The tireless God - Isaiah 40:27-31
An audio recording of this sermon is available.
I love a movie called Martian which is about an astronaut, who gets stranded on Mars when he and his crew are caught up in a storm, and he is blown away, his team have to leave as the conditions are too dangerous and so they abandoned him, thinking that he must be dead. Despite having his suit punctured by a satellite antenna, the astronaut Mark Watney is not dead and struggles back at base. He records a video diary, saying: I have no way to contact NASA, even if I could it's going to be 4 years before a manned-mission will reach me. Now I'm on day 19 in a lab that's designed to last 31 days, and if the oxygen tank breaks, I'll suffocate, if the water reclaimer breaks, I'll die of thirst, if the lab breaches, I'm just going to implode. If by some miracle none of that happens, I'm going to run out of food.
His situation was pretty dire, he had no hope in surviving let alone getting home, he was devastated and abandoned. He was actually in a kind of Exile himself.
We can relate this situation to the one facing the Israelites here. They are in Exile, in captivity to the Babylonians. They have lost their hope and would be feeling abandoned by God. The Israelites have been defeated by Babylonian nation, so it is assumed that their God, Yahweh, has been defeated. The temple where God was, has been destroyed and so where can they look for hope?
A People who Complain
I can understand why God's chosen people are complaining, It would be a fairly standard reaction to a desperate situation. So Isaiah speaks some words of a tender appeal to them in verse 27:
Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
"My way is hidden from the LORD;
my cause is disregarded by my God"?
These two complaints that the Israelites are voicing seem fair given the situation. My way is hidden from the Lord, they say, does that mean that God doesn't know his people's plight, that he can't act, that or that he can't save them? The display of mighty gods was shown in the victories they brought to their nations, and so Yahweh seems to have lost.
My God's cause is disregarded by God, is their next complaint, so does that mean that he brushes off their situation, suggesting it is not really important to him? Is he not willing to act, maybe because of their sin or his lack of care? Does he not want to do what is right? Because, of course, God is righteous, and he must do what is right. So if he is not saving his people which he has promised them, is he not faithful? What about the temple, it was a great symbol of God's righteousness where the people would go to worship God, and yet it is now a pile of rubble. So where do the people go to seek God, where do they look?
The Israelites whole belief system in their faithful God has been shattered. Yet we know, we can be assured by the truths in God's word, that our Father God is entirely able, he will never fail, and he is altogether faithful, this is what he is like. He is still on the throne, but sometimes he requires us to wait, and have patience before his deliverance. His timing is different from ours, we can't understand why God does things when he does. We can remember that this chapter starts off with great encouragement saying, comfort, comfort my people, so we can know what God is doing what is right and good for his glory, and he cares for his people. God is reminding his people here, as he is reminding us, that we mustn't be a led by our emotional thinking, we should fix our thinking in the Gospel and our great God who has greater purposes, of which he reminds them:
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.
A God who is Powerful
As this verse implies, nothing in the cosmos can compare with God; he has no equal. He is the Creator and sustainer of all things, we heard that last week in Pete's sermon. God will bring deliverance to his people, in the right way, at the right time. Our Creator, God, has always been from the beginning of time and will always be. He is ineffably greater than anything we can ever imagine, which just means it can't be expressed how great he is, He's indescribable.
He doesn't tire, and he is never weary, can you imagine never growing tired or weary? I know of at least a couple of people who have had Covid and are suffering the after-effects of it several months later, they become exhausted just doing everyday things like climbing stairs or going for a short walk. God never tires and is never weary; he has an infinite source of strength that we can call on, and he will give us everything we need when we need it:
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
Just as the Israelites in Babylon were surrounded by constant reminders of how great their captors were and how weak they were in comparison. We are also surrounded by reminders that we are not as strong as we would like to be. Perhaps it is the voice of secularism, which pushes the belief in God out of everyday life? God gives them the very breath they breathe. Is it Science claiming to have the answers, God is greater than Science; he has all the answers and provides the knowledge for Scientists to create a vaccine among other things. Is it liberalism, people saying, well God didn't really mean that we shouldn't judge others; God just wants people to be happy? God loves, but a loving God must also rebuke.
Whatever makes you feel weak and weary today, God will give you strength and increase your power to love him and serve him faithfully. We have to come to him and rest in him.
What about these youths and young men then that are mentioned in this verse. Who are they? In ancient days, the young were chosen as soldiers, so we can assume this is talking about the Babylonian army, who overpowered the Israelites, trusted in the stars, and the stars were seen as their gods looking down on them. These warriors were seen as tough and capable and undoubtedly able to defeat a nation.
