There is a verse in the Bible that gives many people hope and faith in God during times of trouble and distress. It’s found in the Book of Isaiah.
“But they that wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
This verse is a wonderful illustration of how a person who trusts in God can overcome any obstacle in his or her path, even to the extent of being carried away as a slave to Babylon as was the nation of Israel!
Before we analyze the verse to gain its fullest meaning for us, let’s first understand a little history so we can see how it applied to the people in the time in which it was written. Then we’ll look at how Isaiah 40:31 can apply to us in modern times as well.
Book of Isaiah Timeline: 740BC - 680BC
The time in which the Book of Isaiah was written was a turbulent time for the broken nation of Israel. It is stated in the first verse of the Book of Isaiah that he prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah (or Azariah), Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, the kings of Judah (Isaiah 1:1). Uzziah reigned fifty-two years in the middle of the 8th century BC, and Isaiah must have begun his ministry a few years before Uzziah's death, probably in the 740s BC.
Isaiah lived until the fourteenth year of Hezekiah (who died 698 BC), and may have been contemporary for some years with Manasseh. Thus Isaiah may have prophesied for as long as sixty-four years.
In his early youth, Isaiah may have been moved by the invasion of Israel by the Assyrian monarch Tiglath-Pileser III (2 Kings 15:19); and again, twenty years later, when he had already entered on his office, by the invasion of Tiglath-Pileser and his career of conquest. Ahaz, king of Judah, at this crisis refused to co-operate with the kings of Israel and Syria in opposition to the Assyrians, and was on that account attacked and defeated by Rezin of Damascus and Pekah of Israel (2 Kings 16:5; 2 Chronicles 28:5–6).
Ahaz, thus humbled, sided with Assyria, and sought the aid of Tiglath-Pileser against Israel and Syria. The consequence was that Rezin and Pekah were conquered and many of the people carried captive to Assyria (2 Kings 15:29, 16:9; 1 Chronicles 5:26).
Isaiah Chapters and Meanings:
Like all the prophets before and after him, Isaiah wrote about current events of his time, not far distant future events yet to happen thousands of years later.
1-12: Prophecies regarding Judah and Jerusalem
13-27: Prophecies against the nations
28-35: Warnings and promises
36-39: Historical section
40-48: Redemption promised and Israel’s deliverance
49-57: Redemption provided; Israel’s deliverer
58-66: Redemption realized; Israel’s glorious future.
Chapter 40 is about comfort for God’s people during a time
of great distress and anxiety concerning their current
political state of events and oppression by Assyria.
1) "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2) Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, 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.
3) A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.
4) Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.
5) And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’
6) A voice says, ‘Cry out.’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.
7) The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass.
8) The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”
Skipping down to verses 27-31 Isaiah makes his point:
27) "Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God’?
28) 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, and his understanding no one can fathom.
29) He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
30) Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
31) but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar (mount up) on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
“Mount up” in verse 31 is a verb. Means to come forth, go up, ascend, climb, go out, rise up.
It was common in Jewish and Hebraic culture to quote short snippets of the scriptures (the Old Testament to us) and everyone would understand the fuller meaning of what is being said simply by recalling the entire passage.
Isaiah 40:31 is in reference to an earlier message in Exodus 19:4 when God spoke to Israel “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.” Isaiah is paraphrasing in verse 40:31 what Moses said in Exodus 19:1-6 to illustrate his point that God will deliver them from their oppression if they will trust Him and take action on what He says to do.
1) "In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt, on the very day, they came to the Desert of Sinai.
2) After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.
3) Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.
5) Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine,
6) you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
“Wings of Eagles” is a Figure of Speech
Wings of eagles describes the speed and strength and courage that will be imparted to the life of the faithful who will find a completion and reward and elation as a result of their waiting. It is not meant to be a literal flight through the air as some who believe in futurist eschatology have ascribed to the present day Aliyah, an immigration of Jews returning to Israel by jet planes.
In ancient Hebrew culture eagles were revered as strong warriors, birds of prey that also hold a tender side for their young. Eagles were known to carry their young to safety in times of threat from predators. Eagles were also thought to shed their feathers in a type of rebirth/regeneration to invigorate themselves to a form of their youth. Eagles were also known and revered for their strength and courage in high winds and stormy weather. They had the ability to fly about the prevailing weather patterns and soar over the storm to safety.
Explaining Exodus 19:4
“Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on Eagle's wings…" A high expression of the wonderful tenderness God showed for them. It notes great speed; God not only came upon the wing for their deliverance, but he hastened them out, as it were upon the wing. Also that he did it with great ease, with the strength as well as with the swiftness of an eagle.
Especially it notes God's particular care of them, and affection to them. Egypt was the nest in which these young ones were first formed as the embryo of a nation: when by the increase of their numbers they grew to some maturity, they were carried out of that nest.
"I brought you unto myself…" They were brought not only into a state of liberty, but into covenant and communion with God. This, God aims at in all the gracious methods of his providence and grace, to bring us back to himself, from whom we have rebelled, and to bring us home to himself, in whom alone we can be happy.
Getting back to Isaiah 40:31
Isaiah is comforting his people by drawing a parallel in scripture on how God came through for their ancestors in a BIG way, i.e. their exodus from Egypt. His meaning is that since God brought his people out of the captivity and slavery of Egypt, then he can certainly do the same for them concerning their captivity and slavery in Babylon.
"But they that wait upon the Lord…" The word rendered 'wait upon' here (from qavah in Hebrew), denotes properly to wait, in the sense of expecting with hope. The phrase, 'to wait on Yahweh,' means to wait for his help; that is, to trust in him, to put our hope or confidence in him.
It is applicable to those who are in circumstances of danger or want, and who look to him for his merciful interposition. Here it properly refers to those who were suffering a long and grievous captivity in Babylon, and who had no prospect of deliverance but from God.
The phrase is applicable also to all who feel that they are weak, feeble, guilty, and helpless, and who, in view of this, put their trust in God for help, guidance and deliverance. The promise or assurance in Isaiah 40 is just as applicable to God's people in modern times as it was in the times of the captivity in Babylon.
We can find comfort in the same parallel today by knowing that God can do great and wonderful things when we trust and hope in Him to work things out. Then we must take action and do what He says. When those two truths line up… that’s when miracles happen!
by Minister Daniel Sweet
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