Wait Upon the Lord
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

We are going to consider together today Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 31. Because this verse has been so very vital to our ministry, we are going to be thinking about it today and again on June 25th, the Lord willing. Shall we bow our heads together now and ask God to help us in our understanding of the Word?

Father, we are grateful today that we can come to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ with perfect assurance that Thou dost hear us and, Father, that we are praying according to the will of God when we pray that Thou will open our eyes that we might behold wondrous things out of the law of God. We ask today that Satan's presence and influence might be rebuked and hearts might be opened to the word that Thou would give to each individual today. For we pray in Jesus name. Amen.

Open your Bibles, please, to Isaiah, chapter 40, and notice the paragraph in which this verse is found, because the verse is related to the paragraph. As a matter of fact, it is related to the entire chapter. If you glance at the first verse of Isaiah, chapter 40, you will read the words, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people saith your God.” This originally was a message for the nation of Israel. In a time of great distress, God said to his prophets, “Comfort my people. Tell them that the trials through which they are going and through which they will go will eventually be over, and during that time my hand will be with them.” When they had reached the lowest ebb in their pilgrim journey, the lowest ebb in God's dealing with them, God encouraged their hearts with the words of verse 28, which reads:

Isaiah 40

28Hast 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? there is no searching of his understanding.
29He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
30Even the youth shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
31But 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.

Here is a message from God to every child of God that, even though according to the natural course of things, men may faint and falter and fail, and die, believers have something more upon which to depend and something more to which they may look forward to than that. And so again, I ask you to look at the words of verse 31:

Isaiah 40

31But 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.

God gave us this verse in 1970; and at the time He gave it, I accepted it by faith, believing that it was intended for us regardless of what might occur. But I did not realize the importance of this verse until 1972, for in 1972 there were circumstances that arose in the family and in the flock of God right here that caused all of us to wonder how much more we could take and how much further we could go. Then the Spirit of God would minister this verse to 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; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

The Promise of Renewal

Because of the nature of our lives, most of us misquote this verse. Look again at it and notice the order in which these things are given. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles;” (that's flying) “they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” I say because of our natural inclinations we do not read this verse, quite often, the way in which it is written. In our manner of doing things we walk, we run, we fly. That's the human way to do it, and so you would think that they that wait upon the Lord would be able to walk, to run, and to fly. But there's no message in this verse if that is all that it means. The thrust of this verse is simply that when the exhilaration of flying is gone, and the pleasure, the thrill of running is over, and the pleasure of walking becomes a plodding ordeal, 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.

I suspect that all of us here today have had the exhilaration of flying, spiritually speaking. We've been up on the mountain top. Our hearts have been full of praise, and we talk to ourselves and to others about how wonderful it is to be related to the Lord and the wonderful things that He has done for us. And then there are times when it's not quite a mountain-top experience, but there's a thrill of accomplishment as is the thrill of the marathon runner when he reaches the goal to which he has been progressing.

When Walking Becomes Difficult

Then there comes the time when we walk. Walking is pleasurable, all things being equal, but eventually in our spiritual experience that walk becomes a plodding experience. We walk not because we want to, but because we have to. We walk not because there is pleasure in it, but because we have no other choice. And if it were not for God's provision in this verse, we would not be able to continue on, for the thrust of this verse lies in the fact that you will not faint when it comes time in your life for the plodding walk.

Permit a personal illustration to emphasize what I am thinking about at the moment. You will recall that seventeen years ago, the Lord saw fit to take Cricket, my wife, home to be with him. As a matter of fact, it was on May the 23rd, Tuesday of this week, that He did that. But before He took her home to be with Himself, there was that long, plodding walk with which some of us are familiar, when we have had to stand by the bedside of loved ones for whom there was no hope of physical recovery, but for whom was slated a long period of suffering and pain. That's when the plodding walk begins, and I remember well how this verse stood me in good stead one evening.

