Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
Isaiah 40:21-31

Mary Poppins said, “Promises easily made are easily broken.” Our culture seems to reflect that sentiment. Corporations promise integrity to stockholders only later to be caught embezzling. Spouses promise “til death do us part,” but rush to a divorce lawyer at the first hint of real trouble. Pastors promise moral fidelity and later fall victim to the most grievous acts of unfaithfulness. It can lead one to wonder if anyone keeps promises anymore.

Our passage today finds the Israelites in a time of great peril. This was Israel, the one to whom God had promised His eternal love, yet they faced destruction. Many wondered if God had forgotten His promise. Perhaps your eagerness to trust has caused you to be burned one time too many. Maybe you, like Israel, wonder if God will keep His promises. Our passage not only confirms God does keep His promises, but also shows the three different methods He uses.

1. The dramatic intervention of God (vv. 26, 28).
This is when God suspends the laws of nature and intervenes in human affairs. It is when His miraculous power is evident for all to see. These verses point to God’s role as Creator. Surely if He can create, He also can intervene supernaturally.

When Moses had secured the release of the Israelites, everyone was excited until they looked back and saw the dust rising from Pharaoh’s chariots (Exodus 14). The Israelites, as they were prone to do, immediately complained against Moses. He told them to step back and behold the deliverance of God. This is when God split the Red Sea and they walked across on dry land. God kept His promise by dramatically intervening.

2. The direct interaction with God (v. 29a).
This is when God supercharges His children to do great things. God “gives power to the weak.” Because we are weak and helpless without God, surely this refers to us. God works through us to bear fruit that testifies of His grace.

One day Moses was tending his father-in-law’s herds when he saw a bush burning but not being consumed, then He heard the direct voice of God (Exodus 3). God told Moses He had heard the cries of His children in Egypt and that it was time for them to be rescued. Perhaps Moses assumed God would do a dramatic intervention. Instead, He said, “I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring out My people.” Sometimes God keeps His promise by calling us as partners and enabling us to do great and mighty things.

Ignancy Jan Paderewski was a Polish pianist. He came to America for a concert tour. While backstage one evening waiting his time to perform, a 9-year-old boy slipped away from his mother’s side and went on stage. He sat down at the expensive piano and began playing chopsticks, prompting jeers from the crowd. Paderewski raced on stage and gently placed his arms on either side of the little boy and began playing a beautiful counter melody. He whispered, “Don’t stop, keep going.” The improvisation of the master made the work of the novice sound glorious. The same is true with our work for the Lord. He takes our meager abilities and works His touch around us to beautifully accomplish His will.

3. The amazing transformation by God (v. 29b).
This is when God changes His children, rather than the circumstances. To those “who have no might (utterly incapable), He gives strength.” God does not always dramatically intervene or directly interact; sometimes He chooses to work something beautiful through our hopeless situations.

Paul had a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12). We do not know what his torn was, but we know he prayed three intense seasons for deliverance. Instead of delivering Paul, God chose to lavish grace on him. In many ways, this is the greater testimony with the deeper work.

This entire passage can be summed up in verse 31. He promised that they who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. Some will “mount up with wings as eagles” (God’s dramatic intervention); some will “walk and not be weary” (God’s direct interaction); and some will “walk and not faint” (God’s amazing transformation). In all of these methods, it is God who gets the glory, and it is God who keeps His promises.

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