Eagle’s Wings – Devotional Thoughts on Isaiah 40.28-31
“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 to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 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.”
Adults and Teenagers do this. When our supervisor calls us on the carpet for muffing a project, or failing to meet some major dead-line, we respond, “Yes boss; I know.” When parents start telling teenagers how to do this chore properly or that task more efficiently, they almost always reply: “I know.” It’s funny, we “know” – but the mistake or misstep shows that at another level we didn’t “know” because if we really, really did know we wouldn’t have done it that poorly, or forgotten to do it. This tension between “knowing” and “knowing” runs right through the Bible like a major capillary, and in this passage the “blue vein” of “knowing” is just visible beneath the skin.
Questions (28a): The Bible is full of questions. Many people in the Bible are asking God questions, like “How long, O LORD?” or “Why do you hide your face?” But the Bible also has questions from God to us. Here the two questions, “Have you not known? Have you not heard?” These are reflecting, probing, and pondering questions to make us all stop and ruminate. These are questions that challenge us with, “Have you not known certain things about God.” The whole chapter is full of them starting clear back at v.12, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand”; v.14 “Who taught God the path of justice”; v.18 “To whom will you liken God”; v.21 “Do you not know? Do you not hear?” (sounds almost like a parent talking to a particularly ornery child); v.25 “To whom will you compare me?” When the Bible records God asking questions – especially in a setting like this, it’s always good to stop, take a deep breath and reflect. “Have I not known certain things about God?!”
God (28b-29): And these are the things God is asking us about. Have you not know and heard that God is everlasting and eternal? Have you not known and heard that God is the Creator of the ends of the earth? Have you not known and heard that this God never weakens, faint, gets weary, but instead that his understanding is unsearchable; that he is the one who gives power to those fainting, increasing strength to those who are powerless? This is the God we are being asked to reflect on, who he is and what he does for his people. It’s at this point we know we’re supposed to nod our heads in pious assent, say “Amen,” or mumble something like, “Why sho-nuff; in fact, who doesn’t know all of these things?!” But do you really know? Is there a certainty or solid certitude in your heart, or are there dark, dank, dreary doubts and question marks bubbling up from the deep places of your being?
Disappointments (30): Then the prophet brings up examples of what we normally assume or think are energy-driven, power-packed, high-octane, ever-ready-bunny kind of people: youth! We almost always think of young people, kids and teens, as being inexhaustible and boundless in their energy; that there’s no off button anywhere and they just go and go. But even they will run out of gas, get exhausted, tire and peter out. And when this verse is placed next to the description of God in v.28-29 we see the point. It is this God alone who never poops out, who never gets tuckered out, who never falls down exhausted. Everything else we think about as being powerful, whether super football players, nuclear energy, petroleum, the sun or whatever, all of these will all run out of fuel at some point, will deflate and fall flat – but not this God! Is it possible we have we been impressed with all the wrong things?
Hope (31): Now who in this verse ends up being renewed in strength, recharged, running and not getting weary or faint? Yes, those who wait for the LORD (qovah – await, hope. An expectant, patient trust). When we’re out of gas, empty, broken, exhausted, weak, spent, it’s the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who rises up to catch us and make us able (even when we’re no longer normally or naturally able!), carrying us along with himself.
Ø J. Alec Motyer looks at the contrast going on here in v.30 and 31, and remarks, “The natural person (30a) is not like God (28e) but the believer is, as the unwearying, unfainting strength of the divine enters him he finds inner resources that do not fail before life’s demands” (“The Prophecy of Isaiah,” 308).
And there is an interesting description of what God does here. He is pictured as an eagle swooping up and catching those falling. Does that sound like a book you’ve read recently, or a movie that you may have seen? Yes, “The Hobbit”. When Gandalf and the Dwarves are at the end of the tree that is falling over the cliff and they start tumbling down through the air, up swoops the eagles to catch them. It’s the same kind of picture here, because that’s what our rescuing God is like.
And this eagle picture for God is used in another place. When God had rescued his people from Egypt, saving those who could not save themselves, liberating those who could not liberate themselves; he describes his liberating-rescuing-saving action in eagle-terms: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself” (Exodus 19.4). His rescue of his people, liberating, emancipating them, is pictured like an eagle swooping in to save them and bear them to the only place of safety – to himself.
Ø And that is what Jesus did, by dying on the cross for his people and rising again on the 3rd day: “( . . . ) our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2.13c-14). Our Lord Jesus, in his death and resurrection, rises up like a rescuing eagle to retrieve-recover-redeem-emancipate us and bear us to safety – bring us to himself.
-----Where have you been placing your confidences? Has it been in your own engineered “know-how” or your own muscle or your own vitality or your own vanity? Is it possible that there’s been some “looking for love in all the wrong places” on your part?
As you ponder and reflect on the things you should know about this God – go down deeper than the pious head nodding, and look, ask, research – “Do I really know this God? Or has the base-camp of your heart been overrun with the Philistines of doubt and disbelief?
It’s possible that some you – one, or two, or three of you – are right now in free-fall. Arms flailing, legs kicking, torso wriggling in mid-air as you fall. Think of how odd it would be if at this moment you say to God; “Hey, no prob. I’ve got this! I’ll figure this one out on my; thanks, but no thanks!” I implore you, cast that “self-sufficiency” aside and latch on to the one who took the doom and bad-karma of his people, slaughtered it in his death on the cross, and was raised from the dead on the 3rd day – never to be endangered by death again – and rises up as a rescuing eagle, that he may bring you to himself (the only place of genuine safety), and who will renew your strength; mounting you up with wings like eagles; making you able to run and not be weary; to walk and not faint.
[Feel free to publish or re-post this; but as always, please give credit where credit is due. Mike]