Isaiah 40:28-31 has been a favorite Bible passage of mine since college when I was challenged by a friend to memorize it. However, I had no idea how instrumental it would be in my life until about a year later, when I broke my leg while studying in Israel. I couldn’t leave the country yet! We had methodically been studying the biblical sites and we had not yet been to most of the sites Jesus had been closely associated with. The Lord used quoting Isaiah 40:28-31 to get me over ancient ruins on crutches that spring: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”
Isaiah wrote these words (in advance, as a prophet of God) to God’s people in captivity in Babylon. As they were in exile, they began to wonder about the goodness and faithfulness of God and whether or not He would keep His promises. Isaiah told them to do two things to have strength from God: to meditate on Him (v. 28), and to wait on Him (v. 31). What does it mean though to wait on the Lord?
The word wait in Hebrew is crucial to understand. Much like the Spanish word esperanza, it has a dual meaning that we don’t usually associate with the word wait in English. It means not only our traditional sense of “waiting” as in, “I am waiting for this bus to arrive,” but it also carries the idea of hope. Context tells which direction the meaning slants towards. I have been a rider on public transit in the Los Angeles Metro area for almost 3 years now, and let me tell you, when somebody is waiting for the bus here, they are waiting in both senses of the term! “I am waiting for the bus,” and “I am hoping for the bus to arrive soon.”
What is all-important is what our hope is in. I have very little hope in the Metro transit system, but I have an infinite hope in the God of the universe! That is why Isaiah told them to both meditate on God and wait on Him.
Why does God want us to actively wait on Him? There are many reasons, but here are three:
- It makes us seek Him.
- It reminds us the timing is His, not ours.
- It makes us trust Him.
What are you waiting on the LORD for? He has given us many sure promises. I hope that you will wait like the Psalmist: “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.” (Ps. 27:14)