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.
Today we begin a new Life for Leaders series based on the Old Testament book of Isaiah. If you’re keeping track, in two years Life for Leaders has covered Genesis, Revelation 21-22, Mark, and the first 66 Psalms. After spending the last nine months focusing on the Gospel of Mark, I thought it would be good for us to return to the Old Testament. Wise and mature Christian faith always reads the New Testament in light of the Old and the Old in light of the New.
Why Isaiah? I have chosen this book for four main reasons. First, it speaks into a world like our own in many ways. To be sure, Isaiah’s world was not modern, and we must remain aware of the wide cultural gap between his age and ours. Yet, Isaiah spoke into a time of considerable confusion and conflict. The people of God were troubled by unsettling changes in the world around them that threatened to disrupt or even destroy their lives. This might have motivated them to cling even more tightly to God. Yet, it did not. In a day when so much felt uncertain, the Israelites chased after the capricious and idolatrous ways of the world. They turned their back on the Lord and his righteousness. Sound familiar?
Second, Isaiah helps us to understand, value, and live according to God’s justice. Time and again throughout this book, we’ll hear how the people of God have failed to live just lives. Yet God has not given up on them. Rather, he reveals his passion for justice and calls his people to share this passion. God desires “to loose the chains of injustice, and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke” (58:6). We need to hear again God’s call to justice, so that we might live truly and fully as the people of God in a world filled with violence, oppression, and inequality. Isaiah will help us here.
Third, though Isaiah prophesied for several decades about seven centuries before the birth of Jesus, and though he addressed the people and situations of his own day, the book of Isaiah points with striking clarity to the coming of Christ. As we’ll see, the prophecies of Isaiah shaped in a stunning way the life, ministry, and death of Jesus. Moreover, these ancient words helped the earliest Christians know Jesus more truly so they might live as his disciples more fully. Thus, Isaiah will help us know Jesus better and live more faithfully as his followers.
Fourth, though Isaiah minces no words in condemning the unrighteousness of Israel, and though he does not whitewash God’s wrath, the book of Isaiah is full of hope. No matter how dismal things might seem, God’s Servant, whom we know to be Jesus the Messiah, “will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth” (42:4). Therefore, “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” (40:31).
Have you been running so hard you have grown weary? Isaiah can help.
Have you been walking so much you feel faint, in heart if not in body? Isaiah can help.
Do you need hope that renews your strength today? Isaiah can help.
Do you want to soar on wings like eagles? Isaiah can help.
Thanks be to God!
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When you think about the prophecies of Isaiah, what comes to mind? Do you remember certain passages? What do they mean to you?
What things in your life make you weary? What events, people, or duties make you feel as if you might faint? How is God present to you in those parts of life?
Would you say you feel hopeful these days? Or hopeless? Or somewhere in between?
What helps you to be a person of hope?
Gracious God, thank you for the breadth and depth of Scripture. Thank you for all that you have for us when we allow your Word to speak to us. Thank you, most of all, for revealing to us the Incarnate Word through the written Word.
As we begin our journey through Isaiah, we ask you to be with us, to guide us, to teach us, to convict us, to comfort us, to inspire us, and to give us hope.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.