One evening there were two doctors in the room, and they were ministering to her. We'll not go into the details, but I was holding one of her hands and assisting in whatever way I could, and the circumstance was such that it was almost overwhelming. I felt my head begin to swim, as some of you have had the experience when you know you're going to faint. I knew that I was going to faint, literally faint; and I knew that if I did, it would create problems that would add to the pain and suffering that we were trying to alleviate. As I thought surely I would fall, Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 31, came to my mind, and I didn't even have time to pray. I just said, “Lord, Isaiah 40:31, Isaiah 40:31!” And in less time than it's taking me to tell you, the swimming of my head stopped; my head cleared, and it was as though I had the strength of many men as we continued our ministrations there in that room.

Learning to Wait

Now, that's a very personal illustration, and a very practical one; but I want to say to you today that what I'm going to tell you that God taught me about this particular verse is not based upon something I have read within a book. It is based upon experience that has proven true in my life.

Look at that verse again and notice what I believe to be the key phrase in the verse:

Isaiah 40

31…they that wait upon the Lord…

Who is it that shall renew their strength? Who is it that shall mount up

with wings as eagles? Who is it that shall run and not be weary? Who is it that shall walk and not faint? They that wait upon the Lord! I say, that is the key phrase in this verse.

What do you think of when you think of waiting? When I think of waiting, ordinarily speaking, I think of impatience. I am tapping my foot or knocking something with my hand. “Why don't they hurry up? Why do I have to wait so long?” Waiting becomes an irksome task, and I do believe that with many believers that is all they know about waiting. That's the reason that even though they may have committed this verse to memory, and even though they have said, “I'm going to rest on that verse,” it doesn't seem to work in their lives. The reason is that they have not learned to wait on the Lord.

I want to share with you what the Scriptures teach about waiting on the Lord and encourage you to make these things true in your own life. Though we will not have time to examine in detail all that I mention, let me say that there are seven words in Hebrew, seven basic words in the Hebrew language, which are translated by the word “wait.” A careful examination of those words in the original text gives you an idea of what it means to wait upon the Lord.

The Worthiness of Waiting

The first word that I want to suggest to you is brought to your attention in Isaiah, chapter 64, verse 4. You might want to turn there, and notice those words. This is a plea from the nation of Israel to God for deliverance:

Isaiah 64

1Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, [ and all of those phrases are physical descriptions of the power of God ].
2As when melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Thy presence!
3When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence.
4[ Notice these words particularly ] 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.

Notice that last statement, “him that waiteth for him.” This word “waiteth” in Isaiah, chapter 64, verse 4, is the translation of the Hebrew word chakah , and I have described this kind of waiting as the “worthiness of waiting.” Sometimes, you know, you have waited for something, and then you get it; and one of your friends who has known how long you have waited may say to you, “Was that worth waiting for?” Sometimes you say, “Well, no, really not.” But other times you say, “You bet it was! That was worth waiting for!” And Dear One, this is what I want you to see: When you wait on the Lord, you wait, realizing that no matter how long you wait, how long you have to wait, it will be worth waiting for.

The songwriter has captured that message, I think when he wrote, “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.” There is no question about that, but I would like to suggest to you that I have found in my own life that it's worth it all when I see the result of waiting on God. Just as the prophet said, “Eye hath not seen nor ear heard,” and just as the apostle Paul took up this same phrase in his Corinthian letter and said, “It's difficult to understand,” it's difficult to comprehend what actually happens when you wait for the Lord.

Habakkuk set us an example of the very kind of waiting that I'm talking about in the second chapter of the book of Habakkuk, and you might like to turn there and notice in verse 3:

Habakkuk 2

3For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.

Notice the word “wait.” That's the same word that we're talking about today. What did Habakkuk say? Well, if you know the story that is in the book of Habakkuk, you know that Habakkuk was confused and perplexed and could not understand why God was doing what He was doing. And God said to Habakkuk, “You wait. God is going to give you the answer, and it will be worth it when He does.”

