But Those Who Hope in the LORD

Will Renew Their Strength

40: 27-31

   DIG: What is the complaint of the exiles in 40:27? What must they still learn about God before they can be restored to their homeland (40:21 and 28)? As a weary exile, which of these promises would you find most uplifting?

   REFLECT? Practically and theologically, how does one soar like an eagle? Compare 40:31 with Exodus 19:4 and Deuteronomy 32:10-11. How is learning to hope in the LORD like a fledgling bird learning to fly? How has God “caught” you when you have fallen instead of flying? In what way is He teaching you to fly now?

    The prophet now turns to Isra'el, pointing to God’s omnipotence, and assures them of His compassion to those who trust Him. In 40:12-21 we have seen the greatness of God; in 40:18-26 we have seen the incomparableness of God. The point of all this is seen here in 40:27-31, where Isra'el has a common complaint that He overlooks her plight, whether dealing with the near historical Babylon and the far eschatological Babylon.

    Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Isra'el, “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God” (40:27)? The imperfect tense of the opening verbs highlights the constant nature of the heartbreaking allegations. This was not merely something that had been said once, it was ongoing. Why do you continue to say? The choice of words here is not accidental. Isaiah subtly reintroduces the theme of comfort found in 40:1-11. This was not just any people; they were ADONAI’s Covenant people, the apple of His eye (Deuteronomy 32:10), and His wife (see the book of Hosea). How could they imagine that He had forgotten them (49:14-16).

    Jacob and Isra'el are synonymous for all twelve tribes. In Chapters 40 through 49, Isaiah uses these two words together sixteen times. God’s people should never have thought that He had forgotten them. Nevertheless, that was their common complaint. In light of the LORD's greatness and His incomparableness, they thought their condition, their state of deprivation, was hidden from ADONAI and He had overlooked the legal justice that they have coming to them. In other words, YHVH wasn’t fair and He didn’t care. At first Isra'el viewed herself as suffering an injustice when in exile during the Babylonian captivity. Likewise, when Isra'el suffers through the Great Tribulation, she will continue to view herself as a victim of injustice. In both cases she believes God sees the injustice but overlooks it.

    Here, then, the message comes across that in light of the LORD's greatness and incomparableness, how can you think ADONAI would overlook the justice that is due to you? Again, Isaiah brings out the character of God, but this time it is no longer related to the Gentile nations and their idolatry (40:21), but is related to Isra'el. Do you not know? Have you not heard? It is understandable why the Gentiles would have not known the greatness and incomparableness of God because they did not have the revelation that Isra'el had. But because Isra'el did have it, how can she not have known or heard?

    Both Jacob and Isra'el might speculate about God’s perceived slowness to act. They could say He does not want to act (the argument in 40:1-11), or He is unable to act (the argument in 40:12-26). Consequently, Isaiah seems to say, “In light of what I have just said, how can you believe the LORD is ignoring you? Don’t you understand? God is fundamentally different than we are. He does not work on our timetable. He operates outside of time and has none of our limitations. However, no matter what it seems to in the moment, rest assured that He is at work and you can depend on Him.

    Isaiah says that there are four reasons why God will not overlook the justice due to Israel. First, Do you not know? Have you not heard? ADONAI is El ‘Olam, the everlasting God (40:28a). Here Isaiah picks up words already used in context (40:21), although here they are in the perfect tense (a past completed action with continuing results), reflecting that the information has long been available. This is the God of eternity who knows the beginning to the end.

    LORD, You are without beginning or end. You have existed through all time. You are forever the same, unchanging, infinite, boundless, without measure, and limitless. I find peace in knowing that you are my “forever” God.

    Secondly, because YHVH, which is God’s personal name, will keep His promises to her (see my commentary on Exodus Ac - The Book of Exodus From a Jewish Perspective, specifically The Use of the Hebrew name ADONAI for YHVH). ADONAI is the everlasting God (40:28b). Whenever God’s personal name is used, it is always in reference to Him as a Covenant Keeper. The LORD has made covenants with Isra'el and He will keep those covenants with Isra'el. She should not worry; the justice due to Her will be given.

