6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: There is a time to wait, and a time to move forward.


Isaiah 40:21-31

When Isaiah was first commissioned (Isaiah 6:8-9), he saw the LORD ‘high and lifted up’ (Isaiah 6:1). Now at his second commissioning (Isaiah 40:6), he sees the LORD ‘sitting above the circle of the earth’ (Isaiah 40:22).

I call this the ‘second commissioning’ because, in his role as court prophet, Isaiah had already warned good king Hezekiah of the inevitability of the exile in Babylon (Isaiah 39:6). With the death of king Hezekiah, sometime supporter of the Revival, it would no longer be safe for Isaiah to continue at court. In bad king Manasseh’s forty year reign the Revival would become just a memory, cherished by an ever-diminishing remnant of the prophet’s supporters. Isaiah himself is said to have been ‘sawn in two’ during this period (cf. Hebrews 11:37).

Now Isaiah’s ministry turns from warnings of doom to prophecies of encouragement, written down for posterity, foretelling everything from the Restoration under the patronage of the king of Persia (Isaiah 44:28), to the days of Messiah.

In a string of rhetorical questions, the prophet reminds his hearers that:

1. The word of our God will not fail (Isaiah 40:8);

2. The LORD God will come with a strong hand, and feed His flock like a shepherd (Isaiah 40:10-11).

[‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ (Romans 8:31)];

3. Our God ALONE is the Creator of the Universe (Isaiah 40:12-14);

4. The nations are no threat to Him (Isaiah 40:15-17);

5. Idolatry is futile (Isaiah 40:19-20).

As we come to our present passage:

1. the prophet scolds the fearful for not understanding (Isaiah 40:21);

2. in an echo of his first commissioning (cf. Isaiah 6:1), the prophet sees God sitting above the circle of the earth, beholding men and their petty princes as so many grasshoppers (Isaiah 40:22);

3. The LORD blows upon them, and they come to nothing (Isaiah 40:23-24).

In case we are overawed by the Other-ness of the Holy One (Isaiah 40:25), we are reminded that:

1. the same God who has brought out the host of heaven, calling stars and constellations into existence so that not one is missing (Isaiah 40:26),

2. has never stopped watching over His own people (Isaiah 40:27-28).

[‘He neither slumbers nor sleeps’ (Psalm 121:4)];

3. He is the all-knowing, all-powerful eternal Creator of the ends of the earth, who gives power to the weak and strengthens those who are without might (Isaiah 40:28-29).

In exile, even the youths would faint and be weary, and the young men would utterly fail (Isaiah 40:30): but “those who wait upon the LORD” (Isaiah 40:31) -

1. “shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31). Passively, God’s strength is made perfect in their weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

There is a time to wait, to ‘stand still and see the salvation of the LORD’ (Exodus 14:13), and a time to ‘move forward’ (Exodus 14:15).

2. Now they move from the passive to the active, from waiting to moving, and in doing so their strength is renewed: they “mount up with wings like eagles, they run and are not weary, and they walk without fainting” (Isaiah 40:31)!

Why are we fearful, when ‘the Captain of our salvation’ (Hebrews 2:10) is in the vessel (Mark 4:38-40)? Let us be strong in the LORD, in the power of His might (Ephesians 6:10). Wait, stand, be still: then move forward as the mighty church that we are, before whom the gates of hell shall not prevail (Matthew 16:18)!

‘The people that do know their God shall be strong - and do exploits’ (Daniel 11:32).

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