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The last year has been quite a tumultuous one for our world… there have been many moments during this time that I have felt down and discouraged with all the chaos… events over which I have no control yet which do have an impact on my daily life.
However, in these moments of distress I have found that turning to the Word of God stills my heart and gives me strength to face another day. So in this episode of Caleb’s Journal I just like to share with you some thoughts on a verse which has been particularly encouraging for me in this time.
As I was reading this verse in my Hebrew Bible I was struck by some of the words used and how this imparted a richer meaning to the passage and therefore also a greater encouragement.
Those Who Wait Upon the Lord
Let us begin by looking at the word ‘wait’. In English this word has the connotation of ‘not doing anything’… being in a state of ‘expectant inactivity’. Think of going to the dentist and having to pass the time sitting in a waiting room.
However, this is not the kind of waiting that is meant here. The Hebrew word translated ‘wait’ is קָוָה qavah, which associates the concept of ‘waiting’ with a twisting and binding action which produces strength for one to be able to expect, endure and await…
A Time of Binding
A good illustration of this concept is seen in the production of a rope. In fact, the Hebrew words ‘wait’ and ‘rope’ actually share the same root קָוָה qavah. It is the twisting action used in the making of a rope that gives the cord its strength.
So in this context ‘waiting’ upon the LORD is better seen as being in a state of ‘expectant activity’… a time in which we bind, twist and secure ourselves to the LORD. We do this through seeing Jesus as our Saviour and following Him by studying His Word and applying it in our lives. The result of this action is that our strength is renewed.
Shall Renew Their Strength
This ‘renewing of strength’ is an interesting phrase. Does it merely mean that the LORD will give us enough strength to get through our day… or is there more to it?
The word translated ‘renew’ in this verse is the Hebrew חָלַף chalaph meaning to cause to pass through, to change, to slip or glide – the primary idea being that of smoothness and slipperiness.
The question is, what does passing through or slipping and gliding have to do with renewing strength?
When I hear this Hebrew word I think of fish like trout and salmon, that have the ability to pass through water gracefully, swimming against the stream and even scaling waterfalls. It is still a bit of a mystery as to how they are able to achieve such an incredible feat and many hypotheses abound. One of these is the ability of the fish to find ‘openings’ within the turbulent waters called ‘vortex streets’ which allow them to, almost effortlessly, pass through fast flowing, turbulent water. Finding these openings and positioning themselves within that space, the fish is able to swim upstream against the current with lightning speed.
A Changed Garment and Renewed Strength
It doesn’t require any great effort on the part of the fish…the fish just needs to have the courage to enter the chaos, seek the opening and move into that space. It is then that the power present within the water will propel her forwards… and by opening up her gills, in a sense changing her outer garment, additional vortices are created which further aids her forward motion.
This is an illustration of the power inherent in water, the Spirit, the Word of God. It literally propels us into the next level. To me this illustration from nature shows us that as we bind ourselves to the Word of God we will be given the strength, by His Spirit, to find the opening and pass through the chaos we find ourselves in, slipping effortlessly into the next level… a level wherein we experience new strength and life.
This connection between renewed strength and a change of garments is also illustrated in the life of Joseph. He was sold into bondage by his brothers, eventually ending up in prison as a result of a gross injustice. One could say he had literally entered some turbulent waters.
Joseph first tried to gain freedom from this prison house by his own efforts… he thought he could scale the waterfall by relying on his own strength, but he did not get very far… actually his attempt resulted in him having to remain another 2 years in the prison.
Yet after this time had elapsed we read of a change in Joseph. He had sought and found the opening to freedom by completely relying on the LORD and His timing.
Did you notice our word חָלַף chalaph in this verse? It was used in relation to the changing of garments an action which, I believe illustrated the change of perspective Joseph now had.
Joseph had come to the realisation that it was not by his efforts, but rather by the power of God that the way was opened to freedom. Having found this opening, he was now able to slip off his prison garb and be clothed with the garments of righteousness. He was now ready to glide effortlessly into a whole new level of existence. Released from the prison house of flesh and now clothed with the garments of righteousness, Joseph was put into a position of authority directly under pharaoh and God used him mightily over the next fourteen years in order to save many people alive, including his own estranged family.
Herein we see that the ‘renewing of strength’ that we receive as we wait upon the LORD is not merely to get us through the day and it is not even only for our own benefit… but more so that we become that life, strength and comfort for our brethren.
Mount Up With Wings as Eagles
Returning now to Isaiah 40:31, we read that those who wait upon the LORD will also…
The word wing used in this verse is the Hebrew אֵבֶר eber which speaks in particular of the birds pinions with which it strives upward or soar.
The soaring of eagles is a beautiful thing to see… like the fish, it is not an arduous task for eagles to reach great heights. They use the upward thermal currents of the air and by spreading their wings let the wind carry them to new heights.
So how do we mount up with wings like eagles? How can waiting on the LORD lead us to these great heights?
In many ways I see the eagle as illustrating praise.
As we wait upon the LORD, binding ourselves to Him and His Word we come to see and experience His faithfulness, mercy, grace and strength… and then one can not help but Praise His Name. Our own ability seems to fade into insignificance before the magnificence of our LORD and as we spread out our arms to praise His Name our words will rise up with the wind of the Spirit into the highest heaven.
As we experience this true Praise and Worship of our LORD, we, like the Eagle will mount up to greater heights and freedom.
A great battle in the days of Jehoshaphat was fought and won by this very powerful weapon of praise. We read of it in 2 Chronicles 20. No sword or spear was used to overcome the enemy… only songs of praise.
This deliverance, as a result of true praise to our LORD, is still available to us today, and as I was pondering on this, a verse we are all familiar with from the book of Revelation was thrown into a totally different light.
May the message contained in Isaiah 40:31 encourage us as we navigate the often chaotic world we find ourselves in.
May we be inspired to wait upon the Lord by binding ourselves securely to His Word so that we can find the opening and slip into the next level with newness of strength which manifests itself as an upward motion of Praise to our God.
By embarking on this pathway to deliverance we will be able to run and not be weary, and to walk and not faint… We will move forwards boldly, forging a path upward for all our brethren to follow.