"but they 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." - Isaiah 40:31
This is one of those verses Christians love to put on coffee cups and motivational posters and the like. Its an encouraging verse, and it sounds nice, but can anyone tell me what the context of this verse is? In Isaiah 39 Hezekiah received messengers from Babylon and was foolish enough to show them the riches of Israel and the size of his army before sending them back home. Isaiah goes to him and upon discovering this prophecies Israel's captivity in Babylon.
The Jews were about to be exiled for hundreds of years. Talk about waiting on the Lord!
Also interesting about this verse is its order. Fly, run, walk. It feels backwards to me, I'd expect it to be in ascending and not decreasing order, though I am not a literary critic by any stretch of the imagination. I think it may have something to do with the way God acts in the lives of his people.
Take flying for example, perhaps this is referring to God's miracles. The parting of the Red Sea, the miracle of the manna, the healing of the lepers, and the ultimate miracle, Christ's resurrection. Perhaps running refers to when God empowers his people. Situations where instead of his direct intervention, he empowers his servants. Samson killing hundreds of Philistines with the jaw bone of a donkey, David killing Goliath.
Usually when I think of how God works in the world I think of running and flying. I think of miracles. I think of the great men of God who did great things. What what about walking? What does it mean to "walk and not faint"? What are some examples of that?
Lets face it, God doesn't always give us a miracle just because we ask. Look at the bondage of the Israelites in Egypt, though God performed many miracles they were only to display his power, not to miraculously free his people. He didn't go to Moses and say "meet my people at X because I've heard their cries and I'm going to teleport them there." No, he made Moses, and the Israelites, work with him. Moses had to go to Pharaoh and request that he let them go over, and over, and over.
Even that is an example of running. God was still directly involved in the situation, even if he didn't immediately fix it. But what about when God doesn't even do that? What about those Jewish captives in Babylon for hundreds of years? How was God working then?
I think, he was helping them to walk.
For a while now I've had some struggles in my own life, and I've often pleaded with God to just make them go away. "Dear God help me with this" really was saying "Dear God perform a miracle in my life." But no miracle ever came and I began to doubt whether God was actually working in my life or if he even cared. I've learned enough now to understand that there is a third way that God works, it isn't as fast or glamorous as running and flying, but it is just as essential and I think its more important in many ways.
Instead of changing our situation, God changes us.
Look at the examples we just looked at, the captivity, Samson and the jawbone, most of these examples are of God changing things that are external to his people. Contrast that with Paul in Second Corinthians 12:
"...a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
God doesn't deliver Paul from his thorn, instead he changes Paul through the thorn. I think most of the time something hard happens in our lives, something painful, God uses it like this. God is pretty much telling Paul that, "I know this hurts, I know this is painful, but I'm leaving you here. Its for you benefit, I'm not abandoning you, I'm still here."
Its a pretty hard thing to swallow, but its important to understand. If we only expect God to help us by allowing us to run or to fly, we'll be confused and hurt when all we get is walking without fainting. Its not even a pleasant stroll, its walking so far and so long they we swear we're going to faint from exhaustion, but somehow we don't.
So, have any of you ever experienced walking? Running? Flying? Have an issue with how I've analyzed these verses? Let me know in the comments!