Well, in 1987 the United States of America officially designated the bald eagle as our national symbol, and rightly so. The bald eagle is clearly one of the most majestic creatures in nature as you watch it just soar and fly. And there is nothing like the flight of an eagle. But did you know that eagles are not really bald? The bald description really points to the beautiful canopy of feathers that covers the eagle’s head, white feathers from the head down to the neck. And then the rest of the body has brown feathers. Thus, we call it the bald eagle. The bald eagle’s body is really not that big. It’s anywhere from 28 to maybe 40 inches tall. But it’s the wingspan that really gets our attention. Eagles have a wingspan that can reach anywhere from 6 to 8 feet. And it makes it a very unique creature in nature, but very unique among birds as well. When eagles take flight, it only takes a couple of flaps of the wings, and they’re off and flying. And they can glide long distances. And when the winds come beneath their wings, it lifts them to higher and higher places. “The wind beneath their wings,” that’s the phrase there. And it just lifts the eagle higher and higher and higher.
Bald eagles are strong. They’re smart. They’re fearless birds of prey. They’re also very loyal in relationships. They mate once, and they keep their one mate for their entire lifetime. For America, the bald eagle represents strength. It represents liberty. It represents independence. But you may be saying, “Pastor, what does this have to do with revival? What does a bald eagle have to do with revival?’
Well, we’re in this series of messages called revive our hearts. And we’ve been in Isaiah 40. And we’ve come to a section of scripture, Isaiah 40:27-31, that is one of the most beloved passages, not only in the book of Isaiah, certainly in Isaiah 40, but, for some people, in all the Bible. Because verse 31 says, “But those who hope in the Lord.” Another translation says, “Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.” I believe what Isaiah is saying to us in the flow of Isaiah 40 as he concludes this great chapter is that as God desires to revive us, as He wants to come to us, His goal in reviving us is so that we will fly like eagles, fulfilling every purpose for which He has created us.
Friend, do you want to fly like an eagle? Somebody once said there are two kinds of people in life, two choices. We can either fly like an eagle or gobble with the turkeys. I once heard a story about a farmer who was the largest prairie chicken farmer in the county. Farmer Brown had more prairie chickens than anybody else. And one day he was walking through his fields. And he looked down, and he noticed something nestled in the grass. He looked closer, and it was an egg. But it didn’t look like any of the other prairie chicken eggs in his chicken coop. He looked a little bit closer, and what he noticed was this was an eagle’s egg. And he didn’t know where it came from. He looked up. He looked around. He was scratching his head, wondering where this eagle’s egg came from. He didn’t know where it came from, but he knew what he needed to do. And that was to reach down and very gently pick it up. And he carried that eagle’s egg all the way back to his chicken coop, and he laid it in a prairie chicken’s nest.
Well, you can imagine what happened. Weeks later as those eggs were incubating and getting ready for hatching, they hatched. And out came all these prairie chickens. But over here an eaglet was hatched. And this little eaglet grew up with all these prairie chickens. And for all his life he thought of himself as a prairie chicken. Every once in a while, one of the prairie chickens would look at him and say, “You look different than the rest of us.” And that would make the eaglet feel bad and feel like an outsider. But he was a prairie chicken, at last in his mind. He always thought of himself as a prairie chicken.
One day he walked outside, and he looked up. And he saw this beautiful bird soaring higher and higher and higher. And it had giant wings. And he turned to his prairie chicken friend, and he says, “Who is that?” And the prairie chicken looked at him and said, “Well, that’s eagle.” And he says, “Oh, I’d love to fly like the eagle. He just soars so beautifully and so majestically.” And the prairie chicken friend looked at him and says, “Yeah, I bet you would. But don’t get any ideas. You’re just a prairie chicken like us.”
That sound familiar? Have you got an eagle inside of you that wants to soar on eagle’s wings and soar higher and higher and higher, but all your life you’ve thought of yourself as nothing more than a prairie chicken? Or you’ve been surrounded with people who are telling you, “You’re nothing more than a prairie chicken.” Two kinds of people in life. You can either soar with the eagles or you can gobble with the turkeys. You can either soar with the eagles or trot with the turkeys. And I think that’s a choice that Isaiah 40, especially these latter verses, are giving to us. Again, God’s goal in reviving us is that we might fly like an eagle, fulfilling every purpose for which He has created us.
Now, as I look at these verses beginning in verse 27, I’m hearing some gobbling. And I’m seeing some turkey trotting coming from the Israelites. In fact, I jotted down some of the ways turkeys trot. We’ll get to the eagles who soar, but right now let’s talk about some of the ways turkeys trot.
