Isaiah 40:31 NLTA
But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
This verse never fails to encourage me. But re-reading the whole of Isaiah 40 helps me see just how truly amazing the promise is:
V1-2 God has a timing and purpose for all things, and has compassion on those in pain
V3-8 In all that happens, God’s glory will be revealed. While our lives are brief, God’s Word and His purposes are reliable and eternal.
V9-11 The Lord will come in might and awe, but with a shepherd heart, holding us tenderly, in His deep love and kindness.
V12-26 His wisdom, power and might are infinite. There is nothing, no-one, equal to Him.
V27-31 Finally we face the questions: don’t you know this? Don’t you understand who it is who hears and knows you? This is the God we MUST trust, and as we do so, He will do the work of renewing and giving strength and refreshment – even to those who seem young and energetic.
Lord, help me each day to take hold of your promises in fresh ways, so that I can renew my trust in you with ever- deepening understanding.
“Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command— be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
We all face different challenges this week, including the impending changes to lockdown. You may be feeling delight, relief, anxiety, nervousness, fear – possibly a mix of all of those!
Some of us may even be feeling as overwhelmed as Joshua could have been, as he inherited leadership from Moses and prepared to lead the Israelites into Canaan. But God’s words to him ring true for us today, whatever our challenges – “Be strong and very courageous” – if we follow the instructions and trust in the promises that God made to Joshua.
As we look to this new week, let’s ask God to help us
- rely completely on His promise that He will always be with us and will never abandon us (v5),
- seek His instruction in all things and live faithful to His guidance (v7), and
- meditate continually on His Word, so that biblical truth and promises guide form the foundation of our lives (v8).
“Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Matthew 11:28-30 NLTA
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
These are really familiar words but recently I wondered why I don’t always feel the rest that Jesus promised. Instead, as I come to Him, my mind is filled even more with the concerns of the week, the times I’ve failed, the full to-do list in front of me…
The problem is, my idea of “coming to Jesus” is just doing a mental dump of all my burdens. But Jesus says first, “Take my yoke.” The yoke is used to help two animals to walk in step as they plough together, instead of pulling ahead or in different directions. More than that, a weaker animal gets help from the one which is stronger and able to take the load, no matter what it weighs.
He also says, “let Me teach you, for I am humble and gentle.” This doesn’t mean that Jesus is weak or soft, but that He is able to guide and direct me in ways that are shaped with love and patience, rather than my desperate attempts to cope with everything with my own efforts and solutions.
As we come to Jesus with our tiredness and burdens through this week, let’s remember to ask Him to teach us the pace, direction and distance to go. And then, let’s walk in step with Him. In His strength, He takes our burdens on His shoulders so we can keep going. We can trust Him to tell us when to try another route, slow down or put down loads which are not ours to carry. It is when we walk side by side with Him that we will find lightness and rest for our souls.
God presides over heaven’s court; he pronounces judgement on the heavenly beings: “How long will you hand down unjust decisions by favouring the wicked? Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people…”
It has been hard to know how to pray as the protests continue following the murder of George Floyd in the US, but we cannot do nothing. We cry out to God for justice and mercy, knowing that the issues and problems of racial injustice go deeper and further back in history than we admit. And we stand alongside our sisters and brothers at Northway Church and elsewhere for whom the pain is very personal and real.
I found these words on lament very helpful, and hope they will help you reflect and pray:
“The prayer of lament is a place to begin as we seek to respond to the sin, the brokenness, and the complexity of our life together as human beings. It is tempting to rush to problem-solving and fixing when the situation is so dire, but I hope we won’t.
Let us stop, at least for a moment, and lament together.
Let us stand in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters who continue to experience such tragic loss.
Let us mourn with them the loss of another black man – son, brother, father, friend – and affirm that black lives matter.
Let us grieve for those in the US who lost their lives, and those who have been injured here in the UK, while trying to keep the peace.
Let us acknowledge complexity, that we don’t have answers, and cry out to God together for the peace and justice that still seems so far away from us.”
Isaiah 30:15,18-21 NLTAThis is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.So the LORD must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the LORD is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help. He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries. Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left.
According to the media, during lockdown one in four people in Britain has tuned in to an online church service, and one in 20 has tried to pray. As we long for people around us to seek the Lord, that all comes as wonderful news. But Isaiah reminds us that merely watching an online service or Googling the word “prayer” is not enough, because people are fickle and will turn anywhere if they are desperate for help. God wants us to come to Him in absolute trust. He graciously waits for people to turn and put their confidence in Him, and then He is quick to draw us close in love and compassion.
Heavenly Father, at the start of this new week, I am determined to return to You and rest in You alone, for You only are my salvation and my strength. I choose to turn to You first no matter what happens, to not get pulled away when things get frantic and stressed. As life slowly begins to return to ‘normal’, I want to hold on to the quietness and confidence of spirit that Your Holy Spirit gives, and obey Your voice of guidance every step of the way.And we pray for all those who don’t know You yet, but tried to find help from You during lockdown. In Your mercy, please continue to work in their hearts through Your Holy Spirit and draw them to You.