But those who wait on 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. (Isaiah 40:31)
This is a ‘keeper’ verse for every believer, one which upholds us, encourages us and challenges us, even in the most difficult hours. It speaks of better things and turns our eyes upward beyond our circumstances. It provides hope and inspiration. Most of all, it speaks to that ‘something’ within us in a way that we cannot ignore.
Such is the power inherent in the Word of God, that it can reach beyond the mundane and the difficult and touch us in our spirits. It is indeed a ‘living Word,’ because it speaks directly to the spirit rather than the mind, and meets the inner cry of our hearts even though we may not always be sure of what that is. Some verses seem to have a ‘universal truth,’ a compelling attraction that we often interpret in ways that are convenient, in surface understanding, but we limit our grasp of its eternal relevance when we focus only on our expectations.
The simple mention of the word ‘eagle’ conjures an image of magnificent flight, of power and stamina and endurance, of astonishing strength. But it implies far more. It speaks of being able to rise up above the storm, to shake off the shackles of the world and soar in absolute freedom, to glide and ride upon the thermals, to own the skies and inhabit a place of uninhibited, untrammelled exultation. Our fascination with flight began with man’s realisation of his limited state and has birthed legends, myths, fiction and scientific inventions that, today, seem able to take us beyond the skies to the universe itself.
But what is this fascination, this deep inner yearning for all that is encapsulated in the image of an eagle in glorious flight? I personally believe that it’s the cry of the spirit within us for unity with the creator. It is the spirit yearning for eternity, for that time when we shall cast off the physical limitations of the earthly body and rise above the bondages of the world to an eternal existence in the very presence of God. That is what our spirits – the real ‘life’ within us – were created for, and that is what our spirits hunger and thirst for.
The eagle is the promise, the type of things to come, but it also speaks to the here and now, to the hope and the certainty that we can reach a measure of that eternal grace even in a life still governed by physical restrictions. It reminds us that the same power that created the eagle lives within us, that even while we live in the world we are in fact citizens of an eternal Kingdom. It reminds us of the resurrection power that brought this universe into being and raised Christ from the dead, defeating the powers of darkness and providing a way to overcome all that comes against us.
Yet there is a condition – one which we often simply gloss over, but which is the very foundation of the promise. Those that wait. In all honesty, we often find that ‘wait’ very quickly becomes a ‘four-letter word.’ It is the very opposite of what the verse implies. It seems utterly self-contradictory – how can one possibly learn to fly by waiting? The conflict and frustration emerges from our incomplete understanding of this simple yet immensely powerful little word.
There is both a literal and a figurative definition of the Hebrew word “qavah” which is translated as “wait” in this verse. The figurative meaning is the one most often understood – “to wait, to hope, to expect,” all of which convey anticipation. While this is not incorrect, and does engender encouragement and faith, the figurative meaning is only the outworking of the literal meaning. It is the literal meaning that empowers the figurative, not the other way around.
The literal meaning of ‘qavah’ is ‘to bind together like a cord.’ The word ‘cord’ refers particularly to rope, and the binding together refers to the process of making rope. This involves twisting or weaving – binding – numerous thing cords together to make a single strong rope. It is the technique of binding that creates the strength. On their own, single thin strands have no strength or value at all, but twisted and woven together, their strength is multiplied, not added. As the rope takes weight, so the the threads are pulled closer together, thus multiplying their strength through working together.
Doesn’t that paint a wonderful, exciting picture for ‘wait’ instead of the onerous image of sitting around trying to learn patience? The waiting is the time to forge the strength, to weave our spirits into the rope, to unite ourselves with God in a way that His strength and power and life supercedes ours. Rising up with God means first laying down. It is the waiting upon God – the time spent in fellowship, worship and prayer – that fulfills the promise. Through the waiting, He grows our faith, imparts His truth and makes the necessary changes through His Spirit working within us.
Our longing for the ‘more of God’ can only be fulfilled in the ‘wait on God.’ In our human frailty and weakness, and our tendency to keep one foot on the ground – in the world – we will never ‘learn to fly.’ It is only the absolute grace, truth, power and life of Him in us that will ever be our hope of glory. Like the young eagles high in the nest, we are totally dependent on Him. As we grow in Him, as He grows in us, as we rely on Him to feed us and shape us to His purpose, so the weaving together into an unbreakable cord will be manifest. It is the unity with Christ, the fellowship with God, the total dependence on the Holy Spirit, that fulfills this verse. Anything else is simply human expectation.
It is God alone that empowers us to rise up, to walk, to run, to cast off the shackles of the world and live above the limitations of the flesh. We are called to live and manifest the life of Christ, a life which is woven into us through waiting on Him.
Thank You, Lord, for Your precious promises, and for the power that You Yourself provide to bring them to pass. Help us to do our part, to willingly bind ourselves to You, to surrender to Your will and Your ways, to allow You to bind us to You with cords of righteousness, so that Your grace may work to strengthen us according to Your purpose.