A NEW STRENGTH. By Peter Price. 23/08/2020
Reading Isaiah 40: 1-31
Text Isaiah 40:29 – He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak
In days of continuing uncertainty and a future that for many people – both here and throughout the world – holds little promise of improvement I find myself again and again turning to Scripture and asking what is God saying to us at this time.
The scriptures give us glimpses of Him from which we learn lessons that take us deeper into Him and enable us better to relate to Him
Today is the third in a series that challenges us to learn new things about Him
- • We began with A New Trust – A lesson from Noah – the Creator Redeemer confirmed His trust in His creation – He continues to work with the original material of creation – including the human race.
- • Last time A New Understanding – A lesson from Job – the Creator Redeemer’s ultimate answer to all our questions is seen in the Cross of Calvary – now we see a poor reflection but then we will see face to face
- • This time A New Strength – A lesson from Isaiah – our Creator Redeemer gives us the strength and the encouragement to affirm our trust in Him and to know his presence in all our troubles
The verse that really grabs my attention is Isaiah 40:29 – He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. (The Message put it like this – He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts.)
Is that where so many of us are today? Lacking strength and the energy to carry on. And if we ourselves don’t feel like that what about our friends and neighbours who don’t have the relationship with God that is so precious to us?
Feeling weary and weak, lacking strength and energy in the face of a devastating and deadly pandemic that globally seems to be totally out of control.
You will know that there are 66 books in the Bible – 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the Old Testament. Between the 39th book – Malachi – at the end on the New Testament and the 40th book – Matthew – at the beginning of the New Testament there is clearly a marked change of emphasis in the message of scripture.
In a way the 66 chapters of Isaiah mirror the 66 books of the Bible. Isaiah 40 is the pivotal chapter of God’s message to His people through the prophet Isaiah – the point where a message of judgment changes to a message of comfort and hope to give God’s people the strength they will soon need to face impending disaster.
It’s a long chapter so we will read just part of it now – verses 1-8 and 28-31 but do find the opportunity later to read the whole chapter.
BACKGROUND TO ISAIAH
Isaiah 40 and the surrounding chapters are written to people who felt betrayed and let down by God – they had lost heart and no longer put their trust in Him
Although our present circumstances are very different, perhaps we can understand how they felt and so find strength and comfort from God’s word to them through Isaiah
- • They looked back to their exodus from Egypt
- • They remembered the high point of their national life during the reigns of David and his son Solomon with unparalleled political and economic success and strength
- • The once-united Kingdom had been divided – Israel in the north and Judah in the south
- • First Israel had fallen to the Assyrian army in 722BC
- • Judah too is threatened by the Assyrians and eventually has to pay tribute to them
- • Judah, to whom Isaiah is speaking and writing, occupied a strategic position on the trade routes between Africa, Central Asia and the Far East and now they are facing a new threat – Babylon
- • At the end of chapter 39 Isaiah warns King Hezekiah that Judah will face destruction by the Babylonian army and that the people will be taken into exile
- • Yet the vision he is now given by God for the people is one of ‘Comfort’ for he sees beyond their captivity to their eventual restoration
- • The opening verses of Chapter 40 form an overture to the second part of Isaiah’s prophecy
- • As with a musical composition the overture introduces themes that will be developed as the work unfolds
- • I have detected five themes in this overture that tell us much about the unchanging characteristics of God which, I believe, gave them and will give us strength to face whatever lies ahead
GOD IS LOVING – Comfort with Tenderness [1-2a] – Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,…
- o We find an echo in John’s gospel where the disciples are with Jesus celebrating Passover in the upper room
- o ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.’ (John 14:1)
- o Jesus then speaks of a place of sanctuary and security in His Father’s house.
- o He assures them that he is the way and the truth and the life. (John 14:6)
- o But we may well ask how can they be comforted with so much threatening them?
- o Comfort means give strength – how can they find strength in troubled times?
GOD OFFERS BLESSINGS – Atonement with Reward [2b] – … and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
- o Not only is there a message of forgiveness but it is a forgiveness coupled with reward
- o The message is not just about comfort and sanctuary
- o Nor is it just about forgiveness and restoration
- o It is about being rewarded beyond imagining
- o It is that sense of abundance seen by David in Psalm 23 where he proclaims ‘my cup overflows’
- o Or the experience of the early believers in Colossae who were encouraged by Paul – ‘… just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.’ (Colossians 2:6-7)
- o But how can this be? How can we move from being surrounded by trouble to be overflowing with thankfulness?
GOD PROVIDES FOR US – Planning with Purpose [3-4] – A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.
- o Those who know the scriptures are taken immediately to the River Jordon and the baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ by John the Baptist
- o We are introduced to the promised Messiah to whom Isaiah will draw our attention in the following chapters – particularly Chapter 53
- o We hear the voice of God as Jesus is baptised by John – ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ (Matthew 3:17) He is our provision – through Him we find our strength
GOD REVEALS HIS GLORY – Glory Revealed for All - And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’
- o What is the glory of God?
- o Perhaps we are reminded of Paul’s word to the Roman Christians – ‘… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ (Romans 3:23). It is something we can’t attain by ourselves
- o But we find the clue in the prologue to John’s gospel – ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’ John 1:14
- o The glory of God is seen best in the Lord Jesus Christ and it was revealed to all people when Jesus was lifted up on Calvary’s cross and when three days later He was raised from the tomb.
GOD IS ENDURING – The Word that will Endure [6-8] – A voice says, ‘Cry out.’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ ‘All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures for ever.’
- o As we hear the command from Isaiah 40:6 to Cry out
- o And as we ask what we shall cry
- o Isaiah reminds us that what remains standing for ever is the word of God
Imagine you are invited to 10 Downing Street and asked for advice
This is the Lord’s word to us and the word we are to share to all
- o God is Loving – Comfort with tenderness
- o God offers Blessings – Atonement with reward
- o God Provides for Us – Planning with purpose
- o God reveals His Glory – Glory revealed for all
- o God is Enduring – The word that will endure for ever
A NEW STRENGTH
Isaiah 40:29 – He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak
Like all good preachers Isaiah then paints vivid pictures to illustrate that truth
- • 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.
- • Physically – and perhaps even mentally and emotionally – we wish! (Especially those of us who are older)
- • Spiritually – Yes, Yes, Yes!
In these troubled times let us again affirm that our trust is in God who spoke all those years ago through Isaiah to a people who had looked away from Him and as a nation were facing uncertainty and find our strength in the same God
Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord
Our God, You reign forever
Our hope, our strong deliverer
You are the everlasting God
The everlasting God
You do not faint
You won’t grow weary
You’re the defender of the weak
You comfort those in need
You lift us up on wings like eagles
(Brenton Brown and Ken Riley)