21Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; 23who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. 24Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. 25To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. 26Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.
27Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? 28Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 30Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; 31but those who wait for 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.
On Eagle’s Wings Is 40:21-31, Epiphany 5, Feb 4, 2018
We had gone on a weekend trip to Kyle, Saskatchewan to visit my sister and her family and celebrate Thanksgiving together, when we received a call from home that almost left me speechless. There had been a problem with a batch of feed that bridged in the hopper bin, and when cows came to their feeding stations, no feed was dispersed. This went on for a couple of days, until the bridge finally let go, and the dairy ration began to be delivered to the cows once again. There was another problem however, and that was that the computer stops were not programmed properly to safeguard against such an event, and all three days of backlogged feed came at once. Five of our top milking cows died of grain overload, and another five had to be shipped for slaughter. I remember feeling very conflicted after that call, part of me wanted to get home as quickly as possible and clean up this mess…and part of me wanted to drive in the opposite direction, and not look back.
I expect most of you can think a time or situation where you weren’t sure if you wanted to (or could) face it. A house fire is probably one such time. We experienced this when the group home where Mike was living caught fire back in April of 2007. Some of his personal items had completely melted. Others were charred beyond repair. Auto accidents are another such time, where one doesn’t know exactly what one will find as they approached the overturned or smashed vehicle. Such was the lot of the returnees of the Babylonian captivity when they were released under the rule of King Cyrus. Although both the exile and return happened over a period of several years, 50-60 (plus) years had elapsed since the exiles had last seen their homes, farms, cities, and Temple. One can well imagine what it would be like to come back to a house 60 after it was last inhabited, or worse yet, come back to a house now inhabited by someone else. Cities were laid to waste, fields would be overgrown, and the Temple and Temple walls were in ruins. I expect there were many mixed emotions going through the minds of these pilgrims as they marched toward their homeland.
Into these troubled times come the prophetic voice of Isaiah, “Have you not known, have you not heard…” The short answer may well have been no…we have not. Although the Jewish faith survived the exile, it was quite plausible that many of the stories of God’s deliverance had not. Where was God when the Babylonians ransacked their homes and cities? Where was God during their decades of exile? Why had He allowed such carnage and destruction (actually, we know the theological answer to this, but often theological answers are not sufficient in the face of suffering and tragedy). What were they to have known? What were they to have heard? For starters, the prophet would remind them that there is indeed a God in the universe, and that God created that universe and all that exists. That Creator God is also singular (and yet revealed in Three Persons), and thus has neither rivals, or points for comparison. Besides the LORD, there is no other. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is the God who is…and according to the prophet, the only God who is.
When a similar revelation came to the suffering Job, the revelation was firm (verging on terrifying). The diatribe from the Eternal God left Job speechless and humbled. Although God was pleased with Job’s steadfastness, the LORD was not beholding to Job, and didn’t need to justify himself or apologize for His behavior. God is, was, and forever will be God…and Job was not. It was as simple as that. With the returning pilgrims however, God’s tone is different. Rather than coming in smoke, fire, and the shaking of the earth, He comes rather with a word of affirmation and encouragement. The God of Israel does not grow faint or weary, and not only cares for these returning pilgrims, but is able to carry them along on their journey as they wait on Him. Their waning strength will be infused with the power of their Creator, and not only will they be able to walk the many miles back to their homeland, they will run, and be even be carried as on the wings as of eagles (figuratively speaking). As in the epic JR Tolkien epic stories and movies, the eagles do appear when needed most, and can carry those who have lost both strength and hope to safety.
This text carries a very personal meaning for me, as it would have for those returning pilgrims. It was a cold and dark winter’s night in January of 1984. My mother was in the Viking hospital, dying of cancer. It was around 11:30 at night, and she asked if I could sing for her. That’s no small request for a son watching his mother die. I had no hymn book at my disposal, so I sang the first song that came to my imagination, a chorus I had learned when I was at Bible school. I’m not sure at that time if I even knew where the words were found in the Bible, but I had memorized them in song, and began to sing- “they that wait on the LORD, shall renew their strength, they shall mount up on wings, as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint, teach me LORD, teach me LORD to wait”. These would be the last words she would hear in her earthly pilgrimage, as she closed her eyes shortly after that and passed from this life to the next. The “Eagle” had come for her.
I meet many weary pilgrims almost on a weekly basis here in Viking. I am one of those weary pilgrims myself. May we all receive these words of the prophet, these words of our LORD as we march our way by faith though these uncharted lands of today and tomorrow. There is a God in universe. A God who is active in the lives of pilgrims then and now. A God who can raise us up on Eagle’s Wings. Amen