Yes, in the way of your judgments, O LORD, have we waited for you; the desire of our soul is to your name…
In the way of thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for thee. The connections of this chapter need sonic careful attention. The prophet, in the twelve preceding chapters, has given visions of the judgments that were ready to fall on the nations surrounding Israel - judgments in which Israel itself must share, since Israel had shared in the idolatries and the moral evils which had called those judgments forth. To most of the nations Divine judgments would prove to be desolation and destruction; an irrecoverable doom. To Israel, because, even in its shame and sin, some held fast by righteousness and God, judgment would be but chastisement, by means of which the nation should be purified and established. Tyre should be wiped away; its place would be no longer known; the foundation of her palaces should be for the spreading of the fishermen's nets. Babylon should be brought low, even to the dust; no shepherd's hut, no wandering Arab's tent, should rise on her foundations; the glory of Nebuchadnezzar should be the place of the satyr and the owl and the wild beasts of the desert. But Israel should come out of its time of judgment renewing its youth, purged from its idolatries, and witnessing, with a clearer voice than ever before, to its great truth, "The Lord Jehovah is one Lord." The prophet, in his vision, sees these judgments pass one by one; but, looking on beyond them, he sees the ransomed of Israel redeemed and saved, and he presents us beforehand with the song which they would unite to sing in the raptures of their deliverance. By telling the people the song which their noblest and best would sing when trials had wrought out their blessings, Isaiah teaches them the spirit which they ought to cherish, now, as they anticipated the judgments, or were wearying themselves under their burden. By-and-by they would rejoice that they had held fast by God under the gloom. Then "waiting on him, and waiting for him," is just the attitude they should seek and cherish.
I. Viewed in one way, the circumstances through which Israel would be passing would be JUDGMENTS OF GOD; but viewed in another way, they would only be the ORDINARY COMMONPLACE FACTS OF THEIR NATIONAL LIFE. The growth into overwhelming power of some nations, until they swallowed up all the smaller nations around them, became proud, tyrannical, and luxurious; lost national virtue, and fell a prey to the enterprise and energy of fresher and younger nations. This process the Israelites actually saw going on, at different stages, in the kingdoms around them. The laws that ruled it, the final results of it, they could not discern, and they must have been gravely bewildered by it. All the more because they had themselves to suffer from the encroachments of these rising monarchies. In those trying days it could not have been an easy thing for a Jew to hold fast his faith in God. Reasoning could explain so little. Iniquity seemed to be triumphing over good. Jehovah appeared to have loosed his hand, and left the world to riot in its self-will. Those were great men indeed who could rise above the disasters and the helplessness of the times, and stay themselves on God, and hope in him, and wait for him.
II. But that was quite A MODEL GENERATION. Each age, though expressing itself in new forms and terms, may find its own perplexities mirrored there. Early times had their chief difficulties in outward things, such as the aggrandizement of world-conquerors, and the debasing effect of idolatrous systems. As the world grows older, the perplexities and the trials of faith come more and more out of intellectual and moral conditions; and we incline to think that it is much harder work to hold on to God, with patient waiting, in times of mental and moral confusion than when the earth is disturbed with sword and spear and shield. Perhaps never were men called to steady themselves on God, and wait on him in the way of his judgments, as we are called. There are two peculiarities of our time which, seen on the one side, are just facts of life, but seen from the other side are judgments of God in the midst of which we are to wait upon him.
1. The disposition to accomplish all things by human effort, apart from God. Man, according to present-day teaching, is to be the Savior and Salvation of man. Let but every man lift up his brother - so they say - and the world's golden age shall dawn; but the light that lightens it shall be the brilliancy of human genius, and not the "glory of the Lord."
2. The confusion which advancing knowledge has seemed to introduce into both doctrines and morals. Some of the greatest men of science have been reverent men who, while searching with a free spirit into all that can be known of creation, yet held God fast in the arms of trustful love, and found traces of his handiwork in everything they examined. But not a few are over-ready to discover - some-times even ready to manufacture - antagonisms between reason and revelation. And even the best of us cannot fail to be influenced by the atmosphere of doubt which has thus been created for us. We know what mental struggle means. We know what it is to search after truth that seems ever to glide beyond our grasp. We, too, are walking in the way of God's judgments, and blessed are we if we can truly say, "In the way of thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for thee." We gather two lessons from these considerations.
1. The bottom, the foundation, the rest, of all things is God. The first truth which the child learns is the truth of God. The utmost truth towards which human intellects and human hearts can push their devious, struggling way, is God. The simplest word that infant Sips can utter is "God;" the largest and awe-fullest word that can burn upon an archangel's lips is the Name of God. That man knows something who knows a little of God. That man knows nothing - all he may seem to know is not within the sphere of true being - who does not know God. The steadying, the resting, of a man's soul is impossible save in God. "Who is a Rock save our God?" Then our supreme work in life must be to know God - to know him by "waiting upon him;" to know him in the face of Jesus Christ.
2. And we learn that those who would hold by God will have to "wait for him. God tests the trusting ones by his mysterious doings and dealings. He hides, as it were, behind the clouds and the darkness that encircle his throne. He is even to be waited on in the way of his judgments." And such a spirit of waiting alone can preserve us amid the judgments. It lies at the very basis of noble and regenerate character. And all life is to us according to our character. "To the pure all things are pure; to the impure nothing is pure." To the bad, godless man, the highest mercies become curses; the self-centered character can make poison even out of angels' food. To the bad mart, punishments are ruin, desolation, woe; even as to heathen nations these prophetic burdens were unredeemable calamity. But to the good man, the God-centered man, punishments are but chastisements, out of which are wrought "the peaceable fruits of righteousness." It has been said that the "dealings of God are punishments to the wicked, but chastisements to the righteous." It should rather be said that there is no difference in the Divine dealing - judgments come both on the righteous and on the wicked; but the attitude in which we meet the judgments makes all the difference. The ungodly man bruises himself "against the bosses of Jehovah's buckler." The godly man - who "waits on the Lord" - binds to bear the rod of his heavenly Father's chastening. To the godless man life is just stern iron and brass; but the Christian man, having learnt of God, is alchemist enough to turn all he touches to finest gold. Then "trust in the Lord forever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength."
Parallel VersesKJV: Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O LORD, have we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee.