Power given to the Feint - Part 2
V.- "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." This is another mark and feature of the Lord s family. They are not only faint and feeble in themselves, and without might to do anything spiritually good; but they "wait upon the Lord."
What makes them "wait upon the Lord." Their very weakness, their very faintness, their very helplessness-these are so many instrumental causes which, in the hands of the Spirit, make them wait on the Lord. They "wait upon the Lord," therefore, that they may receive out of his fullness those communications of light, life, and grace, which they have not in themselves. And only in proportion as they daily feel faint and weary, are daily sensible of their own weakness and helplessness, do they "wait upon the Lord."
But before they can "wait upon the Lord," they must have an experimental knowledge of him; they must have a view of him by the eyes of their spiritual understanding; feel the goings out of their heart s affections after him: be assured in their conscience that he is able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto him; and feel a childlike dependence upon him as willing to save.
But the word "waiting" implies several things. It implies,
1. That we have faith to wait. Do we not often feel such infidelity working within that we cannot wait upon the Lord? When the spirit of infidelity comes in like a flood, what waiting is there upon God? Does not this subtle spirit effectually baffle all our attempts to wait upon him? Sometimes unbelief works. When we call upon the Lord, he hides his face, and covers his throne with a dark cloud. He does not give us that testimony which our soul is longing to receive; he denies those love-smiles and love-visits which our souls are panting for. Unbelief immediately works; and we think it is of no use any more to wait at his footstool, or call upon his name. But after a time, faith begins to lift up its head, and then there is a going out of soul to the Lord, a pleading with him, a wrestling at his blessed footstool, a calling upon his holy name, a determination like one of old, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me" Ge 32:26.
2. But waiting also implies humility. "As the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us" Ps 123:2. There is humility in the waiting posture of a servant. And thus, true spiritual waiting upon the Lord is not a pressing forward, like a bold presumptuous claimant; is not an entering with sacrilegious haste into God s sanctuary, nor intruding ourselves at his banquet an unbidden guest; but it implies a knocking at the door, a lying at his feet, a coming to his footstool. It is therefore ever accompanied with this feeling in the heart, that we are to be recipients of mercy; that we have no claim-nothing but beggary, poverty, and rags; and that what the Lord gives, he gives freely to his people as weak and worthless.
3. But "waiting" implies, besides, continuance and perseverance. It is not a mere calling upon the Lord to help, and then immediately leaving off; looking to him for a moment, and then forgetting him utterly; dividing the heart between God and the creature; expecting help one day from God, another day from man. The very word "wait" implies perseverance and fixed determination in the soul, that to him only will we look. The Lord by his mysterious dealings cuts us off from resting upon an arm of flesh. He will not suffer us to lean upon any friend, however near or dear; he will not let us look to any one but himself, for he is a jealous God; and therefore he keeps cutting off link after link, tie after tie, bond after bond; that not having any human comfort, we may seek consolation only in him.
Perseverance implies more or less of a constant waiting upon the Lord. This will therefore go on day after day, week after week, month after month: year after year, the soul will still be waiting upon the Lord. And what for? To receive out of his fullness those communications of grace, mercy, pardon, and peace-those visitations of his Spirit, those refreshments from his presence, those revivings of faith, hope, and love, those manifestations of his favour, the enjoyment of which the soul is looking for.
What a sweet instance we have of this humble spirit in the Syrophenician woman who craved but a few of the crumbs that fell from the children s table! Mr 7:28 Self-abasement is a sure fruit of the Spirit s teaching in the soul.
Now to such the promise is given: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." The "youths" and "young men" never wait upon the Lord. Their proud hearts never were humbled to lie at the footstool of mercy; they were wise in their own conceit, and strong in their own strength; they wanted no divine testimonies, no love-smiles; these in their eyes were nothing but enthusiasm, bigotry, and a wild spirit. Therefore they went on in their own strength, and fell. But the Lord s people, being faint and weary in themselves, and little and lowly in their own eyes, wait upon the Lord; and these, the Lord says, "shall renew their strength;" that is, strength shall be given to them from time to time.
The very expression, "renew their strength," shews there are times and seasons when their strength fails. We cannot walk in the light of past testimonies; we cannot fight fresh battles with old strength; we cannot live this week upon last week s food. No; past deliverances will not do for present trials; past consolations will not help us through present struggles; the Lord therefore empties us from time to time of our nature s strength, and then renews our spiritual. How sweet and precious it is to have our strength renewed; to have fresh grace brought into the heart: to feel the mysterious sensations of renovated life: to feel the everlasting arms supporting the soul, fighting our battles for us, subduing our enemies, overcoming our lusts, breaking our snares, and delivering us out of our temptations! How very rough and rugged the path may be to get the blessing! But how much sweeter the blessing is when it has come through that path! How very painful and mysterious it is to flesh and blood to have no strength! But how much sweeter it is when divine strength comes into the heart! For divine strength is of another nature from creature strength. It will not mix with it; it is pure and holy, and therefore will not blend with that which is impure and unholy. But those that "wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength." So that, in new battles they shall have new strength to fight; in fresh temptations, fresh power to overcome them; in present exercises, present grace to grapple with them.
