MacLaren Expositions Of Holy Scripture
Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin:
For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.Isaiah
‘QUIETNESS AND CONFIDENCE’
ISRAEL always felt the difficulty of sustaining itself on the height of dependence on the unseen, spiritual power of God, and was ever oscillating between alliances with the Northern and Southern powers, linking itself with Assyria against Egypt, or with Egypt against Assyria. The effect was that whichever was victorious it suffered; it was the battleground for both, it was the prize of each in turn. The prophet’s warnings were political wisdom as truly as religious.
Here Judah is exhorted to forsake the entangling dependence on Egypt, and to trust wholly to God. They had gone away from Him in their fears. They must come back by their faith. To them the great lesson was trust in God. Through them to us the same lesson is read. The principle is far wider than this one case. It is the one rule of life for us all.
The two clauses of the text convey substantially the same idea. They are in inverted parallelism. ‘Returning and rest’ correspond to ‘quietness and confidence,’ so as that ‘rest’ answers to ‘quietness’ and ‘returning’ to ‘confidence.’ In the former clause we have the action towards God and then its consequence. In the latter we have the consequence and then the action.
I. The returning.
Men depart from God by speculative thought or by anxious care, or by sin.
To ‘return’ is just to trust.
The parallel helps us here-’returning’ is parallel with ‘confidence.’ This confidence is to be exercised especially in relation to one’s own path in life and the outward trials and difficulties which we meet, but its sphere extends far beyond these. It is a disposition of mind which covers all things. The attitude of trust, the sense of dependence, the assurance of God’s help and love are in all life the secrets of peace and power.
Am I sinful? then trust. Am I bewildered and ignorant? then trust. Am I anxious and harassed? then trust.
Note the thought, that we come back to God by simple confidence, not by preparing ourselves, not by our expiation, but only by trusting in Him.
Of course the temptations to the opposite attitude are many and great.
Note, too, that every want of confidence is a departure from God. We go away from Him not only by open sin, not only by denial of Him, but by forgetfulness, by want of faith.
The ground of this confidence is laid in our knowledge of Him, especially in our knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The exercise of this confidence is treated as voluntary. Every man is responsible for his faith.
The elements of this confidence are, as regards ourselves, our sense of want in all its various aspects; and, as regards Him, our assurance of His love, of His nearness to help.
II. Confiding nearness to God brings quiet rest.
‘Rest’ and ‘being quiet’ are treated here partly as consequences of faith, partly as duties which we are bound to strive to achieve.
1. See how confidence in God stills and quiets the soul.
The very exercise of communion with Him brings peace and rest, inasmuch as all things are then possessed which we can desire. There is a still fruition which nothing can equal and nothing destroy.
Trust in God brings rest from our own evil consciences.
It brings rest from our own plans and purposes.
Trust gives insight into the meaning of all this else unintelligible world.
It brings the calming and subduing of desires, which in their eagerness torture, in their fruition trouble, and in their disappointment madden.
It brings the gathering in of ourselves from all the disturbing diffusion of ourselves through earthly trifles.
2. Notice what this rest is not.
It does not mean the absence of causes of disturbance.
It does not mean the abnegation of forethought.
It does not mean an indolent passiveness.
3. Notice the duty of being thus quiet and resting.
How much we fail in this respect.
We have faith, but there seems some obstruction which stops it from flowing refreshingly through our lives.
We are bound to seek for its increased continuity and power in our hearts and lives.
III. Confidence and rest in God bring safety and strength.
That is true in the lowest sense of ‘saved,’ and not less true in the highest. The condition of all our salvation from temporal as well as spiritual evils lies thus in the same thing-that we trust God.
No harm comes to us when we trust, because then God is with us, and works for us, and cares for us. So all departments of life are bound together by the one law. Trust is the condition of being ‘saved.’
And not only so, but also trust is strength. God works for us; yes, but better than that, God works in us and fits us to work.
What powers we might be in the world! Trust should make us strong. To have confidence in God should bring us power to which all other power is as nothing. He who can feel that his foot is on the rock, how firm he should stand!
Best gives strength. The rest of faith doubles our forces. To be freed from anxious care makes a man much more likely to act vigorously and to judge wisely.
Stillness of soul, born of communion with God, makes us strong.
Stillness of soul, born of deliverance from our fears, makes us strong.
Here then is a golden chain-or shall we rather say a live wire?- whereof one end is bound to the Throne and the other encircles our poor hearts. Trust, so shall we be at rest and safe. Being at rest and safe, we shall be strong. If we link ourselves with God by faith, God will flash into us His mysterious energy, and His strength will be made perfect in our weakness.
And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.Isaiah
GOD’S WAITING AND MAN’S
God’s waiting and man’s-bold and beautiful, that He and we should be represented as sharing the same attitude.
I. God’s waiting,
1. The first thought is-why should He wait-why does He not act at once? Because something in us hinders. We cannot enter into spiritual blessings till we are made capable of them by faith. It would not be for our good to receive some temporal blessings till sorrow has done its work on us. The great thought here is that God has a right time for help. He is ‘a God of judgment,’ i.e.. discerns our moral condition and shapes His dealings thereby. He never gives the wrong medicine.
2. His waiting is full of work to fit us to receive His grace. It is not a mere passive standing by, till the fit conditions are seen in us; but He ‘is exalted’ while He waits, i.e.. lifted up in the manifestation of His might, and by His energy in preparing us for the gifts that He has prepared for us. ‘He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God.’ He who prepares a place for us is preparing us for the place. He who has grace which He is ready to give us here, is making us ready for His grace. The meaning of all God’s work on us is to form a character fit to possess His highest gifts.
3. His waiting is very patient. The divine husbandman ‘waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it.’ How wonderful that in a very real sense He attends on our pleasure, as it were, and lets us determine His time to work.
4. That waiting is full of divine desire to help. It is not the waiting of indifference, which says: ‘If you will have it-well and good. If not, it does not matter to Me.’ But ‘more than they that watch for the morning,’ God waits ‘that He may be gracious unto you.’
II. Man’s waiting.
Our attitude is to be in some real sense analogous to His.
Its main elements are firm anticipation, patient expectation, steadfast desire, self-discipline to fit us for the influx of God’s grace.
We are not to prescribe ‘times and seasons which the Father hath put in His own power.’ The clock of Eternity ticks more slowly than our short-pendulumed timepieces. ‘If the vision tarry, wait for it.’ We may well wait for God when we know that He waits for us, and that, for the most part, when He sees that we are waiting, He knows that His time is come.
But it is to be noted that the waiting desire to which He responds is directed to something better and greater than any gifts from Him, even to Himself, for it is they who ‘wait for Him,’ not only for His benefits apart from Himself, however precious these may be, who are blessed.
The blessedness of such waiting, how it calms the heart, brings into constant touch with God, detaches from the fever and the fret which kill, opens our eyes to mark the meanings of our life’s history, and makes the divine gifts infinitely more precious when they do come.
After all, the time of waiting is at the longest very short. And when the perfect fruition is come, and we enter into the great spaces of Eternity, it will seem as an handbreadth.
‘Take it on trust a little while,
Thou soon shalt read the mystery right
In the full sunshine of His smile.’