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Renewed in Strength

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Psalters Numbers: 252 (1-4), 204 (1-4), 277 (1-4), 225 (1-3)

Beloved in our Lord Jesus Christ, where is your strength?  We live in a world that prides itself in all its accomplishments.  We live in a world that prides itself in being able to do anything it sets its mind to do, a world that has put men on the moon, and even plans, apparently, to put a base up there on the moon.  We live in a world that has so much power stored up in it’s nuclear weapons, it could destroy itself a number of times over.  But where is your strength? Is it in the things of the world?  Of course the answer of the child of God is, the answer of the text.  It’s the answer that we confess too, when we say the words of the Apostle’s Creed, “I believe in God the Father, almighty.”  That’s where our trust is.  Our strength is in Jehovah, our faithful, covenant God. 

The Old Testament is full of examples of God’s people placing their trust in Jehovah and finding that He is a faithful God, finding that He does, indeed, give strength to those that wait upon Him.  We could think of Israel’s victory over the Egyptians, or the great victories that Israel experienced in their journeys through the wilderness and as they were about to take over the promised land.  Remember the Psalmists, how they recall the king of Bashan, and Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og the king of Bashan. 

And who can forget men such as Samson, who when they relied on the Lord, when they were faithful, God strengthened them to perform their duties.  Of course, Samson, when he stopped relying on the Lord, the Lord would no longer strengthen him to fight against the enemies.  When he gave up the secret of his strength, and Delilah cut his hair, then the Lord took his strength away.

Scripture is full of those kinds of examples.  But of course, when we think of those examples we ought to realize that when we see God giving strength to physical Israel, to fight the physical battles, those are pictures for us in our spiritual battles.  These physical victories that God gave Israel are typical of a much greater truth, and that’s the truth that is expressed in our text, that God is our spiritual strength.  Strengthened by His Holy Spirit, we are able to fight the daily battle of faith.  That’s the message of the text.  “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”  That is our confession.

Let’s consider that text then under this theme: RENEWED IN STRENGTH

In the first place we note The Meaning of that.  Secondly, The Promise, the promise that God will certainly fulfil.  And lastly, The Recipients of that Strength. Who are the ones who are renewed in strength?

 

I. The Meaning

The fact that the text brings up the idea of strength and that we are renewed in strength, implies that there is a weakness.  And the text explicitly talks about that weakness.  That’s a contrast that the text brings out.  The contrast is between human weakness and God’s strength.  In Isaiah 40:30, we read, “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall.” 

It’s significant that the text would choose the strongest among men to make the point.  It mentions youths.  Youths as mentioned in the text are adolescents.  They’re ones that are in the prime of their lives physically.  If we were to choose who should to go to compete in the Olympics, we would choose the ones with the strongest bodies, the fittest ones; we would choose youths.  And so too during the days of Israel, in the days when these words were written, the youths would be the ones who could run and run. 

Similarly, young men are those who are slightly older than the youths, but still they are symbols of strength and vigor.  The young man works and works and seemingly never tires.  These are the strongest men of that day. You put them on to hard physical labor and they would go on and on.

But then God says about these strongest among men, even they will grow weary and they will faint.  You see, their energy is not endless.  The youths may not see it that way.  But, set them running a marathon sometime and they will find out.  Work them hard enough and they will get tired to the point that to press on will only be with the greatest effort.  They will grow weary and they will faint.  And the young men, the text says, shall utterly fall. Literally, the young men stumbling, will stumble.  They will grow weary, as well.  They will falter in a bad way. 

The message is clear.  Man, at his strongest, is weak.  He is helpless.  We are inherently weak.  The text, of course, points to youths and to their physical strength.  And yet, even though they may be physically strong, they are yet weak, as compared to God.  We need to understand that this physical picture points to a spiritual picture, the spiritual picture of weariness and stumbling.

Scripture itself points to examples of stumbling spiritually.  In Malachi 2:8 we read, “But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law’ ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts.”  There’s a spiritual stumbling.  Or we could point to Jeremiah 18:15, which expresses a similar idea.  “Because my people hath forgotten me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up.”

We are prone, and this is the idea of the text, we are prone to stumble.  We are weak.  Though we are God’s people, nevertheless, in our spiritual lives as well as our physical lives, but especially here, in our spiritual lives we are weak.  We face the enemies of the world.  We face the enemy of the devil.  We face the enemy of our own sinful flesh.  And how many times do we fall before these enemies?  We stumble.  We don’t fall completely, because God’s hand is always there to catch His people.  We do not fall completely so as to perish in hell.  But we do stumble.  We are tempted to walk out of the way, the straight and narrow way of righteousness that God has set before us. 

Sometimes life seems so difficult for us as God’s people, that we are tempted to think that God is not with us.  That’s a real temptation for God’s people at various times in our lives.  And that was the temptation of Israel, even as Isaiah brought this word from the Lord to His people.  In verse 27, repeating the idea that Israel had, God says, “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord.”  The idea they had was, “God doesn’t see us.”  “God doesn’t see our plight.”  “God doesn’t see the needs that we have.” 