The Weariness of Waiting

Turn with me to Psalm 69, verse 3, and notice these words:

Psalm 69

3I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.

Do you get the picture? David was going through a great trial, and he said, “My mouth is dry; my eyes are full of tears while I wait for God.” Here is an entirely different word. This word is from the Hebrew word yachal which means to “trust in the Lord.” When you wait, you trust. Do you see what I said to you a bit earlier, that it's not a matter of tapping your foot impatiently until you get what you want? There's something that you must do while you while you wait, and that is trust. I call this the “weariness of waiting.” And my, we do get weary, don't we, when we have to wait? What do we do in the midst of the weariness of waiting? Do we complain about the injustice of God? Do we complain about how unfair God is? Nobody else has to wait as we wait. Or do we spend the time trusting the Lord? This word, I say, is translated by the word “trust,” and you so find it in the book of Job, chapter 13, verse 15, those familiar words of Job:

Job 13

15Though He slay me, yet will I trust him:

If you were reading that directly from the Hebrew, you could read it, “Though He slay me, I will wait for Him.” Waiting; trusting.

Wait In Silence

In Psalm 62, notice verse 5:

Psalm 62

5My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.

Notice the word again: “My soul wait…” This is an entirely different word. It's the translation of the Hebrew word damam which, interestingly enough, means to “hold your peace and to be quiet.” Can't you visualize David? He was tempted to complain, tempted to weep, tempted to talk about all of the things that ought to be done and were not being done, and he addressed himself. He said, “My soul, be quiet! My soul, don't complain. Be quiet while you wait on God.”

I think what I am talking about can best be illustrated by a lesson in contrasts. When you have the time reread Hezekiah's experience as it is found in the book of Isaiah, chapter 38. You remember that Hezekiah faced death, and he asked that he might live longer. “O God,” he said, “don't let me die.” God extended his life fifteen years; but when Hezekiah was talking about this particular incident in his life, he said, “I moaned; I cried like a dove; I chattered incessantly.” Well, what Hezekiah did, was what David was asking God to help him to keep from doing. “I want,” David said, “to wait in silence on the Lord–not be constantly chattering and complaining.”

Lamentations, chapter 3, verse 26, emphasizes this same truth:

Lamentations 3

26It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the…Lord.

Have you learned to quietly wait? I think that's one of the most difficult things that all of us have to do.

Watching While We Wait

In Isaiah, Chapter 59, verse 9, the word “wait” is used once again to give us an understanding of what we're talking about when we're talking about waiting on the Lord. You might want to slip over there to Isaiah, chapter 59, since it isn't so far from where we have been in our original text and notice the words that are recorded there.

Isaiah 59

9Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness.

I have described this particular kind of waiting as “watching while you wait.” You see, these Israelites were in a terrible state. Their wickedness was great, and they were talking about asking God to help them; and they said there in verse 9 of chapter 59, “Judgment is far from us. Justice does not overtake us. We wait for light, but there's no light; there's only darkness. We behold obscurity. No brightness. We walk in darkness.” This is a question of watching for something that apparently does not appear, and may never appear, but you wait and you keep watching.

Again Habakkuk is an individual who tells us exactly what it means to wait and to watch in this manner. You recall that God spoke to him about the way He was going to do things, and Habakkuk did not like it at all. He said, “I cannot understand it, but I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to take my stand upon the watchtower, and I will wait to see [there's the same phrase again] what God will do unto me.” Do you get the message of this verse today? You're looking for light, and there's darkness. You're looking for a clear explanation of the problem which you face, but there's obscurity. Satan slips around, as he does quite often, and says, “What's the point? Nothing's going to happen. Every time that you looked, instead of what you thought you would see, you were disappointed.”

But what does God say? “Wait.” “For they that wait on 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.”

