They That Wait Upon the Lord
May 19th, 1957 @ 10:50 AM
THEY THAT WAIT UPON THE LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-19-57 10:50 a.m.
You’re sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled They Who Can Only Wait, and the text is in Isaiah 40:31: "They that wait upon the Lord." The fortieth chapter of the Book of Isaiah is one of the precious passages in the whole Word of God:
"Comfort ye, comfort ye My people," saith your God.
"Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins."
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."
O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, "Behold your God!"
Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him: behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him.
He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?
He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly 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; and they shall walk, and not faint.
One of the great encouraging, comforting, strengthening passages of the Word of God for the prophet who wrote that chapter saw in the immediate years that lay ahead an awful trouble and judgment that was to fall upon his nation and his people [Isaiah 1-12, 28-33]. And then beyond the day of trouble and the hour of waste and captivity, there came to his heart for the wasted and enslaved people this word of hope and help and comfort from God.
And in his way of speaking the message of the Lord, he likens the pilgrims of God to those who make a troubled journey, and the Lord helps and guides and keeps and directs even the little ones of the flock – even those that are weak and helpless. And it’s that imagery that lies back of the beautiful words of the prophet Isaiah as he seeks to strengthen the people in their journey for our life is a weary one and our pilgrimage is fraught with all kinds of difficulty and trouble. The story of the pilgrim in Bunyan’s [John Bunyan, 1628-1688] Pilgrim’s Progress  is the story of every child of God. The way is rough, and it goes through the slough of despond and despair. And there are giants to fight. There is perturbation of mind and distress of soul and of heart, and happiness is driven away like a hawk drives the lark and the mockingbird from its nest.
In this pilgrimage, in this weary way, the hopeless man is the godless man. For him there’s not any star, and there’s not any heavenly voice, and there’s not any vision, and there’s not any word of hope or of comfort. Between the man who has no God anywhere and the man who knows the one God who is everywhere, there is an infinite and impassable gulf. It is either one or the other. There is no middle ground. This world is without purpose and without meaning and without direction and this earth is nothing but a vast, immeasurable graveyard, or else this world is our Father’s house and He keepeth watch beyond that shadow, loving and caring for His own.
It is our persuasion, it is our conviction, that there is the one God who loves and who cares: "Who giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength" [Isaiah 40:29]. He’s the one who, when the youth faints and is weary and when even the young utterly fail, He renews our strength so that we mount up with wings as eagles: though we run, we’re not weary, and though we walk, we’re not faint [Isaiah 40:30-31]. For the unwearied God helps the wearied man, and the great Eternal gives strength to him who is faint. The great God who helps us is the One who holds the oceans of the seas in the hollow of His hands, who weighs in His balance the mountains themselves and the hills in the scales [from Isaiah 40:12]. He’s unwearied and He never faints, and they that wait upon Him shall renew their strength [Isaiah 40:28, 31].
David closes the twenty-seventh Psalm with this beautiful verse: "Wait upon the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, upon the Lord" [Psalm 27:14]. They that wait upon the Lord shall have strength and encouragement for their journey. "The Lord shall make every valley exalted, and every mountain low: and every crooked place straight, and the rough places plain" [from Isaiah 40:4].
For those who pilgrimage and who wait upon Him, God directs the way through the wilderness [Deuteronomy 8:2; Psalm 32:8]. And the Lord shall be a pillar of fire by night, and a pillar of cloud by day as He directs those who wait upon Him [Exodus 13:21-22]. The Lord with His right hand shall be a sword to fight for them, and the Lord with His left hand will be a shield to protect them. "Behold, the Lord comes with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him" [from Isaiah 40:10].
And the Lord has every tender care for His children who make the pilgrimage and who wait upon Him. "He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and He shall gently lead those that are with young" [Isaiah 40:11]. The Lord is full of tender sympathy and consideration for the weak, and the helpless, and the tender, and the young, and the old and the frail in his flock.
