WAITING FOR GOD'S SALVATION.
ALEXANDER DYCE DAVIDSON, D.D.
“I have waited for THY salvation, Lord.'— Gen. xlix. 18. IN selecting this verse as the subject of our meditations at present, it may seem that I restrict myself to too narrow a view of the dying words of Jacob. But, apart from the consideration that it would be impossible to give anything like an intelligent exposition of his whole dying address, I think that, from the sentiment itself wliich is here expressed, and from the circumstances connected ' with the utterance of it, and from the practical application that may be made of it, it may be most profitably taken as the ground of our remarks on this occasion. It has been made a question, but we think very unnecessarily, why this ejaculation should have been inserted in this particular place. It must be confessed that it does form a kind of digression from the general subject. Jacob, as we see, had gathered his sons around him on his deathbed, to tell them what would befall them in the latter days ; and after announcing, as the Spirit strengthened him, the destinies of seven of the families of Israel, he gives vent all at once to his own feelings in the words, ' I have waited for Thy salvation, Lord.' It cannot be denied that these words destroy the continuity of the prophetic narrative. They come in most abruptly and unexpectedly. But we think, if ever the saying of the wise man was verified, that ' a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver,' it is in the case before us. The deathbed of Jacob fills a larger space in the sacred history than that of any other of God's saints, either in the Old Testament or the New. To him it was granted before he died, to declare very fuUy the divine pur1 This is one of tlie first series of lectures on the Old Testament (2Ist July 1844).
148 WAITING FOE GOD'S SALVATIOX. poses respecting liis descendants ; so much so, that on reading the narrative we almost forget that he whose words we read was so near the confines of eternity ! We seem to have the patriarch 23ro2Jhesyi7ig rather than the patriarch chji7ig brought before us. Now in this view, and looking to Jacob as on his deathbed, there is, if we may so speak, an air of coldness and formality about the whole transaction, when we advert merely to the various predictions which the passage contains. And if we had had nothing recorded but these predictions, we would have felt some regret that we had not been informed more particularly of Jacob's personal feelings at this solemn time, — at the closing scene of his earthly pilgrimage. But the difficulty is fully met, and the regret removed by the text. Let me advert to this for a moment. While there is endless variety in the lives and experiences of the people of God in the season of health and strength, and endless variety also in
their deathbed feelings and experience, there is in the one case, as well as in the other, a common ground on which they meet, and where they present some common points of resemblance. Thus every real follower of Christ is like Christ, and has, in greater or less measure, the same mind in him which was also in Christ Jesus. Differing from every other believer in gifts, graces, and attainments, each one can yet be identified as a member of the same family by his bearing the family likeness. And so with regard to deathbed feelings and experience. There is the utmost diversity in the peace and comfort with which the people of God face the last enemy, and the feelings with which they bid adieu to this earthly scene ; but still, in the midst of all this diversity there is a turning of the soul to the same objects, and a close and solemn dealing between the soul and God, whom it is about to meet. We Avould indeed regard it as most strange and unaccountable should any Christian, at that eventful time, when he is about to pass to the judgment-seat of God, be so occupied in addressing those around him as to give no indication of his own views and feelings with respect to eternal things. It would argue an insensibility to these momentous realities, which, to say the least, it would not be easy to explain. And therefore, as has been already stated, we would have felt as if there had
WAITING FOR GOD's SALVATION. 149 been something awanting if on Jacob's deatlibed there had been only predictions uttered, and if no word had fallen from him by which we could see, as it were, into the state of his own soul, and the nature of his own experience and his own prospects. Now this want is completely made up by the short sentence which forms the text. He had prophesied, as the Spirit taught him, what would be the general character and fortunes of so many of his descendants in their respective tribes. All at once, however, we can conceive his strength failed him, and he leaned back upon his couch to breathe for a moment, in the midst of the disclosures which were thus so thickly crowded upon his view. Thus pausing and meditating, he looked upward with the delightful feeling that the time of his own complete redemption was at hand, and uttered the beautiful sentiment, ' I have waited for Thy salvation, Lord.' There is more of the habitual frame of Jacob's mind unfolded to us in these few words than volumes could well express, and they are very instructive. They teach us, first, what was the nature of that inheritance which the patriarchs regarded as made good to them by the divine promises ; they show us next what had been the great characteristic of Jacob's life from the time that he was first brought under the power of divine grace ; and they also prove most fully the truth elsewhere stated, that the righteous hath hope in his death. We shall advert for a little to these points, and then we shall briefly consider the text in its more general application to ourselves. I have said, then, that from these few words we may learn,
