2019-12-01 They That Wait…

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          December 1, 2019

“They That Wait…”
Isaiah 40:27-31

To judge from our seasonal advertisements, everyone is supposed to be happy, well-off, surrounded by loved ones, and all the rest.  Yet our reality all too often doesn’t square with this rosy portrait.  After all, it’s getting colder by the week.  The days are so short now, and the nights are so long—interminably long, in the view of some of us.  Also, though it seems everyone has enough and to spare in our holiday ads, the truth is that some of us may struggle to obtain the things we absolutely need—and other things we really could use, though perhaps not quite rising to the level of absolute need, seem to elude our outstretched fingers.  Again, though our ads just now are filled with happy people surrounded by other happy, beloved people, the truth is that some of us may be lonely—even frightfully lonely.

We come today to the first Sunday in Advent—a season that serves both as preparation to celebrate Christ’s birth and as opportunity to long for His Second Coming.  In keeping with the custom of many, earlier today in our sanctuary we lit the candle of hope.  God, in His mercy, has a word of hope for us today—and, perhaps, at least some of us sorely need a word of hope from God’s gracious lips.  We have it today in Isaiah 40:27-31.  Give hear to the glorious Word of our matchless God.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

Our text occurs within the book of Isaiah not long after a complete change in the prophecy’s tone.  The first thirty-nine chapters of the book (with a notable apocalyptic interlude in chapters 24-27) is chiefly a message of God’s imminent judgment upon His covenant people for their national and individual unfaithfulness and disobedience.  At Isaiah 40:1, however, the tone changes markedly from one of judgement to one of hope.  The message to a now-chastened people of God is one of comfort, pardon, and hope.  This fortieth chapter of Isaiah grounds our hope in God’s incomparability (esp. 40:12-26).[1]  Our text rises after Isaiah’s soaring, Spirit-led description of the Lord’s power, wisdom, infinity, and eternity.  Indeed, our God truly is incomparable.

Our text for today begins with God’s chastened covenant people crying out against Him—saying, in effect, “You have forgotten me.”  God, through His prophet, declares otherwise.  First, the Lord, through Isaiah, declares in part Who He is.  He is no Johnny-come-lately; He exists from eternity past, to now, and to eternal future.  Moreover, God created all that is—and, according to the Scriptures and to our confessional standards, in the space of six days and all very good.[2]  This eternal Creator God grows neither faint nor weary, for He is infinite both in strength and in stamina.  Furthermore, His understanding is unsearchable.  He is infinite both in knowledge and in wisdom.  These profound declarations are but a small part of Who God is—yet these declarations in Isaiah 40:28 boggle the mind.

Now we turn from noting Who God is to considering what He does.  Our great God gives power to the weak and strength to those with no might.  This assuredly is not the apparently ordinary course of affairs.  It seems that the young have all the energy, strength, and such, but God tells us here in His Word that even youths faint and are weary—and that even young men stumble and fall.  The Hebrew perhaps implies that the word rendered here as young men (Hebrew behurim) are the choicest of the young men of the land—employed for special service unto the earthly sovereign.  Even the king’s best physical specimens grow weak and exhausted at times.

Yet the ones waiting for (or hoping in, or looking eagerly for, Hebrew qawah) Him receive this: He renews their strength.  This renewal of strength in God’s own runs contrary to all expectation—for almost none of them are the choicest physical specimens of the land.  Moreover, God renews their strength—our strength—to remarkable degree.  The ones waiting for our God mount up with wings as eagles.  They soar in His providence.  Also, they run without weariness and they walk without fainting.  What a good word it is to a chastened, weary Old Testament Church that we read today.  Even better, what a good word to God’s New Testament Church, in Christ Jesus, today.  We find ourselves harried and hurried, tempted (and occasionally deceived) by this world’s charms, and wounded and wearied by the good fight of faith and the injuries incurred therein.  God’s Word today is both balm and food for our souls.

Not everything about the Christmas season—or any season—is rosy, glowing, and warm.  In view of this, remember the greatness of your triune God.  Remember your Heavenly Father, the Creator of all that is and the One who ordains whatsoever comes to pass.  Remember Jesus Christ, the Son, Whose birth we celebrate especially at this time of year and Whose redemptive work at Calvary makes us right with God.  Remember also the Holy Spirit, Who is God with us in this age and Who gives us the very faith whereby we believe these things.

Hence, look not to self, nor unduly at circumstance, when hope flags.  We are tempted to look in these directions when hope runs low—to the diminution of God’s glory in our eyes and to our needless impoverishment at a time when we desperately need His riches.  Let us look to the Lord—expectantly, confidently—when hope flags.  Then let us watch Him go to work on our behalf, one and all, for His glory and your good.  May He fill your souls with hope this day and always.

AMEN.

[1] For this insight I am indebted to Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament: A Guide for the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003).

 

[2] See Genesis 1:1-2:4 and Westminster Confession of Faith iv.1.