It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.…
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE "SALVATION OF THE LORD." The "salvation of the Lord" here is something else than the first view which a sinful man obtains of pardon and peace, through "the great God our Saviour." It is the salvation which a man needs in any crisis of life, where he suffers under trial or is threatened with it. And, in these trials, hope and quiet waiting do not come at once into their fullest exercise. As long as human means can avail, it is a man's duty, trusting to Divine help, to employ them. To sit and wait, where effort can avail, is to insult God's providence. The "salvation of the Lord" is when all conceivable means have been employed, and have failed. We may struggle on with a blind despair, and, as long as strength remains, we must struggle on; but this power, too, seems to be failing. It is then that the ease rises distinctly into "the salvation of the Lord." Nothing can save us but His marked interposition, and the heart must put itself in the attitude of "hope and quiet waiting" for it. There may be some who are using every endeavour to secure subsistence and an honourable position for themselves and those dependent on them; and yet all their efforts are unsuccessful. If some change does not quickly come, they feel that temporal ruin is on them. It is a time not to relax effort, but to look out more intently for deliverance from God, and to have the heart resting on it. Or there may be some one who has the presence of a constant difficulty in the spiritual life, — perhaps the want of that sense of religious comfort which is felt to be so desirable, or the obtrusion of some painful doubt about doctrine or duty, through which no present light can be seen. No exertion to reach light is to be neglected, but there may be a more implicit confidence in Him who is the Father of lights, — holding steadfastly to what is felt to be true, and waiting for illumination on what is doubtful — "casting out the anchor and wishing for the day." Perhaps there are some who are deeply interested in the spiritual welfare of a soul dear to them as their own. Their prayer has been rising, like that of Abraham for Ishmael, "O that he might live before God!" But all means have appeared to fail. Then this remains to us, — to take all our endeavour, and leave it with God, in whose hand are the hearts of all men, who can follow the wanderer wherever his feet or his thoughts may carry him, and can bring him again to himself, and to his Father's house. Or it may be there is some life which has lost all the relish it once possessed, — where wasting sickness has undermined the strength, — or friends who were the hue and perfume of it have been taken away, — or hopes that hung on its horizon like a coming glory have melted into thin air, — and existence seems to have no more an object, and duty sinks into a dull mechanical round, and the night comes down dark and starless, and the morning rises cold and colourless. It is hard to say what can restore to such a life its vigour and freshness, for the mind comes oftentimes to have a morbid love of the gloom which is its misery, and to reckon it treason to its past hopes to turn its eye from their sepulchre. God only knows the remedy, and it is a special time to call up higher duty to our aid — the duty of turning to Him, and striving to feel that He has it in his power, though we may not see how, to save us over the grave of our most cherished hopes, without causing us to forget them, and to shine in with a reviving light upon the dullest and bleakest of earthly walks.
II. WHAT IS MEANT BY THESE EXERCISES OF THE SOUL TOWARDS GOD'S SALVATION, — "TO HOPE, AND QUIETLY TO WAIT." Every one of us knows, without any laboured definition, what it is to hope. But if we are to set ourselves to practise it in a Christian way, it may be useful to look at some of its elements. The foundation of hope may be said to lie in desire. It differs from desire in this, that desire pursues many things that can never be objects of hope to us. We can only hope for that which is felt to be possible and reasonable. This, then, is the first thing for us to do, if we would strengthen hope, to see that its objects are right and good, — that is, accordant with the Divine will, and beneficial for us. We may learn this by consulting God's Word, and our own thoughtful experience. The next element in Christian hope is faith. Hope differs from faith in this, that we believe in many things in regard to which we do not hope. Hope is faith with desire pointing out the objects. If we have sought to make these desires Christian and reasonable, then we may consistently call in the aid of faith. "The Lord shall give that which is good." When we have sought to purify our desires and to make them the subject of faith, as far as they are right and good, there is still a third element to be added to make our hope strong — that of imagination. It is that power of the soul which gives to hope its wings. Let it but rise from the desire of what is true and good, and be chastened by the faith of what God has promised, and it can lift up the soul above the most terrible trials, and put it already in possession of the unseen and heavenly. Every true Christian