    Thirdly, He is the Creator of the ends of the earth (40:28c). Since the LORD is the eternal Creator, His strength is tireless and His wisdom without end. He can do whatever He wishes in His own time. Apparent delay never means either lack of awareness or lack of ability on His part.

    Fourthly, He will not grow tired or weary, and is all knowing, His understanding no one can fathom (40:28d). Therefore, God is the Covenant Keeper, eternal, all-powerful, and all knowing. It is because of these four attributes that the justice due to Israel will indeed come to pass.

    He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak (40:29). God will provide Israel with strength and power if she will choose to not to rely upon herself but on ADONAI. But those who choose to rely upon themselves, even young men in the most robust health of their lives, will grow tired, weary, stumble and fall (40:30).

    But those who wait on the LORD (40:31a NKJ). The Hebrew word waw, meaning but, points out that it should be read together with the previous verse. Waiting on the LORD (Psalm 27:14, 130:5) implies two things. First, complete dependence on God and a willingness to allow Him to take the steering wheel of your life. To wait on Him is to admit that we have no other help, either in ourselves, anything else or anyone else. As a result, we are helpless until He acts. But that does not mean we get to play the victim. Because secondly, to wait on Him is to declare our confidence in His eventual action on our behalf. So waiting in Hebrew (qawa) is not merely killing time, but a life of confident expectation (8:17, 25:9, 33:2, 49:23, 64:4).

    An example of faith was found on the wall of a concentration camp. On it a prisoner had carved the words, “I believe in the sun, even though it doesn’t shine; I believe in love, even when it isn’t shown; I believe in God, even when He doesn’t speak.” Try to imagine those words. I try to envision his skeletal hand gripping the broken glass or stone that cut into the wall. I try to imagine his eyes squinting through the darkness as he carved each letter. What hand could have cut with such conviction? What eyes could have seen good in such horror? There is only one answer: Eyes that chose to see the unseen (from He Still Moves Stones, Nashville: W Publishing Group, 1993).

    But, Jacob and Isra'el were tired of waiting. That is why they are complaining. The justice due to me is hidden from my God. He has overlooked the justice due to me. They had forgotten what the Psalms taught - He had not overlooked the justice due them. But the time is not right for Him to bring forth the justice. Just wait. If you fail to wait, you will grow tired, weary, and stumble and fall. In addition, God will provide Isra'el strength and power if they will choose to rely on Him. But those who choose to rely upon themselves, even young men, in the most robust health of their lives, will grow tired, weary, and will stumble and fall.

    But those who wait on the LORD will renew their strength. Those who give up their own frantic efforts to save themselves and turn expectantly to God will be able to exchange their worn-out strength for a new strength. It is a different kind of strength, as if people become eagles, a strength brought about by transformation; it is divine strength, a strength like ADONAI's own that does not grow weary or faint.

    They will soar on wings of eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (40:31). The Jews enduring the Babylonian Captivity and the Jews suffering during the Great Tribulation would be reminded that ADONAI had not forgotten them. Far from being crushed to the earth by their own helplessness, by either Nebuchadnezzar or the antichrist, those who trust in the LORD depend on Him to act in His own time for their benefit.

    God knows about the difficulties and problems of His people. If you belong to Him, He is able to quiet the storms of life, but sometimes there are lessons for believers to learn in the storm. So when you find yourself in the midst of a storm, instead of feeling sorry for yourself or worse, blaming ADONAI for your troubles, look around and find out what lesson He wants you to learn. The LORD will not let you pass through a trial unless He has something for you to learn. And once you have learned it, don’t waste your sorrows. Pray that God would allow you to help someone else going through the same thing.

    So we have a message of comfort given to Israel in the light of the greatness and incomparableness of God. This message is also applicable to us today. The key is to wait on the LORD. To renew literally means to exchange strength. If we look to ADONAI, we will exchange our weakness for God’s great strength. The imagery of a new garment lies behind this idea of exchanging. In Isaiah 52:1 Jerusalem is told to change her outfit, to put on garments of splendor and thus to clothe herself with strength. Paul commands believers: Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ [and with the] new self, which is being renewed . . . in the image of its Creator (Romans 13:14; Colossians 3:10). This same divine strength is still available for those who are weak and discouraged today.158

 

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