Stronghold 7: Isaiah 40 (Renew Your Strength).
Leaving behind the Psalms, this next stronghold is in Isaiah. These are some of my favourite verses in the whole Bible, ones which have stuck with me from a very young age. When I was a new Christian most of the book of Isaiah went right over my head, but here were these verses, highlighted blue in a book that otherwise puzzled me. These verses are so clear and so universally applicable. They contain timeless truths about God and capture the unchanging challenge of being human which we all share.
What do we learn here? God is ‘everlasting’. He is both ‘the Creator of the ends of the earth’ and ‘The Lord’ (that is, Yahweh), the covenant God who is passionate about relationship with us. Therefore God is both powerful and present, awesome and accessible. We can know Him, but ‘His understanding no one can fathom’, which means He’s beyond our understanding and infinitely wise. He also doesn’t grow tired, there’s no limit to His power or energy. This is a neat little portrait of God. Like so many other beautiful passages in Scripture it’s just a brief snapshot, which means you have to read the whole Bible and put them all together to get the complete picture of who God is, but it’s reassuring and wonderful all the same.
Why does Isaiah start it with ‘Do you not know? Have you not heard?’ Because it’s easy to forget these things. Most of us have known them at least in part at one time or another, but we tend to forget, or let it lodge only in our heads, not in our hearts. The relentless pressures of life have a way of driving these truths out of our thinking so that we need to be constantly reminded. Sometimes we act as if God isn’t all-powerful, or as if He isn’t the master of everything, or as if He doesn’t have everything we need. This stronghold reminds us that all those things are true. It grounds us in who God is, which, in turn, unlocks what we need.
And what do we need? We need strength and energy. We need hope and purpose. We are frail, flawed and faulty human beings. We run out of strength rapidly and lose energy quickly. We’re accident-prone, fallible and get knocked down a lot. We all grow weary, we all lose heart, and we all stumble. Tell me that’s not true? Some more than others, true, but Isaiah goes out of his way to show that this is true for all of us. ‘Even youths grow tired’ and even ‘young men stumble’. If the strongest among us grow weak, or the best among us stumble, then we all share this need of rejuvenation. We all need power from God to do what is impossible on our own resources. We all need fresh heart put into us because we all despair and give up at times. We all need limitless grace because we all sin and all make mistakes.
What do you do when life gets tough? What do you do when you get tired, discouraged or beaten? We all have a choice. We can either rely on ourselves, and continue tired, discouraged and beaten, or we can rely on God, and find energy, courage and victory. The key promise is there in verse 31: ‘those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength’. This heavenly resource is only available for those who choose to access it. The faithless and self-centred can forget it. No one is discounted except those who discount themselves by relying on themselves.
Do you want to renew your strength? You have to hope in the Lord. Trust Him. Rely on Him. Turn to Him always. Do you want to be able to run the race of life without giving up? Do you want to walk this road without collapsing? Do you want to ‘soar on wings like eagles’? Then you’ve got to hope in God. When we do so we find everything we need and more. It’s not just a little boost – soaring with eagles means thriving and living life to the max. Who doesn’t want that?
This is a stronghold for recharging your strength. Come here to refresh yourself and pick yourself back up after a knock. Come here and rest for a while when life hits you hard. In this stronghold you remember who God is and realise who you are not. The good news is, the entry is free and the power supply is inexhaustible. Come as often as you need, no matter how fast your batteries seem to drain. God will renew you.
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 on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”