They said, “my judgment is passed over from God.”  The idea there is that God had given Israel certain privileges as His people.  As His people they had a right to those privileges.  But now they were saying, “My judgement is passed over from my God.”  God has forgotten about all those privileges He has given us.  Israel felt as if God was not with them.  We can feel that way at times, too.  When we struggle with sin, when we struggle with the difficult trials, we might feel that way.  We might be tempted to say, “My way is hid from the Lord.”  “He doesn’t see us.  He’s ignoring us.”  Israel felt powerless.  God’s people are the same today.  We stumble in the way.  We are weak.

 

II. The Promise

But then comes the wonderful message of our text.  The wonderful message that those who look to the Lord will have their strength renewed.  He is the One we should turn to.  When we see our weakness, when we are growing despondent, when we see how bad things are, the idea is not that we should keep looking at ourselves, and grope around in darkness, as it were.  But, we should look to the Lord for renewed strength.  Look to the everlasting God, the creator of the heavens and the earth. 

That’s what God tells His people after they said, “My way is hid from the Lord.”  God answers them with these questions: “Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?”  God is everlasting.  Have you forgotten.  That’s His response to His people.  Have you forgotten that God is everlasting?   His care over you has never changed.  The everlasting God has an everlasting love for his people. 

And, have you forgotten that He is the creator of the heavens and the earth?  Think about that once.  If God is the almighty Creator, if He is so strong to be able to create all things, then certainly He is strong enough to help us.  And if He has created the ends of the earth – that is, He has created one end of the earth, and the other end of the earth, and everything in between  – if He has created all things, then surely He can care for His people. 

He never faints.  He never grows weary.  God doesn’t get tired.  Sometimes, I think when children read the account of creation, that God worked six days and then the seventh day He rested, they think that somehow He might have gotten tired.  But God did not grow tired creating things, and He does not grow tired sustaining things. 

Look to Him for strength.  He gives power, the text says, to the faint.  And to them that have no might in ourselves, He increases their strength.  And that’s what the prophet declares in verse 31.  “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” 

We grow weary and tired in the battle against our enemies.  And the truth is we cannot win by ourselves.  We need strength.   We need our strength renewed.  That is to say, we need a new kind of strength; not the physical strength of the youths, not the physical strength of the young men.  We need strength from Jehovah.  When God gives us that strength -- and He does -- when He gives us that strength, then we mount up with wings, as eagles. 

Think about the eagle.  What a beautiful picture.  Think about the eagle that with little effort soars up high into the sky and then for hours on end, that eagle can glide far above the earth.  The eagle is a symbol of strength and power.  That’s the picture of God’s people who are strengthened by the Lord.  What a beautiful picture for the child of God.  Strength renewed as the eagles.  Maybe there is something in that picture too of the eagle soaring so high in the heavens, being close to God. 

But if that were not enough, the text goes on to describe that truth when it says those who run shall not be weary, and they that walk shall not faint.  It teaches that God will strengthen us so that, in our running and in our walking, we will not grow weary. 

Now that’s not saying that God’s people never grow weary.  All of us experience spiritual weariness.  Some to a greater degree than others experience this weariness with all the pressures of life.  Sometimes we wonder whether we can even go on.  God’s people do grow weary, and that’s why we have this text. 

They that wait upon the Lord shall not grow weary.  As long as we are waiting upon the Lord, and as long as we have His strength, then we will not grow weary and we will not faint.  So the text is teaching us that we ought to seek our strength from Jehovah.  Then we can face the day to day battles that every child of God runs up against.  With that strength from Jehovah, a young man can face the peer pressures of the world.  With that strength of Jehovah, the wife can submit to her husband even though her husband doesn’t love her as he ought to.  And with that strength from Jehovah, the husband can love his wife and give himself to his wife, even when she is not so loveable.  With that strength from Jehovah, parents can discipline their children to walk in God’s ways.  And with that strength from Jehovah, children can submit to their parents, even when their parents show forth their failures.  With that strength, we can face the trials at school, we can face the trials at home and in the workplace.  With the strength from Jehovah.

 

III.  The Recipients

Who are the recipients of this renewed strength?  Is it all men in general?  No.  The text is very specific.  It says, “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”  Not all men.  Only those that wait on the Lord. 

To wait has the idea of looking forward to, expecting, desiring that the Lord would send strength.  Think about a sick patient in the hospital.  He knows that if he gets the medicine that he needs, then he will get better.  So he waits, he desires that the doctors would hurry up and give him that medicine so that he would recover his strength.  That’s what we mean when we say we wait for the Lord.  We want the Lord to come to us and to give us His strength.  He is the source of that strength. 

But more than just waiting for something from Jehovah, we’re not just waiting for Him to give us strength.  We are waiting for that.  But the text is also teaching that we wait for Jehovah Himself.  The child who is lost in the middle of a large crowd, wants his parents to come and help him. The child is not so interested in having others come and help him.  He wants his parents.  Similarly, we wait for Jehovah.  We want to have Him help us.  We want Him to hold us by our right hand, as the Psalmist says in Psalm 73.  We want Him to hold us so that He can lead us all of our lives, and lead us finally to glory itself. 

