Help for the Powerless - Isaiah 40:31

Dr. Steve Viars July 31, 1990 Isaiah 40:31


- we've been studying favorite Bibles passages this summer

- so far we've looked at three passages

- If I asked you to tonight - would you be able to quote


- Zech. 4:6 - not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,

              saith the Lord

- Gal. 2:20 - I am crucified with Christ and I no longer

       live, but Christ lives in me, and the life that I now

       live in the flesh, I live by faith of the Son of God,

       who loved me and gave himself for me

- John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that he gave His...


- tonight's verse takes us back to the Old Testament to the

  book of Isaiah

- now even that clue wouldn't tell you exactly what passage

  we're talking about because there are actually a number of

  favorite Bible verses in this book

- tonight we want to zero in on Isa. 40:31


- while you're turning there, let me just mention that the

  book of Isaiah is a very interesting book

- you know that the chapter divisions in the books of the

  Bible were not put there by the original writers, and we

  don't consider them to be inspired

- but the way the book of Isaiah was divided does have some

  striking similarities to the rest of the Bible


   1) Isaiah has 66 chapters, the Bible has 66 books

   2) The first chapter of Isaiah speaks of creation (just

      like Genesis 1) while the last two chapters speak of

      judgement and then a new heaven and new earth (just

      like Rev. 21-22)

   3) Isaiah's chapters are divided into 2 very distinct

      units, the first half (chapters 1-39) which speak of

      judgement while the last half (chapters 40-66) which

      speak of salvation


- now our verse tonight is in the first chapter of the second

  half of Isaiah - the section dealing with salvation


- in each one of our studies, I have started by presenting a

  number of questions that are generated by the particular

  verse we're studying

- tonight, after I read the verse, I'd like you to tell me

  what questions come to your mind about this verse, or what

  questions you think we need to answer in order to have a

  better understanding of this favorite Bible verse


- Read Isa. 40:31


- INPUT - what questions come to your mind about this verse?



- hopefully we'll get these questions answered as we go

  through our study tonight

I.  Context of Isaiah 40:31


- First of all let's talk about the context of Isa. 40:31

- In every one of the favorite passages we've discussed in

  this series, the context played a critical role in

  understanding the verse, and this passage is no exception


    A.  "Broad" Context


- First we'll talk about the broad context


- Isaiah was ministering and writing between 740 and 680 BC

- INPUT - what thoughts ought to come to our mind by hearing

  that date?


   1) past the reign of David

   2) the kingdom has already divided

   3) the northern kingdom has fallen to Assyria


- Isaiah is writing to Judah, the southern kingdom, who is

  surprisingly following in the footsteps of the northern

  kingdom, even though they know what has happened to the

  northern kingdom because of their sin


- we could talk in quite a bit of detail about how the

  southern kingdom was sinning, but let me pick out one

  particular way that is going to come up in this passage

- one of the things that both the northern and the southern

  kingdoms had done was to make alliances with other nations

- of course that goes on today, and it has gone on throughout


- it was especially prevalent during this time period


- nations in this period very much operated on a king of the

  hill mentality

- the goal was to get the most land in your empire, the

  biggest army, and the most money

- then supposedly, the people who lived in your country could

  life in safety and peace

- until of course the next nation came along which was



- the issue was - these larger nations had to have a way to

  finance these great military expeditions, so they would

  gobble up smaller nations and make them pay tribute, or


- as a small nation, you didn't get a vote on the matter

- you paid, or the ruler brought his army down and killed you

  and your people

- Archeologists have even found tablets of letters written by

  the king of Assyria about one of Israel's kings, Hezekiah,

  during Isaiah's ministry

    - I have Hezekiah shut up in his palace like a bird in a



- the point is, a small nation, like Israel, to survive, had

  to make allegiances with other nations just to survive


- there was nothing intrinsicly wrong with that, but the way

  they did it was wrong


- Read Isa. 30:1-3


- INPUT - what was it they were doing that was wrong?

     (proceed down to Egypt without consulting Me)


    B. Immediate Context


- with those thoughts in mind, let's move in and look at the

  immediate context

- read 22-31


- verse 27 is the key - INPUT - what was it that the people

     were accusing God of?


