Sunday Sermon: ‘Learning To Wait Upon God’

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Centuries before Jesus was born, there was a division in the nation of Israel that caused it to be divided into two kingdoms: the Northern Kingdom (Israel), and the Southern Kingdom (Judah).

Every king of the Northern Kingdom was wicked. The worst among the kings was a man named Ahab who was married to Jezebel. Though God repeatedly tried to warn the Northern Kingdom to repent of their sins and turn back to Him, they refused to listen. Finally the Lord sent a nation  known as Assyria to defeat and conquer them.

You would think that the fall of the Northern Kingdom would cause the Southern Kingdom to turn back to God, but it didn’t. Though the Southern Kingdom had some good kings along the way, they also had many bad kings who led them deeper and deeper to sin.

In an effort to turn the Southern Kingdom away from their evil, the Lord raised up a prophet named Isaiah. Some have called the book of Isaiah the fifth gospel. Why would a book from the Old Testament be referred to as a gospel?

For one thing, the name Isaiah means “salvation of the Lord” or “the Lord is salvation.” Throughout the book of Isaiah God offers salvation and forgiveness to His people. Isaiah begins his prophecy by saying – “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 )

Another reason it might be called a gospel is because there are more prophecies found in the book of Isaiah concerning Jesus Christ than any other book in the Old Testament. Here are but a few –

Isaiah 7:14 …Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

The book of Isaiah takes us from the birth of Christ all the way through His crucifixion and even beyond.

The Millennial Kingdom of Christ –  Isaiah 11:6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. ESV

Heaven and Eternity –  Isaiah 65:17 For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.

Of the many noted passages found in the book of Isaiah, perhaps one of the best is this –

Isaiah 40:31 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 faint.

To fully appreciate what Isaiah was saying, we need to consider it in its proper setting and context.

Isaiah chapter 40 is the turning point in the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah 39:5 Then said Isaiah to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: 6 Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD.

Isaiah 40:1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.

The first division ends with a pronouncement of God’s judgment. Israel has sinned and they’re going into captivity. But then with the beginning of the next chapter Isaiah says – “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” What changed and why?

There are three important phrases used in Isaiah chapter 40 and today we will build out study around them.

I.  Comfort Ye My People

Isaiah 40:1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.

Isaiah 40 begins with words of comfort for the people of Israel. ‘Comfort ye my people…” Or in other words – “Tell my people that I am a gracious God.”

A. Tell My People That I Am a Gracious God

Grace is God’s goodness and favor that we don’t deserve. As some have said, ‘Grace is God’s unmerited favor.’ We haven’t earned grace, nor can we keep it by our good works. As soon as we begin to think that God’s favor is something we deserve, it’s not longer His grace.

The Bible says that grace has come to us through Jesus Christ. John writes in his gospel – “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16 ESV) Through Jesus Christ, God lavishes His grace upon us.

God’s grace always has a purpose. The purpose of God’s grace is not to leave us in our sins, but to bring us back to God. Note what else the prophet said to the people.

Isaiah 40:2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins. 3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

B. Tell My People to Prepare Their Hearts to Receive My Grace

Many of you recognize that these verses are prophetic concerning a man known as John the Baptist. Scripture tells us that John was that voice crying in the wilderness, preparing the way for the coming of Jesus. We read from Matthew’s gospel –

Matthew 3:1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

John was sent to prepare the way for the coming of Christ. How did John prepare the way? What was his message? “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2)

God is gracious and He desires to pour out His grace upon all humanity. Yet, not all of humanity will receive God’s grace. Consider what Isaiah said –

Isaiah 55:1 Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price…

‘Ho’ means – “Listen up! Pay attention!”  The New Living Translation says – “Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink—even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk-it’s all free!” Why is it free? Because it’s grace!

As I read these words I can’t help but think of something our Lord said. “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” (John 3:37 ESV) If you are thirsty for God’s grace, He will pour it out upon you in bucketfuls! If you are truly thirsty, He will satisfy your soul.

Isaiah 55:6 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

God is willing to forgive you of all your sins – if you will come to Him.

The second key phrase in Isaiah 40 is found in vs. 9.

II. Behold Your God!

Isaiah 40:9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

A. The Discouragement of the Jews

Isaiah chapter 40 was not written to the Jews living ‘before’ their fall to the Babylonians, but to those living ‘during’ the fall and ‘afterwards.’ Why did they need to hear this message?

