting that for their suffering they would receive something greater. A higher, better resurrection than they would have otherwise received. A martyr for Christ is guaranteed a place in the highest kingdom of glory (Topical Guide: Martyrdom). Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 15:40-42 there are levels of resurrected bodies so we can tie these verses together to help explain the other.

This reminds me of two events from the life of the Savior.

First when the mob was trying to kill him and he passed through them safety without them recognizing him (John 8:59). He had the power to essentially be invisible to the crowd. Perhaps another way of stating it is their spiritual blindness resulted in a form of physical blindness so they couldn’t see him. This is an example of accepting deliverance.

Second, when Jesus willingly gave himself up to the Roman guard, he stated to the disciples that his Father could give him twelve legions of angels to protect him but that was not the plan. He accepted what was to come: false trial, torture, and death by crucifixion (Matt. 26:53).

Deliverance on the one hand because his work was not yet done, but on the other hand, rejecting deliverance to become the willing Christ and thus obtain a better resurrection and provide it for all mankind as well, who were willing to follow the will of God even unto death. This all ties into the “fulfillment of promises” expectation that waiting on the Lord is about.


In summary, waiting on the Lord seems to be the great act of patience and long suffering that leads to all blessings. It’s very rare that things happen in the exact moment asked for. Certainly some miracles can take place that way, but the scriptures that share the moment of a miracle don’t often describe the great length in “waiting” for the miracle. Recall the example where the man with a possessed son asks Jesus to heal him and says he’s had the issue since he was “of a child” (meaning an infant (Mark 9:21)). Some things are never fully resolved in life and ultimately lead to death. However, we do have this assurance from the prophet for those who faithfully wait upon the Lord.

“All your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection, provided you continue faithful. By the vision of the Almighty I have seen it.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 295)

(Featured image by olegdudko @ 123rf.com)

What does waiting on the Lord mean? What does waiting on the Lord mean?

About the Author

God, Family, Country - Oak Norton

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