Looking unto the Lord
Looking unto the Lord is an attitude of the soul, an act of the will, and the exercise of faith — a turning away from all that is of the creature, and relying solely upon the living God. It is tersely — but graphically, expressed in these words: "But our eyes are upon you!" (2 Chronicles 20:12), and blessed is the one who can really so aver. That is the language of all God's children, when they are in their right minds. At that time, they place no reliance upon self, have no confidence in the flesh, and expect nothing good from the world — but they put all their trust in the Lord. Their hearts are engaged with an almighty God, and, like Moses, they endure "as seeing him who is invisible" (Heb 11:27). It is this which characterizes those who are members of the Household of Faith:
in their need — they look to God for their supplies;
in their straits — they look to God for deliverance;
in their trouble — they look to God for comfort;
in their weakness — they look to God for strength.
It is this which distinguishes them from unbelievers, who lean upon the "arm of flesh" (2 Chronicles 32:8) and look to their fellows for help. In proportion, as we maintain this attitude of dependence on and expectation from our heavenly Father . . .
our hearts will be kept in peace,
our souls made to rejoice, and
our every need will be supplied.
For the sake of young preachers, we will topicalize our subject.
1. The look of salvation."Look unto Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else" (Isa 45:22). Look not to the Law, the priest, nor to your baptism, nor church attendance. Look not to your sincerity and good intentions, nor to your prayers and good deeds; nor even to your convictions of sin. None but Christ can save you. This is very humbling to the proud creature: to have to look away from self — and be wholly indebted to Another. It is not a matter of what we are — how good or bad — but of what He is: namely, an all-sufficient Savior, freely offered in the Gospel to every hearer. If you look unto Him, as the serpent-bitten Israelites looked upon the divinely appointed object (John 3:14) — with simple but confident faith — He will save you. No qualifications are needed to entitle you to do so — the command of God and the invitation of the Gospel supply sufficient authorization. The viler you feel yourself to be — the more suited to Christ's cleansing blood. He is the great Physician — and can heal the foulest leper. Do you say, "But I am blind!" True — yet you are not bidden to "See," but "Look" — and sight comes by looking!
2. The look of illumination."They looked unto Him, and were enlightened: and their faces were not ashamed" (Psalm 34:5). Faith's looking unto Christ is the grand means of blessing appointed by God: pardon and peace, light and liberty, are obtained thereby. Of old, Job said, "Lo, all these things works God oftentimes with man — to bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living" (Job 33:29-30). He does so by the power of His Spirit working in us, faith upon Christ. God announced concerning His beloved Son, "I will also give you for a light to the Gentiles" (Isa 49:6). And in due time, the Sun of righteousness arose "with healing in his wings" (Mal 4:2), putting an end to the night of darkness for many a soul. By His Gospel, He declares, "I am come a light into the world, that whoever believes on me should not abide in darkness" (John 12:46). Then look unto Him — and you too shall be divinely illumined: your faith shall not be confounded, nor your face covered with confusion.
3. The look of supplication."But our eyes are upon you" (2 Chronicles 20:12). The setting of those words is very striking. A great army of the heathen had gathered together to do battle against Judah. When their king was informed, he "set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast" (verse 3). Then, in the hearing of the congregation, he addressed himself unto the God of their fathers, saying, "O our God, will you not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that comes against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon you!" (verse 12).
It was an earnest appeal unto the omnipotent One by those in the place of conscious weakness and helplessness. It was likewise an expression of humble but confident faith. It was also an expectation of help from the Almighty. Nor was this simple but affecting supplication in vain. Of course it was not! Jehovah made answer: "Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours — but God's" (verse 15). He caused the enemy to fall upon themselves, "and none escaped" (verse 24). There is the grand remedy for every strait. No matter how desperate the situation — nothing is too hard for the LORD! Turn unto Him the eyes of faith, of dependence, of reliance, of confident expectation — and you will not be disappointed.
4. The look of transformation."But we all, with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18). This "beholding" is not simply one of faith — but especially of holy ambition and resolve. As the believer contemplates the moral perfection and character of Christ as they are set forth in the Word — there is born within him a deep yearning to be conformed to His likeness and to "walk, even as he walked" (1 John 2:6). As that yearning persists and is accompanied by earnest prayer, the Holy Spirit works in him a deeper spirit of obedience, causing him to be increasingly regulated by Christ's example and precepts, and thereby "changes" him, little by little, unto the same image. The Greek verb for "change" here is rendered "transformed" in Romans 12:2, and "transfigured" in Matthew 17:2. As the will is brought into subjection to Christ — we drink into His Spirit and become partakers of His holiness. This lifelong process will be completed when "we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2), "face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12).
5. The look of inspiration."Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher [better, "Leader and Captain"] of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb 12:2). In Hebrews 10:32, the apostle began to set before suffering, tried, and persecuted saints — a number of considerations calculated to nerve them for the conflict and stimulate unto the continued performance of duty. Throughout chapter 11, he showed how faith was what animated the Old Testament worthies. As a climax, he reminded them of the Savior, who supplied the perfect example of faith and fortitude under unparalleled suffering. When, then, you grow weary of running the race set before you — look unto your Leader and draw inspiration from Him — see Hebrews 12:3-4. Do as He did: look beyond the present sorrows to "the joy" awaiting you; see above the painful cross — an eternal crown prepared for him who "endures to the end" (Mat 10:22). It is by so looking unto our great Exemplar, by devoutly contemplating His spirit of self-sacrifice and steadfastness, that we obtain strength to bear the hardships of the way.
6. The look of expectation."Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13). That is a very different thing from having the mind engaged with signs of the times or charmed with the study of prophecy; or even being on the alert for the next appointed item on the divine program. It is concerned not so much with an event — as with the advent of a Person.
The second coming of Christ is ridiculed by the infidel (2 Peter 3:2-4) and dreaded by the world (2 Thessalonians 1:8); but it is regarded by the saints with great delight, for then will be the perfecting of their salvation (Hebrews 9:26). Titus 2:13 describes a spiritual attitude of heart. It is an attitude of faith — and faith is not influenced by sensational items taken from the newspapers! It is an attitude of hope — joyous anticipation of our being rid of sin. It is an attitude of love, so that we cry, "Make haste, my beloved, and be like to a roe or to a young deer upon the mountains of spices" (Song 8:14).
Such looking . . .
weans the heart from the world (Heb 11:9-10),
produces patience in trials (Jam 5:6-8), and
purifies the heart (1 John 3:3).
Therein we may behold the practical side of our blessed hope. Such an expectation of the returning Savior works in us a careful attention to our conduct, that we may "not be ashamed before him at his coming" (1 John 2:28).
7. The look of consummation."As for me, I will behold your face in righteousness" (Psalm 17:15). That is the ultimate longing of every believer — to behold the King in His beauty and forever gaze upon His blessed features! Such too is His desire — to have us with Him, beholding His glory (John 17:24) — nothing less will satisfy the eternal Lover of our souls. In a real sense, believers discern something of the glory of Christ even now — but oh, how feebly and faintly! But hereafter, we shall look upon Him without hindrance or interruption. That will be the fruition of our hope — to have immediate communion with Him. That will fill us with joy, and make us overflow with praise. Oh, how altogether lovely will He appear, when we see Him no longer "through a glass, darkly [obscurely]" — but "face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12)!