For the vision awaits an appointed time; it testifies of the end, and will not lie. Though it lingers, wait for it, since it will surely come and not delay.
I. TEMPORAL CIRCUMSTANCES. These are not always easy and prosperous. Sources of perplexity may at any moment arise. There may come slackness of trade; new rivals may appear, causing sharp and severe competition; losses may have to be sustained; and in this way, from a variety of causes, "hard times" may have to be passed through. And under such circumstances we should trust and not be afraid, knowing that all our interests are in our loving Father's keeping. He has promised us a sufficiency. "His mercies are not the swift, but they are the sure, mercies of David." We must not be less hopeful and trustful than the little red breast chirping near our window pane, even in the wintry weather. "Behold the fowls of the air," etc. (Matthew 6:26). Then, "though the vision," etc.
II. LIFE'S SORROWS. These have fallen upon men at times with a crushing weight. All has appeared dark; not a ray of light has seemed to penetrate the gloom. Yet still they have found that, whilst the vision of hope has been deferred, it has been realized at last, filling their hearts with holy rapture. Jacob lived long enough to see that neither Joseph nor Benjamin had been really taken from him, and that those circumstances which he regarded as being against him were all designed to work out his lasting good. Elijah cast himself down in the wilderness and slept. And, lo! angel guards attended him and ministered unto him, new supplies of strength were imparted, the sunshine of the Divine favour beamed upon him, and he who thought he ought to die under a lonely tree in the desert was ultimately altogether delivered from experiencing the pangs of the last conflict, and was borne in triumph to the realms of everlasting peace. The Shunammite had her lost child restored; the exiled returned at length with songs unto Zion. The Egyptians painted one of their goddesses as standing upon a rock in the sea, the waves roaring and dashing upon her, and with this motto, "Storms cannot move me." What that painted goddess was in symbol we should seek to be in reality, unmoved and unruffled by the tempests which arise in the sea of life, assured that there awaits us a peaceful and tranquil haven. Then, "though the vision," etc.
III. SPIRITUAL DEPRESSION. The Christian life is not all shadow. It has its sunny as well as its shady side. The good have their seasons of joy - seasons in which, believing, they can rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Yet they have also their seasons of depression. There is "the midnight of the soul," when the vision of spiritual light and peace and joy tarries; and it is then their truest wisdom to trust and to wait, assured that in due time God will make them glad by lifting upon them "the light of his countenance." "Who is among you that feareth the Lord?" etc. (Isaiah 50:10); "Though the vision," etc. (ver. 3).
IV. CHRISTIAN WORK. The great purpose of this is the deliverance of men from the thraldom of sin. The vision we desire to behold an accomplished reality is that of the dry bones clothed afresh, inspired with life, and standing upon their feet, an exceeding great army, valiant for God and righteousness. But the vision tarries! Spiritual death and desolation reign! What then? Shall we despair? Shall we express doubt as to whether the transformation of the realm of death into a realm of spiritual life shall ever be effected? No; though the vision tarry, we will wait for it, knowing that it will surely come; for "the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." So Robert Moffat laboured for years without gaining any converts from heathenism, but at length a few were won, and he commemorated with these the death of Christ. "Our feelings," he wrote, "were such as pen cannot describe. We were as those that dreamed while we realized the promise on which our souls often hung (Psalm 126:6). The hour had arrived on which the whole energies of our souls had been intensely fixed, when we should see a Church, however small, gathered from amongst a people who had so long boasted that neither Jesus nor we his servants should ever see Bechuanas worship and confess him as their King." And so shall the faith and patience of all workers for God be rewarded, since the issue is guaranteed and the harvest home of a regenerated world shall be celebrated amidst rapturous joy. - S.D.H.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time.
Though it tarry, wait for it.
I. INQUIRE WHAT IS IMPLIED IN "WAITING."
1. A firm persuasion of the being and reality of what God has promised. Faith makes unseen things visible, and future things present; and as to things of a spiritual nature, it so demonstrates their excellency as to engage us to choose and give them the preference to all other things, while it excites strong desires after them. Faith therefore enters into the very essence of the duty here enjoined.
2. The deepest humility, joined with reverence and love. In order rightly to wait upon God we must have high apprehensions of Him and low apprehensions of ourselves. The waiting soul is sensible of its own dependence on the Divine all-sufficiency.
3. Fervent and continued desire. For these two are joined together in Isaiah 26:8. Waiting will cease when desire fails; but when everything else in a Christian seems to be gone, this remains. Waiting upon God is opposed to a stupid and lethargic frame of spirit.
