When you are in a hurry, waiting seems impossible. At such times anxiety and frustration can easily take over. We have to wait but the question is: how should we wait? Many Christians find that they may wait long in prayer before they seem to have an answer. At one time they are tempted to impatience and then to hopelessness. But true waiting is not passive paralysis; it exercises our faith and patience in persevering prayer. This is how David could emphasise that “truly” his soul was waiting on God (Psalm 62:1). What is involved in this spiritual discipline?
Zachary Boyd (1585–1653) explains something of this in a sermon on Psalm 62:1 called “The Godly Man’s Confidence”. There is an updated extract below. Boyd was minister of the Barony Parish, Glasgow. Well-known as a poet, he contributed around a tenth of the content of the Scottish Psalter (1650). He was rector and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Glasgow. He faced Cromwell’s army with bravery when they invaded Scotland and proceeded to Glasgow. He had a high view of the calling of a minister “they who do this work as they should, must with earnest prayers, painstaking reading, and serious meditation empty their veins of blood till paleness…be printed upon their face”. He left a large number of sermons which are especially encouraging for tried and tempted believers, such as the following:
observe well O man what I say…While you are tempted to think that the Lord has cast you off…I can assure you that you have Him even now, and shall have Him also forever
What is True Waiting on God?
It means to abide patiently in hope of help from God. In the godly, this waiting is accompanied with vehement and continual looking to God for assistance. They seek to be delivered either from felt present evil or from feared future evil. It is helpful to consider the characteristics of those who wait wisely on anything must:
- Consider what they wait for to be well worth the wait;
- Love what they wait for;
- Be conscious of lacking what they wait for;
- Hope to find what they lack in the one on whom they wait;
- Wait constantly;
- Keep their eye on the one on whom they wait.
1. God is Well Worth the Wait
The soul that waits on God is wise because He is not only worthy but worthiness itself. When all things fail us, God will not. The Psalmist said that his “flesh and heart” failed but the Lord “is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). This is the One who, if we wait on Him, will first guide us by His counsel and afterward will bring us to glory.
2. Wait on God with Love
There must be love in the heart of those that wait on God. Unless a man loves God, he cannot wait on God (1 John 4:8). A man cannot live where he does not love. “God is love” (1 John 4:8), not only because He loves us more than we can love Him, but also because He is most worthy to be loved.
It is well with the man who (fainting in his spirit with such strong love) can say with the spouse: “stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love (Song of Songs 2:5). Moses so loved Him that, for His glory, he desired to be scraped out of the book of life (Exodus 32:32). St Paul was greatly inflamed with such a love to Christ that if any loved Him not, his wish was that he should be “anathema maranatha” (1 Corinthians 16:22). If a man does not love God primarily for Himself, he will not wait on God.
Many waited on Christ because He gave them loaves (John 6:26). This is like a dog that will wait on a stranger that has a bone in his hand, not for himself but for the bone. Many wait on God’s benefits, but few wait on Himself. “There be many that say, Who will shew us any good?” (Psalm 4:6). But how few are those that seek God for Himself and ask with the psalmist that the Lord lift up the light of His countenance on them. If like the dog, many get the bone of some benefit out of God’s hand, they know Him not more than if He were a stranger only now come into the world. There is no waiting on where there is no love. Man is wearied to wait on that which he does not love.
Most of us may easily know that we do not love God by our waiting. How drowsy we are to wait on God until He has spoken to us for only an hour? How wearied we are to speak to God in prayer for only a quarter of an hour. We can wait on worldly business the whole day and discourse with men from morning till evening. But who can wait so long either to hear God speaking by preaching to us or to speak to Him in prayer? It is easy to say that our soul waits on God. But how few can say “Truly” my soul waits on God (Psalm 62:1)?
3. Wait on God with a Sense of Your Need
Those who wait on God must have a sense of their own needs. A Laodicean soul filled with self-conceit cannot wait on the Lord (Revelation 3:14-17). As long as a man sings the requiem to his soul that he has no need of anything, he waits on himself (Revelation 3:17). But as soon as he has seen his own blindness, misery and nakedness by virtue of God’s eye-salve, he is fit for waiting on God. A man must first renounce himself and all that is within him before he can be able to cleave to God.
4. Wait on God with Assurance that He can Supply Your Need
Those who truly wait on God must be assured that they will find in God that which they lack. This is faith. “To whom shall we go?” said Peter to Christ: He had “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). St Peter would wait on Christ alone because he saw that He had words such as no man had the like. If men could taste and see how good the Lord is, they would cleave to Him (Psalm 34:8). They would cleave to Him even though He would desire them to go from Him. Just as Ruth did to Naomi when she desired Ruth and Orpah to return to their country. Scripture calls Ruth “steadfastly minded” (Ruth 1:18).
5. Wait on God Constantly
There must be constancy and continuance in waiting on God. God will not be served by fits and starts. He that perseveres to the end shall be saved (Matthew 24:13). The wicked (like the deceitful Israelites) seem for a time to be bowed like a bow to received the string of the Lord’s law into the nock of their heart [a nock is the groove at either end of a bow for holding the bowstring]. But immediately they bend back from such an inclination. The prophet said they “turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow” (Psalm 78:57). Those who turn back and aside cannot be said to wait on God. Courtiers will wait constantly on kings for that which is not worth waiting for. But few will wait on God. If God makes no immediate answer to King Saul by Urim or Thummim, he must run to the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28:7). Nature dislikes grace: they are disposed to be contrary to one another.
Grace is willing to wait on God, but nature makes haste. Ungodly Saul could not wait until Samuel came but, as he said, “I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering” (1 Samuel 13:12). In the same way, a wicked man cannot wait on the Lord’s leisure.
6. Wait on God with Your Eye on Him
Last of all, a good waiter is always to have an eye on the one on whom they wait. The psalmist says: “Behold, 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” (Psalm 123:2). David said “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help” (Psalm 121:1). That is, to the force of men who dwelt in the hill country of Canaan. But immediately he corrects himself that his help comes “from the LORD, which made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). He would say, I will wait on God, my eyes shall no more be lifted to the hills but to Him “which made heaven and earth”.
Selected Sermons of Zachary Boyd ed. David Atkinson (336pp, hdbk, Scottish Text Society) includes 19 sermons from the 1620s and 1630s with historical footnotes. The sermons are, however, in the original 17th century spelling. Those who are not daunted by this discover rich examples of faithful preaching during this time. The book is relatively rare and is available from James Dickson Books for £9.95 (RRP £30). There is a very special offer of free worldwide shipping available to readers of this blog post using the coupon code RST16. Purchase here (enter the code after adding the book to the cart). Email info [at] jamesdicksonbooks.com if you experience any difficulties.
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