The Delayed Chariot
Judges 5:28-30
The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot so long in coming?…

The language of this hoping, yet half-despairing and disconsolate mother, has been, I presume, the language of multitudes some time or other in the stern fight of existence and the moral campaign of consecrated life. When God has tarried in His pavilion of cloud, withholding both Himself and His blessings, our hearts have struggled and our lips quivered with wondering desire to know the reason "why," until impatience has bubbled over in anxious inquiry, "Why is His chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of His chariots?" God stays not from us because, like Sisera, He is a dismounted general and a slain warrior: men fall, but He never. He always has a sublime design in His tarrying, a good and satisfactory reason for His delay, which He does not always make known, but leaves us to spell out as best we can for ourselves. He tarries to do us good, and not to taunt; to check our impatience and correct our hurrying spirit, and not to discourage or distress. He will come to us if we only wait long enough: and His coming shall be as the morning — fresh, fragrant, and radiant.

I. Let us look at this text as the language of the UNIVERSAL CHURCH. The Church in the wilderness, the Church militant, for nearly nineteen centuries has been breathing fervently the prayer commanded by her Founder — "Thy kingdom come." And in her anticipation of the answer and the advent, in her longings after complete victory, universal regeneration, when truth and peace shall sway her sceptre in every land, and the Christ-King shall be enthroned in every heart — I say, in her longings after this glorious era, she plaintively ejaculates, "Why is His chariot so long in coming?" "Why does my Lord delay His coming?" The progress of Christianity, the achievements and triumphs of truth, we are told, have been so slow, so few, so limited, for the time in which it has been at work, that our learned doubters and avowed foes have written upon it in big letters, "Failure!" Well, we are not surprised at that. Had there not been something about it which largely savoured of success, they would not have been so hasty to label it with failure! Moreover, slowness of progress, of growth, is no proof of failure. Are not the greatest works of God and man the result of slow processes? I would ask, must the corn be pronounced a failure because it does not wave in golden harvests after a night and a day's growth? Must the old sun be pronounced a failure because it does not march instantaneously, but by degrees, to the meridian? What if Christianity has been slow in its march? — it has been sure. It has been moving in no circle of uncertainty, no region of doubt and ill-based probabilities! It has been making solid headway. And if other systems of religion — false and flashy — have sprung up with the rapidity of the mushroom, they have been as fragile and unenduring.

II. Look at this text as the language of the INDIVIDUAL CHURCH DESIRING AND EXPECTING A SPECIAL VISIT FROM HEAVEN. The chilling winds of worldliness have swept over the Church, or the mildew of indifference has fallen on some, and the cankerous rust of idleness on others, while some have become intoxicated with pride, and others poisoned with heresy, numbed with doubt, and wild with the delirium of controversy. So that the Church is bordering on lifelessness, its strength low, its energies exhausted, its influence and glory almost gone. The few in her that have not defiled their garments nor indulged in worldly ease, who are true and loyal, and steadfast and earnest, tremble for the "ark of God," and grieve to see it drifting to the fatal rocks; and in agony of soul cry, "Why is His chariot so long in coming to our help?" Hold on faith, hold on patience, hold on pleading — loosen not your grasp of Omnipotence, your Jacob-like grip on God — cease not to ask, to seek, to knock, to wait: in Jehovah's own time the golden gates will open, the flaming steed will rush out. He who speeds His way through a wilderness of worlds, through untraversed solitudes of space, will steer His glad "chariot" to your sanctuary and in the midst of the Church, and scatter the gifts of His grace and the benedictions of His love.

III. Look at this text as the language of the PENITENT SINNER SEEKING AND DESIRING CHRIST. A penitent soul is one of earth's grandest pictures. When the obdurate heart melts and weeps, and the unwilling knees bend in lowly submission, and the prayer uprises to heaven, "What must I do to be saved?" and the poor sinner is passing through the sharp ordeal of repentance, then it is we read in the mystic language of tears and sighs the plaintive words of my text, "Why is His chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of His chariot?" Should there be one such penitent soul waiting for the coming of Jesus, listening for the rumbling of His chariot wheels to give him "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness," tarry on your knees, tighten your grip of faith, wait! and He that will come shall come; and His arrival shall be all the more welcome and blissful for the delay and the waiting.

IV. Again, we may regard the text as THE LANGUAGE OF THE CONSECRATED BUT CLOUDED CHILD OF GOD, MOURNING PROTRACTED DELAY OF CONSCIOUS COMMUNION. For a time God has seemed to depart: He has withdrawn His light, His conscious presence. No voice speaks, no face beams, no hands leads, no presence remains; the soul presses, as it thinks, near to Him, but lie is not there; it speaks, but there is no response; it gropes in the distressing darkness, but finds Him not. We should, however, never forget that the halting of Jehovah is not to tantalise, but to test; not to inflict unneeded pain, but to produce great spiritual profit. The hiding of His face is simply for the multiplying of His grace. Suspended communion is intended to do for us what the storm does for the tree, what the fire does for the silver and gold, what the lapidary's wheel does for the jewel. Such absence only makes the heart grow fonder. The longing desire for repossession and renewed fellowship is a pledge of a consecrated heart, and a prophecy that sooner or later He will return.

V. Again, look at this text as the language of GOD'S AFFLICTED CHILD DAILY EXPECTING HIS CHARIOT TO TAKE HIM HOME. Home, sweet home! what a precious monosyllable! God sometimes keeps His chosen ones a long time in the final fires, in the finishing process — a long time lingering between the two worlds — suffering, dying. With what a "spirit of expectant hope" and holy calm did Francis Ridley Havergal contemplate and wait for death. There was acute and continued suffering — at times most severe; but the presence of "the King" was fully realised, and His grace was sufficient for her. She startled her medical adviser on one of his early visits by the emphatic inquiry, "Now tell me, doctor, candidly, is there any chance of my seeing Him?" Later on she said, "Not one thing hath failed, tell them all round: trust Jesus: it is simply trusting Jesus." "Spite of the breakers, not a fear." "I am just waiting for Jesus to take me in." "I thought He would have left me here awhile, but He is so good to take me so soon." "I have such an intense craving for the music of heaven." Then, as if "longing to depart and be with Christ, which is far better," she said, "Why tarrieth His chariot?"

(J. O. Keen, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariots?

WEB: "Through the window she looked out, and cried: Sisera's mother looked through the lattice. 'Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why do the wheels of his chariots wait?'

The Conduct of Jael
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