Isaiah 40:27-31 – Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:31 is one of the most famous verses in the Bible, it’s on pictures, posters, calendars, cross-stitch, we quote it, memorize it, and preach it, but do we really get it. What we love about this verse is the end product, strength, but what about the process that Isaiah says it takes, waiting? The NIV uses the word hope, where the KJV says those that wait, what does this word “wait” really mean? In Hebrew there are many different words for wait but here the word means to hope strongly, to trust, it literally means to expect. It is putting our trust and confidence in God with an expectancy, a certainty, that He is going to respond. Even though the Israelites were living in captivity in Babylon, with no prospect of deliverance humanly speaking, Isaiah was encouraging them to wait with a fixed expectancy that their God, at just the right time in His plan, would deliver them. Today we as believers are waiting for the return of Christ, I don’t live saying that I hope it will happen, but I’m not quite sure that it will. No, I’m saying that I am waiting with a sure expectancy that this event is going to happen, that I know it is going to happen. When Isaiah says “wait”, he is referring to a sure expectancy. Our expectancy is that The Lord will renew our strength, the problem for us today is we see this word renew as replacing what was there with more of the same. May see this as, “I was strong, got worn down and God will restore my strength”, but it doesn’t say restore it says renew. To renew means to change, to pass from one state to another, this is literally changed strength. What Isaiah is telling us to do is to wait expectantly for an exchange, an exchange of strength, ours for His. This is not about increasing our self strength, by building it back up to where it was, for even at full capacity my strength is insufficient. We need a different strength on that is not weak and unable to live out what He calls us to do. For we can’t live the life The Lord has for us in our own strength. Exchanging my strength for His strength isn’t just replacing its upgrading, we are exchanging our weak, finite, limited, exhaustible strength for His strong, infinite, unlimited, inexhaustible strength. Most people desire a good deal, so much that they are willing to wait for it. This deal that God offers, well it doesn’t get much better than this. Yet we will line up and wait for the after holiday sales while baulking but when it comes to waiting on God we whine. Isaiah reminds us that those who with sure expectancy look to God, will have their strength exchanged for His. James reveals the same idea in James 1:5-8, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” He is saying come to the Lord, ask for wisdom with a sure expectancy that He is going to give you what you need, which is exchanging your wisdom for His. God is not adding to or increasing your wisdom but gives you a different kind of wisdom, His wisdom. We must have an expectancy, not doubting, this is not us saying, “I sure hope the Lord will give me the wisdom I need. I don’t know if He will but it’s worth a shot.” No, James says, ask with expectancy, with an assured confidence that God will give you His wisdom in exchanged for yours. We have a God who longs to replace the puny with power, to exchange our inability with the infinite. Notice what happens when His strength is exchanged for mine, the result is revealed in 3 metaphors. The first speaks of overcoming a natural impossibility, flying, the next two speak of overcoming two natural weaknesses, running and not tiring and walking without becoming weary. These are impossible things, I cannot fly, but I remember as a kid, fantasize about being a superhero who could, able to soar through the sky, and I am sure I’m not alone in this! Or running without tiring, its an impossibility no matter how good a shape you are in. The point is that God’s strength is supernatural, able to sidestep the impossible, scaling our physical limitations in a single bound. Isaiah is telling us that we will be able to overcome the impossible and live in a way that we could not live before. In a way that would have been impossible in the past. The exciting news here is that not only has God not forgotten us but He has made a way for us to overcome. The problem is that for many of us instead of praying for God to transform self we pray for Him to change our situation. Flying is not about a situation change, its a self transformation, God wants to change our hearts not our hangups. Everyday we face all sorts of impossible situations, whether it is loving other people or accepting each other. Whether it is not loosing our temper or getting frustrated and angry over a situation or person. Whether it is in dying to self in some area of our lives, or having an attitude of submission or giving up my rights. We all face many impossible situations, impossible in terms of living the way God desires and has called us to. When we collide with these impossible situations we know what God wants, what He says and what He commands us to do, we know how we are suppose to respond. But often we will say “But God, I can’t do it, it’s impossible, I can’t live the way You want me to or respond the way you desire me to in this situation.” Thats when He gently reminds us of Isaiah 40:28, encouraging us to wait on Him and exchange our limitations for His love. A.W. Tozer said it this way, “we have switched from our little human battery to the infinite power of God.” This idea of exchange describes the entire Christian life, which is the call to live an exchanged life. The central foundation of the christian life lies in the amazing atonement of Jesus Christ. A transfer of guilt from the sinner to the Savior, 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Christ’s sacrifice by His death on the cross made it possible for me, a sinner, to exchange my sin for the Saviors righteousness. Its foundational and its only the beginning, almost everything hereafter is an exchange of something worse for something better. We exchange wrath for acceptance, death for life, weakness for grace, mortality for immortality, fear for peace. You see the result of waiting on God is fourfold. First we will experience Inward strength, strength that gives us the power overcome temptation. Just as the people in Isaiah’s day, who trapped in their captivity were tempted to turn and run from God, so are we. We will all face times where we are tempted to bail instead of believe. There are also many other areas of temptation and because we are tempted to give in to our weak flesh we need more than just physical strength we need moral strength. Second we need upward strength, to mount up with wings as eagles. Colossians 3:2 tells us to “Set our affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Living life soaring above the circumstances, living with an upward, eternal perspective. Eagles soar effortlessly because they use thermals to lift them up not the constant flapping of their own wings. The same should be true for us, we need to lear to soar on the currents of His commands not comfort and convenience. Christians are called to live upward lives, sure there are many ups and downs in this life, but when we wait on God He gives us victory to soar even over the downs. Third we need outward strength, to run and not row weary. Galatians 6:9 reminds us to “not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Isaiah did not say those that sit but those who run. Because the fourth strength we need is onward. The Christian life is one lived in motion moving forward toward the finish line. We are all tempted to slack and make it about self. Galatians 5:7 asks us a powerful and piercing question: “You were running a good race. “Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” May be this is you, you have stopped running for Jesus. I know there have been periods in my life when this has been true for me. Mostly I think its because we try to run in our own strength, we grow weary, start to whine and then we want out. We all get tired but remember God can get you out of retirement. The race we run in this life is a marathon, we need onward strength, strength for the long haul, so we don’t tire and faint. Waiting on the Lord produces, inward, upward, outward, and onward strength. Today are you waiting on God, putting your trust and confidence in Him with an expectancy, a certainty, that He is going to do the impossible in your life?