VI.-But the text adds, "They shall mount up with wings as eagles." What a contrast! Where have we seen them? Perplexed, distressed, exercised, mourning, and crying. We have seen them so faint and exhausted, that they had no strength to move a step further. We have seen them bowed down with temptations, burdens, trials, perplexities, and difficulties; yet waiting upon the Lord; because they had no other help to go to, no other harbour to anchor in, no other refuge to flee unto. Now-what a contrast! "They shall mount up with wings as eagles"-the strongest, the swiftest, and the highest soaring bird; as though the Lord would take the strongest natural comparison to shew how their souls mount up.
But how do they mount up? In faith. It is said of the eagle, that he mounts up towards the sun; and that of all birds, he is the only one which can gaze upon the sun with unshrinking eye. So with faith in the soul. The Lord s people alone can look by faith upon the "Sun of righteousness," gaze upon a glorious Immanuel at the right hand of the Father, and see a precious Jesus ever interceding for them, and drawing them near to his bosom. And when this blessed Jesus communicates a measure of his love and blood to their consciences, and raises up and draws forth faith in his name, then the soul begins to mount up with these wings like eagles, soaring higher and higher, till it comes into the presence of God; mounting up in higher and higher circles of spiritual flight, till it penetrates into the very sanctuary of Jehovah.
Now, has not your soul thus soared sometimes as upon eagle s wings? Have there not been those communications of divine life and light, those mountings of faith, those anchorings of hope, those goings forth of love, whereby your soul was enabled to mount up and find delight in Jesus, and felt his name, love, and blood precious ? Have you not mounted up too, not only in the exercise of living faith and hope, but also of heavenly affection? Sometimes we are so fastened down to this earth, this vale of tears, this waste howling wilderness: so chained down to it, that we are like a bird with a broken wing, and cannot mount. We are swallowed up in the world, forgetting God and godliness. But are there not times and seasons when the soul is delivered from these chains and fetters-when earthly cares drop off from the mind-when our wings are new moulted, and fresh pinions as it were given-when the world and its temptations, sin and its snares are left behind, and there is a sweet mounting up in the feelings of heavenly affection ? This is to "mount up with wings as eagles;" and the soaring soul never ceases to mount till it comes into the very presence of the Three-One God of Israel.
How different the religion of a living soul is from the religion of a dead professor! The religion of a dead professor begins in self, and ends in self-begins in his own wisdom, and ends in his own folly-begins in his own strength, and ends in his own weakness-begins in his own righteousness, and ends in his own damnation. There is in him never any going out of soul after God, no secret dealings with the Lord, no actings of faith upon the divine perfections. But the child of God, though he is often faint, weary, and exhausted with many difficulties, burdens, and sorrows; yet when the Lord does shew himself, and renews his strength, he soars aloft, and never ceases to mount up on the wings of faith and love till he penetrates into the very sanctuary of the Most High. A living soul can never be satisfied except in living union and communion with the Lord of life and glory. Everything short of that leaves it empty. All the things of time and sense leave a child of God unsatisfied.
Nothing but vital union and communion with the Lord of life, to feel his presence, taste his love, enjoy his favour, see his glory-nothing but this will ever satisfy the wants of ransomed and regenerated souls. This the Lord indulges his people with. "They shall renew their strength." They shall not be always lying groaning on the ground-not always swooning away through the wounds made by sin-not always chained down by the fetters of the world-not always hunted in their souls like a partridge upon the mountains. There shall be a renewal of their strength; and in their renewal, "they shall mount up with wings as eagles."
2. "They shall run, and not be weary." Isa 40:31 What is this running? you say. There are three things spoken of in the text-flying, running and walking; and each of these things is spoken of as found in God s family. Sometimes they fly, when they mount up as upon the wings of eagles; sometimes they run; and sometimes they walk.
But what is it to run? David shall explain it. He says, "I will run the way of thy commandments when thou shalt enlarge my heart" Ps 119:32. Paul shall add his testimony; he says, "Let us run with patience the race that is set before us" Heb 12:1.
To run is to move with cheerfullness and activity in the ways of God; not always crippled by a paralytic limb-not always sinking under the burden of a depraved nature-not always swooning away under wounds, weights, and famine. Sometimes the Lord brings a measure of light, life, and love into the soul. There is then a holy activity, a cheerful obedience, a desire to glorify God, a seeking to know his will and do it.
This is not like the running of the "youths" and "young men"-in their own strength. They set out in nature s strength, and drop off in nature s weakness. But the Lord s people, "they that wait upon the Lord," renew their strength -"they run, and are not weary." For the Lord s power rests on them. They are like Elijah, who girded up his loins, and ran before king Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel 1Ki 18:46. There was a divine power communicated to the prophet, so that, though the king rode in his chariot, Elijah outran him. So the Lord s people sometimes have strength given them, whereby they can make sacrifices for the Lord, and do his will with a cheerful heart. And in this running they shall not be weary; so long as the Lord communicates strength and supplies power, they are not weary in well-doing.
