Abstract of A Sermon Preached on July 6, 1997
by Glenn Conjurske
Faith and patience are intimately associated together in the Bible. Faith particularly belongs to the time of waiting, and the time of patience is the time of faith. The 37th Psalm is one of the most precious passages in the Bible on faith, but it is also a Psalm of patient waiting. It says, “Fret not thyself because of evil-doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity, for they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good: so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him. Fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.”
Now why would anyone be envious of the workers of iniquity? It is not their iniquity which we might envy, but their prosperity. Understand, we have two classes of people in this Psalm, the evil-doers, who bring wicked devices to pass, and who prosper in their way
—-and the righteous, who are deprived and denied, and must patiently wait. We are told in the first verse of the Psalm to fret not ourselves because of evil-doers, and in the seventh verse to fret not ourselves because of him who prospereth in his way. The wicked prosper, the wicked receive the desire of their hearts, while the righteous are deprived and denied, and can only patiently wait. And it is God who requires this of them. It is God who tells them to “wait patiently.” The same God who says in verse 4, “Delight thyself in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart,” requires us in verse 7 to “wait patiently” for them.
And yet when your heart is possessed with strong desires
—-and right desires, which God himself has planted in your very heart and nature —-“wait patiently” is the last thing which you wish to hear. It has always been difficult, for the whole human race, to wait patiently when some strong desire fills the heart, but in the day in which we live it is no doubt more difficult than it has ever been before. We live in the midst of a generation —-a crooked and perverse generation, by the way —-which has been diligently taught not to wait. You children who have grown up here have been taught better, but all of us who are adults, who were raised in the world, have been diligently taught that we may have what we want now. “Buy now, pay later.” “No down payment.” “No payments till 1998.” You can have whatever you want, and have it now. If you want a car, and have no money, you can buy it “on time.” If you want the delights of marriage, you don’t have to wait till you are married. You can take them now. If you want new clothes, or a new appliance, you buy it with a “credit card.” Whatever it is which your heart desires, you take it now.
Now I have not the slightest doubt that all of this is directly inspired by the devil. It is directly against the way of faith, as well as the way of righteousness, and it is directly against the way of God. It is always the way of God to require us to wait for things, and always the devil’s way to give them now. Look at the dealings of God and of the devil with Eve. Eve was deprived of something even in paradise. She was deprived of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and of the knowledge of good and evil. Now I do not believe that God intended permanently to deprive the human race of the knowledge of good and evil. This knowledge is so foundational to all the principles of morality and holiness, that it is simply unthinkable that God would permanently withhold such knowledge from man. Yet he chose to withhold it for the time then being. He would give that knowledge in his own way, and in his own time. You may ask, if God intended to give that knowledge at some future day, why did he give no indication of this, why no promise of it? Would it not have been easier for Eve to resist the devil’s temptations if she had had a promise from God for the future possession of the fruit of that tree? Perhaps, but God rarely concerns himself with making things easy for man. He expects man to trust him. The relationship of Adam and Eve to the forbidden tree required not only obedience of them, but faith. It required the faith that God was good, that God was for them, and that God would give them what was good for them, whether now or later. Therefore God gave them not so much as a promise of future possession, but only a present prohibition.
But you observe that the devil proceeded upon just the opposite plan. His plan was to give it to them now. And the devil always uses the thing which God has denied us to insinuate himself upon our hearts. Essentially what he said to Eve was, My way is better than God’s way, and I will treat you better than God does. I will give you what God has denied you, and I will give it now. This is the primary means by which the devil gains the allegiance of the human race, by giving them what God withholds
—-or by giving them now what God requires them to wait for. Faith resists all of this, and “waits patiently for him” —-that is, for God —-for faith understands very well that God’s way is better than the devil’s, and that if God requires me to wait for something, it is good for me to wait.
And the fact is, God usually does require us to wait patiently even for the dearest desires of our hearts. He promises in verse 4, to those who delight themselves in the Lord, that he will give them the desires of their heart. He promises in verse 5, to those who commit their way unto the Lord, that “he shall bring it to pass”
—-that is, whatever your heart desires. He will bring it to pass. But in verse 7 he requires you to wait patiently.
Now observe what this entails. In verse 6, “He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.” What does “thy righteousness” have to do with the matter? Much every way. Remember, there are two classes of men in this Psalm, the wicked, who prosper in their way, and the righteous, who are denied and deprived. It is the will of God which denies and deprives them. They cannot obtain the desire of their heart without departing from the way of the Lord. It is precisely their righteousness which requires them to wait patiently. The man who brings wicked devices to pass is the man who prospers in his way. He gets what he wants, by fair means or foul. The righteous man, who will not depart from the will of the Lord and the way of faith, must do without. Ahab may have Naboth’s vineyard, while Naboth must give up both his vineyard and his life.