4. Patience must be exercised in waiting. Not despairing patience. Not merely natural patience. A truly Christian patience, whereby we bear without murmuring the greatest afflictions, and are not totally discouraged by the longest delays. A patient spirit is neither timorous and distrustful on the one hand, nor rash and hasty on the other. For an apostolic similitude, see James 5:7, 8. We expect from God; we must not prescribe to Him.
5. Fixedness and stability, in opposition to a fluctuating and unstable temper of mind; constancy and resolution, in opposition to fickleness and levity. The prophet calls it "standing upon a watch-tower."
6. Diligence and constancy, in opposition to sloth and weariness. Waiting upon God does not imply indolence, but activity; not neglect of the means, but diligent use of them. Diligence without dependence is the greatest folly; and dependence without diligence is no better than presumption.
II. THE REASONABLENESS OF THE EXHORTATION. Consider —
1. We are but servants; and what should servants do but wait?
2. What God has promised must be worth waiting for. Surely those put a great slight upon the promised blessings who will not earnestly seek and patiently wait for them.
3. God has long waited upon us. He has had great patience with us, and shall we not patiently wait for His mercy?
4. It is one end for which God bestows His grace upon us, that we might be able and willing to wait. It is this which calms the boisterous passions and stills the tumult of the soul.
5. God seldom performs His promises or answers our expectations till we are brought to this state of mind. When we are submissive in the want of blessings we are most likely to enjoy them; whereas fretfulness and discontent will provoke God to withhold them. When we contend with Him, He will contend with us; but when we resign ourselves up to His will, He will gratify us in our wishes.
6. The sweetness of blessings is generally proportioned to the time we have waited for them, and the longer they have tarried the more welcome they are when they come. Learn from hence that when grace has reached the heart there is still much for the Christian to do. Our present state is oftentimes a state of sore and pressing want, and always of imperfect enjoyment; and therefore we should wait, and our waiting should be accompanied with cheerfulness; and to secure this we should regard promises more than appearances.
(B. Beddome, M. A.)Genesis 24:56; Deuteronomy 7:10; Genesis 19:16. Habakkuk is speaking of the second advent of Christ. To the yearning inquiry of the Church, spiritually heard by the prophet, "Lord, when wilt Thou come in Thy glory?" the answer comes — "The time for His coming is appointed, though He tarry for some reason"; such reasons there are in the conditions of this wicked world which delay His coming; still, wait for Him; because it (He) will surely come; it (He) will not tarry freely, willingly, upon His own account, of His own arbitrary choice.
(Alex. Mrywwitz, A. M.)
1. To be still, and know that He is God. In all extremities we must fall back upon this, the sovereignty of God.
2. However dark be our path, we have no reason to doubt His love.
3. We can sometimes discern reasons why the Lord delays His coming. The expression, "the fulness of time," reveals to us much of the secret of God's delays. The waiting time is usually a time of growth. The suppliant sees things very differently at the close of his struggle from what he did at the outset; and the blessing so ardently sought becomes now a real blessing from his being thus prepared to receive it.
4. It will follow from this that when our prayers are offered up for blessings for others they too, at that time, may be unfitted to receive them.
5. As it is with human souls, who cannot, without a miracle, be in a moment transformed from childhood to maturity, there must be in all mental and spiritual processes, first, the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. So it is with the constitution of things. Sometimes before prayer can be answered many things must happen.
I. THE DIVINE PROCEEDINGS ARE SLOW.
1. The history of the earth illustrates this principle. Creation was the work of long eras.
2. There is something in the movement of the seasons tending to remind us of this great law. How silently and slowly winter retires before spring, and spring gives place to summer and autumn. To the Divine mind that orders it all there is a majesty in slowness.
3. The history of all life conveys the same lesson. Life, whether in plants or animals, is everywhere a growth; and all growth is silent, gradual, — so gradual as not to be perceived. The education of an individual is slow; the education of a people must be very slow.
II. GUARD AGAINST IMPATIENCE IN JUDGING THE WAYS OF GOD, AND KNOW HOW TO WAIT. Religion, revealed religion, includes much in harmony with these facts of nature and providence.
1. Note the long interval which was to pass between the promise of a Saviour and His advent.
2. So, when the Saviour did come, the manner of His coming was not such as the thoughts of men would have anticipated. The kingdom of heaven was to come without observation.
3. It is not without mystery to many minds that the history of revealed religion since the advent should have been such as it has been. We might have anticipated that the doctrine of Christ would be retained in its purity, and that its subduing power would be everywhere felt. But on reflection we find analogy suggesting that this was by no means probable.
4. If we descend from the general life of the Church to the spiritual history of the individual believer, we may find much there to remind us that the experience of the Church at large, and the Christian taken separately, are regulated by the same intelligence. With regard to much of our Personal history, we are expected to wait for the revelations of God.
(Robert Vaughan, D. D.)
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