Waiting on the Lord
by C. I. Scofield
[I found this article on another website, copied and reformatted here for improved readability. – CN.]
"But 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" (Isa. 40:31)
Let us confess at once that these blessings are not usual in the lives of Christians. As a matter of fact we run and are weary, we walk and do faint. The wings of our soul do not habitually beat the upper air. On the face of it, it is very simple. There is a condition entirely within the reach of every Christian, whatever may be his age or environment, and then resultant blessings made sure by the "shall" of Almighty God.
If there is one condition thus performed, the resultant blessings are sure; obviously then the absence of the blessing proves that we do not meet the condition. Perhaps we have never stopped to read it very carefully. We like certain promises of Scripture largely because we feel there is something strong, beautiful, and triumphant in them, but we do not really consider what they mean. What does the Scripture mean by "waiting on the Lord?" Everything hinges on that. It is the sole condition. First of all, waiting upon God is not praying. Praying is petitioning God for something. Praying is "supplication with thanksgiving" (Phil. 4:6). It has its own great and unique place in the Christian life, but it is not waiting upon the Lord.
Three Hebrew words are translated "wait" in this connection, and three passages may serve to illustrate their meaning.
"Truly my soul waiteth upon God" (Ps. 62:1). The literal translation of this is, "Truly my soul is silent upon God." That is not prayer; it is not worship. It is the soul, in utter hush and quietness, casting itself upon God. Take another illustrative passage. "These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season" (Ps 104:27). Here the word is the same, but it implies both dependence and expectation -- a faith that silently reaches out to take hold upon God, and which has its expectation from God. Then "Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors" (Prov. 8:34). The thought here is of a servant and his master. He has no service just at that moment, but he "waits" at the door knowing that at any moment the door may swing back and the master may say, "My servant, go; do this or that." It is the attitude of readiness, of obedience.
Now I think we are ready to gather these passages into a definition of what waiting upon God means. To wait upon God is to be silent that he may speak, expecting all things from Him, and girded for instant, unquestioning obedience to the slightest movement of His will. That is waiting upon God. All the spiritual senses alive, alert, expectant, separated unto Him, His servant and soldier -- waiting. It is not the waiting of an idler; it is not the waiting of a dreamer. It is the quiet waiting of one who is girt and ready, one who looks upon life as a battlefield and a sphere for service, who has one master and but one, to whom he looks for everything, from whom alone he expects anything. This is waiting upon God according to Scriptures.
Now, glorious blessings depend upon this attitude toward God. Are we waiting? Are we silent upon God? Is our expectation from Him, or from ourselves, or from the world? If our expectation is truly from Him, and we are willing to yield Him an immediate obedience, then we are waiting upon God. Then the four blessings of the text must follow, because God says they shall. Let us look at these blessings.
"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength" (Isa. 40:31). The word "renew" rendered literally is "change" -- they shall change their strength. It is a word used to denote a change of garments. They shall lay aside their strength and put on, as a garment, strength from God. This whole 40th chapter of Isaiah is a series of contrasts between the frailty and feebleness of man and the strength and greatness of God. Yet man is a being who fancies that he has some strength. And so indeed he has in the sphere of the natural, but it is a strength that utterly breaks down in the sphere of the Christian life. The problem is to rid ourselves of self-strength that God may clothe us with His own strength; and this is the first blessing promised to those who "wait upon the Lord."
How does God effect this? I do not know, but I know that somehow when we are waiting upon Him, our strength, which after all is perfect weakness, is laid aside, and divine hands clothe us with the strength of God. We do change our strength.
WE now come logically to that great second blessing promised to the waiters upon the Lord: "They shall mount up with wings as eagles." What does that mean? Why as eagles? Why not with wings as doves? I think it is because the eagle is the only bird that goes so high that he is lost to sight in the upper heights. Think of some of the peculiarities of the eagle. He is the most solitary of birds. Did you ever see of hear of a flock of eagles? His aerie is on some beetling, inaccessible crag. The eagle has to do with great things, mountains and heights and depths. An eagle can also be very still. No creature holds such reserves of quietness; there is no restlessness in him. There is the repose of perfect power. He can be quiet when it is time to be quiet. But when the sun rises and his eye catches the first ray, you may see him stretch his mighty wings, launch out over the abyss, and begin that tremendous spiral flight up, up, up, higher and higher, until he is lost to sight; and all day, on balanced wing, he is there in the vast upper realm of light, above all storm, in the great tranquility of the upper spaces. That is mounting up with wings as eagles. To be up there, as we might say, with God. No Christian ever comes into God's best things who does not, upon the Godward side of his life, learn to walk alone with God.
Before God uses a man greatly, He isolates him. He gives him a separating experience; and when it is over, those about him, who are no less loved than before, are no longer depended upon. He realizes that he is separated unto God, that the wings of his soul have learned to beat the upper air, and that God has shown him unspeakable things.
If we mount up with wings as eagles we shall often grieve the judicious, and must count upon some experience of misunderstanding; but we can keep sweet about it. We may avoid this. We may nest low enough to be understood by the carnal, turn sedately the ecclesiastical crank, and be approved; but if we take the upper air, we must, like the eagle, go alone. that is precisely our calling. Christ will never be satisfied until He has each one of us separated unto Himself. Hear: "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above" (Col. 3:1).
How far above? "Where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God" (Col. 3:1). Stretch the pinions of your soul, remember that you belong up there, and beat the lower air and rise and rise until you are with the enthroned One.
Now another blessing, the third: "They shall run, and not be weary." That seems like an anticlimax, as does the fourth blessing: "They shall walk, and not faint."
What! Must we come down and run and walk here on this stupid, prosaic earth after these eagle flights? Yes, Precisely. The eagle flight is unto that. We go up there that we may serve down here, and we never can serve down here according to God's thought of service, until we trace the spirals of the upper air and have learned to be alone in the silent spaces with God. It is only the man who comes down from interviews with God who can touch human lives with the power of God. Yes, we must run down here, and walk down here, but only in the degree in which we know the inspiration of the upper air can we either run without weariness, or walk without fainting.
What is the "walk"? It is the everyday of life. It is the getting breakfast, dressing the children, getting them off to school; it is going down and opening the store; it is going out and feeding the herds; it is going into the study and opening the Word of God. It is whatever our appointed task may be. It is doing this all day, in heat and cold, dull days and bright days -- the common life. It is this, the everyday walk, that tests and tries. Far easier is it to gather one's energies for a swift run sometimes than it is to walk. But we have to walk; we are made to walk. We live a common life, a life of everyday duty, plain, Prosaic, and unbeautiful.
But we may "walk, and not faint" under the war and petty vexations and frictions of everyday life, only on condition that we have been "waiting upon God." The man who does that will be a reservoir of sweetness, quietness and power.
Adapted from "In Many Pulpits" with Dr. C. I. Scofield, reprinted in 1966 by Baker Book House, copyright 1922 by Oxford University Press.