first, what was the nature of that inheritance which the patriarchs regarded as bequeathed to them by the divine promises. Those who take only a narrow and literal view of the transactions between God and His people under the patriarchal dispensation, see nothing more promised in the covenant made with Abraham than the land of Canaan, and some few temporal blessings besides. But such passages as the text rebuke their low conceptions, and place the subject in its proper light. We are not obliged to have recourse to the discoveries which are made in the New Testament, in order to
150 WAITING FOR GOD'S SALVATION. be assured that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the believers who came after them, were animated by higlier hopes than any worldly possession could have kindled up within them, while they sojourned here below. The Old Testament very plainly bears the same testimony here, as in other respects, with the New. ' These all,' says the apostle, speaking of the spiritual seed of Abraham, ' died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off; and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.' And what other language does Jacob speak in the text, when at the close of his pilgrimage, and tlicn especially, he feels himself brought nigh to the salvation of the Lord ! His words mean that now that was at hand which hitherto he had only descried in the distance, — that now he was to be put in possession of what before had been, as it were, remote. If Canaan had been the inheritance he looked for, death would have stripped him of his hope. It must therefore have been spiritual and eternal blessings, more especially, which he considered as secured to hun by the divine promise, — salvation in the full sense of the word, — deliverance from guilt and from sin, and admission to the immediate presence of God. And here, my friends, I cannot help remarking that it would be well for us all — for the church at large, and for every individual — if the same exalted views were now taken of God's promises as this holy man was enabled to take, and if the followers of Christ would live more among the promises, and feed upon them by faith. Among the various arguments which we are warranted to employ for the purpose of drawing men to Christ, this is one, that even in the present life Christ's followers have more real enjoyment, more solid satisfaction, more actual happiness, than those who love the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season. And among the many good things which God has promised to His people, we find the life that noiv is enumerated. Salvation is partly a present benefit. Therefore the argument is good, and the promise is true. But there is something in the text better than both. It is in the future that the children of God are taught to look for their full inheritance, their full salvation. They
WAITING FOR GOD'S SALVATION. 151 must take much, on trust in the present life ; their complete redemption is hereafter, and it is infallibly secured. How willingly, therefore, may those who have the hopes of God's word to cheer them, submit to the crosses and disappointments which lie in the way to the full realizing of these hopes ! Even if they had no such comforts and enjoyments in the meantime as do ever accompany the believing acceptance of Christ, and a sincere devotion of heart and life to the service of God, — if there were nothing in the present state but unmitigated trial and suffering for them, — still, with Jesus now as their Saviour, and with the certainty of enjoying what is laid up for them beyond the grave, they might well be satisfied with their lot. And they would assuredly be more completely satisfied, and would endure with more unshrinking fortitude their present difliculties, if they did but accustom themselves to look with steadier eye to the glory that is to be revealed. If one had to cross a wide and deep abyss upon a narrow plank, he would not look down into the yawning gulf from his giddy elevation, else undoubtedly he would be lost ; but, keeping his eye fixed on the landing-place upon the other side, he would pass along securely and arrive in safety. And so, if the followers of Christ would look habitually beyond the present scene of trouble to the rest which remaineth for the people of God, they would be enabled to maintain composure and serenity amid the afflictions and tribulations of the world. Jacob waited for the salvation of the Lord made good to him by the promise ; and thus he was contented to be a pilgrim and sojourner upon earth, and to die at a distance from the land of Canaan. But, again, I have said that from the brief ejaculation in the text we may learn what had been the great characteristic of Jacob's life from the time that he was first brought under the power of divine grace. His affections had been set upon the things above. His chief interest had lain in eternity. His whole habit and frame of mind had been moulded according to the high expectations which he had been led to cherish. All this is manifestly implied in the expression, ' I have waited for Thy salvation, Lord.' There are many people — too many even of those
