What Does Isaiah 40:31 Mean?
This article is part of the What Does It Mean? series.
But they 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. —Isaiah 40:31
Isaiah 40:31 contains a great promise of strength for the weary: “they 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.” This promises a supernaturally renewed strength—a strength that would compare to mounting up as an eagle or running without fatigue. But what does this mean and how do we receive it? The context of this verse helps us.
The Israelites who first received this promise were worn out from their hardship. They had lived in exile in Babylon for several decades. Their perspective was darkened by despairing thoughts: “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God” (Isa. 40:27). They thought God either couldn’t help or didn’t care. Isaiah uses a pair of words—faint and weary—three times in the span of a few verses here (Isa. 40:27-31). They were exhausted and burdened from the circumstances of life. They weren’t just weak in body, but weak in spirit. How could they endure the hard circumstances of life any longer?
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Isaiah responded to these questions with his own: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not grow faint or grow weary” (Isa. 40:28). This is a good word for the weary: You may grow faint, but God doesn’t. God is an endless source of strength, and he gives it generously—“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength” (Isa. 40:29). This is who he is. The ever-strong and never-weary One loves to help weak and weary people.
Here’s what this shows us: If we think that God is too great to be concerned about us, we actually don’t believe he’s great enough. God’s greatness is not just that he is strong, but that he is strong for us. God’s glory is not just that he has power, but that he loves to use it to help those who need it. God is not too great to care, he’s too great not to care.
Pastor Drew Hunter helps readers grasp the message of Isaiah, a prophetic book about the God who saves his people from their sins.
In all our weariness, then, how do we get this strength? We may expect Isaiah to share the wisdom of physical rest, exercise, diet, and so forth. But while those are all God-given sources of strength, they cannot give us the deepest strength we need when we come to the end of ourselves. Isaiah acknowledges this—“even youths shall faint and be weary; and young men shall fall exhausted” (Isa. 40:30). In other words, even those in their prime with perfect health have limits. We need a stronger strength to match our deep discouragements.
So, how do we get it? There is only one answer, and here we come to the great promise of this text: “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.” Not, those who work for the Lord, but those who wait for him. This isn’t about doing our part and asking God to do the rest.
God’s greatness is not just that he is strong, but that he is strong for us.
This isn’t about showing God how strong we are and asking him to give us a bit more. No, here we admit that we don’t have the strength we need. We acknowledge that we need the strength only he can give. And we wait for him, which is more than just passing time. In Hebrew, this word carries with it a sense of hopeful expectation. In the midst of hardship, we look to him as the one who works all things together for our good.
As Christians, we look to Jesus, who came to us and said: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). He carried the burden of our sin and judgment upon himself on the cross. He rose again and sent his Spirit to empower us and strengthen us in all our weakness. And we now look to him and wait for him to work—ultimately looking to the day when Jesus returns to set all things right and make all things new.
Drew Hunter is the author of Isaiah: A 12-Week Study.
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