11.09.2008 Isaiah 40, pt. 2
9th November 2008
Lord, we pray for Doug (a friend of Joe and Gigi) – who needs a new heart – preserve him – give him an opportunity to receive a heart to keep him alive. We pray for his family – that you would reign and be their solution. You are our solution. We also ask for our time and this message this morning – help us to focus our attention on You. You are great. How great is our God! In our life circumstances, we have a God on our side who will go to battle for us. You are for us.
Last week – and this week, we are looking at Isaiah 40. I’ll catch you up and then we’ll push on.
Isaiah 40:27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the Lord, And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God"? 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. 29 He gives strength to the weary, And to [him who] lacks might He increases power. 30 Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, 31 Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up [with] wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.
Last week, we looked at – there was a group of people who were exiled – taken away to a foreign land and have lost hope of returning to their home. For us, where it seems there is no hope (for something that is longed for or needed) – He gives strength to the weary. Weary = Someone who has failed under the pressure of life. I gave the illustration of Odyssey of the Mind – where the kids would build a structure out of balsa wood – and then they would put 300-600 pounds of weight on it. When it goes, it goes fast! That is the picture – those who have the weight of life pressed on them – and eventually that pressure of life crushes that person. The structure of that individual fails.
To him who lacks might, He increases power. Last week, we looked at the lack of hope – and now we are looking at the hope. To him who is without strength, resources, emotional strength – whatever it is in your life- whenever you lack – when you are without what you need to thrive – He increases (multiplies) power. He takes the person who is without something and multiplies power in that area of your life.
Calvin: only when we feel and admit our weakness do we avail ourselves to His power. When we fail under the pressure of life – and admit it, only then can we tap into His power. That person is available to receive abundant strength and power from the Lord.
Beginning in verse 30 – he makes a contrast – he is contrasting – the very best that man has to offer – the strongest of people, and contrasts that with those who recognize their weakness and understand their failure yet continue to hope in God.
Isaiah 40:30 – though youths grow weary… - what do you think of when you hear YOUTH? You think of energy – activity – endurance, vitality, health, strength – He is saying – at our best, we grow weary and tired. Mankind at his very best will fail. We will fail under the pressures of life.
I don’t know if you have ever reached the point where life is starting to look up – and boom –the rug is pulled from beneath you. Even when life is at its best – you can grow weary and fail.
And vigorous young men stumble badly…
In these days of the Greeks and Romans – there were selectors – who would select great athletes who were a step above everyone else. Those who stand out above the rest. Think of the NFL draft – the NFL combine – how fast they can run and then the very best get drafted. THESE – stumble badly. Last year’s cross country state championship – division 1 – the number 1 runner – it is done at Scioto downs. The number 1 runner is in the lead – they come around the corner of the stands – he is 100-150 yds from the finish line and he falls – he goes to get up and falls – I think it happened 7 times. He had a sickness – dehydrated – and there came a point where it stopped. Great athletes, pressing all the way – gets within 100 yds and it all falls apart. I think Isaiah is giving a picture of what life is like for us sometimes. The very end of the race, we can see the finish in sight – and boom – something hits and we stumble and fall. He takes that – the strength of humankind, the best that we have and yet we still fall apart – then he contrasts that in verse 31.
YET – it is not over yet. Something else is to be said. For these folks, it was very bad. We can’t imagine the difficulty of their lives. Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength. Wait does not mean inactivity. He is speaking of hope. NIV says those who HOPE in the Lord – an unwavering trust that God will at sometime fulfill His promise to you. Those who trust that God will fulfill His promise and act on our behalf at some point. Part of this is the issue of prayer. Our problem with prayer – we say something and expect an immediate response. It is tied to faith and hope. It continues until we see God acting. For these folks, it was a long wait. It lasted their lifetime before God started bringing them back into the land.
Those who wait on the Lord will gain new strength – these are folks who have nothing – God will exchange their weakness for His strength. He doesn’t just give them a bump – an energy pick-me-up. He exchanges their weakness with His power. Like when you have a dead battery – no matter how hard you crank – it won’t start. Until you put the jumper cables on – what happens? Not that the battery revives – but you are exchanging the deadness of the one battery and getting the power of the other. It does not mean that you will find inner strength, but your lack of strength will be exchanged with His strength.