152 WAITING FOR GOD's SALVATION. who make a profession of religion — by whom eternal things are never seriously contemplated, until the near approach of death compels them to awaken from their indifference, and to bethink themselves of what cometh after death. Then all is dark and dim and vague in their prospects, on the one hand ; or, on the other, the more clearly they realize what is to be, the more terrible futurity appears. But in the case of the patriarch it was not so. His mind had been familiarized to sacred meditation. The promises of God had furnished food
to his soul, amid all the changes of his eventful life. His intercourse with the unseen world had been kept up habitually ; and so the nearer he came to death, the nearer he felt he came to blessedness. Long he had been the pilgrim ; but now he is within sight of home. What he had waited for was now within his grasp. He was now like Simeon when he took the infant Jesus in his arms and said, 'Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.' And does not all this exhibit to us in a very satisfying light the superiority of the believer to the mere man of the world ? To any one who could only trace the movements of Jacob in so far as they were manifested to the world, his life must have presented at least as much vicissitude, and as many of the ordinary cares and disquietudes of the peculiar station he occupied, as that of any of those around him who were strangers to the knowledge of the true God. But when we look into his secret history, through the medium of the text, how different is the whole aspect it assumes ! True, he seemed to be as much busied in the management of his flocks and herds, and had as many domestic interests — and these sometimes sufficiently perplexing — to engross his thoughts, as the head of any other patriarchal establishment. And when he walked into the fields, as his father Isaac used to do at eventide, to meditate, a man who knew not the secret habit and tendency of his soul might have imagined that he had just gone forth to inspect his property, and to be satisfied of the watchfulness and fidelity of his herdsmen, — whereas he had gone forth to meditate upon the works of God and the promises of God, and to turn his thoughts to that great salvation for which he waited, and
WAITING FOK GOD'S SALVATION. 153 wliich was to form his eternal inheritance. He had the hope of that as an anchor to his soul, when tossed by worldly cares. He had within himself, as brought nigh to him and realized by faith, an unfailing source of comfort and enjoyment in the anticipation of the good things contained in the promises. He could draw largely from that source, and transact closely with God, when a mere onlooker knew nothing of the matter. The soul Avhich on the deathbed took advantage of a single moment's quietude to breathe out the prayer in the text, must have had much and intimate communion with the Lord beforehand in the exercise of waiting for His salvation. Jacob, while in the world, and immersed in all its usual cares and occupations, must have lived much above it, and must have derived his chief happiness elsewhere than from the world ; and they give additional significance to his deathbed experience, as expressed in the words that he had waited for the salvation of the Lord. Now in this consideration there is an important principle involved, which I cannot forbear referring to. It is very commonly supposed, and sometimes even urged in the way of defence for a neglect of the claims of the gospel upon a man's immediate regard, that although those whose time is wholly at their own disposal may follow out all the requirements of a religious life, yet it is utterly impossible for such
as are incessantly perplexed and harassed with worldly cares to devote themselves to the concerns of rehgion. They allege that these must be let alone until they have more command of their own time and their own movements. In opposition, then, to such views, we say, that so far from there being any inconsistency between a religious life and what in common language may be called a business life, we do not know how the latter can be at all endurable apart from the former. We can conceive how the man who is engaged in worldly business, yea, and vexed and annoyed by its innumerable difficulties, can find an outlet from all that in the exercises and meditations to which God's word calls him ; but how any man can get a happy and comfortable througli-bearing without religion, appears to us as almost an impossibility. And if those who are much troubled by the cares inseparable froin the active occupations of life knew their own mercies, they would, above