        - not being concerned about their situation

        - not being able to do anything about the situation

(add 28)- being weary, unable to keep up with the situation


- now let's just stand back and think about what's going on


- here's a bunch of people who got in an alliance with Egypt

  that is not working out

- they've got foreign nations presing in

- they weren't concerned about what God thought

- they're powerless to do anthing about the situation


- so what do they do instead

- they are accusing God of exactly the things that they are

  guilty of


- a secular person would call that projecting

- while we wouldn't aggree with all the frieght that goes

  with it, when a secular person talks about projecting, he

  is describing something that happens in relationships from

  time to time

- projection - "attributing to others one's own unacceptable

    desires or impulses"

      - thats happened to all of us in some form or another

      - person comes to you, very upset, they say - why are

        you so upset?  (I'm not upset, you're upset)

      - they are attributing to someone else their own

        unacceptable desires or impulses


- thats whats happening in Isaiah 40

- the people are accusing God of exactly what they're guilty



- you don't care about me

- you can't do anything about this situation

- you're powerless to help


- and see, we can't understand Isa. 40:31, until we

  understand this context

    - we're talking about people who feel powerless,

        - like God doesn't care

        - or like God won't do anything

        - or maybe even that God can't do anything

- lest we point our bony fingers at the Israelites and say,

  how could you think that way, I think we all need to say,

  we can pretty easily fall in that trap

- there are some situations that you and I face that could

  lead to those kinds of thoughts (and maybe even actions

  that are products of that kind of thinking)

- INPUT - what are some life situations that might provide

          the setting for this kind of thinking?  (powerless,

          weak, God doesn't care)


    - death of a loved one

    - ongoing trial

    - personal sickness or sickness of loved one

    - ongoing fight against sin

    - world events (missionaries in Peru, Liberia)


- I think everyone here tonight would say - I know what that

  is like

- those kind of thoughts are not foreign to my mind

- you might even say - I'm going through a situation like

  that right now (or maybe even a combination of situations

  like that) and you'd say, I'm really tired


- here's what God would say to all of us

  "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their

   strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they

   shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not



- now I realize you might say, well thats good, but what

  exactly does that mean?

- let's start disecting the verse?


II.  The Condition of God's Strength


    - the passage doesn't promise strength to everyone, it

      promises strength to those who meet a certain condition

    - INPUT - Condition?  (those that wait upon the Lord)


    - I think all of us would have to admit that thats a hard



    A.  Hard Concept


        1. because of the society in which we live


           - the society in which we live caters to the

             concept of immediate gratification


           - what are some ways that thats true?


             (not that thats necessarily good or bad in

              all cases, point is - we need to recognize that

              our society does not make it easier to follow

              the principle in this verse)


        2. because of our selfish tendency to want it now


            - can't blame all of this on society

            - there's a voice inside many of us that says, I

              want it, and I want it now



        3. because of the theological abuses of this concept


           - some folks view waiting as a very passive thing


           - they would liken waiting on God to waiting in

             line, or waiting in the doctor's office


           - its passive and its a waste of time


           - of course that goes right along with their

             passive (let go and let God) view of the

             Christian life anyway


           - people who have tried that approach to trials,

             difficulties, problems, have found that that

             approach doesn't work, it doesn't provide any



- point is, this idea of waiting on the Lord is hard because

  it goes against society, our own sinful tendencies, and the

  concept has been abused theologically in the past


    - perhaps it would be best to say it this way


    B.  Not All Waiting Is "Waiting"


       - in other words, not everything that we would call

         waiting is what God would refer to as biblical



       - in a moment, I'm going to list a number of passages

         that talk about waiting

       - what we'll see in all those passages is that God

         never included the idea of "being unproductive" in

         His view of waiting


       - illus. - "My first year in the pool business, I

           worked for someone else - had little control over

           the schedule, or how we worked"

         - one thing that regularly slowed us down was the

           delivery of the concrete (often late)

         - we used to sit around and wait for it



       - point - in both cases, we were waiting, but only

              in the second case were we waiting productively


       - when God talks about waiting, he's talking about

         waiting that is active, aggressive, and productive


       - let's think about some situations in which you are

         called upon to wait on the Lord:


    C. Biblical Examples of Waiting


        1. for God to act - Isaiah 40:27 - "Why sayest

    way is hidden from the Lord?"



        2. for God to make things right - Isaiah 40:27 -

             "Why sayest thou...the justice due me from the

              Lord is passed away from our God?"


        3. to learn truth - Psalm 25:5 - lead me in thy truth

             and teach me...on thee do I wait all the day."


        4. to bless you and your efforts - Psalm 37:34 -

             "Wait on the Lord and keep his way, and He

              shall exalt thee to inherit the land."



        5. to answer prayer - Psalm 40:1 - "I waiting

             patiently on the Lord and He inclined unto me

             and He heard my cry."


        6. to defend me - Psalm 59:9 - "Because of His

             strength I will wait upon thee, for God is my



        7. to meet material needs - Psalm 145:15 - "The eyes

             of all wait upon thee, and thou givest them food

             in due season."


        8. to exercise vengeance - Proverbs 20:22 - "Say not

             thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the

             Lord and He shall save you."


