By John Newton
My favorite chapter of the entire amazing Bible is Isaiah 40. In 31 verses, the subject matter goes from prophetic time travel to a moment of intimate tenderness, from the overwhelming view from outer space to the super-personal love of God, and it ends up with God’s faithful rising on wings like eagles.
But what has me “chewing the mental cud” today is a little observation from the end of Isaiah’s prophecy. It’s funny — I’ve preached on Isaiah 40:27-31 before, taught it in Bible studies, and dwelt upon it in devotions but I never noticed this one thing.
Isaiah is talking about waiting on the LORD and how God will give you the strength you need to wait. But it wasn’t until this week that I realized something else from this passage (and about half a dozen other sections I’ve studied int he past two weeks). It is very important to keep moving about our daily lives while we wait on God — while we wait for unanswered prayers, His direction, or rescue from a circumstance. Whenever we stop and focus on ourselves and our problems, we lose sight of who God is and what He has done for us in the past. And we cannot pay attention to His promises for the future because we are stuck in the present, focused on ourselves, and lost in a sea of thought, emotions and upsets.
Here’s how Isaiah puts it:
27. Why do you say, Jacob,
Why do you say, Israel,
“The Lord is not aware of what is happening to me, (my way is hidden from the Lord)
My God is not concerned with my vindication”? (and from my God my justice passes away) (NET Bible translation)
Why has God ignored me? Am I so small and insignificant that God cannot see me? Does my life mean nothing to God??? The heart’s reactions during times of stress and “silence” can be so powerful, can’t they? When we pray for things and nothing seems to happen right away — or for some time — it is easy to think that God is simply ignoring us or, even worse, that we have somehow fallen between the cosmic cracks of life and He cannot see us!
Or we might think that, maybe, God has too much on His plate and my troubles aren’t worth His time! Maybe He’s too tired with dealing with people that He has taken a cat nap! Is God asleep? Oh, NO!
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is an eternal God,
the creator of the whole earth. (“from the ends of the earth,” meaning the extremity or entire)
He does not get tired or weary;
there is no limit to his wisdom.
My dear restless heart… remembering the big picture is essential when you turn inward on yourself, mentally and emotionally. Who is God? Who am I in relation to Him? What can He do? Focus on these questions and do not let them go until you have answers to each! Here, Isaiah reminds the people of Israel that God is eternal. He doesn’t die. He hasn’t died! We humans cannot kill Him! He is always present.
Isaiah also reminds his readers that God created everything (and, thus, has more power than anything), and he doesn’t wear out and get tired. Oh, and as for His ability to answer our issues? His wisdom is adequate for every situation of our lives. “There is no limit to His wisdom,” Isaiah says. No limit! There is no situation for which God cannot present the right answer.
The availability of God’s wisdom is even more present in this day and age after the Cross of Jesus. Paul writes, “For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the things of a man except the manʼs spirit within him? So too, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God (1 Cor. 2:10-12).” God has revealed His wisdom to us through His Spirit within us, an open channel for every situation of our lives. Cool, right?
Isaiah 40 is great because it zooms in and out of the celestial scene several times — from the maxi to the mini. It goes from God’s eternal nature, His role as the Creator, and His ever-sufficient wisdom to the personal love of God for His human creation.
29 He gives strength to those who are tired;
to the ones who lack power, he gives renewed energy.
Here is a real kicker: the same Big God, with eternal existence, unlimited power, no fatigue and all-sufficient wisdom — this amazing deity — is benevolent, kind, loving and full of grace towards humans. He gives His strength to the weary and powerless. To restless hearts. To ragamuffins. To those who want to give up.
30 Even youths get tired and weary;
even strong young men clumsily stumble. (literally: stumbling they stumble; added emphasis on their absolute failure)
Even those who seem like they are in their prime of life — the young and strong, the “bulletproof” — even they have to take a nap. They have to sleep. They get groggy and heavy-eyed. They cannot always lift that 60-pound bag of garden soil. They who should have full control of their hand-eye coordination and peak muscle control trip over rocks and stub their toes. They will stumble. It is a guarantee! Can you count on them? Nope.
31 But those who wait for the Lordʼs help find renewed strength;
The Hebrew word for “wait” here is qawah, the word for “to hope in” or “wait for” or “look for.” It is a word for faithful anticipation, or a faith that waits. Faith is never meant to be passive. It is always an action.
they rise up as if they had eaglesʼ wings, (literally: they rise up on wings like eagles)
This is a flowery description of emotional bliss; to be lifted on the wings of such majestic birds is an emotional feeling of strength. God cares about our emotions! He will gladly give us emotional satisfaction when we need a pick-me-up.
they run without growing weary,
they walk without getting tired.
Here is something new I noticed in this Hebrew poetic parallelism — Run and walk are the two main means of moving forward. The idea of waiting in faithful hope is not one of sitting on the sidelines or stopping all activity. Instead, it is a conscious, mental, emotional and willful choice to hope in God while going about everyday life, or moving forward in your life. Don’t stop to read the tea leaves or set out your fleece. Keep going! Do life! Live! And God will provide you the emotional and physical strength to keep on living.
I think it might be possible — if a stretch — to compare “run” to a busy life and “walk” to a normal or mundane life. I like this comparison because it would show that God’s strength is good enough for the busiest person as well as the steady person. You can be busy and not wear out. You can do the routine things of your life as well!
My dear restless heart, God hasn’t ignored you. He sees you. He wants you to trust Him and hopefully wait in His action while you live your normal life. And while you look for His answer, He promises that you will be given His emotional and physical strength in order to overcome your weariness and heartache. But you need to trust Him.