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With Wings Like Eagles

Isaiah 40:31 (ESV) … “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.”

Human strength at its best, in its prime, will inevitably fail. We’re no match for the demands of life. But we’re not doomed to our own potential. There is a power beyond ourselves, and we can experience it.

In verse 31 Isaiah is not merely saying, “God enables those who draw strength from his promise.” He is saying, “God enables those who draw strength from his promise to do the impossible.” The weak soar like eagles and run without tiring and walk without quitting. Their confidence in God will not let them lie down and give up. It’s not a matter of willpower but of expectancy.

The key is the word “wait.” What does it mean? To wait for the Lord means to live in confident, eager suspense. It means to live with the tension of promises revealed but not yet fulfilled. This waiting is not killing time. It isn’t sitting around, drumming your fingers. It is waiting on tip-toe, waiting with eager longing. It is forgetting what lies behind, straining forward to what lies ahead, and pressing on toward the goal (Philippians 3:13, 14). It isn’t erratic bursts of hyperactivity within a general pattern of boredom. It is steady, rugged progress, sustained by the conviction that the display of God’s glory in Christ is yours.

Some translations of the Bible say that our part is to “hope” in the Lord. That isn’t wrong. But the ESV is wise to use the word “wait,” because waiting is an important part of our faith. Waiting is what faith does before God’s answer shows up. God gives us great and precious promises, and then he calls us to wait. And Isaiah’s point is that such bright expectancy is the psychological leverage God uses to empower us. The “how” question is answered in this word “wait.” Are you willing to wait? Are you willing to let God set the pace? Or are you such a controller you can’t live on God’s terms? Is the prospect of having the glory of the Lord as your eternal delight out beyond the barbed wire—does your heart prize him as worth the wait? If so, your heart will be endlessly renewed until that great day. If not, you’re on your own.

We sometimes look for hope in the wrong places. We look for reasons to live here inside the barbed wire rather than out there in the promised glory of God. But you and I don’t need a quick fix. What we need is a clearer vision of God and a keener passion for his glory. What we need is to find rest in his faithfulness and energy in his desirability. Christianity is not a way to cut a deal with God for an easier life now. Christianity is what renews us to live for our real payoff in the future that God has promised.

How can we experience more of what Isaiah is offering? We have to ask ourselves two questions.

  • First: Do I believe that God can take a quitter like me and make him into a hero? We might gulp before we answer that question, but most of us would probably agree that Almighty God in Heaven can do even that.

  • But then we need to ask the second question: Have I deliberately shifted the loyalty of my heart from the false glory of this world to the coming glory of the Lord? God has promised that Christ will bring us salvation with his overwhelming glory. Is that where I have staked my happiness?

It will not do to put my faith in God while I keep my heart on this world. God will not underwrite my worldliness with his power. He never promised the soaring strength of eagles so I could go on grunting in the sty of Babylon. Waiting for the Lord means not only that I trust him to be true (the “rock” of Isaiah 26:4), but also that I admire him as stunning (the “glory” of Isaiah 40:5).[1]

[1] Ortlund, R. C., Jr., & Hughes, R. K. (2005). Isaiah: God saves sinners (pp. 254–255). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

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