Mount up with wings like eagles, wait on the Lord, wait, rest, run, walk, weary, faint

Mount up with wings like eagles

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Readings: 

  • Isaiah 40: 21- 31
  • Mark 1: 29-39

Isaiah 40:21-31 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

21 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
    Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
    and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
    and spreads them like a tent to live in;
23 who brings princes to naught,
    and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
    scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows upon them, and they wither,
    and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

25 To whom then will you compare me,
    or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
    Who created these?
He who brings out their host and numbers them,
    calling them all by name;
because he is great in strength,
    mighty in power,
    not one is missing.

27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
    and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
    and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for 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.

If you’ve experienced a storm in your life, you know being patient and waiting for a resolution can be so hard. If right now you are passing through a hard time, “waiting on the Lord” can seem like a tall order. Like the Israelites, you may be feeling and saying:

“My way is hidden from the Lord,
And my just claim is passed over by my God”?

The Jewish people that had been taken into exile in Babylon were in a precarious position. Nebuchadnezzar had long since passed, and he had been replaced by Nabonidus. Now Nabonidus had left the city of Babylon to live in the Arabian desert and worship the moon god, leaving his young son Belshazzar (Belsharusur) as regent king in his place. And this young regent was all about partying and having fun with his friends. You may remember in Daniel 5, with the hand writing on the wall, when the young king is partying with all his friends, drinking wine from the sacred temple goblets.  Belshazzar was far from a good king.

Those who were taken into captivity were the old Judean aristrocracy. In Jerusalem, they had held positions of power, status and wealth. This was not the case in Babylon.  They were forced to live in ethnic enclaves, something like our 20th-Century concentration or force-labor camps.  Such a change would have created doubts in their mind as to whether they were truly the elected people of God on earth.

While the aristocracy was held in Babylon, society in Judah had disintegrated after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. The population was reduced by 90%, meaning only 10% of the population was left: death, exile and destruction of the temple gutted all the institutions that held the society together.  There was no hope in the past, there seemed to be no future and way forward.

And so, in 550 B.C., Cyrus the Persian captured Ecbatana, the capital of the Median Empire. After this victory, he began to look south toward Babylon. Because of the way that Nabonidus and his son Belshazzar had been ruling, Cyrus  was very welcome in Babylon. When Cyrus finally arrived, in 539 BC, he was greeted with shouts of joy from the conquered.

Isaiah chapter 40 starts with “Comfort my people”, and it is the beginning of the second Isaiah (as it is believed that chapters 1 to 39 were written by Isaiah, and the second half were written by a disciple of Isaiah). Regardless of who wrote chapters 40 to 55, there is a distinct change of tone: chapters 1 to 39 speak of judgement and disaster. Chapters 40 to 55 speak to salvation, hope and restoration.  For 50 years, they have been “hidden from the Lord”, and so in chapter 40 we read “Comfort my people… Speak comfort to Jerusalem… her warfare is ended… her iniquity is pardoned”.

We find words of hope, “wait on the Lord”.

21 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
    Has it not been told you from the beginning?
22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
    23 who brings princes to naught,
    and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

25 To whom then will you compare me,
or who is my equal? says the Holy One.

What’s bigger? Your problem? or God? How often do we become so embroiled and caught up with our problems, that we make them into mountains? And even so, what is bigger: your mountain of problems, or God?  When you go through something awful or unexpected, you get the chance to see whether or not your faith in God is real. Do you really wait upon the Lord when you are faced with challenges?

Some key questions we might ask are:

  • What does it mean to wait? What’s involved?
  • How are we to wait?
  • Who and what are we waiting for?
  • Why should we wait?
  • How long do we wait?

Habakkuk 2:1 says,

I will stand at my watchpost,
    and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me,
    and what he will answer concerning my complaint.

Are you keeping watch, at your watchpost? Are you continuing at your station or on the rampart, to see what God has to say about your complaints?  I read somewhere:

“Hurry is the death of prayer. The reason why you don’t hear God is because you’re in too much of a hurry. ‘God, I want to hear from you. But hurry up! I’ve got to make it to my next appointment.’”

“Psalm 130:5-6: “I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord More than the watchmen for the morning; Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning,” he was comparing waiting expectantly on the Lord to the night guards of the city who watched the passage of time in anticipation of the coming dawn when they would be released from duty. The coming of the dawn was certain, but not without the passage of time.”

Psalm 46:10 reminds us:

Be still and know that I am God.

There is a moment to simply wait on the Lord, in order to renew your strength.  Be still.

Psalm 62:5  (NRSV)

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
    for my hope is from him.

Are you waiting in silence?

Psalm 27:14 (NRSV)

14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!

There are at least 29 verses in the Bible that speak of “wait on the Lord”. Psalm 23 speaks of waiting in rest: lie down in green pastures, restoring our souls.  Ours is a society that has grown accustomed to immediate gratification. Due to modern technology and all our conveniences—telephones, refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, fast foods, airplanes, etc.—we have many things immediately at our fingertips. But yet we find a growing group of people that are learning mindfulness, breathing (“Just breathe”) and sitting quietly in silence. And we, as Christians, need to learn to wait upon the Lord.

But like the Jewish exiles, we are impatient for salvation. How long? How much longer? Are we nearly there yet?

In Mark 1, we read:

35 Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer.

We also read in Matthew 14: 23:

After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.

Mark 6:46

After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.

Luke 5: 16 

But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.

Luke 6: 12 

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.

Luke 9: 18 

And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him,

Matthew 26 & Mark 14, in Gethsemane:  “Sit here while I go over there and pray. “And he went a little beyond them and fell on his face and prayed.” “He went away a second time and prayed.” “and he left them again, and went away and prayed a third time”

We are reminded in the Bible repeatedly to “wait on the Lord”, and we see the best example in the life of Jesus. Pulling away from the crowds, pulling away from the hustle and bustle of life, pulling away into the wilderness, or onto a hill, or up a mountain, to pray.  Before and after teaching and preaching, before and after healing the sick and throwing out demons – Jesus went aside to pray.  He knew where his strength and stamina truly came from.

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for 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.