Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 October 23, 2022
“A Change for the Better”
Weariness happens. How many of you came to this place today carrying some measure of tiredness within you? How often do you find yourself tired in your everyday activity? The onset of fatigue reminds us of our current, or soon-coming, weariness. Spiritual weariness most often displays itself as discouragement—which itself often accompanies others ills, such as anxiety and depression, with burnout, their frequent companion.
Weariness afflicts us after exertions—especially excessive ones, whether physical, mental, or spiritual in nature. Weariness often attends, and all too often exacerbates, difficult providences. Weariness also brings a host of unwelcome symptoms to our lives. We feel lethargy, or sluggishness: generally through the day and through life, to be sure, but especially toward the things of God, such as Scripture, prayer, and worship, to name but three. Weariness can tempt us to be crabby, or chippy, toward others—and, already weary, we yield to this temptation all too soon and all too often. Weariness even can bring sadness to our souls. I have said to my family more than once—though I hope not too often—that I am so tired that I’m sad. In my case, the sadness almost always flees after a good night’s sleep—but, alas, the sadness doesn’t flee from everyone. What is to be done about this weariness—and its accompanying ills?
God declares, in His Word, that He has, in place of the foregoing, a change for the better. Let’s hear more about it—and then let’s cry out to Him for it. May He be honored, and may we be blessed, in hearing the reading and proclamation of His Word.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
The tone of Isaiah’s Spirit-led prophecy, for the first thirty-nine chapters, generally is one of threatened judgment—upon the nations, to be sure, but also stern fatherly chastisement upon God’s faithless covenant people. The tone changes abruptly at Isaiah 40:1 from mostly judgment to soaring hope—even as the scene also changes. Isaiah 1-39 deals with events and entities from his own time. Now, at Isaiah 40:1 ff., Isaiah prophecies of a more distant day—over one hundred years distant. He also prophesies of a different oppressor nation; Assyria threatens God’s people in Isaiah’s day, but in the day to come the Babylonians threaten them. Likely, as Isaiah 40 opens, the people of God languish in Babylonian exile (587-538 B. C.), and Isaiah, led by the Spirit, sees this.1 The chastened people of God need a hopeful word from Him—and do they ever get it.
Much of Isaiah 40 describes what Walter Kaiser calls the incomparability of God.2 Isaiah takes Spirit-led pains to demonstrate that none compares with God in size and scope, in power, in wisdom, or in any other way. There is none greater than God: no army, no person, no idol, no one, and nothing. This demonstration of God’s incomparability leads right into our text today. The Lord asks in effect, through Isaiah, “Why do you, the chastened covenant people of God, complain?” After all, their fatherly chastisement is just—and God intermixes His mercy with the sentence decreed. The people of God committed national infidelity against Him for centuries, yet He does not vaporize them from the planet. On the contrary, despite their protestations, God sees their plight and regards their right—once their iniquity was pardoned (40:2).
Isaiah then moves, as the Lord leads, to declare the Lord’s greatness once again. He again notes that God is eternal. He is, was, and evermore shall be—and no one else may claim this. He is also all-powerful; whatever He decrees to come to pass comes to pass. None can frustrate or withstand Him. Nor can circumstance thwart His purpose. Moreover, the Lord is infinitely wise. Hence, whatever He decrees, and however He orders affairs, is the wisest of all possibilities. All of these testify to Who our great God is.
Now Isaiah turns to the works of God, and we see here a special instance of His mercy to His people. The Lord gives power to His faint ones, and He gives strength to His own who lack it. What a welcome word this was to the sixth-century B. C. people of God, groaning under God’s chastening exile, and what a welcome word it is to the twenty-first century A. D. people of God—a people groaning under many difficulties as well. Note, as the passage draws to its glorious close, a great contrast. Even choice, young men are weary, become faint, and fall exhausted—from undue effort and from extreme disappointment, as they occur and overwhelm even these least-likely-overwhelmed ones. Yet they who wait (or wait for, i. e., hope) upon the Lord will renew (or exchange for better: Hebrew chalaph) their strength. Furthermore, they shall mount up—yea, they shall soar—with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint. God indeed shall renew the ones waiting for Him—and they shall be renewed indeed.
Hopefully you are now a bit less weary of body and soul: both for sitting and listening the last twenty minutes and for the encouragement God’s Word brings you today. There are other similar encouragement from God’s Word; let’s hear them as this sermon draws to its close. Three times, twice in Psalm 42 and once in Psalm 43, we read these words: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation (or Savior) and my God” (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5). We read in Psalm 103, after considering several reasons to bless the Lord, these words about Him: “Who satisfies you with good, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:5). Jeremiah, writing to the exiles of his day—a day Isaiah only saw at a distance—encourages them with these words from God’s lips: “For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish” (Jeremiah 31:25). Jesus Himself, God incarnate, invites the weary one to Himself with these words: “Come unto Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The Apostle Paul wrote in similar vein, saying, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). We conclude these supplemental Scriptural encouragements with this one from Hebrews: “Consider Him Who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3).
Therefore, wait, by God’s grace, upon the Lord—and find your strength renewed.
1This should not strike us as unusual, for the Apostle John, writing ca. A. D. 90, says of Isaiah, “Isaiah said these things because he saw [Jesus’] glory and spoke of Him” (John 12:41).
2Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament: A Guide for the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2003), 114.