Three ways. Number one, turkeys are full of self-pity. You see it in verse 27 where the Lord says through His prophet Isaiah, He asks these questions. “Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my cause is disregarded from my God’?” Yeah, Israel, why are you gobbling like a turkey? Turkeys, they murmur. They complain. They grumble. They go “gobble, gobble, gobble,” right? And this is what the Lord was hearing from the Israelites. Their complaint. They were saying, “God has forgotten us. He has abandoned us.”
Now, in all fairness, the Israelites had been going through a pretty hard time. They had been under the oppression of the Assyrians for quite some time. And in the future from the day of Isaiah, they were going to be under Babylonian captivity. And that captivity was going to last for 70 years. No wonder they started growing weary and tired, started sounding like gobbling turkeys. But that was no excuse to gobble like the turkeys. “Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say that my way is hidden from the Lord, and my cause is disregarded by him?” The Lord challenges that as they engage in self-pity.
Secondly, turkeys are ignorant of the Lord’s ways. In verse 28, here comes some provocative questions. “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” “Do you not know? Have you not heard?” In other words, Israelites, have you been living your life and operating on wrong assumptions about God? Turkeys are that way. That’s how they get to complain and murmur the way they are, because they have bad information or wrong assumptions about who God is and how He operates in this world.
Isaiah challenges their assumptions with these questions, “Do you not know? Have you not heard?” And then he summarizes this beautiful and majestic description of their God who is coming that we looked at last time from verses 9-26. I won’t review all of that, but Isaiah summarizes by saying, “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.” He goes on to say, “He doesn’t grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” In other words, God has an endless supply of strength for those who have grown weary and tired of this life, which brings me to the third thing I would say about the way turkeys trot.
Turkeys grow weary and make others around them grow weary. You know, it might have been easy for the Israelites to think, “God has grown tired of us. He’s grown weary of us, and that’s why He has forgotten us.” But, no, God has an endless supply of strength for the weary, and, no, He has not grown tired of you. You know, if you surround yourself with turkeys, you’ll begin to think like a turkey. You’ll begin to gobble like a turkey. You’ll begin to complain and murmur. You’ll begin to base your understanding of who God is and even interpret your difficult circumstances that you’re living in based upon wrong assumptions about God. No, God wants us to soar like eagles, not trot like the turkeys.
Now, having said all of that, I don’t want to be too hard on those who have grown weary. Because I know weariness and burnout and just fatigue is very real in our culture today. I had a conversation with a lady this week who reached out to me and asked me to call her. She was having a difficult time. And I picked up the phone and I called her. And she says, “Pastor, I’m 77 years old, and I have terminal cancer.” And she went on to say, “I’m just weary. I’m just tired. I’m worn out. I’m weary of cancer. I’m weary of chemotherapy. I’m weary of the doctors saying, ‘Let’s try this protocol and now this protocol.’ I’m just weary, weary, weary.” And I can completely understand that. I’ve had family members and friends who have gone through illnesses that are just fatiguing. And they can make us weary. But I had the privilege and the opportunity to encourage her. You know, sometimes it takes me awhile to kind of figure out what God is doing. But in the middle of the conversation I said to her, “You know, I think the Lord brought us together today, because I’ve been in this passage of scripture all week long, Isaiah 40:27-31. And it mentions people who have grown weary of their circumstances. And it says this, ‘Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.’” Then we prayed together, and I think she was encouraged by that.
When I think of weariness in our culture today, I think of another word that describes the condition of many people. It’s the word “burnout.” Are you feeling burned out today? Are you so weary and so tired? Maybe you’re burned out of all the stay-at-home orders and the lockdown brought on by this coronavirus. I think we’re all weary of this. We’ve only been doing it for a couple of months, but we’re tired of it. We’re weary. We want things to get back to normal. And you can reach a point in life where you’re just so weary, so frayed around the edges, so burned out that you start gobbling like the turkeys rather than soaring like the eagle God wants you to be.
I think of the prophet Elijah in the Old Testament. You know, Elijah was an eagle. Elijah, boy, his ministry soared to heights that few others did. 1 Kings 18 and 19 records the time when Elijah the prophet all by himself, of course with the Lord’s help, took on the 400 prophets of Baal, that great showdown on Mount Carmel. And he won the victory. Everybody knew that Elijah’s God, the God of Israel, was the one true God. But following that great scene, Elijah went from the pinnacle of success and victory and slumped into the slew of despond and depression and burnout. Fear gripped his heart. He feared that Queen Jezebel was coming after him. And so Elijah took off running and running and running. And he ran until he wore himself out. And he crawled into a cave. And the angel of the Lord met him there and said, “Elijah, what are you doing, man?” And Elijah says, “Lord, I’m the only one left who is fighting for You.” And the Lord said, “No, that’s not true, Elijah. Your perspective is all out of whack. You’re so tired. There are thousands of people what are part of the remnant here. Why don’t you just go to bed?” And He put the prophet to bed, got him some rest, woke him up, fed him some angel food cake, put him back to bed again. Elijah was so burned out, he was so weary, he was so tired. But the Lord restored him. He brought him from a state of weariness to state of wellness. I think there’s a lesson in that somewhere here in Isaiah, too, that revival is that time when the Lord revives our heart in such a way that He brings us from weariness to wellness again. And maybe that’s something the Lord is doing with you today.
