From a sermon by Morrison reproduced in the 1907 book Great Texts of the Old Testament.
"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint" (Isa. 40:31).
These words of the prophet were primarily written to comfort the Israelites in exile. A gloom had settled down upon their spirits; they thought they were forsaken by their God. No longer was He concerned about their welfare; no more was He watching them with love and pity. "My way is hid from the Lord," they said in Babylon, "and my judgment is passed over from my God."
It was to strengthen these desponding exiles that the chapter with its promises was given. They were recalled to such a view of God as even in Babylon would make them strong. For He was the Creator of the ends of the earth-and at the ends of the earth they were in exile; and He faints not, neither is weary-therefore they need not think He would grow tired of them; and there is no searching of His understanding-can they not trust in the light beyond the cloud?
And then the message closes full in this, that He who faints not, empowers the faint. Let them not wonder if by the waters of far Babylon even the youths should be weary and should fall. But "they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."
It is on these words, then, in their spiritual application that I wish to speak for a little while, and I may handle the message of the text as follows: 1) What is meant by waiting upon God? 2) How does waiting upon God renew our strength? 3) How does this renewed strength reveal itself?
Is Meant by Waiting upon God?
Now, the first thing we must imprint upon our minds is that waiting is not an idle and impassive thing. When the Bible speaks of waiting upon God,it means something different from doing nothing. We commonly contrast waiting with working, and there is a sense in which the contrast is a just one; but if it leads us to think that waiting is not working, it has done wrong to a great Bible word. Think, for example, of the Cabinet minister whose duty it is to wait upon the king. Is that an idle or a sauntering business? Can it be entered on without a thought? Will it not rather claim the whole attention, and make the statesman eager and alert? For him, at any rate, waiting is not idleness; rather is it the crown of all his toil.
I have heard soldiers say that in a battle the hardest thing is not the final rush. In that wild moment a man forgets himself and is caught into a mad tumult of enthusiasm. The hardest thing is to stand quiet and wait, while the hail of the enemy's fire is whistling round-to wait in the darkness and in the face of death, and be forbidden to return the fire. It is that which tries the nerves and tests the heart. It is that which shows the stuff that men are made of. In such an hour a man is not asleep-he is intensely and tremendously alive. And I mention that to show how the word waiting does not describe a dull or sluggish state, but is compatible with ardent feelings, and with a spirit that is burning at its brightest.
Brethren, it is such thoughts as these that we must import into waiting upon God. To wait upon God is not to be inactive. It is not a state of spiritual torpor. It tests a man-shows what is in his heart-calls his whole being into high vitality. Never was life so strenuous as Christ's, and the whole of it was a waiting upon God.
Now, let me try to distinguish some of the elements that lie in the thought of waiting upon God; and the first and most conspicuous is dependence. As the newborn child waits upon its mother, just because without its mother it would die; as the patient waits the coming of the surgeon, because in him the hope of life is centered; so, when a man is said to wait on God, it means that he is dependent upon God, and that he has been wakened by the Holy Spirit to realize that he is thus dependent.
It is true there is a broad and general sense in which all created beings wait on God. "The eyes of all things living wait on thee," says the psalmist in one of the choicest of the Psalms. Just as the earth waits upon the sun that she may be vestured in her summer glory; just as the ocean waits upon the moon that she may be drawn to the fullness of her tides; so every bird that sings, and beast that ravens, and every wretch who curses and blasphemes, is moment by moment waiting upon God. That is a scriptural meaning of the word; but that is not the meaning of our text. Here the dependence is felt and realized. The soul delights herself in leaning hard. And just as we consciously depend on God for pardon, for sanctification, yes, for everything-just in that measure do we learn the secret of waiting upon Him.
Again, at the heart of waiting is obedience.To "wait on" is another term for service. As the eyes of a servant wait upon her mistress, so, says the Scripture, does man wait on God. There is a waiting which is little else than flattery, as many a courtier waits upon his monarch; but God abhors the waiting of the lip, if there is not at the back of it the waiting will.
One of the noblest instances of waiting is in the oft-told tale of Casabianca. We have been familiar since our childhood with the story of the boy who "stood upon the burning deck," And it was not recklessness that kept him there, nor any insensate passion for red martyrdom. He waited because he thought that in waiting he was obedient to his father's word.
Brethren, are we not often tempted to narrow down the great words of the Bible? Are there not many for whom waiting upon God means little else than the exercise of prayer? Just as the Roman Catholics have taken the great word "discipline" and narrowed it to the penitential scourge, so Protestants have taken waiting upon God, and robbed it of every meaning except prayer. Now, far be it from me even to suggest that without prayer we can truly wait on God. Whenever we pray, then do we wait on God, and waiting is never so blest as when we pray. But I want you to learn that waiting upon God must never be confined to prayer alone. The root idea of it is not devotion. The root idea of waiting is obedience.
We wait on God when we seek to do God's will, when we say "Not my will, but Thine be done." We wait on God when we do a kindly deed, and do it in the name of Jesus Christ. When we give a cup of cold water to the thirsty, when we pay a visit of comfort to the sick, when we teach our little class for Jesus' sake, when we hold out a helping hand to any brother, in all that ministry, however humble, we are most truly waiting upon God. The servant in the kitchen waits on God when for Christ's sake she does her duty faithfully. The mistress in the drawing-room waits on God when for Christ's sake she is a lady to her servants. The eager man of business waits on God when he prays for strength to abhor that which is evil. The husband in the home waits upon God when he is true and tender to his wife. To wait upon the Lord is to obey. What else doth the Lord thy God require of thee? And when the obedience is all steeped in prayer, then it is waiting upon God indeed.
But there is one other element we can distinguish. It is not obedience, it is love. For as love is the source of all the finest work, so it is the secret of the finest waiting. Jacob waited for Rachel seven years, and they seemed but a few days for the great love he bore for her. He was strong to wait when others would have wearied, and he was strong because he loved her so. What makes the mother wait upon her child, and start from her pillow when she hears it cry? What makes her wait on it with tireless patience, when it frets and tosses in some childish fever? Ah, sirs, I need not tell you what-you know that the secret is a mother's love.
Now, as it is with our waiting upon others, so is it with our waiting upon God. Unless we love Him with our heart and soul, our waiting on Him is a shallow thing. And therefore it is that in a Christian's waiting there is a depth and fullness never known before, for love to God is a new thing altogether when once we have looked on the face of Jesus Christ. Who, then, are those who wait on God? They are those whose life is strenuous and full. They are those who consciously depend on God. They are those who make it their life-work to obey Him. Above all, they are those who have been wakened to feel the wonder of God's love in Christ, and who love Him because He first loved them.
George H. Morrison (1866-1928) assisted the great Alexander Whyte in Edinburgh, he pastored two churches, and then became a pastor in 1902 of the distinguished Wellington Church on University Avenue in Glasgow. His preaching drew great crowds; in fact, people had to line up an hour before the services to be sure to get seats in the large auditorium. Morrison was a master of imagination in preaching, yet his messages were solidly biblical. He is perhaps best remembered for the volume of his sermons published under the title Highways of the Heart.
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