The fall of Jerusalem wasn’t something simple. It took several years for King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to capture the city. During the days of ancient warfare, an enemy king would first surround the city with his army, cutting the people off from the rest of the world. Then he would begin to build a mound of dirt against the wall so that eventually his army could march up the mound, over the wall, and into the city. Though it might take months and even years, eventually the enemy king would win. During the time that the mound was being built, the people within the city would begin to run out of food. Jerusalem had enough food to last them for a long time, yet the prophet Jeremiah teaches us that they eventually ran out of food and became so desperate that some parents ate their children. (see Jeremiah 19:9) Try to imagine how bad the conditions must have been for a parent to even consider eating their own child. Yet many did to survive.

It took over two years for Nebuchadnezzar to penetrate the walls of Jerusalem, but finally in 587 BC he broke through. He tore down the walls around the city, he plundered the Jewish Temple, and he carried the elite away into captivity. Among those carried away was a young man named Daniel, along with his three friends: Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah – otherwise known as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Psalm 137 tells us about the spirit of many of the Jews who were captured.

Psalm 137:1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. 2 There on the poplars we hung our harps, 3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? NIV

Sometimes we make bad choices in life and suffer some extreme consequences. At such times we’re tempted to give up and quit. Even though we might think that God can forgive us, we can’t forgive ourselves. If that’s you today, my message to you is – ‘Behold your God!’

B. The Encouragement of the Jews

Time will not allow me to go into all the detail that I should. Let me just quickly point out to you some of the amazing things about our God.

1. Behold your God is Strong

vs. 10 Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him…

2. Behold your God is a Shepherd

vs. 11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

3. Behold your God is Sovereign –

vs. 12 Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?

vs. 13 Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counseller hath taught him?

vs. 15 Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket… 17 All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.

vs. 18 To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?

4. Behold your God is Steadfast –

vs.26 Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.

Many of the Jews in Babylon begin to lose hope. Scripture teaches us that their captivity lasted for seventy years. Some Jews, such as Esther, were born in Babylon and never knew anything else. Even when they were allowed to return back to Jerusalem, they had a difficult time rebuilding the city. Therefore, they needed a word of encouragement and hope.

Here is a wonderful and important truth that we must not miss. God was preparing to extend to them His grace, even before they were ready to receive it. Did you know that the first prophecy concerning Jesus Christ is found in the book of Genesis? Immediately after Adam and Eve fell into sin, the Lord promised Eve (the woman) a male child who would one day crush the head of the serpent. But actually the grace of God goes back even farther than the fall in Eden. The Bible says that God chose us ‘in Christ’ before the foundation of the world. (see Ephesians 1:4) Even before God created the world, He prepared a plan of salvation. Sometimes people ask why God created man with the ability to sin. I believe Paul gives us our answer in Ephesians 1:6 “to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which he has made us accepted in the Beloved.” (NKJV) I believe that God created man with the ability to sin, so that He could show us His grace and be praised!

Now we come to our third and final phrase-

Isaiah 40:31 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 faint.

III. They That Wait Upon the Lord Shall Renew Their Strength

What does it mean to ‘wait upon God?’We might think that it means to sit back and do nothing. “Let go and let God” as people sometimes say. It is true, sometimes God wants us to be still and silent. “Be still, and know that I am God…” the psalmist tells us. (see Psalm 146:10) “…I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

Sometimes God wants us to be still and silent; yet other times He wants us to advance and move forward. “Why are the people crying to me?” God said to Moses at the Red Sea. “Tell the people to move forward.” (see Exodus 14:15)

Sometimes waiting upon God means to be still and silent. Sometimes it means to get up and get going. The Bible says – “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)
So what does it mean to wait upon God? I have studied this passage from every angle possible and here is some of what I have discovered –

To wait upon God means:

  • To have faith in God’s goodness & greatness
  • To depend upon Him to supply everything we need
  • To be patience and to faithfully endure our circumstances
  • To have confidence in God so that we find rest and have hope
  • To look to Him for the strength we need
  • And to long for His kingdom to come and His will to be done

In brief, to wait upon God means to set our focus upon God and to never take it off.

Isaiah 40:27 Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?

In other words – “God has forgotten about me.”

28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.

29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall (continuously) renew their (inner) strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Conclusion

God gave me this message this week for you. He wanted me to help you take your eyes off of your circumstances and to put them back on Him.

“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 faint.

THEY – THAT WAIT UPON THE LORD

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