Isaiah 40: 27-31
The Israelites are in exile, but their time in Babylon is coming to an end. They are disheartened and weary. They are wondering whether God is really able to establish His kingship in Israel; perhaps God has given up on them altogether, and so, Isaiah, in the verses preceding the ones mentioned, states the greatness and omnipotence of God. He is the Creator and knows all of His creation intimately. In the light of God’s great glory, magnificence and supremacy is He too great to care for His people? No! Back comes the answer – He is too great not to care for His people! And so the verses stated and the following chapters look forward to the time when Israel will return to her homeland. God is still very much concerned for His people and for their welfare in their present situation. He has never withdrawn His love for them.
I am not suggesting that any of us are in a similar predicament to the Israelites, but sometimes it seems like we are living in Babylon and there are parallels between them then and us to-day, as we shall see. Even although it was going to take some time, the end of the exile was in sight, so Isaiah is giving them hope for the future. There are times in our lives when we become disheartened and weary, discouraged and weak; maybe things are not going as planned, maybe we have to cope with illness (our own or a loved one’s) or loss, maybe our economic position has changed, maybe family issues – so many things which can affect our lives. We must remember that, as God’s people, He loves us. The Israelites found themselves in a strange land, unable to worship as they usually did. As an old song says, ‘this world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through’. In many countries there is apathy towards God and sometimes aggression towards His people. Governments are bringing in laws which are totally contrary to the Word of God, and as Christians we find it difficult to stand against that, which makes our community strange to us as we seek to live the Christian life and uphold Biblical standards and values. God is with His people, He never abandons us, and we can take solace and comfort from that because through Jesus we have a hope and a future. Our God is aware of His people’s needs, He is constantly awake and alert, and He is tirelessly working out His purposes through His people, but He requires us to submit to His Lordship.
Verse 31 says: ‘But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint’ (New King James Version).
In this verse are five commands or instructions for us to pay heed to and implement in our lives; wait, renew, mount up, run, walk.
- a) Wait – some translations of the Bible use the word ‘hope’ instead of ‘wait’. If we have no hope in God it is hardly likely that we will wait on Him. Waiting on God means spending time with Him, learning from Him. God’s timing is often different from ours. Sadly we do not always wait but rush on and do things our way, and then suffer the consequences. Before the disciples were empowered by the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus instructed them to ‘wait’ (Acts 1:4)). They were to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the Promise of the Father – the Holy Spirit. Jesus didn’t tell them how long they were to wait, nor when the Spirit would come. He just said, ‘Wait’. The disciples were obedient to Jesus’ word. Yet they kept themselves busy while they waited; they prayed together and they appointed another apostle to take the place of Judas. Sometimes God asks us to wait, yet as we wait we can be praying and getting on with what the Lord has entrusted to our care. Let’s determine to wait on the Lord.
- b) Renew – Have you ever worked so hard that you felt you couldn’t do any more, even though there was more still to do? Sometimes we can feel like that; we feel we are giving our all and getting nowhere, or the progress is too slow, or we are doing the work on our own. God promises us that if we wait on Him our strength will be renewed. Apparently the word ‘renew’ literally means ‘exchange’; our strength is changed just as we would change our clothes. After a period of hard physical work it’s good to shower and change into some clean fresh clothes – we feel so much better, we are renewed and ready to face the world again. Let’s not be disheartened when things don’t turn out as we had expected. God’s ways are not our ways. Let’s give Him our disappointment and discouragement and let Him renew our strength as we wait with anticipation.
- c) Mount Up – Another word which is often used here in other translations is ‘soar’. For a human being to mount up with wings and to soar into the sky is an impossibility. But this is the metaphor God uses to tell His people that this is what they will do. I wonder if we have experienced this in our own lives? Perhaps there have been times when it seemed as though we were soaring high with God. If this is your experience, you will know how good and thrilling it is that God should give us such experiences with Him. Are we willing for God to cause us to mount up with Him and soar? If this is our desire, we need to be in that place of total commitment to the Lord and walking in obedience with Him, and so occasionally God permits us to fly. Let’s trust that we can mount up and soar to heights with God as He leads us on. He wants us to experience new things.
- d) Run – We are to run and not be weary. I don’t know if any of you reading this are runners or athletes – not me for certain! But hopefully I run with God. Can we run and not be weary? Can we sustain a good running pace and not fall exhausted? After a spell of exercise our muscles become tired and we have to stop and rest to let our bodies replenish what energy they have used up. God promises that we will be able to run and not grow weary. There are times when the Lord gives us tasks to do which take a lot of sustained effort and don’t always come easy to us. At such times we must learn to rely on Him to enable us to keep going to see things through to the finish. We may want to give up, but if it is what God desires for us how can we refuse Him? Once the task has been completed, then we may rest. God enables us to run and not be weary. Let’s trust Him.
- e) Walk – In a way this is similar to running though a bit more leisurely. We are to walk and not faint. Even when we are out walking, it is normal after some time for us to feel the need to sit down and rest. If it is a hot day we can become faint and know we must sit down before we pass out. God is promising that He will sustain us, enable us to keep going, keep pressing on making steady progress. When our eyes are fixed on Jesus we can keep walking towards our goal. He is by our side and He is our Companion along the way. Each of us ought to be walking, moving forward and onward on our journey ‘home’. There will be lots to see and do and there will be times of extreme difficulty and sadness as well as wonderful times of joy and elation. Let us walk and not faint.
These verses, particularly verse 31, must have been full of encouragement for the Israelites as they contemplated their situation. It gave them hope and courage until these promises were fulfilled. They did eventually go back to their homeland. Surely these verses can encourage us also as we live in our communities where God has placed us and given us work to do for Him. We too have the sure hope of reaching our destination, our ‘home’ in heaven. Let’s allow these verses to encourage us as we serve the Lord in our own personal lives and in whatever ministry He has given to us. Let us wait upon the Lord, then our strength will be renewed, we will mount up with Him and run and walk and be able to keep going in the power of the Spirit for the Lord’s honour and glory.