        9. for Christ and His return - II Thes. 3:5 - "And

             the Lord direct your hearts into the love of

             God, and into the patient waiting for Christ."


- now, if you look at these passages and compare them

  carefully, you'll probably have two conclusions


  1) I can see how in some of these passages, there are

     definatly things that I should be doing in the writing


       - Thats would especially true of the third one -

         waiting on God for truth -

       - as we wait, we would have to be actively and

         aggressively involved in the process

       - so you could see how what I was saying in the pool

         illustration would fit those kind of situations


- but your second conclusion might be:


  2) In some of these passages, I don't see what I could be

     doing in the waiting process.

      - like in waiting for God to act

      - or waiting for God to answer prayer


      - Isn't that pretty passive?

      - Isn't that like sitting on the porch chucking rocks

        at the side of the pool

      - the answer is - absolutely not

      - its true that God puts us in many situations that we

        can't specifically alter

          - but in those situations we must be active - and

            the nature of the activity is this


          - by exercising faith

          - believing that God is good

          - believing that God will do right

          - believing that God will be right on time




- God has told us that our hearts are deceitful and

  desperately wicked

- our hearts - our control centers - are regularly producing

  unbelieving thoughts


- sometimes I am waiting a long time for God to answer prayer

- it is a long time before God makes things right

- sometimes it seems like forever before God acts


- our minds are producing those unbelieving thoughts:

- God doesn't care, he won't do anything, he can't do


- we have to argue with those thoughts of unbelief

- I'm convinced that, if a person is going to obey this

  verse, and gain the strength that comes from it, he or she

  is going to have to talk to himself


(the men in white coats will take me away - don't move your



          - see, waiting on the Lord is anything but passive

            - even in those situations which I have no

              control over,

            - I still have control over what is taking place

                  in my mind

            - suceeding there is anything but passive


- now you might ask, where did you come up with that


- the answer is - from the context

- this is the issue that God is upset with Israel over?

   - they have been placing their faith in their relationship

     with Egypt - or with other foreign countries

   - so much so that they've made the aggreements without

     even consulting God


  - Isaiah 30:3 - "Therefore shall the strength of Pharoah be

    your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your



  - what was the result of those vain pursuits?

     (powerlessness, depondency - God doesn't care, etc.)


  - God says - you need to wait on me

      - in some cases that means get busy and do what I've

          already told you to do

      - in other cases, that means get busy putting your

          faith in me

      - but in either case - waiting is an active, busy



- that leads us to an important question - Is it possible

  that you've had difficulty in these kinds of situations

  because you haven't been waiting on the Lord? (the way its

  been defined tonight)


- have you allowed your mind to become a jungle of unbelief?


- illustration - 2 families that live in our subdivision

   (one kept garden tended faithfully, other let it grow up,

    now took the lawnmower to the whole mess)


    - which garden is your mind most like?


      - well tended with thoughts of unbelief rooted out

      - jungle of unbelief



- of course the good news is:


III.  The Result of Waiting On Him


    A.  Strength will be exchanged


        - now you might say - where did that come from

        - the verse says, they that wait upon the Lord shall

          renew their strength


        - the Hebrew word for renew is literally the word for

          change or exchange


        - remember when Joseph was a prisoner, then the

          Pharaoh had a dream and he wasb brought forth from


        - the passage says he did two things

            1) shaved himself

            2) changed his raiment


        - the word "renew" in our passage (Isa. 40:31) is the

          same as "change" in Gen. 41:14


        - you can see what Isaiah is saying

        - we're talking about a trade-off, or a trade-in


        - just like when you take your old car down to the

          car dealer and you trade it in


        - Isaiah is saying - when a person waits on the Lord,

          he's making an exchange

            - I'm trading in these unbelieving thoughts,

              this reliance on other things, this weakness


            - I'd like to make an exchange please



            they that wait on the Lord (NASB) shall gain new



        - if you're looking for something to do a Bible study

          on, I would encourage you to study the word


        - the Bible is filled with passages on it (show



        - God wants people who are biblically strong

        - people who are growing and handling problems

          because they've learned to wait on the Lord and

          exchange their strength


        - God wants people who can make statements like the

          Psalmist did


        - Ps. 18:1 - I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.

        - Ps. 27:1 - The Lord is the strength of my life

        - Ps. 73:26 - God is the strength of my heart

        - Ps. 84:5 - Blessed is the man whose strength is in


        - Ps. 105:4 - Seek the Lord and His strength

        - Ps. 118:14 - The Lord is my strength and song

        - Ps. 144:1 - Blessed be the Lord my strength


    B.  Endurance will be granted


Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video