And you must understand that there is always a certain amount of reproach involved in being deprived. You claim that God is your father, and yet he denies you the desires of your heart. To bring forth your righteousness as the light is to take away that reproach. When God at length grants your desires, this is not only your joy and your satisfaction, but your vindication. This is bringing forth your righteousness as the light. When God brought Joseph out of the prison and made him the ruler of the land, he not only fulfilled the dreams which he had given to Joseph years before, but also brought forth his righteousness. He took away his reproach, so far as it came from Egypt and the Egyptians. It was another step to bring forth his righteousness in the face of his own brethren, and God did that also. While Joseph waited patiently in the prison, God was devising a plan by which he might bring forth his righteousness. That plan involved a grievous famine from Egypt to Canaan. It involved a great deal of trouble and suffering for many thousands of people
—-so careful was God to bring forth the righteousness of his righteous servant.
But understand this: if it is God’s business to bring forth your righteousness as the light, in his own time and way, it is your business to maintain that righteousness, while you “wait patiently” for the Lord to act in your behalf. During the long course of patient waiting, there will always be temptations enough to let go that righteousness, in order to obtain the desire of your heart. David might have obtained the throne of Israel by killing Saul. He might even have pled the sanction of the will of God for his wrong, as compromisers usually do. He was anointed to be king of Israel when a mere lad
—-called home from tending the sheep to be anointed king of Israel. But years passed, and still he was no king. Not only so, but he was driven out into the wilderness, and hunted as a dog or a flea on the mountains. He would hardly have been faulted if he had killed Saul, who was seeking so diligently to kill him.
But see how David maintained his righteousness, in the face of such a temptation. He had fled to the wilderness, and was dwelling in a cave. Saul and his men came into that very cave, and went to sleep. David’s zealous disciples regarded this as an opening of providence. “Behold the day of which the Lord said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thy hand.” So say David’s men, but David would not kill Saul. He only cut off the skirt of his robe, in order to be able to use it to prove to Saul his innocence, and his heart smote him for doing even that. But mark, when he accosted Saul, with the skirt of his robe in his hand, Saul was obliged to say, “Thou art more righteous than I.” And yet once again David spared Saul’s life, when Saul was in his power, and said to Abishai, “Destroy him not, for who can stretch forth his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless? David said furthermore, As the Lord liveth, the Lord shall smite him, or his day shall come to die, or he shall descend into battle, and perish. The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the Lord’s anointed.” David took his spear and his cruse of water, and spared his life. And when he accosted him, with his spear in his hand, he said, “Behold the king’s spear! and let one of the young men come over and fetch it. The Lord render to every man his RIGHTEOUSNESS and his faithfulness, for the Lord delivered thee into my hand to day, but I would not stretch forth mine hand against the Lord’s anointed.” (I Sam 26:22-23). Thus did David maintain faith that the Lord would look after his interests, and thus was he careful to maintain his righteousness, while he waited patiently for the Lord. He would not sully his own righteousness in order to obtain the desire of his heart. When God at length gave him the kingdom, this was his vindication. This proclaimed his righteousness, and proclaimed that God was for him.
Now when a man maintains his own righteousness after this fashion, even at the expense of the desires of his heart, you may be certain that God will bring forth his righteousness as the light. You have the express promise of God that he will do so. “He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.” But when you compromise, when you let go or let down your righteousness in order to obtain the desire of your heart, then God has no more to do with the business. You may have the desire of your heart, but without the Lord’s blessing, and you have no righteousness for him to bring forth.
The third verse of this Psalm says, “Trust in the Lord, and do good.” This is faith, and this is maintaining righteousness. These two are intimately bound together. Paul charges us to hold fast faith and a good conscience (I Tim. 1:19), and if we let go either one of these, the other will soon slip also. Eve was talked out of her faith in the goodness of God, and from there it was but a small step to eat the forbidden fruit. On the other side, I believe it is a simple impossibility to maintain faith if we let go of righteousness. An accusing conscience destroys faith. With what confidence could David “trust in the Lord” to judge Saul and bring him to the throne of Israel, so long as he refrained his hand from Saul’s blood. If he had defiled his conscience by killing Saul, the whole case would have been altered, and he must now look for chastening instead of blessing from the hand of the Lord.
When God deprives us of the desires of our hearts, it is often within our power to take them ourselves. The young man who has no prospect for marriage among the godly might easily enough take a wife from among the ungodly
—-and many do so. But in so doing they give up both faith and righteousness —-both faith and a good conscience. Faith would “wait patiently for him.” Righteousness would refuse to compromise. And those who do these two things actually put God under obligation. He must and will keep his promises. Those who “trust in the Lord and do good” engage the powers of heaven in their behalf, to give them the desires of their heart. Not necessarily today or tomorrow. Abraham waited many years for Isaac, David many years for the throne of Israel, and Joseph many years for the fulfillment of his God-given dreams. Of how long you must wait for the desire of your heart you know nothing. You do know this, that God has promised it. “Wait patiently for him.”