A word picture study by Brenda Chand
The words of the Prophet Isaiah are often read and spoken as encouragement and a promise. Let’s take a look at the nuance of some of the keywords that are widely shared as guidance and inspiration for so many.
“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:30-31, NIV). Youths and young men are a word picture for the strength supplied by God with the exception that the strength of youths and young men are not perpetual and self-generating like God’s strength. To hope/wait according to the Hebrew definition put forth by William Wilson in his book, Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies, is “to hope strongly, to trust, implying firmness and constancy of mind, to hope for, to wait for, to expect anything; to hope that a thing will be effected and to wait steadily and patiently till it is effected.”
Joseph Addison Alexander points out that the Hebrew interpretation of the word wait implies a servant who “awaits their master’s orders,” and in doing so, strength is gained. Implicit is the idea that work can and should be accomplished during the waiting process. “The phrase translated they shall gain new strength properly means they shall exchange strength, but the usage of the verb determines its specific meaning to be that of changing for the better or improving.” To wait expectantly on God is to acquire fresh strength that sustains in the drudging walk of life as well as for the heroic ventures that demand soaring flight or swift running.
“As Zechariah understands it, while individual prophets do not live forever, the word God has spoken to them and through them has the power to outlive them to survive and speak a word on another day, overtaking and ambushing generation after generation (see Zechariah 1:5-6). . . . True prophecy is an accomplishing word, landing again and again to speak a new word to a new generation” (Leander E. Keck, “Isaiah 40:1-31: A Word at Once New and Old,” The New Interpreter’s Bible).
The message of hope conveyed by Isaiah in the biblical text continues to resonate today, offering encouragement and inspiration to people facing various challenges as they search for solace and direction. Isaiah’s message is characterized by themes of redemption, restoration and the ultimate triumph of God’s plan for humanity. Specifically, we can pull themes of restoration and healing, justice, trust in God’s sovereignty and comfort in times of trouble from this picture. His words have ambushed generation after generation and the message of hope still speaks loudly today.