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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Isaiah 40:21–31

Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those 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. (NRSV)

In my mind’s eye I can still see the poster hanging in an office, the ownership and purpose of which my mind’s eye can’t see anymore, on which is printed the words of Isaiah 40:31. It is a misty mountain lake photograph foregrounded by a majestic eagle that almost seems to be giving the side eye to the photographer. The verse is aligned to the right of the poster, near the bottom, in an italicized typeface:

Those who wait for the Lord
shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with
wings like eagles.

The poster’s great, but I don’t know that these words need any help from a nature photograph. They come at the beginning of the second major section of the book of Isaiah, a section announced with some of the most memorable words in all of scripture: “Comfort, O comfort my people.” Isaiah 40–54 heralds an end to suffering in exile and a new life for the people of God, a life grounded in a perspective of themselves relative to the powers that be, the earth itself, and, ultimately, God.

The princes and rulers who have moved God’s people around the desert like game pieces are a stubble in a breeze (verse 23). The great, intimidating expanse overhead was stretched out like a curtain by the one who made it. And that one is Lord (not whoever happens to be king). That one is everlasting (which the empire of the day most certainly is not). That one doesn’t faint or grow weary (as all idols will).

In times that feel uncertain and that cause us to question our agency in the world and entertain thoughts of hopelessness and despair, the words of Isaiah are a defibrillator: power to the faint and strength to the powerless.

Help us to wait for you, O Lord. Help us to wait for peace. Help us to wait for justice. Help us to wait for the coming of your reign on earth as in heaven. Through Christ who waits with us. Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry

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