The world through which we make this journey is so different. Kings and they who are in high places pay deference to and have care for the strong and the mighty and the great. It is so different in the Kingdom of God. For in the Kingdom of our Lord, He pays especial attention and has a special care for the weak, and the bereaved, and the helpless, and the old, and the infirm, and the unable [1 Corinthians 1:26-29, 1 Corinthians 12:21-27].
Does God forget us in our nothingness and in our age and in our weakness and in our poverty? Nay, it is just because of those things that God remembers and cares for us [2 Corinthians 12:9-10]. "He shall feed His flock like a shepherd . . . and shall gently lead those that are with young" [Isaiah 40:11]. He will not overdrive His lambs, nor will He forsake His aged and his infirm.
If there is a mother of five children who is here this morning and one of those children is sick or ill or hurt or crippled, I know the one of the five children that she is thinking about this morning: not that boy so strong and able; not that young man who’s grown now and has a family of his own; not Mary, so pretty and so popular. She is thinking about that little child who is sick or crippled: "Did he rest well last night, and is it well with him today?"
That is our God. His care is for us who need His encouragement and remembrance [2 Corinthians 1:3-5]. This great God whom the prophet Isaiah here describes as bringing out the stars by number and calling them each one by its name [Isaiah 40:26], that same God has a care for His children and He calls us by our names [Isaiah 43:1]. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength" [Isaiah 40:31]. God shall give them confidence and help and encouragement for the journey of the way.
Another thing: they that wait upon the Lord offer an acceptable service just to wait upon the Lord. One of the laws that David brought to pass in Israel was an unusual thing. In the days of his trial and his warfare, there were two hundred men of his army who fainted and fell by the way. So David said to those two hundred men, "You stand by the stuff and guard our homes and our wives and our children, and we will pursue the enemy" [from 1 Samuel 30:10]. So the men who fought by the side of David overwhelmed the enemy, and they came back with great spoil [1 Samuel 30:9, 17-21].
And the men who had fought in the heat of the day said to King David, "These two hundred who tarried behind and were unable to go to the fight, they shall not share with us" [1 Samuel 30:22]. Then said David:
Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the Lord hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand . . .
But as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part – share – alike.
And it was so from that day forward, that King David made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel unto this day.
[1 Samuel 30:23-25]
They that tarry – that wait upon God – have as great a part in the reward and in the victory as they who, being able, battle by the side of the King. They share alike. I am saying that they who can only wait upon the Lord have an acceptable offering and offer an acceptable service.
When the Lord God said to Simon Peter, "He shall follow Me unto crucifixion, and unto death; and he shall win a martyr’s crown, Simon Peter" [from John 21:18-19], Simon turned to the Lord and said, "And what of this man?" and pointed to his old friend, John, the son of Zebedee [from John 21:20-21]. And the Lord said to Simon, "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me" [John 21:22].
And it came to pass that Simon Peter, the impetuous, tempestuous, impetuous preacher of the gospel, and God’s messenger at Pentecost [Acts 2:14-40], and God’s chosen mouthpiece to open the door to the Gentiles [Acts 10:1-48], preaching like a storm and a fury, finally reaching a martyr’s crown, and carried up into heaven with the angels of glory. And his old friend John tarried and tarried and tarried, and in his age – an old, old, man – was exiled to a lonely isle of Patmos [Revelation 1:9] there to die of exposure and privation. But he waited upon God. And the Lord had said, "If I will that he tarry till I come" [John 21:22] and John waited upon the Lord. "And they also serve who only stand and wait."
Out of all of the sonnets in English literature, to me there is none comparable to that of Milton on his blindness.
When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: "God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
Post o’er land an ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.
["On His Blindness," by John Milton, c. 1655]
And I’ve often thought the greatest sentence outside of holy writ is the last sentence of that sonnet: "They also serve who only stand and wait."
Oh, that I could sing like an angel; that I could preach like Paul; that I could work for God like David; that I could prophesy like Isaiah, but they also serve an acceptable service who can only stand and wait. "They that wait upon the Lord" [Isaiah 40:31].
