Hab_2:3. The vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come; it will not tarry.
AS there is no one so secure, but he may fall, so there is no one in so low and afflicted a condition, but God may have mercy in reserve for him. It has pleased God on many occasions to suffer his people to be reduced to the very last extremity before he interposed for them, in order that his interposition for them might be more visible, and might produce in their minds livelier sensations of joy and gratitude. The prophet, having foretold the total destruction of his country by the Chaldean armies, was greatly grieved at the prospect of such extensive and dreadful calamities. He looked therefore to God, to know whether there were any alleviating circumstances which might console the people in their troubles; and he was favoured with a vision of their future deliverance from Babylon; and was ordered to write it down in terms so plain, that the most inattentive or superficial observer could not but understand them: but as the promise had respect to a distant period of time, he was told to bid them wait for its accomplishment, in a full assurance that they should not ultimately be disappointed.
But we must not confine the promise to this subject: for in the Epistle to the Hebrews this promise is quoted in a general manner, as applicable to all the distresses with which the Lord’s people are tried [Note: Heb_10:37.]. The Lord himself stands engaged for their support and deliverance; and he enjoins them to wait his appointed time, in a certain expectation that he will in due season fulfil his word.
We propose then to shew,
The certainty of the promises—
There is a time fixed in the Divine counsels for the accomplishment of every promise—
[The promises of God often have respect to a very distant period: yet that period is fixed; nor can it be either accelerated or delayed. The time for Christ’s incarnation, though not revealed from the beginning, was appointed of God from eternity. Thousands of years rolled on before the period arrived; but at the time when, according to Daniel’s prophecy, the Messiah’s advent was generally expected, he came [Note: Dan_9:25-26. Luk_2:38.]. The time for detaining Abraham’s descendants was fixed, even to a single day: and the accuracy with which the promise was fulfilled, is noted by the historian as a circumstance worthy of most attentive observation; “It came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the self-same day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord [Note: Exo_12:40-42.].” The same remark also extends to every blessing which God has determined to confer upon his people: nor can they use a better plea on behalf of themselves or of the Church at large, than that which the Psalmist urges, “Arise, and have mercy upon Zion; for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come [Note: Psa_102:13.].”]
When that period is arrived, the promise, how improbable soever it may appear, shall be fulfilled—
[Nothing could be more unlikely, according to human apprehensions, than the deliverance foretold in the text: yet at the appointed time the Chaldeans were subdued by the Medes and Persians, and the Jews were liberated by the very man who had been foretold by name long before he had any existence in the world. The promise made to Abraham and Sarah was delayed, till the accomplishment of it, according to the course of nature, seemed impossible: yet it was not suffered to fall to the ground; in due time it received its completion, and gave a demonstration, that God was true to his word. Thus when God delays to give peace to the contrite, and victory to those who are conflicting with sin, we must not imagine that he has forgotten to be gracious, but that the time for the performance of his promise is not fully come. He has said, that “he will give his people the blessing of peace [Note: Psa_29:11.],” and that “sin shall not have dominion over them [Note: Rom_6:14.];” and he will “not suffer one jot or tittle of his word to fail.” “His counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure [Note: Isa_46:10.]”]
Being assured then of the stability of his promises, let us consider,
Our duty with respect to them—
As “we know not the times or seasons which the Father has reserved in his own power,” it becomes us to wait,
[We can claim nothing at the hands of God. If he were to deal with us as he did with the fallen angels, we should have no more than our desert. The most distant hope of obtaining mercy is a marvellous favour conferred upon us. We should therefore lie low before him, as conscious of our utter unworthiness. We should implore mercy, only for the sake of that adorable Saviour who died for us. And we should cheerfully leave to God the time, the manner, the degree, in which he will shew mercy towards us.]
[We must “not stagger at any of the promises [Note: Rom_4:20.]” on account of the greatness of them, or of our own unworthiness. We should remember who it is that promises; how sovereign HE is in the distribution of his favours, and how mighty to fulfil his word. It is true, a promise of pardon to such guilty wretches, and of everlasting happiness to those who deserved nothing but misery, appears great and incredible: but he has given us his only dear Son; and will he not with him also freely give us all things? Let us not then be requiring signs to confirm our faith [Note: Jdg_6:36-40.], but believe that it shall be even as God has said unto us [Note: Act_27:25.]]
[If God should defer granting our requests till the latest moment of our lives, we should wait contentedly upon him: his blessing, if given at the expiration of a thousand years, would amply repay us for all our solicitude and suspense. Let us consider how long he has called, and we have refused to answer; and shall we be impatient if he delay to answer us? We exercise patience in hopes of obtaining in due season the fruits of the earth [Note: Jam_5:7-8.]: let us do the same in hopes of that grace which shall supply all our wants, and satisfy all our desires [Note: Heb_10:36.].]
How attentive should we be to the promises which God has made us!
[There is not a situation in which we can be, wherein we have not many promises suited to our necessities. Should we not then treasure them up in our minds? Should we not plead them at a throne of grace? Should they not be to us “a light shining in a dark place?” Let us study the word of God with an especial view to the promises; for it is by them that we are to be “made partakers of a divine nature [Note: 2Pe_1:4.],” and by them to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit [Note: 2Co_7:1.].”]
How ashamed should we be of ever yielding to unbelief!
[The office of faith is, to give to things invisible and future a present and visible existence. It was by faith that Abraham was assured that Isaac, after he should have been slain and reduced to ashes, would be restored to life; yea, he was as much assured of it, as if he had seen the very transaction pass before his eyes. This honoured God as a God of truth. But unbelief dishonours him in the highest degree: it says, in fact, that “the vision will lie.” But what ground have we for such a suspicion? When did God falsify any one of his promises [Note: Jos_23:14.]? To guard against our unbelief, he has confirmed his promise with an oath [Note: Heb_6:17-18.]: and shall we still question his veracity? O blush, ye unbelieving people, who are doubting whether he will receive you to mercy, or supply all your need! Trust in him with unshaken affiance; and you shall find Him “faithful who hath promised.”]
How awful is the state of those, who, instead of being interested in the promises, are obnoxious to the threatenings!
[Every word of God is equally true, and equally certain of accomplishment. The threatening that the whole world should be destroyed by a deluge, was executed, notwithstanding the scoffs of unbelievers: and every thing which he has spoken against sin and sinners shall be fulfilled in due season [Note: 2Pe_3:3-4; 2Pe_3:8-9.]. His vengeance is delayed in mercy; but it shall surely come at last [Note: 2Ti_2:12-13.]. Let the impenitent and unbelieving consider this, and “flee for refuge to the hope set before them.”]