has the soul of the poet latent in his nature, and if many are kept depressed and earth-attracted, it is because they do not strive enough to free this power from sinful and worldly encumbrances, and to give it wings to soar to its native home. The next exercise of soul which we are to cherish toward God's interpositions is "quiet waiting." It is the part of hope to seek the future; it is the duty of patience to rest calmly in the present, and not to fret — to be satisfied to be where God appoints, and to suffer what God sends. It is fitly pieced after hope, because it follows it in the natural course of an educated Christian life. Hope belongs to youth; patience is the lesson of maturity. As there are means for stimulating hope, so there are also for strengthening patience, and there is, in some measure, a correspondence in them. One means is common to both — the employment of faith. It will enable us more quietly to wait if we have confidence in the all-wise and all-merciful arrangements of God. He can make all its wastes to be as Eden, and bring out the best spiritual results from what seem to us the most barren spots. In other respects, the means for growing in patience are very different from those that help hope. If hope is nursed by desire of what we have not, patience is maintained by contentment with what we have. Our duty may be, when desire of something lost or longed for is consuming us, to bend our look more intently on the present, and try to discover how many things, and how precious, God has left to us. Again, we must cultivate patience by a calm attention to duties. Quiet waiting is not inaction. We may be waiting for one object, while we are steadily working for another. It is a kind law of our nature, that labour expended on any object gives an interest in it; and it is a still kinder law of the kingdom of God, that the tamest and most insignificant of daily duties may be made noble and Divine, when the thought of God and the will of Christ are carried into them.
III. THE BENEFIT OF UNITING THESE — "It is good both to hope and quietly to wait." Every Christian heart feels how it can be going forward in thought to some blessing God has promised, and yet resting, while it is withheld, in submission to the Divine will, — as John, in Patmos, walked the streets of the heavenly city, and listened to its songs, and yet abode in his solitary exile, and was satisfied to be there as long as God required.
1. The one is needful to save the other from sinking into sin. If hope possessed the Christian heart alone, it would be ready to flutter itself into impatience. On the other hand, if we had quiet waiting without hope, it would be in danger of settling into stagnancy. The object of its waiting would disappear, and trials without any end in view would benumb and paralyse it. The one is needful to raise the other to his full strength. The Saviour still leaves us, as He left His first disciples in the garden, with the words, "Tarry ye here and watch," and promises to come again. If hope can lay hold of this promise, and keep it fast, patience will maintain its post like a sentinel who is sure of relief at the appointed hour, and if the hour seems long, will beguile it with those words, which have passed like a "song in the night" through many a weary heart, — "For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry." Then, as imps strengthens patience, patience in turn will strengthen hope. Patience brooding over its own quiet spirit, which yet it feels is not its own, has the presentiment and augury of an end beyond itself. In the deep well of a tranquil heart, the star of hope is lying, — ever clearer as the calm is deepening, — reflected down into it from God's own heaven. This is God's manner, first, to give the inward peace of soul, and afterwards the final deliverance. He came into the ship and calmed the disciples' fears, and then He spoke and calmed the storm: "I will be with thee in trouble"; and then it follows, "I will deliver thee." And now, if it be possible to unite these two, and if it be so needful, it should be the lesson of our life daily to aim at it, to hope without impatience, and to wait without despondency, — to fold the wing in captivity, like a caged bird, and be ready to use the pinion when He breaks our prison. We shall find increasingly "how good it is." It is good now in the depth of the soul, — in the conscious assurance that it is better to rest in the hardest of God's ways than to wander at will in our own. "Behold, we count them happy who endure." We shall find it good in the growth of all the Christian graces, under the shadow of patience. We shall find how good is in the enhancement of every blessing for which we have to wait. God's plan of providing blessings for us is to educate the capacity which is to receive them. We are straitened in ourselves, and must be kept waiting till our minds and hearts enlarge. "Ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise." Of all the motives to hopeful endurance, surely this last is not the smallest, that He who lays the duty upon us has Himself given the example of it. He asks nothing from us that He has not done for us, and done by a harder road, and with a heavier burden.
(John Ker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.