Message Delivered on February 8, 2015
There is substantial theological unity throughout the book of Isaiah, but possibly more than one person speaking for God as the prophet, Isaiah. Some scholars feel that chapters 40-55 were written after Isaiah, who lived in the southern kingdom of Judah during the 8th century B.C.
Proclaiming and hearing are important to the prophet so that the people will know the mouth of the Lord has spoken to them. He wanted to assure the people that God’s word will stand forever. Isaiah asks if the people remember that from the very foundation of the earth, God has called everyone by name. Isaiah has been sent to comfort the exiles, for whom God is preparing the way which will lead them home–out of captivity. God’s word is constant but the word of human beings is inconsistent. God will lead the exiles and feed them tenderly as a good shepherd. They will experience God’s care and hopefully, their faith in God will be restored. They will once again trust God and return to their homeland.
Isaiah preached that the Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. God does not grow faint or weary and God’s understanding is unsearchable. God gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless in whatever situations people find their selves. The key is to be patient and to wait for God to work in their lives. Be patient. That is tough. Trust God. “In God we trust.” (There is a quotable quote.)
Arthur Schopenhauer, a 19th century philosopher saw life as a pendulum between suffering and boredom, and the world itself as a form of hell. He is what I would label a “glum guy.” His thoughts are supposedly responsible for greeting cards with wishes like “just remember, once you are over the hill, you begin to pick up speed.” In reality, Charles Schulz, beloved creator of the Peanuts comic strip, is likely the author of such a quote. Didn’t Charlie Brown keep trying to kick the football after Lucy repeatedly pulled it out from under him?
Misquoting famous people has become something of a norm in the age of Wikipedia, one of the online search engines,. People love to research on their computers and hand held devices, but most people do not check the accuracy or the context of the quotation before they click on “send.”
Some well known quotations: 1. “Be the change you wish to see in the world” was attributed to Mahatma Ghandi. What he actually said was, “If we change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” It is a little less Hall-mark-y. 2. “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Mark Twain is often given credit for this remark, but research into the comment has attributed it to an anonymous government researcher in 1968. 3. Oscar Wilde, is another repository of misquotes and is credited with “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” However, that never appeared in any of his works. Scripture is full of quotations that get misquoted or taken out of context. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” in Proverbs 13:24, which actually says nothing about rewarding unruly children with i-Pads, game boys or other technological toys. How about “God won’t give us more than we can bear?” I am sure that some of you have heard or said that one before. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says that God won’t let us be tempted beyond our ability and that God will provide us a way of escape. Jesus actually said that we would each get a cross which is more than any of us can bear on our own (Matthew 16:23).
To really know what God is saying to us today, we have to go to the source. Isaiah 40:31 says, “Those who wait upon 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.” Did you know that quarterback Tom Tebow had some of that one etched on his eyelid when he was winning championships with the University of Florida? For Tom, the reference to not getting weary and running without fainting had more to do with getting into the end zone than the prophet’s original intent.
The exiles as strangers in a strange land, under the yoke of slavery, were looking for any kind of hope they could muster. The people of Judah were exhausted and God’s words spoken through Isaiah were uplifting–and quotable. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. God does not faint or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.” God is vigilant, always working to save his people.
God spoke through the prophet to say that even if the future looked like a meaningless ordeal of suffering only alleviated by a meaningless death, God hadnot given up on them. In our era we are good at outsourcing our wisdom and knowledge to whatever pops up on our social media screens. In spite of frequent warnings, many people still believe that if it’s on the Internet, it must be true!
Isaiah called God’s people to listen to God who ordered all of creation. We do not find the best wisdom in brainy quotes or pithy sayings, but rather in waiting on and trusting the God who made us and cares for us. Our strength, inspiration and renewal are assured if we will patiently wait on God. We need to remember that God has not abandoned us. God never gives up on us.
Years ago I was asked to officiate at the funeral of a man who had left the Amish order in Millersburg, Ohio. He had gotten divorced from his Amish wife and remarried an “English” woman (what someone outside the Amish order is called). Bert had not been allowed to go to high school or college to pursue his interest in engineering. He made sure that he put his three kids through college and his second wife helped him with that undertaking. Bert had hemophilia and took Factor VIII, the treatment for his disease. He had lived a long life on the medication and we had had a number of conversations about how blessed he felt he was. I had shared with him that the doctor who developed the medication for hemophilia was one of my instructors at the University of Michigan. What a small world! Bert was a very gentle, loving man. When I would visit him the birds would eat out of his hand and the squirrels would come right up to him for their treats. He never gave up on God and drew strength from God’s word. Someone came to pick me up to take me to the funeral home. When I arrived I saw fifteen vans in the parking lot. My cell phone rang and the funeral director asked me if I was ready to do the service. When I walked in, there were rows and rows of people dressed in traditional Amish wear. The family was supposed to “shun” Bert and his wife according to the Amish custom, but their chairs were all around Bert. They recognized him as a gentle soul and they loved him, even though he had left the order. One of Bert’s sisters had come from Florida and she came up to me afterwards (traditionally not supposed to talk to me) and thanked me for my words and God’s words. She said, “You obviously loved our brother and reminded us of all God’s promises. You can never go wrong with God’s words.” Now there is a quotable quote! God’s words stand forever.
It is fun to quote things we hear around us, but whatever you do, make sure you check out the source. With God, you can never go wrong!