But those who trust 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 faint (Isaiah 40:31).
I posted this verse on Facebook and Twitter; it received a lot of attention. This popular verse is a favorite for many of us who follow Christ. After all, it makes us feel good. But what does it mean – below the surface – in the heart of the passage?
It’s in the middle of a long prophecy by Isaiah. A little context will help us here. Isaiah 40 alternates back and forth between descriptions of God and descriptions of humanity. Here they are in summary –
This is Him. He is…
- The glory of the revealed King (40:3-5).
- The eternal Word (40:8).
- The God of power and reward (40:9-10).
- The Good Shepherd (40:11).
- The Creator of the earth (40:12).
- The Source of wisdom and knowledge (40:13-14).
- Superior to man-made idols (40:18-20).
- Enthroned high above the earth (40:21-22).
- The Creator of the starry universe (40:25-26).
This is us. We are…
- Deserving punishment for sin (40:1-2).
- Withered grass and fallen flowers (40:6-8).
- Nothing – even our greatest nations and rulers are nothing (40:15-17, 23-24).
- Grasshoppers (40:22).
And yet we say…
Despite the awesomeness of who He is and despite the temporal, disobedient mess that we are, we have the nerve and the audacity to say, “God doesn’t know and He wouldn’t care if He did” (40:27 paraphrase).
But here’s the point…
He alone is the eternal Creator. He’ll never grow tired or weary. Even kids eventually get tired and wear out but God doesn’t. He won’t. He can’t (40:28-31).
We may be as weak as a withered piece of grass. We may deserve punishment for our sin. We may appear as a grasshopper. But God is willing to renew us. That little word renew – don’t skim by it! Take a moment to think about it. It means to substitute, to change for the better, to make new. That’s a pretty amazing offer for the eternal Creator to be willing to take our tired, worn out, weak selves and give us His strength instead. We can exchange our strength – or lack thereof – for His incredible strength that never does wear out! Only then can we “run and not grow weary;” only then can we “walk and not faint” (40:31)
How is that possible?
He offers this exchange to those who trust Him – to those who put their hope in Him (40:31). It’s that simple. Recognize who God is and Jesus the Messiah as His Son. Recognize He is eternal Creator and you’re a sinner in need of rescue from coming punishment. Click here to read more about a relationship with God.
In case that’s not enough…
Those who trust in the Lord will exchange their strength for God’s strength but there’s more. They will also soar on wings like eagles. This is some pretty cool symbolism. I say symbolism because Christ’s followers don’t really fly on the wings of some giant, magical eagle. Just thought I’d make sure you knew that.
Three other times in God’s Word He used the symbolism of His people being carried on eagle’s wings. They are all pretty significant.
In Exodus 19:3-6, Moses wrote that God carried the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt on the wings of an eagle. He even went further and promised that if they obeyed His Word and kept covenant then they would be His treasured possession.
In Deuteronomy 32:8-12, Moses wrote of Jacob. God found Jacob alone in the desert; at that time, He gave Jacob the Promised Land as an inheritance. From then on, God shielded Jacob and cared for him as an eagle does her young – just as she carries them on her wings. Jacob trusted God alone – no foreign God – and God alone led Him.
In Revelation 12:14, John prophetically wrote of a still unfulfilled time period. At that time, God will once again give Israel the wings of an eagle to carry her to safety during the time of the Antichrist.
These three Scriptural examples tell us a lot about the freedom to soar on wings like eagles. Just as God did the Israelites in Egypt, God frees those who trust Him from the oppression of slavery and makes us His treasured possession. Just as He did for Jacob, He leads those who trust Him until they reach the Promised Land of eternity. Just like He’ll do for Israel in the future, He’ll protect those who trust Him as He brings defeat to our enemies.
Like I said, it’s a pretty cool exchange. I’m ready to fly like an eagle.