Those who wait for Jehovah, they are the ones who are renewed in strength.  That’s why we wait for Jehovah after all.  It’s He who is our strength.  In Him is complete safety.  Now think again of the example of Israel.  As they departed from Egypt, they came to the Red Sea and there was the Red Sea in front of them and then in back of them was the army of Pharoah.  Humanly speaking, that situation was hopeless.  But they waited on the Lord.  And then we recall how God delivered them, how He opened up the Red Sea for them so that they could pass through.  But, what did God do to their enemies?  He swept them all away.  God delivered Israel from their enemies.  God delivers us from our spiritual enemies too.  After that wonderful victory in Exodus chapter 15, Israel sang this song, Exodus 15:1,2: “Moses and the children of Israel sang this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. [And then they had this confession, the confession of all God’s children] The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation.”

To wait for the Lord for strength, implies that we recognize that we could not save ourselves.  To wait upon the Lord for strength implies that we recognize our weakness.  Really, that’s the story for every child of God.  We recognize our misery outside of Christ.  God comes to us with the gospel.  He teaches us about our sins and our misery.  He teaches us about the punishment that is due to sin.  But then he shows us Christ.  He teaches us that there is deliverance in Jesus Christ, in Jehovah Salvation.

Those then who wait upon Jehovah are those who are convinced of our need.  We are convinced that we cannot go by ourselves in the paths of righteousness.  Those that wait upon Jehovah of course have been given that understanding by Jehovah Himself.  How is it that we recognize our weakness?  Jehovah showed us our weakness.  Well then those who see their weakness, are the ones who wait.  And, those who wait, they are the ones who are strengthened.

Who are renewed in spiritual strength?  Ultimately they are God’s elect.  The fact that God worked such a mighty work was because he had chosen us before the foundation of the world.  He is the everlasting God.  God’s elect people, they are the ones who receive that grace to see their weakness.  They are the ones who feel their need.  And they are the ones who wait upon Jehovah.  Jehovah will supply them with strength. 

That’s a promise.  That’s a promise that God gives to every single one of His people.  It’s not just a general truth.  It’s not just something that’s meant for us to be impressed by the beauty of the poetry, mounting up with wings as eagles, thinking of a wonderful picture.  But this is a truth that is Jehovah’s promise for you, who are His people.  The text does not say, “They that wait upon the Lord, maybe their strength will be renewed, andmaybe not.”  The text states a promise.  This promise is as sure as every one of God’s promises.  And His promises are yea and amen in Christ Jesus. 

Oh, such a promise gives us comfort, does it not, beloved?  In the midst of life’s difficulties, the child of God who struggles with sin, the child of God who struggles with the difficulties of life, this promise is sure.  But how often as God’s people, when we have such a promise, do we neglect to wait upon the Lord?  God wants us to wait upon Him.  He wants us to see our weakness.  And then He wants us to wait upon Him, to pray to Him for strength.  

The inspired Apostle Paul, waited upon the Lord.  He had a thorn in the flesh, a terrible thorn in the flesh.  Scripture doesn’t tell us exactly what that thorn was.  But he records for us that he prayed unto the Lord.  He prayed three times that God would remove that thorn.  God answered that prayer, not by removing the thorn.  And sometimes when we face difficulties in our lives, God doesn’t necessarily remove that difficulty from us or remove us from the difficulty.  But He does give us strength.  II Corinthians 12: 9. This is God’s answer to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”  And Paul’s response to God’s words is this, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

That’s how it is for God’s children.  He doesn’t take those thorns away, but He does grant to us His grace.  That’s the same promise that Jesus Christ Himself gives to His disciples.  The very words of Jesus in Matthew 11, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  When you are weary and heavy laden, don’t just wallow in that weariness, but go to Christ, and He will give you rest.  That’s the way that God works in our lives.  He makes us to sense our weakness and He puts it in our hearts even to go to Him.  He will give us rest.  That is, He will give the enjoyment of covenant fellowship with our God. 

Go to Him with the burden of all your sins.  Go to Him and cast the burden of your guilt upon Christ, for He has paid the entire price for all of our sins.  And then wait upon Him for strength as well.  That is, ask Him for the strength of the Holy Spirit that you may overcome sin. 

How sure is that promise?  Well consider that this promise is made by the almighty Creator of the heavens and the earth, the One who sustains all things, the One who has created us and our bodies.  But the same One who has created the physical universe is also the One that has created our new spiritual creation, that is the One who has given us the new man.  And just as he sustains life in His creation, He also sustains the life of our new man.  Is he strong enough to strengthen us spiritually?  Of course He is.  He’s the creator. He’s the sustainer.  And He has given us a promise.  All those who wait upon Jehovah, all those who wait upon the Lord, who renounce their own strength, they will surely be renewed in their strength.  That’s God’s promise for you.  Amen.

Marcus, John P.

Rev. John Marcus (Wife: Amy)

Ordained: December 2005

Pastorates: First, Edmonton, Alberta - 2005

Website: www.edmontonprc.org/

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