In a Peanuts cartoon, Charlie Brown has a moment of reflection after losing a baseball game: “When I am down and out, I lift up my head and shout, ‘I’M DOWN AND OUT’!”
People without God, who see life as a cosmic accident, have no Higher Power when life hurts. W who trust in God are able to find the comfort spoken of in the beginning of this chapter. We know there’s a plan--a grand scheme of things--and when dark days come that understanding gives us confidence and strength.
We watch the evening news and are burdened as we see hungry children, victims of torture and war, acts of hatred, and we’re left with nothing to diminish the raw pain of what’s happening. If only we could somehow embrace our broken world! We rest in the promise that one day the world will be covered with the knowledge of God, that every wrong will be righted, and that God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. But how long until that day? If only it could be today! Till then we wrestle with the mystery of divine providence.
Isaiah closes this chapter with words of enormous import. These are not idle promises but truths that should bolster our faith. We are waiting in hope for God’s salvation. The prophet understands the despair of his countrymen. Some were complaining about God; others had given up and were resigned to their fate. They were sitting--despondent and weeping--by the waters of Babylon. In their minds, God had ceased to care…yet they were not outside of God’s plan for them. God had not given up on them; they were not abandoned. To all who’ve lost hope, Isaiah cries out…
“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.”
…We do, and often. We tire of our trials and are on the verge of giving up. We cry, “I’m down and out!” and we figure it’s useless to hope for anything better. That’s when we need a reminder to “wait” on God, to “hope” in Him. When we do, our strength will be renewed. By our own resources we will never achieve satisfaction or serenity. Trust in God produces confident expectations and a meaningful life.
We may think of God as transcendent and remote, so far above us, so unknowable that He couldn’t possibly be interested in our petty concerns. The remedy to such thinking is to relearn what we already know about God. This is what Isaiah is telling Israel, and us. “Do you not know? Have you not heard?” We need to recall God’s actions in the past so that we may trust His providence for the future.
Part of our problem is that we’re time-bound; God is not. He is “the everlasting God.” His ways belong to eternity; He is outside of time. He is not limited by time, and so He sees the beginning and the end. We can face tomorrow knowing that God’s already been there.
-God “gives strength to the weary.” We grow tired and despondent over trying circumstances; yet God provides all we need.
-God “gives power to the weak.” The word “power” is related to the Hebrew word for “bone”. Our bones hold us together and so the image is one of durability and stability. This God gives.
If we trust ourselves, we will faint and fall…when we hope in the Lord, we find strength to carry on. Trust enables us to “renew our strength”, verse 31. The word “renew” means “to exchange”, as in taking off old clothes and putting on new. “We exchange our weakness for God’s power” (Wiersbe).
Life is much like the back side of a tapestry: messy, disorganized, with strings going every which way. Only when we turn it over do we see the beautiful picture. God alone sees that side, and it takes faith to trust that He has all things under control. Faith assures us that God is up to something good.
Isaiah calls on us to “hope in the Lord.” Hope is holding out our hand in the dark. Hope is our starting line in the race of life. There is no “false hope”; there is hope, and no hope.
God will raise us up “on the wings of eagles.” The eagle is regarded in Scripture the greatest of all birds. In The Lord of the Rings, giant eagles come to the rescue of Frodo and Sam at Mount Doom when it seemed as though they had reached “the end of all things.” The eagles come and carry the two hobbits to safety, and in the same way God will carry us.
We find ourselves in a “rat race” wondering how we’ll survive. One of the great races ever filmed was in the 1959 epic movie Ben Hur. For the famous chariot race there was no CGI; this was all done for real, and because actors could be injured, a medical aid station was set up nearby; the only injuries, however were sunburns and minor cuts. The race took two weeks to film, on the largest movie set ever constructed--on 18 acres of studio backlot. There were 15,000 extras, 18 chariots, and 78 white horses from Slovenia.
To add authenticity to the scene, Charlton Heston had a month to learn how to drive a chariot properly. After a few weeks of practice, he worried about the scene. He confided in the stunt coordinator Cliff Lyons, “I can drive the chariot, but I’m not sure I can win.”
Lyons smiled and replied, “Chuck, you just make sure you stay in the chariot, and I’ll make sure you win the race.” Charlton Heston had made the mistake of thinking he actually had to win the race on his own power and skill. He had forgotten the outcome had already been decided. It was in the script. Heston couldn’t lose.
That’s what God is assuring us of in Isaiah 40. We can’t lose; the script has already been written. We might be anxious about the future, and concerned over our ability to handle thorny challenges. We may even be tempted to give up. To the weary, God says we “will walk and not be faint.”
This verse is a promise I thought of often many an early morning in the Army. I asked God to renew my strength to survive another grueling run in formation. When we feel as though we’re about to stumble and fall, God steps in to revive us.
When our lives are shaped by prayer and by the word of God, nothing can ultimately defeat us. Our strength is daily renewed.
Have you lost hope? Isaiah declares that there is nothing beyond God’s compassion and power. We are beloved persons of worth to Him. We cannot dictate how God will transform our circumstances, but we can face tomorrow with confident hope. May the omnipotence of God be the measure of our expectations.