Another avowal: they that wait upon the Lord receive the best gifts. It would seem that the man in the thick of the battle, that servant of God who is warring against the enemy and in strength and in power and in might, with unusual gifts and talents, doing great things for God – it would seem that the richest rewards would be for him. The spoil of the battle surely is accorded to him.
The Kingdom of God is so different, and our Lord is so strange. The best gifts are to those who can only stand and wait. By that I mean sometimes God takes away our strength that we might have God’s strength [2 Corinthians 12:7-10]. Sometimes God takes away earthly things that He might give us heavenly things.
God closes the eyes of Milton that He might open his eyes to the marching and countermarching of the angels of glory. God closes the ears of Beethoven [Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827] that he might listen to the music of Saint Cecilia cascading over the ramparts of heaven. God placed His captive people in huts of slavery that they might lift up their eyes to the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens [Genesis 15:13; 2 Corinthians 5:1]. God took away the earthly Jerusalem that they might lift up their eyes to the new and the heavenly Jerusalem [Matthew 24:1-2; Revelation 21:1-3].
And I think that sorrow and age have an infinite purpose. The Lord bows down this house of clay that we might know we’re strangers and pilgrims here and here we have no abiding place [Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11]. Our home is in heaven [John 14:1-3] to lift up our eyes, to lift up our hearts, to open our eyes and our vision to the glory that God hath prepared for those who wait upon Him [1 Corinthians 2:9; Colossians 3:1-2].
And that leads me to the last avowal: For those who wait upon the Lord, there abides a certain victory: the glory, the good thing, the best thing that is yet to come for those who wait upon the Lord. This same great preacher Isaiah, in 64:4, says: "For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside Thee, what He hath prepared for him that waiteth for Him."
Listen to Habakkuk: "The vision is for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; it will surely come . . . " [Habakkuk 2:3]. And Daniel 12:12: "Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days." They that wait upon the Lord shall achieve a certain victory. God hath prepared for them – some better and more precious thing.
In the thirtieth chapter of Isaiah, they were hastening down to make an alliance with Egypt [Isaiah 30:1-5]. And the preacher Isaiah stood before the king and before the princes of Judah and said: "No, not with Egypt, not trusting in the arm of man, but," then that famous word, "but in returning, but in quiet and in rest, in returning in quietness be your strength. Wait upon God" [from Isaiah 30:15]. Not the arm of man, not the alliance with Egypt, not what money and wealth, not what might and power can do, but looking to God what God can do.
And that is our certain and assured victory: looking to God, never discouraged, never fainting. The one thing above all of the things that impresses me as I read in the life of our Lord is He was never discouraged. And His life and His ministry was so fraught with tears and sobs and agony and death [Isaiah 53:3; Hebrews 5:7], contradicted by sinners [Isaiah 53:4], opposed by His own people [Mark 15:6-15; John 1:11]; all of the sorrows and troubles of life that we could ever know, He bore, and yet He was never discouraged [Isaiah 53:7; 1 Peter 2:21-24]. And finally, died and was buried [1 Corinthians 15:3-4], but He trusted in God, and He waited upon the Lord [1 Peter 2:23].
And, my dear people, the sun may forget to shine, and the stars may grow old and dim, and the tides may cease to ebb and flow, and all nature may wreck itself upon the rocks of fate, but that Jesus could stay dead who trusted in God is impossible [Acts 2:24]. The Lord raised Him up because He trusted in God. The Lord hath said it and it shall be: "The mouth of Jehovah hath spoken it, and it is" [from Isaiah 40:5]. And it is with us. "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." [Isaiah 40:31] And though we die, yet the Lord will raise us up. Body and soul will God deliver us for we have placed our trust in Him [John 11:25-26].
And while we sing our song of appeal, somebody you to give his heart in faith to the Lord, somebody, a family you, to put his life with us in the church: while we sing this song and while we make appeal, into the aisle and down here to the front, would you come? Out of the balcony, down these stairwells, from side to side – however God shall say the word, shall lead the way, shall open the door – while all of us tarry here for this moment, prayerfully waiting upon the Lord, if today you ought to come, would you so? Trusting Jesus or putting your life in the church, would you make it now while we stand and while we sing?