I also think of Jesus, who understood the weariness of the human soul brought on, oh, not by circumstances, but brought on by our sin. Sin is wearying. There is a burden to carrying sin that is not lifted by the grace and the forgiveness of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said in Matthew 11—listen to this—“Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Friehnd, are you carrying around a sin burden that has brought upon you a weariness and a tiredness and a fatigbue. Jesus Christ died upon the cross to forgive us of our sins and to restore us, to bring us from spiritual weariness to spiritual wellness.
I think of the old hymn titled “Are You Weary?” It goes like this. “Are you weary? Are you heavyhearted? Tell it to Jesus; tell it to Jesus. Are you grieving over joys departed? Tell it to Jesus alone. Do the tears flow down your cheeks unbidden? Tell it to Jesus; tell it to Jesus. Have you sins that to men’s eyes are hidden? Tell it to Jesus alone. Do you fear the gathering clouds of sorrow? Tell it to Jesus; tell it to Jesus. Are you anxious what shall be tomorrow? Tell it to Jesus alone.” One more. “Are you troubled at the thought of dying? Tell it to Jesus; tell it to Jesus. For Christ’s coming kingdom are you sighing? Tell it to Jesus alone.” God wants us to soar with the eagles, not gobble with the turkeys. To abandon self-pity, to not life in ignorance of who He is, and to not let our weariness spill into the lives of other people’s weariness. He has an endless supply of strength for whatever wearies your body, your soul, your spirit. The question is then, how do we fly like eagles?
Well, again, God doesn’t want us to gobble with the turkeys. He wants us to soar with the eagles. And this is why He says to us in verse 31, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” You know, eagles, again, they fly so effortlessly. And this picture is one that describes the person who puts his hope in God.
One author explains it this way. “Ancient Hebrew culture revered eagles as mighty warriors that also cared fiercely for their young. Eagles carry their eaglets to safety away from the threat of predators. Eagles are also known for their strength and courage in dangerous, turbulent weather, soaring above storm clouds and to safety.” And then this author goes on to say, “‘Eagle’s wings’ was a figure of speech commonly used to attribute these fine characteristics to a person.” Yeah, God wants us to soar like the eagles.
Now, Isaiah 40 is not the only place in the Bible where that imagery of wind beneath an eagle’s wings is used or mentioned. While remembering how He delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage, the Lord makes reference to eagle’s wings. He says through Moses, “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself. Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine.” Even as the Lord was bringing the Hebrew people out of Egyptian bondage, He says, “I bore you up on eagle’s wings.” God’s intention was for His people to soar like eagles, not to scratch and claw and gobble around like prairie chickens.
You say, “Well, how? Pastor, how do we soar (0:19:00.0) like eagles?” Well, let’s go back to verse 31, and I think the key word is “hope.” “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” Those who hope in the Lord will soar on wings like eagles. Another translation says those who “wait upon the Lord.” Let’s bring those two words and those two ideas together. Waiting on the Lord is what we do when our hope is deferred. Let me say that again. Waiting on the Lord is what we do when our hope is deferred. What are you hoping in? And when I say “hope,” I’m not talking about wishful thinking. That’s the world’s definition of hope. I hope it’s a nice day tomorrow. I hope my cancer goes away. I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow. That’s maybe wishful thinking. Biblical hope is the confident expectation that God will do exactly what He says He will do.
Through another prophet, (0:20:00.1) the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord said to the Israelites when they were in captivity, “I know the plans I have for you; plans for good and not for evil, to give you a hope and a future.” But they were weary. They were tired, waiting for that hope to materialize. Waiting is what we do when our hope is deferred, and we wait in faith. We wait patiently. We wait proactively. But we wait upon the Lord. Waiting is hard, isn't it? It’s difficult. We don’t like to wait in line any more than we like to wait at the doctor’s office. But waiting upon the Lord, waiting for His timing, waiting for His plans and purposes to come to fruition, waiting for Him to fulfill a promise, this is what we do in faith.
Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage. Wait for the Lord.” Psalm 37:7 says, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Fret not yourselves over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices.” And then Galatians 5:5, listen to this, “For through the Spirit by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.” This is what we do as followers of Jesus Christ. We find ourselves more often in God’s waiting room clinging to hope, clinging to the confident expectation that God will show up. He’ll fulfill all the promises that He has made in Christ Jesus. And we wait. We wait, we wait, and we wait, and we put our hope in the Lord.
