Waiting Upon God
By John Wright Follette (1883 – 1966)
“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; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isa. 40:31).
This is a very familiar promise and one which most of us have delighted to repeat as a comfort and means of strength to our fainting hearts. But do we not find the blessings mentioned here uncommon in our lives? I fear the truth too many times is that we run and are weary, we walk and do faint.
Let us look at it again – “They that wait upon the Lord….” Here we find one condition upon which the four resultant blessings hang. This one condition of waiting upon God is entirely within the reach of all, whatever may be the age, condition or environment. God has made it purposely so that all may come into a realization of His blessings. All may not be able to preach, teach, go as missionaries or enter into public service, but any Christian can wait upon the Lord.
Here is another word of encouragement. The four promised blessings are backed up by the “shall” of the Lord God. This gives it power and authority. It is not the word or promise of man with the fulfillment dependent upon his frailty; but the Word of God in heaven and as pure as His name and character.
The question then is concerning our part – waiting upon God. This sole condition met, the resultant blessings are sure. Obviously, then, the absence of the blessing proves that either we do not meet the condition or we do not understand its meaning.
What does the Scripture mean by “waiting” upon God? I want to consider three uses of the word and thus open to our hearts what God means when He says, to “wait upon the Lord.”
The first meaning of the word is silence – to be silent. Prayer is made and now the soul is hushed and, bowing in silence (in faith) it waits before God. The psalmist makes use of this meaning of the word in Psalm 62. “Truly my soul waiteth upon God; from Him cometh my salvation.... My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him” (vv. 1, 5).
It is as if in some great trial or pressure he had found great comfort in prayer and had encouraged his heart in the hope of God’s help; then in quiet faith cast himself upon God. This waiting is like the dew of heaven which distills and waters our feverish hearts.
We are living in an age of intense activity. The very atmosphere is charged with a spirit of hurry and rush. This spirit influences our spiritual life in too great a measure and works damage to its development. Our souls are too noisy. In prayer life alone see how it hinders. Our hearts are much distressed and burdened, so we go to prayer and maybe spend much time pouring out our petitions before the throne. And too many times we get up immediately, rush out of His presence and often try to answer the prayer by some efforts of our own. We do the praying but not the waiting.
Let us not be afraid to be silent before Him thinking it is wasted time. He does not want us to be all the time talking – telling Him so many things about which He already knows more than we do. Time is needed today for proper adjustment to Him, our vision properly focused, our hearts hushed, and minds subdued. This is not all accomplished by prayer. Prayers are needed. They are the winged messengers to carry the need to God. But it is in the silent hour before Him, quietly waiting in His presence that the miracle is wrought.
Expectation and Hope
A second meaning of the word carries the thought of expectation and hope. To wait upon God means to expect from God. It implies dependence. The natural man is so self-sufficient. He turns here and there and expects help from his natural ability, from friends or from circumstances. Quite true that on the natural plane there is occasion for man to help himself and not be dependent. But in the spiritual life we are taught to distrust self and to depend upon the power of the Holy Spirit.
As Christians, we may have learned this lesson in the initial steps of salvation and may be fully convinced of the need of help from God in that particular. Are we as thoroughly convinced of the absolute need of expecting from Him everything for the maintenance of that new life? Remember the words of Paul, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing...” (Rom. 7:18) – also the words of Christ, “I can of Mine own self do nothing...” (John 5:30). Truly we need to expect from God. How patient He is in reducing us. He has His own peculiar methods, but if we will submit to His order, He will reduce, crowd and strip us until with the psalmist of old we cry, “...My expectation is from Him” (Psa. 62:5).
“Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord” (Psa. 27:14). Here we find David again pressed and almost discouraged. He refused to expect anything from his own efforts but looking away from the frailty of the natural, with triumphant faith he sings out his heart to God, “All my expectation is from Thee.”
A third meaning of wait is to watch, observe, take notice. This means that all our spiritual senses must be alive, alert and expectant. To wait means that we are to be near to Him and still that we may catch the slightest intimation on His part. Our hearts are to be sensitive enough to catch the faintest reflection and be able to discern quickly His voice. The meaning is clearly shown in Proverbs 8:34 – “Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.”
Here we have a man, maybe a servant or soldier waiting at a door or gate. He does not know the moment his master may open the door to require his service, or maybe to give him a gift. Be it one or the other it matters not to the waiting man. His duty is to wait (to watch or take notice). It is not the waiting of an idler; it is not the waiting of a dreamer. It is the quiet waiting of one who is girt and ready.
