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. — Isaiah 40: 31
Those who wait for the help of the Lord will receive new strength.
After the conquest and destruction of Jerusalem, many of the people of God were brought to Babylon. The Babylonian exile lasted nearly sixty years. During this period, the people at times had the feeling that they had been abandoned by God. Many were filled with a deep feeling of resignation. The promise of God that Israel would have an enduring home in Canaan was called into question. But God had not abandoned His people. He continued to speak to them through a prophet. The Lord renewed His promise and gave the people words of comfort so that they could overcome their hopelessness and dejection.
Our Bible text is the conclusion of an argument between the people and the prophet. To begin with, the prophet made it clear how incomparable and mighty God is. He cannot be judged by human standards, “The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable” (Isaiah 40:28). He makes it clear to the people that God is even capable of changing circumstances that seem impossible to change from a human point of view.
Our circumstances of life
We too find ourselves in situations that seem hopeless. Perhaps there are health difficulties, or problems in the family, at work, or in the congregation. Perhaps we even feel that we have been abandoned by God. Perhaps we have given up and no longer even bother to commend our cares to God in prayer. Perhaps we have been overcome by hopelessness. Perhaps we feel abandoned and alone. Perhaps we have no more strength to look for a way out.
In such situations we can apply this Bible text—which was originally addressed to the Jews—to ourselves. Let us remember God’s omnipotence and mercy, and “wait” upon Him, that is to say, let us depend on His help. Those who do so—as our Bible text makes clear—will receive new strength. They will receive the certainty that God is their helper, even in situations that seem hopeless. He can provide solutions that no one has ever thought of, or grant us the capacity to continue bearing our burdens.
Strength from the Lord
In poetic language, our Bible text speaks of the strength that is granted to those who trust in God, “They shall mount up with wings like eagles.” The image of flying imparts lightness and optimism. The leaden heaviness of hopelessness gives way to hope and trust in the Lord. The difficulties which we have here will be revealed as perfectly surmountable, or at least light enough to bear. Even if there is no way out and no solution, the knowledge of God’s power and aid nevertheless prevents us from despairing.
“They shall run and not be weary.” Here it becomes clear that hope in God’s help does not imply remaining passive. Rather, we receive new driving force, which encourages us to look for ways out and seek ways to overcome the difficulties.
Even if we do not succeed at first, and even if not all our problems disappear, let us trust in the strength of God nevertheless and continue to align our lives by His will.
The Bible text calls upon us to plan on God, to count on Him and incorporate Him into our lives, and to trust in His help. Through our permanent connection to the Lord—through trust, prayer, word, and sacrament—it will also become possible for us to “walk and not faint”.
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the divine service held on Sunday, 30 August 2015 at Midrand Congregation.