However, Isaiah reminds Israel that all mankind will eventually get tired and weary, they won't always be on top, and they will stumble and fall along the way.
All of this leads us on to the great hope that the Christian has in God, our final verse is just incredible, here is what it says:
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.
A God who we can hope in
You see, this is our God; he doesn't grow weak or fail; he has an abundance of strength and desires to give it away to those who hope in him. So what does it mean to hope? Well, another translation uses the word wait. We're not just marking time like a prisoner would on his cell walls to count the days till his release. No, hoping is the confident expectation of God's action on our behalf. He'll bring about his promises, and we'll spend eternity with Him in heaven, it is not just a fleeting wish, it is a guarantee.
Of course, there are times we all feel like this, that is what life is like, but isn't it wonderful to know we have a God who is never weak and never grows tired. Lift your eyes to Jesus and see the incredible hope and future waiting for all those who trust in him. Live with confident expectation of his promises, daily, hourly, moment by moment, gaze at our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gives us hope and a future in him through his sacrifice. In our very circumstances, our tireless God of strength will provide you with precisely what you need at the right time. Did you notice the order of that last verse? The first soar, run then walk, the climax is walking, not running or soaring. Walking with God should be the aim of every Christian, it is the act of daily putting one foot in front of the other, how can we do this? In his strength which he freely gives us because of his great care for us.
Think about the common thread running through the story of the whole Bible, the story is about how because of sin, human beings are in Exile, but God's wonderful plan is about bringing us out of that.
The Gospels begin with the coming of the Lord Jesus, which John the Baptist announced using the words of Isaiah 40, which culminate in "And all people will see God's salvation."
That salvation is in Jesus Christ who entered his own Exile by dying on the cross to rescue us. He was abandoned so that we might be restored, he was devastated so we might be revived, he was treated as God's enemy so we can be friends with God and enter into his amazing grace.
The Gospel ultimately ends the time of Exile, through the coming of a king, for all who will trust Him.
Let me finish this story which shows the immense power and compassion of God, which not only reaches out into our future but also back into our past:
Rita Armstrong's nerves suffered quite severely as a child when she was subject to air raids during the war. When leaving school, she struggled with acute depression. But it wasn't until 1974 that she was actually diagnosed as having manic-depression and was given medication. She was then introduced to an Edinburgh doctor called Winifred Rushforth, who although 95 was still going strong. This is how Rita takes up her story: 'Winifred believed in each one of her patients and helped us to believe in ourselves. My bruised and battered personality was bathed in her loving acceptance. She was never shocked. She never told us what we ought to do. She did not tell us- she showed that God loved us. By now, my children had grown up and were leaving home. One afternoon, as I sat in a rare moment of peace meditating on God's greatness and power, I thought back to the blitz, and then scanned through the centuries to Calvary, and back still further to the beginning of everything. And only God was there. Then I contemplated my future, the time when my life would finally be wound up. And God would still be there. I felt very insignificant against such a backcloth, and my petty problems paled pathetically. Then I remembered the childlike faith with which I had given my life to God, confident that Jesus loved me. And Jesus can't change. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Suddenly a light shone. Realisation dawned, and a great joy overwhelmed me. Something I must have been told many times became real. I started singing. What I was singing was quite simply this: 'I matter to God.'
Let me pray.
Intro – The Martian in Exile
1. A People who Complain (v27)
Two complaints – are they valid and what do they mean?
- My way is hidden from the Lord.
- My cause is disregarded by my God.
2. A God who is Powerful (v28-30)
How incredible is our God?
What things in society remind us of our weakness?
Whatever makes you feel weak and weary today, God will give you strength and increase your power to love him and serve him faithfully.
3. A God who we can Hope in (v31)
“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.” v31
We are not just marking time - Hoping is the confident expectation of God’s action on our behalf. He’ll bring about his promises.
Remember the order of the last verse, soar, run and walk.
The Gospel ultimately ends the time of Exile, through the coming of a King, for all who will trust in Him.
Story of Rita Armstrong
Is 40 v 27-31 “The Tireless God” Home Group Questions
1. The Israelites situation is quite hopeless in the face of the strength of the Babylonian nation. Do you feel the complaints of God’s people in verse 27 are valid? How are the two complaints similar but different?
2. Do you ever feel like your situation is hopeless like the Israelites did? How did Isaiah gently exhort the people in verse 28 to not forget God? Do we need to remind ourselves of these truths more in our lives?
3. As a group can you share some truths about God’s character, which display his great power?
4. What opposition in society reminds you of your weakness? What do we need to remember when faced with this opposition? (v29-30)
5. What does it mean to hope in the Lord? How can this meaning help us as we daily walk in step with our God?
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