We do not long watch or observe keenly the movements of God before He has some word for us. He bids us go or come on some mission, or speak, write, pray, visit, or sing for Him. Why? Because we were near enough to feel what is on His heart, and thus we were able to enter into fellowship with Him in service.
Many today do not understand the movement of God in the world as He is speaking in present conditions because they are not near enough or still enough to observe Him. As Christians today, our faith is not wrecked because of the conditions about us because we know what the conditions mean. We have seen and do see God’s hand in it all and because of a peculiar and holy response in our hearts we know that God has risen up and that our redemption draweth nigh.
Do We Wait?
Such wonderful blessings hang upon this one condition – to wait. Do we wait? Are we silent unto God? Is our expectation from Him or from ourselves, friends or circumstances? Do we watch for His movements that we may serve? To wait upon God is to have the heart hushed or silent in an expectant attitude, to hear what He might say that we might do His bidding.
The Blessings of Waiting on God
Now let us consider the four resultant blessings, which must follow because God says so.
First – “they shall renew their strength.” To renew strength really means to exchange strength. It is the same term used when speaking of a change of garments. They shall lay aside their strength, and put on, as a garment, strength from God. How suggestive! How needed this is on the part of Christians today. Our great need is to rid ourselves of self-strength that God may clothe us with His own strength. And that is the first blessing promised to those who wait upon God.
Now let us consider the second blessing promised. It is but a logical result of waiting upon God and exchanging strength – “they shall mount up with wings as eagles.” I believe the Lord purposely uses the eagle as a type here because of the special peculiarities of that bird. I think He speaks of an eagle because it is the only bird which goes high enough and sustains its position. God seats us “together with Christ in heavenly places.” That is where He sees us in our new-creation life and where He has called us to live. We are heaven-born and now our affections are on things above. Let us trust the Spirit to hold us in our lofty place. While there, our vision of things is vastly different. We see, as does the eagle, with bird’s-eye-view the complex and trying circumstances and conditions, and seeing from His side we are able to note the relation of one thing to another. Our hearts are concerned with the whole, the ultimate end rather than isolated or disjointed details and sections. Thus, we are able to move on in faith as we look at matters from God’s side. Refuse to look at the situation from the earth side. Let us mount up and let our wings sweep the upper air.
The eagle has to do with big things – mountains, canyons, great depths and immense heights. Truly God has opened to us as Christians a life potent with unmeasured possibilities. The life of a Christian as contrasted with that of the man of the world has to do with the most sublime realities, the most tremendous issues and wonderful destiny. May the Holy Spirit bring us more into a realization of the dignity and wonder of it all. Not to incite pride in the old creation, but humility; that our hearts being subdued and yielded may partake of the nature and character of heavenly and eternal things with which God delights to occupy us. Let God fill our vision with some of the depth, magnitude and mystery of His plan. We would have less time for small talk and non-essentials.
The eagle is not often seen – he is the most solitary of all birds. No man ever comes into realization of the best things of God, who does not, upon the Godward side of his life, learn to walk alone with God. We find Abraham alone upon the heights. Moses, skilled in all the wisdom of Egypt, must go forty years into the wilderness alone with God. Paul, who was filled with Greek learning, and had also sat at the feet of Gamaliel, must go into Arabia and learn the desert life with God.
God knows how to shape the circumstances in order to give us an isolation experience. We yield to God and He takes us through something, and when it is over...we realize that He has wrought some change in us and that the wings of our souls have learned to sweep the upper air.
This isolation produces another characteristic mark – quietness. The soul acquires a new grip upon his life and is now moved by God rather than by things seen. He can trust God to control his spirit in the most vexing circumstances. We see this majestic calm and quietness so marked in the life of Christ.
Now let us consider the remaining two blessings which come in order as a result of waiting and mounting up. “They shall run, and not be weary.” That seems like a tremendous come-down; like a strange anti-climax, and also, – “They shall walk, and not faint.” This is not an anti-climax but rather the logical result of waiting. Man’s order would be to walk, run, and then mount up and thus reach the gradual growth of the Christian in power and strength. But here God is telling us something different. He is showing us the purpose of all that has gone before. The end in view is the practical everyday life to be lived in the power and energy of the Holy Spirit. We go up there that we may serve down here.
May God teach us by His Spirit the secret of waiting. Then we shall find that unseen hands have clothed us with power and thus our souls will mount up to be alone with God in silent places. Having our strength renewed in flight, we are pleased to walk and run out upon the errands of the Lord. So doing, this everyday life, prosaic, common, and unbeautiful may be made potent with blessing and lived in the power of the Spirit.
– Adapted from the book Broken Bread by John Wright Follette.