"He who believes shall not make haste!" Isaiah 28:16
The writer has often had occasion to be thankful that this text was frequently quoted to him by a wise and godly father — in the years of his impetuous youth, and also during the early days of his Christian life — and hesitates not to say that had he heeded its prohibition more constantly and strictly — he had avoided both trouble and repinings. There is indeed a haste which is commendable — but there is also one that is censurable — one that is irrational and injurious, yes, very often fatal. One of the characteristics of the present generation is their craze for speed; and they are paying dearly for the increased tempo of their ways and their frenzied living, as witnessed to not only by the mounting toll of casualties on the highways — but by the multiplying of asylums. Only by definite prayer, constant watchfulness, and strict self-discipline — will the child of God be preserved from the evil spirit which is now driving his fellows to destruction. Let him daily recall our opening text, "He who believes shall not make haste!"
Those who act hastily, usually find they have to repent at leisure. As a general rule for action, it is wise to remember: "More haste — less profit"; and the more important the project is — the greater need to carefully ponder its pros and cons. To act by impulse or passion is unworthy of a rational creature. God bids us, "Ponder the path of your feet" (Pro 4:26): failure to do so occasions many a fall. Every step of life's journey is beset with snares and dangers, and therefore, should be critically examined.
"Consider your ways" (Hag 1:5) is the voice of wisdom; and to disregard the same is to invite trouble. "The prudent man looks well to his going" (Pro 14:15) — alas, how few such are now left in this mad world! Especially is careful reflection and circumspect action called for, where our spiritual and eternal interests are concerned. Scripture contains many illustrations of the folly and disaster of acting hastily. It was through doing so, that Joshua was beguiled (Jos 9:14-15). Saul's impetuosity cost him his kingdom (1 Samuel 13:12, 14), and David's haste was the occasion of great injury (2 Samuel 16:1-4). Particularly, we should be slow:
1. In addressing the Throne of Grace.Many who disdain pre-composed forms of prayer have erred sadly in their extempore ones. Nothing is more unfitting, than for a creature to rush thoughtlessly into the presence of God and chatter! Certainly, nothing is more impious and reprehensible, than for a sinner to affront the Holy One by babbling forth the first things entering his mind. "Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in Heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few!" (Ecclesiastes 5:2). If Scripture requires us to think before we speak unto our fellows — then how much more so before addressing God, lest we too be among those of whom it is said, "And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul" (Psalm 106:15). Let not filial boldness degenerate into unholy familiarity. Come before the LORD with awe and reverence. Take time to quiet your carnal passions and compose your mind.
2. In preaching to others."Be swift to hear — and slow to speak" (Jam 1:19) has reference to the Word — verses 18, 21-24. Alas, how many — in this age of "broadcasting" and "loudspeakers" — are rather slow to hear — and swift to speak. No sooner do they acquire the merest smattering of truth, than they deem themselves qualified to instruct others. If they do not push themselves to the fore, some silly person will urge them to teach a class or speak in the open air, in complete disregard of the injunction, "Not a novice" (1 Timothy 3:6) — note why: "Lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil." Those who obtrude the sacred calling do more harm than good. It is not the Spirit of God — but the spirit of vainglory which prompts them. One must severely discipline himself, before he is qualified to discipline others (Rom 2:24). But there are many who never take office — yet despite their utter incompetency — consider themselves well fitted to criticize the minister's sermons, and argue the deep things of God with those much older than themselves.
3. In resenting reproofs."Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to become angry" — the last item, equally with the former, respects the Word of God, especially the preaching of it.
First, the spirit in which it is delivered: namely, reverently and with dignity, and not boisterously under the sway of passions. The discerning hearer quickly distinguishes between carnal thunder and spiritual fervor. Still less must such a solemn occasion be employed in giving utterance to any personal ill will. Some preachers have deserved the taunt that the pulpit is "the coward's castle," using it to attack individuals whom they would be afraid to accuse in private.