154 WAITING FOR GOD'S SALVATION. all things, seek an interest in the Saviour, and keep firm hold of the salvation of the Lord ; and then they would have, as it were, a refuge, — a sanctuary to which they might betake themselves when perplexed by worldly difficulties, and in which they would find rest and comfort for their souls, in the midst of the most pressing outward ills. But once more, the language of Jacob in the text proves most fully the truth elsewhere stated, that ' the righteous hath hope in his death.' Nothing could have been more peaceful and tranquil than the departure of the patriarch. He knew whither he was going ; he knew into what society he was to be introduced ; and he was raised above all fears and misgivings. It would not indeed have formed of itself any evidence of his being in an unprepared and unsafe state had he exhibited less composure on his deathbed, and been less able to look with confidence into the future. For even some of the holiest of men have been so overpowered at the prospect of meeting God, that their sun may be said to have set under a cloud. But still, in accordance with the rule which generally holds good, we say that if Jacob had not lived under the power of the world to come, he would not have died with such comfortable assurance that he was about to experience in its full measure the salvation of the Lord. Yet withal, if we would know on what ground his tranquillity and comfort of mind at that trying season chiefly rested, we must look beyond his previous life and beyond himself, to understand this fully. And nowhere could it be more clearly pointed out to us than in his dying ejaculation : ' I have waited for Tliy salvation, Lord.' We do not see on the first reading of these few words the depth of meaning which they indicate. Yet a moment's attentive glance at them will enable us to perceive the ground on which Jacob's hope Avas founded, and the secret of his remarkable composure. You will observe that he describes the salvation for which he waited as the salvation of God. ' Tliy salvation '
he calls it. If he had allowed any such feeling as tJiis to influence him, that he himself had lived in such a way as that the salvation could not be withheld from him, then we hesitate not to say that he would not have enjoyed so much comfort in the
WAITING FOR GOD'S SALVATION. 155 closing scene of his life as he evidently did enjoy. But he looked to the Angel of the Covenant as the author and finisher of his faith, and thus he was satisfied as to the certainty of the salvation which awaited him. He saw the whole to he of free grace, — the Lord's work and the Lord's gift, — and hence the confidence which he manifested. ' TJiy salvation, Lord,' he could say ; and upon that ground he could go into eternity without fear. My friends, if those among us who are seriously impressed with a sense of the importance of things spiritual and eternal would just look simply and steadily, as Jacob did, to the Lord as the giver of salvation, and w^ould endeavour to enter into the experience of Job, ' Though He slay me I will trust Him,'— in other words, if they would cease from themselves, and place their whole confidence in Christ, they would have just such comfort as Jacob had. Eeligious disquietude may be safely connected in almost every case with the setting up of the creature in the place of the Creator ; with a cleaving to the law, in some way or other, instead of a relying upon the free grace of the gospel. During life, as well as upon the deathbed, this holds good. If there is firm faith in Christ, there is also peace. The righteous hath hope in his death, not because of his own righteousness, but because of the righteousness of Christ, in which he trusts. The words ' Tliy salvation, Lord,' will carry a man through any difficulty. But there can be no real 'pcaee at the close of life unless the soul can claim Christ as its portion. Jacob's descent from Abraham would not have armed him against the fear of death. His own walk with God would not have made his passage through the dark valley clear to him. But when he could say, ' I have waited for Thy salvation, Lord,' then we are not astonished at his composure and his good hope. And every believer may have the same hope and the same fortitude if he will only rely with an implicit faith upon the all-sufficiency of the same Saviour. If we commit our cause to the sympathizing, gracious, and all-prevailing Advocate at the right hand of God, and look to Him, and trust in Him exclusively, then the result is certain. Even death itself will not terrify. But now, having considered the passage before us with more especial reference to him by whom the words were
156 AVAITING FOR GOD's SALVATION. uttered, I would very briefly make a general application of it to our own circumstances. And in so doing, it may be well to mention in the outset,
that altliougii it is presented to us in the sacred narrative as a sentiment expressed upon the deathbed by a very aged man, it is not for this reason to be set aside by us as only suitable for a deathbed, and for a very aged man. The language, it must be acknowledged, is peculiarly adapted to such a time and such circumstances as are indicated by the context. It is altogether in keeping with Jacob's age and with his piety. But then it must not be supposed to contain a sentiment which none but a patriarch just ready to sink into the grave could properly cherish. Let me urge this point. The saying is beautiful, droj^ping as it did from the lips of a man of God who had reached an age far beyond what is now accounted the extremity of human life : ' I have waited for Thy salvation, Lord.' Jacob had literally waited long for the salvation of the Lord. And in his case there is peculiar significance in the language he employs. But let it not be imagined that the young and vigorous, merely because of their youth and vigour, have nothing to do with such language. Let not any who belong to the one or the other of these classes suppose that because an old dying man here speaks, they have no interest in what he says. The words of the text are just as appropriate to a follower of Christ at any age as they were to the patriarch when he had lived 147 years. From the very moment of conversion, every believer may be described as one who waits for the salvation of the Lord. Looking, then, at these words as descriptive of the frame of mind and sentiments of the people of God generally, we would found upon them one or two questions, as more likely to make them practically useful than any general dissertation. 1. And, in the first place, I would ask. Do you know what is meant by the salvation of the Lord ? It is necessary that we have a common understanding as to this matter, else we have met together at this time in vain. Now I would say, it is not a quiet life, it is not the enjoyment of a good reputation, it is not a participation in the