How this is exchanged in this life:
2 Cor. 12: 7 And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me-- to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
Paul, because of all that God had done in his life – God, not wanting Paul to be proud, sends a weakness – “a messenger of Satan to buffet me” – Paul entreated the Lord to remove it and God said No.
9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
He is saying, Look Paul, you don’t need this to be taken away – it is this thing that is keeping you in your own strength weak, that I might multiply my power through you. Then you might be available to receive my power in your life.
10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
Divine power finds its full strength in human weakness. That is so opposite to our normal way of thinking. Our tendency is to think – when I have everything together, then I can experience God’s working in my life. The opposite is true – when you recognize that you wont’ be able to get it together in your life – it is in that situation that you can receive His grace and strength to you. Grace. Unmerited favor – a superior’s relation to an inferior giving favor. Delivering those who were distressed, lacking, and infirm. The outsider. My favor is enough because you are poor and in need. Grace can only be given to the weak – to those who lack. Grace cannot be given to the strong. It is never given to those who are accomplished. Look at Jesus’ life. Whom did He go to? John – full of grace and truth – He devoted his life to the outsider – the failures of the world. That is where grace goes. That is where God’s power – quick scan through the Bible – all these people had flaws and weaknesses and difficulty – God wants you to see Him and not them. Him and not you. Paul boasts in his weakness. We boast in our strength. I don’t know how Paul did this. He understood – not that they know how bad he was – but that when he was weak Christ was strong.
He illustrates what this new strength looks like:
Isaiah 40: 31 Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up [with] wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.
You are in exile – He is talking to you – the weights were put on and your structure was crushed – and Isaiah is writing – continue to trust and wait and hope that He will fulfill His promises – and then gives pictures of what this might look like.
They will mount up with wings as eagles…you don’t see that everyday. These are large birds – kinda’ like the vultures – not like a hummingbird – an eagle – He lifts his wings – and boom – he is over there. It is not their power – they are soaring on the thermals – rising on another strength. They are being lifted off the ground by another power. He is saying – sometimes, sometimes when life fails, but we hope in God, God comes in just like that power and miraculously intervenes in our lives. When the Jews heard this – they would say, no man could soar on wings like eagles – but God wants to sometimes do the impossible in our lives. We are often unwilling or afraid to believe that. God wants to step in and do something unique. He starts with this eagle – God does this amazing work to lift us up.
You run – and don’t get tired. Running takes effort and energy. For you to run, you have to move – to do something to act. When life hits us and it collapses around us, sometimes He doesn’t miraculously lift us out of it. Sometimes He wants us to cooperate with Him and begin to move forward towards change. We have to put all our energy into this. There is this miracle of not growing weary – not getting tired. Even the best world class marathon athlete – at the end of the 26 miles – they are tired! God is saying – even in that situation – when life hits us and we don’t know what to do, we push forward, and not just sit around hoping our circumstances will change – but God wants us to change and He comes in and gives us strength and aid.
Phil. 2:12 – work out your salvation with fear and trembling –because He is at work in you.
That is what this is.
Then he closes with this –
They will walk and not be weary. There are times where God pulls us out. There are times we are to run and He gives us strength. But I think, most of the time, we walk. One step at a time. The pressures of life come in and crush you – what do you do? There are times when God changes the circumstance and lifts you up. But often, we just need to keep plowing forward. Keep moving forward. Take one step at a time. If we can make a step – that is all we are required to do. Do not worry about tomorrow – He only requires you for today – to take that step you need to take – that is all.
The person will walk and will not fail under the pressures of life. The interesting thing about this – whether you soar, run, or walk, you are only doing it by God’s strength. His power and energy is coming to bear in your life. One is not better than the other. There is not more power and prestige in soaring than there is in taking a step and moving forward. And in each circumstance, all of God’s energies are coming to bear in our lives.
Father, thank You. That You – there is hope that when life fails – when we fail – You will never fail. You can be counted on completely. We can count on Your strength being poured out in our lives. In Your name we pray.