How shall I live?/Isaiah 40:30-31
The fundamental question for men is “How shall I live?” It isn’t simply a matter of existence, but the essence of life. The Bible teaches us that life that is truly life is knowing God (John 17). It also teaches us that we can only truly know God through Christ. The words here are for those who know Christ or who would like to know him.
They point us both to our natural weakness and, conversely, the sufficiency of the Lord to supply his people with the strength they need to walk in faith, while they wait on his Day. Verse 30 reads, “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall utterly fall.”
“Youths” alludes to men in their prime, at the height of their strength and fitness. It is a deceitful state. Young men especially are full of hubris; foolishly overconfident. The Lord here warns us of our propensity to think we live, move, and have our being apart from him. Death abounds around us, yet we tend to believe all is well apart from the Lord.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses the law to teach us the necessity of salvation, and of dying to ourselves. He uses the law to teach our bondage (He says you are all guilty law breakers), and that freedom in him means not only freedom from guilt (by his death), but also freedom to die to our sinful nature.
So he teaches that in following him we are not free to indulge our sinful nature any more. Not free to indulge lustful or murderous hearts; not free to hate enemies; not free to do religious acts for our own vain purposes; not free to value riches above God, or to worry over more about our day to day existence over serving Christ. There is more, but His point is plain; come to me and follow me if you would live. The alternative is to utterly fall in due time. Two distinct paths are laid out.
There is the path of walking with Christ or walking away from him. Those in Christ have the privilege of calling upon God as Father. They have the privilege of building treasure in heaven that will last forever.
The path of the righteous (verse 31) entails patience and waiting on the future glory of Christ to be revealed, but also the promise of strength to meet out trials and temptations here and now, and to do righteous acts to honor the Lord who bought us. The waiting does not mean empty time or space.
We see three promises in verse 31. First, those who follow Christ will renew their strength. This implies that our strength wanes at times. How do we invigorate our spirit? In his last letter to Timothy, Paul reminds Timothy we were not given a spirit of fear but of power, love, and self-control. He then directs Timothy to review the great truths of God’s grace in Christ.
Tell your soul the story of Jesus. He came to destroy of the works of the devil. He was written about long ago, and accomplished all that was written about him. Your life and soul is hidden in him. What can man or devils do to you? This Paul says (while he is in prison awaiting his execution) is the source of the Christian’s strength; reviewing the truth of Christ.
There is also the promise of being enabled to “mount up with wings like eagles.” The reference to eagles is often used to represent strength, but the Lord also uses it to point us to both his power and love in delivering us (Exodus 19).
Those in Christ are to emulate his strength and love. They can exercise none without him. But in him, we can actually love God and love others. It is in love we truly soar like eagles. There is an absence of love apart from Christ, but in him love abounds.
The Christian may often lament his lack of love, or the feeling of it; but even the lament argues the Spirit of Christ is at work in him. In the work of love, little things mean a lot. The practice of a little self-denial for Christ leads to more. It is essential we have him in mind in the exercise of it.
The last promise, “they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint,” echoes the hope of Psalm 23, “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”