¦WAITING FOR GOD'S SALVATION. 157 means of grace, it is not a peaceful death, that constitutes the salvation spoken of You may say. Why specify these particulars ? Who would imagine that these things constitute salvation ? My friends, many people do imagine this. If a man live quietly, stand well in the estimation of his fellowcreatures, wait upon the means of grace, and die peacefully, it is supposed that all is right with him. But do you think that all this may be, and yet that there may be no salvation ? Then the more important is the question we have proposed : Do you know what is meant by the salvation of the Lord ? These two important privileges are included in it : deliverance from wrath, and conformity to the image of the Son of God. The first lies at the commencement of the life of faith ; the other forms the very substance of that life. To every one who is in Christ Jesus there is no condemnation ; and every
one who seeks for glory, honour, and immortality — being freed from condemnation — aims, with the Spirit's help, at the attainment of the likeness of Christ. This latter privilege is ^peculiarly characteristic of salvation taken hy every believer. It is an inestimable blessing to have peace with God, but it is a higher blessing to bear the image of God. The perfecting of that image in the soul is salvation ; and once more, therefore, we may ask. Do you know experimentally what is meant by the salvation of the Lord ? 2. Secondly, I would ask. Do you know what is meant by waiting for salvation, i.e. ardently but patiently looking forward to it ? It does not form a question as to time or age, but it holds good universally that believers wait for the Lord. ' We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened,' the apostle says. There is vast significance in these words, and the meaning of them comes to be more forcibly felt when they are placed side by side with such a passage as the text. ' We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened,' is the experience of Paul And what else does Jacob mean when he says, ' I have waited for Thy salvation, Lord ? ' The apostle would fain have been disencumbered of the body of sin and death, — he groaned under the weight of it ; and the patriarch was of the same mind when he employed the language before us. Both felt the burden of present evil; both sighed ar-
158 WAITING FOR GOD's SALVATION. dently for better things to come. Our question then is, Does your experience coincide with theirs ? No man has been a Christian, even for a day, who does not feel that he has much to cast aside and leave behind him as unfit to be carried into eternity. No man has ever felt the preciousness of Christ who does not desire to be conformed to the likeness of Christ. Now it is this casting aside, and aiming at conformity to the likeness of Christ, that we are to understand as constituting, in one view at least, the substance of the sentiment expressed in the text. If we cherish no habitual desire to be freed from the dominion of sin, and no habitual endeavour to be holy as Christ is holy, we have no community of feeling with him who said, ' I have waited for Thy salvation, Lord.' But let me specially notice here, that believers in Christ, as waiting for salvation, groaning under the weight of sin, and seeking to be set free, must not suffer themselves to become impatient, and to long too earnestly for the promised rest. The soldiers of Jesus Christ must not seek to lay aside their armour and to run away from the conflict imtil the victory is fairly won. You will sometimes hear the aged — especially when they are overtaken by sickness which prevents all active exertion — speaking as if they were of no use in this world, and as if it would be well were they dismissed from all their warfare. But, my friends, they do not speak advisedly when they express such feelings. It is no doubt for this, among other reasons, that the Saviour keeps them where they are, that He may show forth the power of His grace in sustain-
ing them under the burden of age, the pressure of disease, and all their other present trials. And they glorify Him, they set an example of encouragement to those around them, they give practical testimony to their sense of His lovingkindness, when, with faith and patience combined, they wait cheerfully for the full salvation of the Lord. If they were altogether fitted for it, they would not be kept struggling here. But there is yet some sin to be subdued ; there is deeper submission to God's will to be exhibited ; there is yet more evidence to be given by them of the experienced faithfulness of the Saviour ; and therefore they must wait. And is it not cjood to wait for the salvation of the Lord ?