3. But there is another word added-"They shall walk, and not faint." Now walking is next to running, as running is next to flying. Walking implies a steady, progressive pace. It is not the same as the ardent mounting of the soul upwards, nor the cheerful activity of the soul running forward; but it is a calm, steady progression. The Lord sometimes gives his people a heavenly soaring, sometimes an active running, and sometimes a steady walking. All indeed are equally good: whether they fly, run, or walk, it is all to God s glory, and their own profit. When they fly, they would not run; when they run, they would not walk. They are contented with what they find; for they can only move as he works in them "to will and to do of his own good pleasure."
This walking, then, is a steady progressing in the things of God; a sober persuasion of the truth as it is in Jesus; a calm movement in the ways of the Lord; a living in peace with God, and in peace with his people; a walking in the ordinances and commandments of the Lord blameless; a going onward in that humility, integrity, godly fear, tenderness of conscience-that wariness, circumspectness, and uprightness of heart which become the true believer. Not precipitately running-"he that believeth shall not make haste." Nor is it a lagging behind; but a walking soberly and circumspectly in the things of God and truth. This was the happy state of the primitive church, "Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied" Ac 9:31.
But whilst they are in this vale of tears, we find the Lord s people in various states and cases. Many of their varied states and cases are traced out in that experimental part of God s word, which is connected with the text. For instance, some are saying, "My judgment is passed over from my God;" I cannot see where the Lord is leading me; all is perplexing, dark and distressing. Others are faint, exhausted, and swooning away through their burdens, difficulties, and perplexities. They cannot move a step further; but still they are in the Lord s path. Others of the Lord s people seem to have "no might:" they cannot even read the Word of God at times; they cannot seek the Lord s face, or call upon the Lord s name; they cannot believe, nor hope, nor love; yet they are in the Lord s ways, and are the Lord s people. Others may be waiting upon the Lord, looking to him, pleading with him, wrestling with him, putting their mouth in the dust, and pouring out their hearts before him; yet still in the way of the Lord, and where he would have them to be. Others may be renewing their strength; the Lord is giving them power, and their bow abides in strength; they are renewed with grace in their inner man that they may fight the battles of the Lord. These are where he would have them to be. Others perhaps are mounting up with wings as eagles; they are full of soaring desires, ravished with sweet and precious manifestations of love and blood. These are still where the Lord would have them to be. Others are running in the way of the Lord s commandments; moving actively in the path of cheerful obedience; the whole bent of their will is to glorify God; his will is their will, and they desire to be actively engaged in all that pleases him. Others perhaps are walking; not mounting with holy affections; not running cheerfully and eagerly; but walking with God in simple obedience to his word, with a tender conscience, desiring to know his will, and do it. This is still the Lord s teaching; they are still in the Lord s way. How different are all and each of these states from being a "youth" or "young man"-an unburdened, un-humbled, unexercised, unplagued professor!
Then, if we be the Lord s people, whatever be our state and case, it will end well -whether having "no might," or "renewing our strength" -whether running or walking, it will all end well. All the Lord s people have these varied dealings through the work of the Spirit upon their hearts; for they shall stand in their lot at the end of the days, and see the Lord face to face in glory!
But woe be to us, if we are "youths" and "young men." You may appear very comely; your religion may be dressed out in the newest and nearest garb; you may seem to be going on well in your own esteem and that of others. But, depend upon it, if this comeliness, zeal, and activity come from the flesh, it will end in your utter downfall. You will find a day will come, when you will not be able to proceed, and the end will be ruin and destruction.
Now, this does not cut down activity in the Lord s way. It does not cut down lively frames, panting hearts, zealous motives, a single eye to God s glory. God forbid. But it points out the right way.
We must faint first, and have "no might," and be brought to our wit s ends, and then have the Lord s blessings communicated in the Lord s way. All that comes from nature must die. Nature s strength, wisdom, pride, and power must all vanish away, that the glory of the Lamb may endure for ever.
Therefore, in this way the Lord cuts down with the sword of the Spirit all that is of nature, and builds up all that is of grace. Nay more, he does not put down nature s activity, that the soul may be a sluggard; nor does he put down nature s strength, that the soul may be inactive. On the contrary, he extinguishes the taper, that the soul may enjoy the blazing light of the sun. He exhausts all nature s strength, that he may build up his own strength upon its ruins. He puts down the impostor, and raises up the saint. He puts down hypocrisy, and exalts his own truth. He takes the crown off nature s head, and places it upon his Son s. He thus secures to himself all the glory, and to his people all the good.
Thus, while on the one hand, he tarnishes the pride of nature s glory, he secures that his will shall be done on earth as in heaven, and gets to himself a revenue of eternal praise. So that, whilst viewed with a spiritual eye, we see how it honours God, we see also how suitable it is to man. And in our right mind, we would rather have burdens, exercises, and temptations, to have God with us, and his glory wrought out through them-rather run in the Lord s strength, than be left to our own strength and righteousness.
Thus, we see the Lord will eventually make it manifest that all is done for the good of the church; and all will end to his glory, who, as Father, Son, and eternal Spirit, is worthy of all honour, praise, and adoration, now and evermore.