Rest as You Wait

The fifth use of the word “wait” in the Scriptures is found, among other places, in Psalm 37, verse 7:

Psalm 37

7Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him:

And those words “wait patiently” are the translation of this one Hebrew word. “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.”

Now the Holy Spirit has put those two phrases together. We've been talking about waiting; we've been talking about patience, but now we're talking about resting. You have reached the place of victory in your relationship with the Lord, when you can rest while you wait; when you can take the position that the Psalmist took, “that it is vain for me to rise up early. It is vain for me to sit up late, for I can't change one think by all of that, and the Lord giveth His beloved sleep.” Being very practical, let me say to you that what God expects of you as you wait for him is for you to have a good night's sleep in the midst of it. I'm afraid that many of us add to our problems and make our burdens heavier because we don't take the rest that God provides for his children. I'm not talking about sleeping pills; I'm talking about that waiting which enables you to rest in the Lord in such a fashion that you can leave it with him.

Wait With Expectancy

Now the sixth word for “wait” helps you to understand how you can rest and wait. That word is found in Psalm 145, verse 15.

Psalm 145

15The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season.

“The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season.” When you have time, read that Psalm in detail and you will find that it's an acclamation of praise to God for His provision for all of His creation– not just human, but all of His creation. He said that all of God's creation waits on the Lord, waits on the Lord by turning their eyes toward him. This word “wait” is a translation of the Hebrew word shabar which means “to wait with expectancy.” Have you ever noticed how, if an adult indicates to a little child that he is going to do something for him, the little child turns his eyes toward the adult and waits expectantly? He may even hold out his hands, because he knows that that adult–father, mother or whomever it may be–is going to do something for him.

When we wait upon the Lord, we must learn to wait with our eyes turned toward Him; for remember, when you turn the eyes to the circumstances instead of to the Lord, there's trouble. Always remember the illustration given to us in the life of Peter when he was invited by the Lord to step out on the water and walk to Him. He made every step without getting his feet wet, as long as he had his eyes on Christ; but the Scripture says, “When he saw the waves, beginning to sink, he cried, 'Lord, save me'.” It's when we look at the waves instead of at Christ that we find ourselves in trouble. And so, as all creation has been instituted by God to look to Him, we who wait on the Lord must wait with expectancy.

Bind Together the Promises

Now the last word for “wait” is in our text, and that's the reason we've saved it till last:

Isaiah 40

31…they that wait upon the Lord…

Well, we've used that word several times over, but what does it mean in this particular text? It is the translation of the Hebrew word qavah , which means “to bind together.” Most Hebrew words–I suppose all of them–have pictures back of them, and you can understand the meaning better by the picture than you can by the meaning of the mere word. This word describes a practice of men who needed a rod that would be strong enough to carry a load. They would take one rod and the weight would bend it almost to the breaking point. Then they would take another and tie it to it and try it, and another and tie it to it, and finally they would have five or six rods all tied together. Then they could put the weight on the rod, the rod over their shoulder and walk without any stumbling at all or dropping of the burden.

That is what this word means, and what God has said to my own heart, and I have put it into practice, is this. While we are waiting on the Lord, let us take promises from the Word of God, promises with which we are familiar, promises that have been given to us at other times, and let's bind them all together just as this individual bound those rods together, and then put the weight of our burden on the Word of the living God. David had it right in Psalm 130, verse 5:

Psalm 130

5I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

“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.” For nineteen years God has proved the truth of this verse in my life, and I would like for you to claim it if you have not. Perhaps if you have claimed it, reclaim it and let God carry the burdens that you carry today.

Prayer

We do thank Thee, our Father, once again for Thy Word and the encouragement it is to our hearts. We ask, our Father, for this people who are gathered in this place this day, and for those who may hear this message by tape or some other means, that their hearts, their eyes will be turned toward Thee as they wait upon Thee. For we pray in Jesus name. Amen.


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