And the promise is those who hope in the Lord, those who wait upon Him will renew their strength. Think about that. There is an endurance that comes in the waiting. As we wait in faith, and we wait patiently, and we wait proactively, the Lord is building an endurance in us for the long haul of life and ministry. “They will soar on wings like eagles.” It doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen when we’re waiting, and things are not happening. And we’re weary, but we’re waiting. That’s how the Lord brings His winds beneath our wings, and we soar higher and higher and higher in faith.
Isaiah goes on to say, “They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” It suggests to me that sometimes the pace of life is different. Sometimes you’re running and you’re running and you’re running and you’re running. “Run, Forrest, Run. Run, Forrest, Run”. And the pace of life is so fast, is it not? And you grow weary and tired. But when we wait upon the Lord, when we’re putting our hope upon Him, we will run when the pace of life requires us to run, and we won’t grow weary. We won’t grow tired. We’re strengthened. We’re given endurance for this race that we’re running.
But he also says that we’ll walk and not faint. Sometimes the pace of life is a little bit slower. I remember when I was in my early 20s wondering, will God every bring me a wife, a life mate? I waited for almost 10 years. I got married when I was 31, not because I loved the single life but because that was God’s timing. And he taught me to wait upon Him, to trust Him, to put my hope in Him. And there were times that it just seemed like it was a slow, sludge of a walk. I learned to walk with God during that time and not be faint, not lose heart, not grow so weary that I wanted to give up.
This is a message to Israel almost 2500 years ago through the prophet Isaiah. They were in difficult times under the Assyrian oppression, later the Babylonian captivity. They had every kind of circumstance upon them that would cause them to grow weary and tired and faint and to want to say, “I’m done with this.” But I love how Isaiah comes…how the Lord comes through Isaiah and says again, “Those who hope in the Lord, those who wait upon him, they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” And my prayer, friend, is that that describes you even as the Lord is reviving us.
You know, sometimes we’re so weary that revival means, “Lord, take me from weariness to wellness.” That’s my prayer for you. It’s my prayer for me as well, that God makes us spiritually and physically and emotionally well for the journey that is before us so that we can go one more lap of faith. Whether we’re running and the pace of life requires something faster, or we’re walking and the pace of life is slower, one more lap of faith. Don’t grow weary. Don’t grow tired. Hope in the Lord. Wait upon Him, and He’ll renew your strength.
Well, this is week five of a five-week series, and we’ve covered a lot of ground here in Isaiah 40. I just want to review it really quickly, because the larger picture here if you just listened in this week is that we’re asking the Lord to revive us. And we’re getting ready for revival. And let me just give you kind of a summary, a quick summary as we finish up, of Isaiah 40:1-31. How do we get ready for revival?
We began by saying you’ve got to trust the Lord’s good intentions. Verses 1-2 of this great chapter begin with those words, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” The Israelites were tired. They were weary. They had every reason to complain and believe that the Lord had abandoned them. And this is why the Lord comes to them with words of comfort and consolation. He comes to them tenderly. Trust the Lord’s good intentions. You may be going through a hard time or have been going through a hard time, and the Lord is saying, “Come back. Come back to Me.” Trust His good intentions.
Secondly, take personal responsibility for your revival. Verses 3-5 talks about lifting up the low places and bringing low the high places, straightening out the crooked places and smoothing over the rough places. We talked about the responsibility we have to confess and repent, to engage in restitution when necessary, and to position ourselves for the ongoing and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We’ve got to get ready for this God who is coming. This is the way we build a highway for our God, remember, by lifting up those low places, bringing low the high places, straightening out the crooked places, and smoothing over the rough places. Take personal responsibility for revival.
Number three, build your life on the enduring Word of God. I love verses 6-8 that remind us “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” We talked about how you can build your life on withering grass or fading flowers, or you can build it on the enduring Word of God. And at some point in revival, we not only get right with the God of the Word, but we get right with the Word of God and position ourselves anew to receive it as the Word of God.
Number four, embrace the greatness of God, that longer stretch of verses that we looked at, verses 9-26, where our God is coming. And He’s coming in strength. He’s coming in tenderness. He’s coming in wisdom, in sovereignty, all the ways that we described there. The way that even Isaiah summarizes, “The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth.” He is a great and an awesome God, this God who is coming. Embrace Him for how He has revealed Himself in scripture, not for how you imagine Him to be in your own mind.
And then finally, put your hope in God and fly like an eagle. That’s God’s great intention in reviving us, so that we go from weariness to wellness and soar on the wings of eagles rather than gobbling with the turkeys and clucking around and scratching around in the dirt like prairie chickens. Friend, I pray that God has revived your heart. That He is reviving your heart. Remember, revival starts with me. It starts with you. And as we all take personal responsibility for this and take the word that we have heard in Isaiah 40 and live it out and apply it to our lives, imagine what He’s going to do in our church and across our country and really around the world.