The energetic activity of waiting
William Guthrie (1620–1665) was minister of Fenwick in Ayrshire who is best known for his valuable book on salvation and assurance The Christian’s Great Interest.
23 May, 2024

All our safety and wellbeing depends on keeping close to the Lord. Yet our sinful hearts keep drifting away from Him, to our own cost as well as His dishonour. When we then come to our senses and realise He is far away and we are in a desperate place without Him, what can we do? In the following updated extract, William Guthrie’s advice to helpless, sin-stricken people is not to give in to a passive, lethargic, despairing kind of inactivity, but to “wait” on the Lord by rejecting unsafe alternatives and by persisting in the expectation of grace from Him.

While Isaiah speaks for himself, he speaks for all the godly, when he says, “I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him” (Isaiah 8:17). In these words you have the duty of the people of God: to wait on the Lord until He pleads their cause, and executes judgment for them.

One of the doctrines we can deduce from this verse is that when people are shaken out of their self-confidence, it is their duty then to wait on God.

Reasons why we should wait on God

We are to wait on God for several reasons.

  • Because we are commanded to. “Wait on the Lord” is often commanded in Scripture.
  • Because of the promise that is annexed to waiting. “Those that wait upon the Lord shall never be ashamed.”
  • Because it is the most acquiescent and composed posture one can possibly be in. In an evil time, “it is good to hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.”
  • Because it has always been the work and practice of the people of God, even in the days of old. Says the Psalmist, “My soul waits for the Lord, more than they that do watch for the morning.”
  • Because it always has a joyful outcome. “Lo! this is our God! we have waited for him, we will rejoice in him!”

But so that you may better know when it is your duty to wait on the Lord, I shall in the next place show you three things. Firstly, what precedes, or goes before, waiting on the Lord. Secondly, what it means to wait. And thirdly, what follows a right waiting on the Lord.

Things that come before waiting

[In order to wait on the Lord, these things should be firmly fixed in our hearts.]

It really is our duty. The duty itself is fully set out in this chapter. “Say not, ‘A confederacy!’ with them to whom this people shall say, ‘A confederacy’;” that is, “Do not let their words make you afraid.” “But only sanctify the Lord in your hearts;” that is, be only afraid of offending Him.

There is a promise held out to those who make Him their fear. “He shall be for a sanctuary unto them.”

A threatening is pronounced against those who fall away from Him. There is a threatening pronounced against the common multitude who decline and join with the times. “He will be for a stone of stumbling unto them.” It is only a promise held out to those who walk aright, while it is a threatening against those who go wrong and comply in an evil time.

What does waiting on the Lord mean?

Exclusively on God

Waiting on God means that the heart terminates on Him, with an expectation fixed only on God for help, and on none else. “My soul, wait thou only upon God: for my expectation is from him.” That is, “Wait on God, and on no other.” Similar is that word, “Help us, Lord, for vain is the help of man.”

Pre-eminently on God

Waiting on God also signifies that your expectation is more on God Himself than on any created means. God can give you means, but if you don’t get Himself, it doesn’t matter what else you might get. He may send back your means for a plague to you and not for your good. Therefore plead with Him, and be blunt with Him, and say, “Go with us, Lord, or else carry us not up hence.” So I say, you should plead more for God’s presence than any other means under heaven.

Whatever it costs

Waiting on God means submitting to the seasons of deliverance from your present condition, and to the ordering of it and all that concerns you, while under the trial.

For as long as it takes

Wait on God means resolving to remain at the duty of waiting, until He shows you what else you should do. For waiting on God is still your duty while you are in the dark, and can use no other means for your relief.

What follows after waiting

These things follow after waiting, and are clear from the text.

Stigma. You must resolve to be “for signs and wonders in Israel.” If ever you resolve to be someone who waits on God, you must resolve to be mocked, reproached, banished, imprisoned, and every other way persecuted for Christ.

Pressures. A great many temptations follow when you wait on God.

Isolation. There will be few left to preach the gospel or to consult with in that dark time. He says, “Go to the law, and to the testimony.” You must then make use of your Bibles instead of your ministers.

Eventual vindication. The manifest vengeance of God shall be on those who turn aside. That will be the lot of those who oppose the work and people of God.

The implications for us

Have you been given your work and duty in a dark time? Then go to God. Don’t plead ignorance, saying, “What shall we do?” Instead, I say, wait on the Lord, and judge yourselves happy, that the thing which is your duty cannot take from you by enemies (though they may take your life from you).

Face temptations squarely. Before temptation comes, be resolved that they will not cause you to turn aside. Make the effort to be clear in your understanding as to the honesty and justness of the cause, and for that end be well acquainted with the Scripture, and there see what is your duty.

To conclude, believe this, that God’s wrath abides on those who turn aside from Him. All that they previously took pleasure in shall forsake them, or shall be embittered to them, in the day when those who waited shall enjoy what they waited for.




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