Out of CONTEXT Verse: Isaiah 40:31

We are one narcissistic society. Everything is about us. We take pictures of our food and post them on Facebook because we think that people really care about the burger we’re eating. We take “selfies” for, I don’t know, some reason.  We are the epitome of the “me first” generation. This hurts us in many ways, but I believe it makes our Biblical interpretation atrocious.

For instance, take one of the absolute most popular verses in all of the Bible, Isaiah 40:31:

But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

This is a favorite of mine. I’ve quoted it and prayed it and even sang it.  It’s brought me encouragement multiple times.  There’s only one problem: this verse isn’t about me.

The prophet Isaiah is writing about the coming of the Messiah.  Verses 4 through 6 of the chapter are the most famous prophecy about John the Baptist coming in the Spirit of Elijah and preparing the way for the LORD:

A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain make low; the uneven ground shall become level and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Isaiah goes on to declare the arrival of the Messiah in verses 9 through 11:

Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with you.

The rest of the chapter is a declaration of God’s power and glory, and His promise to free His people from oppression.  That’s the context.  The people of God are in bondage, but they will receive comfort, release, and freedom when the Messiah comes.

So, our response is to await the arrival of the Messiah.  That’s what Isaiah 40:31 is all about.  The arrival of Messiah. It’s not about your job; your next love relationship; overcoming sickness.  Sorry.

Yes, God does have everything in control.  Yes, we can take comfort in His omnipotence and He promises to cover us His strength. These themes are woven into Scripture from cover to cover. Still, the purpose of this all-time favorite verse is that life will be a struggle until Messiah arrives. It was for Israel before Jesus arrived the first time, and it has been ever since. That’s because the ultimate release from bondage and the weight of this world will continue until Messiah Jesus returns and establishes His Kingdom on this earth.

Waiting on God is hard. And for Believers, life will continue to be difficult. So, we patiently wait. Not for God to intervene into our own circumstances, although He can and often does. We wait with a longing for the moment when Jesus returns to establish His perfect rule and reign from His throne in Jerusalem. Then, all those who eagerly await His arrival will be renewed and strengthened. It will be a moment of euphoria unlike anything we have ever known or could even imagine. It will feel like flying!

This is what we wait for. And in the words of the Apostle John, after he received a vision of that moment, we say, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

The question I have for you now is simple: are you prepared for the arrival of the Messiah? Are you eagerly anticipating the moment when He returns to the Mount of Olives from where he ascended to Heaven 2,000 years ago. This time, the Messiah will not be coming as a “prince of peace.” He will return as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” Take a few moments (maybe you can skip taking a selfie or foodie) and read the entire chapter of Isaiah 40. The imagery of the arrival of the Messiah is shocking. He is coming with Heaven’s armies to conquer sin, oppression, and injustice. The vision of the Revelation is one of great destruction and bloodshed. For those waiting for His arrival, this is still “good news.” For those who are unconcerned and unprepared about His arrival, it will be anything but. Are you prepared?

In the immortal words of the singer, Larry Norman: “I wish we’d all been ready.”

 

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