WAITING FOR GOD's SALVATION. 159 3. In the third place, I would ask, Do you know what is meant by 'pr&paring while you wait for the salvation of the Lord? It is not enough that we speculate and discourse of this great matter. If our heart is in it we must prepare for it. There is such a thing as eternal salvation. It is enjoyed at this moment by multitudes who were once as far from it as any of us can be. He who uttered the words before us now realizes in full what in this world he waited for. But let none imagine that the eternal life which is the summit of the believer's desire is reached without ardent desire and due preparation. You kjiow what efforts a man will make to gain a situation which promises him respectability and wealth and influence in the world. You know how he will concentrate all his energies to gain it. You know how he will study night and day to obtain the qualifications necessary for the discharge of the duties connected with it. Shall eternity, then, be less valued than time ? Let no man say that he waits for the salvation of the Lord, whose heart is not in the matter, who seeks not through the Spirit's grace to mortify the deeds of the body, and who is not gradually attaining more and more of the temper and spirit that will fit him for the society of the redeemed. ' I have waited for Thy salvation, Lord.' What a rebuke to the worldling ! He waits for the issue of his schemes and purposes ; and when the issue comes, it leaves him in disappointment. He loaits till death comes, and then he is dragged away from all he waited for. ' I have waited for Thy salvation, Lord.' How encouraging these words to the people of God ! In the case of Jacob, here is the time of waiting at length finished, and the thing waited for fully obtained ' Wait ye on,' believers. In other things ye may be deceived, but here ye cannot. ' He that endureth to the end shall be saved.' ' They shall never perish, neither shall any one pluck them out of my hand.' ' It is good for a man to hope, and patiently to wait for the salvation of God.' But be persevering as well as patient. And strive habitually to be re^idy ; for at such an hour as ye think not the Son of
man may come.
160 WAITING FOR GOD'S SALVATION. There is one remark now which I would offer in conclusion, and would leave with you. In the remarks which have been made, it will not be supposed that the salvation of the Lord only comes to the believer when death comes. It is then, indeed, consummated ; but there is a precious earnest or commencement of it in the present life. There is a rigid to all the blessings of the new covenant obtained by faith in Christ. There is the right of sonship obtained through union to Him who is the beloved of the Father. There is the indwelling of the Spirit in consequence of sonship. These blessings, together with others, such as peace with God, and grace to help infirmities, make salvation a present blessing. And it is only those who enjoy these first-fruits that can be said to wait for the full and glorious harvest. We are deceiving ourselves fearfully and ruinously, if we imagine that when the end of life draws near, when the dark shadows of the grave are closing in upon us, we shall be in time to think of salvation, and reaUy to appropriate it. It is as foolish to imagine this, as it would be to expect that, lying idle in bed all the day, we should in the evening be at the end of a journey, which should have been begun in the morning. Oh, my friends, be not thus deceived by Satan's wiles. Salvation is in part a present blessing, and must be experienced as a present blessing. Christ must be yours now as your deliverer from wrath and sin, if He is to be yours for ever as the object of endless enjoyment. Amen.
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