Waiting On The Lord
There is a verse in Isaiah 40 that is well–known and cherished, but little understood. I refer to verse 31: “but they that wait upon Jehovah shall renew [their] strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not tire; they shall walk, and not faint.” Let us confess at once that these blessings are not usual in the lives of Christians. As a matter of fact we run and are weary, we walk and do faint—and the wings of our souls do not habitually beat the air of heaven. On the face of it, it is very simple: there is a condition entirely within the reach of every Christian, whatever may be his or her age or environment, that makes the resultant blessings sure. If the condition is met, then the blessings will flow. The reverse is also true, and thus the absence of the blessings proves that we do not meet the condition. That condition is waiting on the Lord.
Perhaps we have never stopped to read the verse very carefully. We like certain promises of Scripture largely because we feel there is something beautiful, majestic and triumphant in them, but we do not really consider what they mean. What then is the meaning of ‘waiting on the Lord’? Everything hinges on it, for it is the sole condition in order to receive the blessings. First of all, waiting upon God is not praying. Praying is petitioning God for something. It has its own unique and important place in the Christian life, but it is not waiting upon the Lord. Waiting upon the Lord implies both dependence and expectation—but it does not imply speaking. To wait upon the Lord is to look to the Lord for everything, and that being so, the soul is at peace. It is not the waiting of an idler, nor the waiting of a dreamer, but the waiting of faith—girded for instant, unquestioning obedience when the time to act or speak comes. It is trusting, it is hoping and it is resting in the Lord. He is looked to for everything, and nothing is expected from anywhere or anybody else.
The four blessings of the text must follow if the one condition is met because God says they shall: “they that wait upon Jehovah shall renew [their] strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not tire; they shall walk, and not faint” (my emphasis). Let us take each in turn.
“They that wait upon Jehovah shall renew [their] strength”. The word renew rendered literally is change—they shall change their strength. It is a word used to denote a change of garments. Thus they that wait upon the Lord shall lay aside their strength and put on, as a garment, strength from God. Indeed, the whole of Isaiah 40 is a series of contrasts between the frailty and feebleness of man, and the strength and greatness of God. Man has some strength in the realm of the natural, but it is a strength that utterly breaks down in the spiritual sphere. The problem is to rid ourselves of self–strength in order that God may clothe us with His own strength; and this is the first blessing promised to those who “wait upon Jehovah”. How does God effect this? I do not know, but I do know that when we are waiting upon Him, our natural strength, which after all is only weakness, is laid aside, and divine hands clothe us with the strength of God.
“They shall mount up with wings as eagles”. What does that mean? Why as eagles? Why not with wings as doves? I think it is because of the fact that the eagle flies so high, and is often lost to sight in the heavens. He is, as it were, up there in the presence of God. And then the eagle is also immensely strong—the avian symbol of power. The two things go together—being alone with God, and having power with God. Lot dwells in Sodom and torments his righteous soul with the lawless works of the godless (see 2 Pet. 2: 8) but he has no power (see Gen. 19: 14). Power resides with Abraham in the hill–country of Hebron (see Gen. 13: 18; 18: 16–33). Thus “If therefore ye have been raised with the Christ, seek the things [which are] above”. How far above should we go? “Where the Christ is, sitting at [the] right hand of God” (Col. 3: 1). It is, we might say, an environment suited to the man of God. Of course, as with the eagle, it may be a lonely path, and we shall no doubt be misunderstood by those taken up with the affairs of this world, but the reward, both now and in the future, is immense.
But that is not all: “they shall run, and not tire; they shall walk, and not faint” (Is. 40: 31). What! Must we come down and run and walk here on this mundane earth after these eagle flights? Yes, precisely—for we go up there that we may serve down here. We can never serve here according to God’s thoughts of service until we have risen on eagle’s wings into His presence. It is only the man or woman who has been with God who can touch human lives with divine power. Yes, we must run down here, and walk down here, but only in the degree in which we have breathed the upper air can we either run without tiring, or walk without fainting. What is the “walk” then? It is the everyday life. It is the getting breakfast, dressing the children, and getting them off to school. It is going down and opening the shop, or going to the factory or office. Some think it must be preaching or pastoring or missionary work—and it may include such things—but to confine it to them is a mistake. It is really just our daily lives here as God directs them to be. Under the wear and petty vexations and frictions of everyday life, in heat and cold, in dull days and bright days, the Christian that has waited upon God shall run, and not tire, shall walk, and not faint. May it be so!