Second, the spirit in which it is received: hotly resenting that which comes home too closely to the hearer. Usually, those who are angriest at a rebuke, are the ones needing it. It is a bad sign when we are irritated rather than humbled by faithful preaching. The indignation which rises up against the Word, hinders our attainment of practical "righteousness," or performing of what God requires, as James 1:20 shows.
4. In giving vent to an unruly temper."He who believes, shall not make haste" (Isa 28:16) is a call to self-discipline. To act hastily is to act without due deliberation. We should always take time to ask where such a course will lead, or, better — Will it be to God's glory? The same applies to the words of our mouths. "A patient man has great understanding — but a quick-tempered man displays folly!" (Pro 14:29). The former makes it manifest that he has a good understanding of himself, his duty, and his interests, as well as the infirmities of his fellows. Spiritual wisdom causes us to govern our passions, moderate our resentments, and adjourn our fury. But the hasty of spirit allows folly to be his master. "The discretion of a man defers his anger" (Pro 19:11) It is a part of the cure to delay anger — it does not grow by degrees as do the other passions — but is strongest at its birth; and therefore, prudent deliberation is the best safeguard. An interval between the inward tumult and the outward manifestation of the "anger" is most important. An open insult is therefore the test whether I have "discretion," or whether I am the slave of my own passion. "Do not repay evil with evil, or insult with insult — but with blessing" (1 Peter 3:9) is the Christian spirit.
5. In judging our fellows."And why do you behold the mote that is in your brother's eye? You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the mote out of your brother's eye" (Mat 7:3-5). The beholding of motes in our brethren's eyes indicates a tendency to be more critical of others than of ourselves. "Behold" denotes not an occasional observation — but a habitual one. It also shows we are readier to overlook the virtues of others, however excellent, than we are to overlook their minor blemishes. It demonstrates, too, a species of hypocrisy, for if we are quick to discern the infirmities of others, it cannot be through lack of perception — but rather of honesty — that we fail to regard our own greater sins. Then seek grace to cultivate the habit of self-judgment. Never allow in yourself, what you condemn in another. We are to be neither blind, nor indifferent, to a brother's failings; yet we cannot help him in meekness (Gal 6:1), until we have learned to judge ourselves unsparingly.
6. "He who believes, shall not make haste" in the pursuit of wealth."The plans of the diligent lead to profit — as surely as haste leads to poverty." (Pro 21:5). The diligent is usually contrasted with the sluggard and slothful (Pro 13:4, etc.); and here, with the hasty: the thoughts of each producing their own fruits. The patient, plodding man of industry perseveres in spite of all difficulties, and content to increase his substance by slow degrees: never relaxing, and never yielding to discouragement. Such exercise of diligence is, under the blessing of God, prospered (Pro 10:22). But as indolence is the opposite of diligence, so "haste" or undisciplined impulse is its excess. The hand acts only too often without the judgment. The hasty man is driven by a worldly spirit into ill-considered projects and rash speculations, only to find it is the sure road to poverty. Those who are greedy of gain, are generally unscrupulous in their methods. (See also Proverbs 28:20, 22; 1 Timothy 6:9-10).
7. In interpreting God's providences.Much caution and wisdom needs to be used in drawing deductions from God's ordering of our affairs. Jacob is far from being the only one who hastily declared, "All these things are against me!" (Gen 42:36), when in reality, God was making them work for his good. We are greatly the losers when we do not possess our souls in patience, and quietly wait for God to make things plain to us. When David said in his haste, "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul!" (1 Samuel 27:1), he drew an entirely wrong inference from the painful circumstances he was then in, for the hour of Saul's fall and of his own deliverance was at hand. The Lord was on the point of extricating His servant from his long and sore afflictions — but at the last moment, his faith failed! Again, how often we draw a wrong conclusion from the Lord's testing of our patience, and, because an answer is not granted speedily, imagine that He has turned a deaf ear to our prayers. What a warning against that is Psalm 31:22, "In my alarm I said, 'I am cut off from your sight!' Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help!" May both writer and reader earnestly seek grace to guard against these seven sins.