David A. Davis
February 7, 2021
“Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted.” Weary. Weary. The psalmist writes “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood by bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.” Weary. The biblical writer of II Samuel tells how when Israel was yet again at war with the Philistines, how David, even David, the mighty warrior, how David “grew weary.” Jeremiah the prophet, in one of his personal laments, tells of how he cannot stop proclaiming the Word of the Lord. “within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in.” Way back in Genesis, as Rebekah and Isaac were realizing that the challenge of parenting was just as hard once the twins grew up (Esau and Jacob), Rebekah was in angst that her favorite child would marry the wrong girl. She said to Isaac, “I am weary of my life because of all these Hittite women.” Weary. Even in the bible it can mean so many things.
When a very young child falls asleep right there in the high chair with a face full of spaghetti and a head nodding like one of those bobble heads, when sleep finally wins, that’s not weary. When the runner finishes the trek along the tow path on a Saturday morning after another seemingly fast week of long days working from home, and the knees hurt and the lungs are screaming and the endorphins are racing; that’s something but it’s not weary. After cranking to finish that final paper, more than burning the midnight oil, on a topic that really energized, as the words came with a flourish, the argument came together, and with a strike of the key the last assignment of the semester is turned in and a cry of “yes” can be heard. Thirteen straight hours of sleep is about to come, but that’s not about being weary.
No weary has a meaning all its own. Weary has its own set of connotations. I am pretty certain that every single one of us has experienced a level of weariness, a kind of weariness, perhaps a depth of weariness, a new form of weariness in the last year. A weariness that has nothing to do with being physically tired. A weariness that strikes deep. A weariness described by one of my colleagues as “soul sucking”. Weariness that is so pervasive, so present, so palpable that it is either unnecessary, redundant, or maybe even insulting for a preacher to stand before your and offer the litany of all the reasons why you and I have experienced a weariness redefined.
Years ago, a retired pastor in the presbytery where I started in ministry went into the hospital for some serious surgery. I served with him a on committee and months after his recovery at one of those meetings I made a general inquiry about his health and how he was feeling. He went on in that conversation to tell me how many of his friends came to see him when he was in the hospital; Presbyterians and other clergy he had befriended over the years. While he was grateful for the love and care they brought, everyone of them, he said, stayed to long, talked to much, and seemed oblivious to the reality that he felt absolutely miserable. “Being a patient is a lousy way for a minister to learn how NOT to do a hospital visit” he half-joked, “but at least I know now”. Experience and understanding. Experience and knowing things differently; knowing, seeing, hearing things differently.
“The Lord gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but 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.” They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint. Amid this ever-present, pervasiveness, does the promise of God sound any different to you?
One of the challenges of the poetry of Isaiah is that the reader’s eye can easily be drawn to the most familiar. The lasting image or phrase is what sticks in the listener’s ear. That certainly can be the case with the second half of the fortieth chapter of Isaiah: “they shall mount up with wings like eagles”. But to really ponder the promise of God here, “they shall run and not be weary”, you sort of have read backwards. Or, at the very least, go back to the beginning of the prophet’s argument, go back to where our reading began this morning. If you want to figure out what on earth it might mean to “wait for the Lord” in a season of life so full of weariness, you have to go back bit rather than lift a quote and “posturize” it.
“To whom will you liken God”, says the prophet. Do you think God is like an idol? Something an artist crafts or a goldsmith makes? Do you think God is wooden image that will not rot or topple? “Have you not known? Have you not heard?” You have pretty much been told since the beginning. God is the one who sits above the canvas of the earth. Those who inhabit God’s creation are all just like bugs, a speck compared to the one who stretches out the heavens like a curtain; like a a vast tent to dwell in. The rulers of the earth, the leaders and the nations, the powerful and mighty are nothing compared to the Lord. When God breathes, they just wither and blow away. “To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One.” Look up and see, the host of stars in the night sky. Who created these? God put them there. God numbers them. God calls them by name. And because of God’s great strength and vast power, not one is missing. So how can you say your way is hidden from the Lord, that God disregards your plight, your plea, your life? “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. The Lord does not faint or grow weary. The Lord gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless. Even youths shall faint and be weary and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait on the Lord”. Those who wait on the Lord.
According to Isaiah, to wait for the Lord is to look up in awe and remember the expansive power and might of the one who created you. To wait for the Lord is to find your tiny place in God’s vast universe of mystery and wonder and know that God put you here. God numbers you. God calls you by name. To wait for the Lord is to be brought to your knees by the knowledge deep within that the only thing greater than the vast reach of the One who stretches the heavens like the canvas of an artist is the vast wonder of God’s love…. for you. To wait for the Lord is to cling to the very beauty of God and the promise that the Lord does not faint or grow weary. Faint and powerless and weary may not begin to describe it, but God does not faint or grow weary in God’s care for you, God’s presence with you, God’s love for you. Being weary, really weary, may be a lousy way to come to know the promise of God in a new way, but by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can. We do. We will.
Experience and understanding, knowing, seeing, hearing the grace of God differently, anew, afresh. We sang “Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side” last week at a memorial service. Well, we didn’t sing. We listened as George sang. Maybe it didn’t sound different, it just struck deeper. The hymn just after I finish this morning? “God of our life, through all the circling years, we trust in thee.” See what you think, see if sounds, it feels, it strikes deeper. And the anthem: “And God will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of God’s hand.” Yeah, when weariness has been so redefined. It has to sound different.
“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.” The truth is God is the one who never grows weary. Maybe for the rest of us, the promise of no more weariness is for just the other side of glory, a promise for when the roll is called up yonder, a promise for that great getting up morning. But still, but yet, but now, we wait for the Lord. On this snowy Lord’s Day morning, gathered at the Table, we wait for the Lord. As the psalmist says, “Wait for the Lord, be strong, let your heart take courage. Yay, wait for the Lord.” Being weary, really weary, may be a lousy way to come to know the promise of God in a new way, but by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, you can, you do, you will. And there may be now better place to wait for the Lord, than here at this Table.
For Jesus invites you here. And it was Jesus who said:
“Come unto me all you are weary, and I will give you rest.”