Waiting Upon God

Habakkuk 2:1.---' I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will look forth to see what he will speak with me, and what I shall answer concerning my complaint'[R.V.].

Here is a picture of a man who is alert and expectant. He mounts his watch-tower, keeps vigil, waits for the message which he is sure will come. You feel that he is in a state of spiritual tension. Something is going to happen which will make a difference to him, and he is determined to meet it as it comes. He looks forth, straining eye and ear, with eagerness written on his face. This is how he waits for God and for anything which God may have to say to him. Here is a man spiritually alive waiting upon the Living God.

How full the Bible is of this thought of waiting upon God. Again and again the phrase occurs in psalm or prophecy; and as we read it we feel that true religion was very real to these Hebrews. The writers of the Old Testament realized that, while religion implied conduct, the actual doing of the right thing and the offering of the true worship, there was something behind all that which was far more important. There was what God was waiting to do for those who sought Him. He had blessings to give them; He had truth to show them; He was longing to enter into fellowship with them. All that came first; what man had to do was in response to a prior action of God. And man could not do his part unless he took up that attitude, which they described in expressive language as 'waiting upon God.' Revelation and redemption are the two great words of Scripture, and both emphasize the priority of God. The one tells of God who wants man to know about Himself, and so gives him a revelation; the other of a God, who calls man into fellowship with Himself, and sets in motion a saving process, stooping in love to lift man out of his sin and folly. The priority of God---God taking the initiative---that is written large in the pages of the Bible.

To wait upon God means concentration. It means the quiet hour of prayer and meditation, when we put aside the interest which occupy us in our everyday life and try to realize God's presence. Do we give ourselves time to be quiet? Is it not more and more the danger of modern religious life that it loves bustle and rush and committees and statistics, and neglects both thinking and prayer? 'Prayer is work,' says the old phrase, which is true, for genuine prayer means effort. But is the converse true that 'to work is to pray'? Nehemiah was a very busy man, and with him work was prayer. A prayer atmosphere surrounded his work, and it was there because he had learned the habit of being quiet and of meeting with God. But with many of us the work takes the place of prayer.

The monks of old were too often content with prayer unaccompanied by any practical effort, and ended by leading idle, useless lives, in which prayer was a mere form. Now, on the other hand, the servants of Christ are tempted to labor only, and neglect to give sufficient time to prayer; yet, if they do, their work is bound to suffer. It is said of that mighty spirit of the Middle Ages, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, that he found on the days when he spent most time in prayer and in study of the Bible his letters were most rapidly written and most persuasive, and his own schemes were widened or lost in the greater purpose of God; anxiety was allayed, and the power of the Holy Spirit to which he had opened his heart, was felt in every word he spake, and in his very presence and look. Prayer is indeed work; and there are times when it is the only work in which men should engage. For it is calling on God to put forth His mighty power, and to use us as willing and efficient instruments in His hands.

Bible reading has largely gone out of fashion. But is there any better way in which to wait upon God than to study the great text-book of religious experience? 'The words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life.' How can we hope to know God unless we will study the record of the revelation He has given to the world? It is with the soul as with the body. The body needs rest that the muscles may recover their tone. And the soul needs the hour of quiet, when God can draw near and quicken the spiritual life. How splendid are those words of Isaiah, '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.' If we are to do our work for God with power and in the right spirit we must be constantly drawing upon His supplies of strength; and only in the quiet of prayer and thought and pause will those supplies be open to us.

The man who waits upon God waits in expectancy of receiving something. He has, in other words, a certain view of God. He attributes to Him a definite character. Let us see what view of God lies behind this attitude of expectation. The large thought about God which runs through the Bible is of a Being whose nature it is to be active towards man. God reveals Himself to man, wants him to enter into fellowship with him, sends His Spirit to quicken and illuminate human life. He is a Living God. Wherever there is life, there is activity, output, movement.

Do we really believe that God is of this nature? St. Paul asked some disciples at Ephesus, 'Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?' And they replied, 'Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Ghost was given.' There are not a few professing Christians who are in a similar position. They have heard, indeed, about the Holy Spirit; but have very little experience of His power. For them God is a term which suggests a Being remote and awful, rather than a Spirit close to our lives waiting to enter into them and quicken them. The 'Living God' means nothing to them. They do not conceive of God as the great creative source of life, who is striving to pour His life into humanity, and is constantly being hindered by the fact that men shut the door against Him. The Christian conception of God sets Him forth as a Spirit of Holy Love, who has given men a share in his own nature that He may draw them into fellowship with Himself. He is God the Giver, who longs to give of Himself to man, and has spiritual energies which He can release in response to man's prayer for them.

The giving of God must inevitably be conditioned by our own spiritual state. Spiritual gifts cannot be forced on us. If we are to receive them we must want them, expect them, and open our lives to Divine influences. At Holy Communion, for instance, we fail often to receive the blessing which we might receive, because we do not come to the service in the right state of mind. So it is with Bible reading, or prayer, or any of the means by which we approach God. The eternal spring of His love is ever flowing; but we too often fail to keep clear the channels by which His gifts can reach us. If our waiting upon God is to be fruitful we must practice it with the unhesitating faith that God can give us life, and with the expectancy that He will give it. It is the soul which is alive that reaches out after the Living God. The soul which is dead, or hesitant, or half-hearted in its search for God, will never know the reality of the Divine touch.

The question the prophet asked, why all this disorder and suffering was allowed by God, is not directly answered. The answer that Habakkuk receives goes far deeper than any reply to that question. He is bidden trust God, throw himself upon God's character, assure himself that, with God in control of the world, wickedness cannot finally triumph.

What is the real heart or essence of worship? Not to have all our doubts solved, or all our petitions in prayer answered, but to be sure of God, to enter into real and living fellowship with God that He comes to be the most certain of all certainties. There are a hundred problems we shall never solve, and the Christian revelation says very little to satisfy our intellectual curiosity about this mysterious universe in which we live. What it does is to give us a revelation of God as One who, just because He is Love, can be utterly trusted. Christianity says in effect, 'God is a Father, who loves you, cares for you, and seeks to bless you. Believe that, and test it in your lives, by living as His sons. Put God to proof. Expect great things from Him; wait upon Him; seek to know Him; and in manifold ways, and through a growing experience of life, He will make Himself known to you.' That is what waiting upon God does for us. It brings God close to the life. It helps us to know God as a man grows to know and trust a friend he loves. That is better than an answer to a problem. we can wait patiently for the solution of many of our problems if we know God holds the key to them. There are many things a child cannot understand; but he knows that his father understands them, and he is content.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha