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Mixing Promises with Faith
1 Thessalonians 1:8
1 Thessalonians Lesson #011
November 4, 2014
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths,” Proverbs 3:5-6. “They that wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint,” Isaiah 40:31. “Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness,” Isaiah 41:10. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall defend your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:6-7. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth in thee,” Isaiah 26:3. “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever,” Hebrews 4:12.
Before we begin we’ll have a few moments of silent prayer, which is our standard procedure. The reason is that it is a pedagogical tool just to reinforce and teach us important of maintaining short accounts recognizing that we have two options in life: we either walk by the Spirit or the flesh or the sin nature. If we are walking according to the Spirit we are in fellowship with God. We are enjoying that fellowship with God. We are moving forward. The Holy Spirit is working in our lives in terms of producing maturity, sanctifying us. But when we sin that process is stopped until we recover and recovery occurs when we confess sin. We just use this opportunity to reinforce that and warned everyone of the importance of being in fellowship in the Christian life and we’ll have a few moments of silent prayer and then I will open in prayer. Let’s pray.
We are studying in 1 Thessalonians. We are at are at the end of 1 Thessalonians 1:8 and in this passage there is the emphasis on the reputation that had gone out from Thessalonica, around Achaia and Macedonia on their faith toward God as Paul states in 1 Thessalonians 1:8 (slide 3). The issue here is first of all faith toward God in terms of God, which happens at the instant of salvation when we put our faith and trust in the gospel and we believe that Jesus Christ dies on the cross as a substitute for us and paid the penalty for our sins. Following salvation the faith-rest drill, the term we often use that is on-going faith and trust in Christ, and the Word of God, and the promises of God is the basic way in which the Christian grows. It’s foundational.
We are taking some time to sort of pause in our verse by verse exposition of 1 Thessalonians 1 to look at the importance of the faith-rest drill. In 1 Thessalonians 1:8 Paul says, “Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.” The word that is translated “faith” here is the word PISTIS, which refers to expressing confidence. It is the idea of believing something. It is a noun, but it is what is called a noun of action. It expresses the act of believing in something, and as we have studied in previous lessons, faith is accepting something as true. It is trusting. It is expressing a confidence in that which is true, and that should have its result and on-going expression of that confidence or truth. When we look at it in terms of on-going truth in the Christian life it is the foundational spiritual skill, not the bottom-line foundation but it relates to everything in the Christian life, every spiritual skill.
This is why Paul makes statements (slide 4) such as we have in Colossians 2:6 “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” How did we receive the Lord? We trusted in promises of Scripture related to salvation. It wasn’t just an abstract faith in God. It was faith directed toward specific statements in Scripture that explain the gospel, statements that believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. There’s an object to that faith which is expressed in those salvation promises. That if we trust in Jesus Christ, in His death, burial, and resurrection we have eternal life. It is not faith in a vacuum. It’s not faith in faith. It’s faith in the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross.
Now in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “… we walk by faith, not by sight.” In other words, we walk by faith. Paul is not using faith as a one shot word. In contrast he is talking about sight so you look at something through empiricism and we see something, so our faith is in our sight. So it’s faith in the Word versus faith in our empirical observations that is ultimately being said here. So we walk by means of faith in God’s Word. So we have to understand how important this is that this is foundational for understanding the Christian way of life and the mechanic of the Christian way of life. In the past I have taught the Christian way of life in terms of ten basic skills or spiritual skills that must be mastered in any person’s life in order to go forward. The skill emphasizes the fact that this is something practiced over and over again. We get the same idea when we use the word “faith-rest drill.” It’s that concept of “drill” that comes across.
If you’ve been in any kind of athletics then you know that you went through various drills or skills training in order to master that particular field. If you’ve been involved in dance or music, then you had to practice technique exercises. You had to go through various drills just to develop your skills, and you would practice these things over and over and over again until they became second nature to you, until it entered into muscle, to mind memory so that when you were in certain situations this is what you would automatically do in those situations. You wouldn’t have to stop and think about each movement and each activity. This is why practice is so important, but it is not practice that makes perfect, but perfect practice that makes perfect. We have to develop these skills. Well when we look at this in terms of the Christian life, I’ve developed the illustration of the soul fortress (slides 5-7). God is often referred to in the Psalms as He is our defense. He is our rock. He is our fortress.
When we are surrounded by the spiritual skills, then they enable us to continue to walk by means of the Spirit. But when we fail to use these skills, when we are faced with certain situations, when we don’t practice these skills, then we default over to the sin nature and start walking according to the flesh. We’re trying to solve the problems in our own energy, our own power, and our own effort, which always fails. So we start with the first skill, for example the first skill is confession. This is our recovery mechanism. We confess or admit or acknowledge our sins to God. We are immediately forgiven of those sins and cleansed from all unrighteousness. Automatically as a result of that we are restored to a position where we enjoy our fellowship, our dependence on God the Holy Spirit, which is described by different terms, the filling of the Holy Spirit, Ephesians 5:18; walking by the Spirit in Galatians 5:16; and it emphasizes this on-going moment by moment dependence on God the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
The Christian way of life is a spiritually empowered way of life. It is a supernatural way of life. It is not in any way dependent upon our own efforts or own skills. The Christian way of life is not simply a life of morality. It is a life of spiritual dependence. It is energized by God the Holy Spirit. There’re many people who can live moral lives, but that is not the same thing as living a Christian life, which is a walk by the Holy Spirit. How do we energize that? We understand the principles of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” We believe that that is true. So this is the beginning of the faith-rest drill. We are looking at that passage of Scripture and we believe that it is true with the result that we confess our sin believing that this is the reality that God immediately forgives us and cleanses us. So the faith-rest drill in essence is even part of or foundation of that first spiritual skill of confession of skill. Its part of the second spiritual skill to walk by the Spirit because we walk by the Spirit by means of faith, faith in what the Word of God says.
The third spiritual skill that we talk about is the faith-rest drill and how that develops and how that’s manifested; and that is going to be the focus of the next several lessons. The faith-rest drill is also foundation in grace orientation. Grace orientation basically means to orient our thinking in life towards God’s grace; God’s grace in terms of His provision of everything for us at the instant of salvation; that we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. God has given us everything necessary for life in godliness and we take our minds and we understand what is stated in those verses and we embrace that by faith. We mix our faith with those statements and we live on the basis that. We are going to operate on the basis of grace orientation and that is an ongoing process that works along with the next stage is doctrinal orientation. The key verse for both of these is 2 Peter 3:18 that we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In doctrinal orientation the emphasis is on knowledge and the accumulation of knowledge of Scripture. This comes about thorough the reading of Scripture, through the personal study of Scripture and meditation on Scripture. It comes about by going to Bible study, by listening on video, through various media, studying the notes, reading books, these kinds of things that focus our attention upon the Word of God and help us to think more deeply and more profoundly about what God has revealed to us. As we focus our thinking around the divine viewpoint of Scripture then this impacts our perception of reality, that our perception of reality is now aligned into what God has built into the universe as Creator and so as we align our thinking to the truth of God’s Word, we are walking as 3 John says, we are walking according to truth and as we are walking according to truth we are walking in the realm of reality. If you are not walking according to the will of God then you are divorced from reality. To the degree that you deny what Scripture says you are living in a fantasy world. You are living in a world of your own construction that has nothing to do with reality. The more we get divorced from the Word of God the more we get divorced from reality.
This leads us to the next stage in our spiritual life. As we master these foundational skills: faith-rest drill, grace orientation and doctrinal orientation, God the Holy Spirit uses this biblical truth that is in our soul to produce maturity as we apply that to our circumstances in life. This leads us out of spiritual infancy into spiritual adulthood, where we begin to focus on God’s destiny for us, what we call our personal sense of eternal destiny. That God is training us today for an eternity of serving Him that begins in the millennial kingdom when we will be ruling and reigning with the Lord Jesus Christ and then that goes on into eternity. The next spiritual skills are all related to love. It is all related to this focus toward God, a personal love for God, as we come to understand all that God did for us we come to focus on His magnificent love for us, and that creates a response in our soul toward Him that our love for Him grows and expands. A young child expresses a child’s love toward his parents and often it is just a modicum or small percentage of what an adult’s love can be because it doesn’t have a lot of knowledge and there is not a lot of integrity behind it. It is a love that is more related to trust and appreciation for being taken care of and being loved. So as an infant believer we do have a love for God, but as we grow this love for God expands and matures and changes just as a love that a one year old has for his parents is quite different from the love that a thirty, forty, fifty year old has for parents.
As we come to love God that impacts our loves for others. Love for God becomes the prime motivator in our love for others. We are to love others as ourselves Scripture teaches that we are to love one another as Christ has loves us. We call this an impersonal love for all mankind. Not that it is somehow mechanical, not because it is depersonalized, but because we don’t need to have a personal relationship with the person we’re loving in order to love them. We can express this toward a person on the freeway who is driving erratically or who has cut us off. We can express this toward the person at the checkout counter. We can express this toward the person on the customer service line. All of these are examples of situations where the sin nature wants to take over and we want to treat that person in a less than honorable way in anger, resentment or disrespect because we don’t know them. But when we do have a personal relationship with somebody we often won’t say or do the things we do if we don’t know them or if we won’t see them again, but this impacts those situations where we don’t have a personal relationship or a personal relationship is not required.
Occupation with Christ is our focus on Christ. He is the author and concluder of our faith according to Hebrews 12:1. And we fix our eyes upon Him. He is the focus of our concentration and as we come to understand the Word of God itself as it focuses us on Christ, who is our High priest and we are in Him, then we understand the importance of that relationship that we develop because we are in Christ, our close identity with Him. The end result of this is that we have a joy in our soul that is inexpressible. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t distressed with circumstances and situations in life. When our Lord Jesus Christ was to go to the cross, the night before He went to the cross, when He is in the Garden of Gethsemane, Matthew in his gospel, uses three different words to describe the state of our Lord’s soul: He is anguished; He is distressed; and He is very upset. He is emotionally upset, but He doesn’t sin. Having those emotions doesn’t mean you sin. Having those emotions doesn’t mean you sin. Having those emotions is part of the emotional make-up that God has given us. It’s what we do with them when we are in situations where we are expressing anxiety, anguish, distress, that should drive us to trusting in God.
This is part of our occupation with Christ. We understand how He implemented the faith-rest drill the night before He went to the cross. He implemented the faith-rest drill through prayer. A lot of people say, well when you see these ten spiritual skills, these ten, I call them stress busters and problem-solving devices, and prayer is not there. That is because prayer is simply a tool or way in which we express some of these toward God. That is what our Lord did the night before He went to the Cross as He is facing the greatest test that He would ever face, when He would be identified with our sin. Yet at the same time He had maximum joy and happiness in His soul. He was stable, but He was facing a stressing situation and we can do the same thing. By applying these skills we are abiding in Christ, continuing in our dependence upon Him, John 14:1-5, and we are also walking in the light, as John describes it in 1 John, and this is all dependent upon our volition to exercise the skills God has given us.
Right now we just want to focus on the faith-rest drill and think about that and how we implement that in our lives. The first phase of the faith-rest drill is simply to claim a promise. I emphasize this over and over again because a lot of people come and they understand broad principles of Scripture, but they are somehow divorced or cut free of Scripture. We kneed to know Scripture, whether we’ve memorized verses, whole verses, whether we’ve just memorized short phrases. When we look at a verse we need to claim that. We in essences are saying, God, this is something You have promised. I am relying upon that. I’m depending upon Your faithfulness behind this promise to fulfill Your obligation as stated in this particular promise.
A second step is that as we think through that promise, as we reflect upon it, we recognized that there is an underlying structure of reasoning behind that verse. It is a rationale behind that verse. For example, in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just.” There is a conditional clause at the beginning stating that there is something that we are to do and that if we do that God in turn will do something else. The statement about what God will do in terms of forgiving us and cleansing us of all unrighteousness is conditioned upon our confession. And so we think that through and we reach certain conclusions as a result of that. The conclusion that we arrive at as we think through 1 John 1:9 is that I have sinned and I need to admit or acknowledge that sin to God the Father and He will therefore forgive me and cleanse me and I am right with Him again. I may not be right with some of the people I offended. I may not be right with the law, and I may have to be answerable for criminal activity if I committed crimes, but I am right with God. That is the starting point of becoming right with others. This is basically a summary of the procedure that should go through our minds when we are trusting in the Lord.
Now what I want to do in this little mini series is to talk about some promises and help us go through this three step process as we look at these promises coming to understand how we can improve and develop our own skill in the faith-rest drill. This is an important lesson for all of us no matter how seasoned we are as believers. I find that we have that we have to go back through these lessons again and again. I find that even as a pastor just going back through these lessons and developing them it just does wonders to up lift my own soul when we realize we live in such a nasty world. The cosmic system around us just seems to get worse and worse all the time. We all face personal problems and challenges in life and adversities, plus we live in a world that is unfortunately not always pleasant anymore. We see the rise of criminality in urban environments. We see problems in the broad spectrum of the economic system. We worry and many people are concerned about the future of the economy.
We now have been living in a time where we have allegedly come out of a recession, but it is the weakest recovery in history and there are some people who think it hasn’t been any recovery at all, and because of some of the ways this has been manipulated there are many people who expect another crash and possibly another massive crash. I don’t know if that is true or not, but I know that we all hear these kinds of things and read these kinds of predictions and these do weigh upon us. So living in the midst of a world that is not dependable, and trust me, even when we thought it was it wasn’t. That was just an illusion. So it is really good to recognize how unstable the world is because our hope is really as the hymn says, “Built on nothing less than Jesus Christ and His righteousness.” So we just need to focus on the Word.
The first promise I want us to look at (slide 9) is in Isaiah 40:31. It is the one I sight many times before Bible class. The reason I sight those verses over and over and over again is because I know that there are many people who just don’t have the time or the discipline to memorize Scripture. If you listen to a Bible class for very long and you are here, at least you should be able to remember the promises I cite week after week after week. In fact, I can usually see most of the congregation lip sinking through those promises each and every Sunday. I got started doing that some years ago. I remember hearing Charlie Clough tell a story that an Air Force pilot told him, when he was pastoring in Lubbock. This was a pilot that was flying one of the first bombing missions in North Vietnam. This pilot had a background where he had come out of Berachah Church as Charlie had; and back in the 1950s and 1960s when I was a kid growing up in Berachah, Pastor Thieme would stand up in the pulpit and he would quote verses over and over much like I do. He didn’t do that so much later on, but in his early years he did.
This pilot related the story that when he was flying in formation going in on these first bombing runs into North Vietnam that they would immediately start taking anti-aircraft fire. The strategy or tactics of the bombing mission all of your B-52 bombers would be in formation and stay in formation. The idea was to stay there that no matter what happened you keep your position in formation. Each plane could then exercise defense for the other planes around them. The entire formation was set to provide protection for the entire formation. If you started moving nobody would know which way everybody else was going and you would end up having accidents and problems and other things would interfere. You can’t dip and dive and try to maneuver your way out of the anti-aircraft fire, but that is exactly what you wanted to do.
This pilot related that as soon as all of the shells began to burst around them their instinct was to start dodging and to start moving. It took everything from your training and discipline to not start trying to dodge the anti-aircraft fire. He remembered just seconds into receiving the anti-aircraft fire that he heard in his mind the voice of Pastor Thieme reciting these promises of God and how that just had an effect of stabilizing him, calming him; he returned to a position of discipline and focus and executed his mission. So that is why I repeat these promises over and over again. I believe in the basic pedagogical principle not to teach things so that you can remember them but to teach them so that you can’t forget them, so in worse case scenarios these verses at least will locked in your soul.
Isaiah 40:31 (slide 9) states, “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.” This is an important verse. It has a context. Whenever we look at a promise one of the tings you ought to think through when you memorize Scripture is to stop and think about the surrounding verses. When we look at these surrounding verses, if we go back just a little bit to Isaiah 40:28 (slide 10), Isaiah says, “Have you not known? Have you not heard?” He is addressing people who are getting ready to go through some real crises in terms of military attack. And he says, “Have you not known? Have you not heard?” He is taking their mind back to Scripture. He says, “The everlasting God, the LORD Yahweh, The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Who created the ends of the earth, neither faiths nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.” So right away he is putting our focus on the character of God, Who it is that we are trusting. Then he talks about what God has done, Isaiah 40:29, “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.”
Isaiah 40:30 he says, “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fail. But those who wait upon the LORD. Isaiah 40:31 is a contrast to what he has stated in Isaiah 40:30. On the one hand you have young people who are full of vigor, strength, and power. It seems like the youth can do anything and especially those who have grown into their later years just yearn for that power and ability when they were young, but even that fails. So in contrast to the greatest illustration of strength we might be able to come up with, we have the fact that God gives even a greater strength and that is the thrust of Isaiah 40:31. So what we do as we approach this we are going to learn to claim a promise. We take our mind and we either claim the promise or recite the promise. It is not just reciting it once, but over and over again until it starts to begin to calm us down and we start to focus more on God and His Word than on the circumstances and the problem.
We have to focus on this. We have to grab a promise a fragment of Scripture, a verse that we’ve memorized. It is something like that. It is not just a matter of believing principles. When Jesus is facing the temptation of Satan in the wilderness He doesn’t respond by saying, well let’s look at a doctrinal principle here and talk about the theology of supralapsarianism. No. He quotes Scripture each and every time. He countered the temptation by quoting a specific scripture that was targeted to that particular attack. In Christianity it is not an abstract philosophical system that you have in many of these self-help type programs. It is a specific way of thinking based upon what God has revealed to us and what we are doing is capturing what God has said and using God’s very words as the foundation for what we are thinking and what we are going to do.
It is not simply believing the abstract principle, but it is believing Scripture. It is not faith in faith, it is faith in Scripture. Something I will reiterate many, many times. Underlying this we have the importance of developing Scripture memory: have a plan, set a goal. Perhaps it’s every week; memorize two verses that is not hard. Sometimes it is helpful to memorize a set of verses. For example, I just had Isaiah 40:28-31 on the screen. Memorize all four verses then you have a thought flow. There is a logical progression there. Some people find it easier to memorize a group of verses than just one verse. There are also people who like to memorize whole chapters. They memorize John 3:1-18 or they memorize Romans 8, or they memorize Ephesians 2:1-10, things of that nature. They memorize a lot of Scripture that gets into their soul and then of course you have to review and review and review; otherwise they tend to drop out through those little holes in the colander of our minds. So we have a plan. If you are a family, you can do this around the dinner table or the breakfast tale or at some time make a game out of it with your kids. Have a system of rewards. There are nothing wrong with rewards. The Lord used that at the judgment seat of Christ.
You can write verses down again and again and again, just by the act of repeating that it helps to memorize it. You can write them on 3×5 cards and tape them up on the dashboard so you can review them while you are going to work. There are a lot of different ways in which you can do this. I always like the way the Navigators taught this. The Navigators emphasize Bible memory. That was part of the thing that they were known for when they first started back in the 1940s. They were a parent church camp ministry, but their emphasis was on Scripture memory. They had a little system. You can still buy it from their website. It is called the Topical Memory System and it was a basic set of 64 verses that were categorized according to topics, prayer, salvation, confession, trust, essence of God, all of these different categories, and they come in a little packet. You can get a little verse pack and carry that with you in your pocket and review wherever you go. That is a great tool and you can get them in all kinds of different translations now, so that is always helpful.
The Navigators’ technique was that you would learn the verse according to its topic. So you might say “prayer” and then you would repeat the address of the verse. Every verse has an address, like a street address. So you would say “prayer” 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Pray without ceasing.” Then you would close by repeating it, “1 Thessalonians 5:18, prayer.” And every time you memorize it you not only cite the verse, but you cite its reference and the category and that gets embedded in your minds so that you are memorizing these verses according to these categories. That is a simple verse to memorize and anybody can do that real quickly, just “1 Thess. 5:18, pray without ceasing, 1 Thess. 5:18.” You’ve got it down. Just say that over and over and over again and after a week then you’ve got that down and you can add one or two other verses to that.
You can set that as your goal to memorize some Scripture and to claim those. It also has a lot of benefits. It trains your mind. It develops concentration. Who knows? It may even have long-term consequences for offsetting or delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s or other forms of senility. There are a lot of great promises that we can go through in Scripture that remind us about God and what He has provided for us. For example, in terms of the faithfulness of God, in Psalm 119:89–90 (slide 11) we read, “Forever, O LORD, Thy Word is settled in heaven. Thy faithfulness continues throughout all generations; Thou didst establish the earth, and it stands.” Notice, there is a rational there that if God established the earth and continues to keep it going, and is faithful in that, then He can be faithful in His promises to us.
In Numbers 23:19 (slide 12) we are told that “God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” We also have passages dealing with enemies and how to handle enemies, like (slide 13) Hebrews 13:6 we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?” [Psalm 118:6].
Now you may have all kinds of enemies, they may be people at work who are out to wipe out your reputation or to get your job or to take away your reputation. This is a promise you can claim for something like that. We go back to Psalm 118. We read through Psalm 118 to get the original context as you are working through memorization.
Psalm 60:12 (slide 14) “Through God we shall do valiantly, and it is He who will tread down our adversaries.” This is just another way of expressing the same thought that David expressed in facing Goliath, that “The battle is the LORD’S.” He is the One who is going to give us victory. That doesn’t mean that David just sat up on the hillside looking at Goliath. He went down; he collected his five small round stones that were probably about the size of a large marble, and he was able with his sling to throw them at a high rate of speed and that is how he was able to knock out Goliath. We have examples from archaeology of the kind of stones that were thrown by the slingers in the various armies. They would be about (size given by hand symbol about the size of a quarter) up to about the size of a golf ball. And so these could be extremely deadly and the aim of the slingers was extremely deadly. David still had to get up, go down, find the rocks; he still had to go through the motions of whirling it around his head and letting it go, and yet he was trusting God that God would guide the stone directly to its target. David would do his best on his end and let God take over and deal with the results and consequences.
We trust in God and we are not going to be afraid of circumstances of what people can do to us or who our enemies are no matter how powerful they are. Our focus is on the LORD. We have other promises that help us when we fill down or discouraged or depressed. Psalm 37:28 (slide 15) “For the LORD loves justice, and does not forsake His godly ones.” No matter how down we feel sometime; no matter how much we feel like God must be concerned about the war in Afghanistan and taking care of soldiers over there, He has just forgotten about me. God never does. He is omnipresent an omniscient. He never leaves us or forsakes us. “The LORD does not forsake His godly ones; they are preserved forever but the descendants of the wicked will be cut off.”
Isaiah 40:29 (slide 16) the very passage we are talking about reminds us that God “gives strength to the weary and to him who lacks might He increases power.” He is our Protector, Psalm 18:2 (slide 17) “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Look at all the metaphors that are used there to define how God protects us: rock, fortress, deliverer, shield, horn of salvation, stronghold. You have six different ones that are used there. He is the One who gives us comfort, Psalm 22:24 (slide 18) “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted;” He understands the trouble that we are going through, “neither has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard.” God hears our prayers.
We also have Psalms that talk about safety. God provides security for us. No matter what happens we may not have all that we wish we have, but our security is in the LORD. Proverbs 1:33 (slide 19), “But he who listens to me shall live securely,” this is wisdom talking of a personification of God. “He listens to me” that is to wisdom he lives “securely and shall be at ease from the dread of evil.” God helps us, Psalm 42:11 (slide 20), “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God.” That is going to be a key word we look at in many of these promises. “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” People are often overwhelmed by guilt, failure in past actions and we need to be reminded that God wipes out our transgressions, Isaiah 43:25 (slide 21) “I, even I, am the One who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.”
Psalm 103:12 (slide 22), “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” This means that no matter what our failure might be if we are still alive God still has a plan for our life and we can go forward and the past sin is no longer an issue. There may be consequences we have to deal with, but God is going to give us the strength and the ability to face those consequences in the power of God the Holy Spirit and in the strength of God’s Word.
When we face many circumstances we are fearful and anxious. These may be health crises, financial crises; they may be related to our health, our homes, our friends, but Scripture says don’t be fearful. Isaiah 41:10 (slide 23) is a favorite promise not too far from the one we are studying in Isaiah 40. Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” I think I learned that when I was about seven years old. One of my favorite promises in the Word. Also we see Isaiah 40:31 (slide 24), the one that we’re talking about in terms of our study tonight.
Other passages dealing with fear and anxiety are: Philippians 4:6–7 (slide 25), “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be made known unto God and the peace of God, which passes all comprehension, shall defend your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
We have these promises that we embrace in our mind. We wrap our mental arm around these and hold onto these. We are in effect saying, God, I am holding You to this particular promise. So the promise that we are looking at here is in Isaiah 40:31 (slide 26), talking about how God will strengthen and embolden those who wait upon Him.
Now what we should do whenever we are claiming a promise is what the Scripture calls “meditate” on that promise. Meditation has been compared to what a cow does in chewing the cud. He chews it and chews it and chews it. He swallows it and it comes back up and he chews it and chews it and chews it; he gets everything out of it, all the nourishment and nutrition out of it that he possibly can and this is the idea of meditating on Scripture. We think about it, we think about it, get a notebook out while you are memorizing, keep writing the verse down. As you do questions will come: well what does this mean? What is the Hebrew word here? What is the Greek word here? How is this line connected to the previous line? Is this a contrast? Is this something in addition to something else? Is this expressing a condition or is it somehow expressing a conclusion telling me something to do? We work through some of those details as we memorize the Scripture and it helps us to get into the thinking of the writer so we understand the thought that lies behind the promise.
Often as we do so it will drive us back to Bible study. This is why taking the Bible Study Methods course is helpful. Learn some basic skills to look up key words. We will see some of that with what we are doing with this passage in this lesson. We look up certain key words and that connects us to other passages that express similar or identical principles. So that is also very, very helpful. A couple of things that I want to point out as we go through this.
First of all, the verse begins with a contrast. It begins with the word “But”. This shows that it is contrasting with that which comes before it. What comes in the verse before it, in fact, you ought to have your Bibles open to Isaiah 40:31 because this will help us think through this particular passage a little more clearly. If you look at the verse immediately preceding it Isaiah is gives this illustration of the youths, “even the youths shall be faint and faint weary.”
So you are facing overwhelming circumstances and physical strength and stamina. Even the positive optimism of the youth is not enough. It is such an overwhelming situation described here that physical strength, the mental strength that even a young person has is not going to be enough. He is contrasting with youths and young men compared to an illustration of their strength, that even they will fail; they will faint weary and utterly fall. There is a progression of thought there, a development of thought indicating that natural strength, human viewpoint is not adequate. It’s not enough. He draws this contrast out that these young men in their bloom of life succumb to the effects of this disaster. They have run out their strength and there is nothing more that they can do and any kind of obstacle will cause them to fail. They will feel overwhelmed and defeated immediately.
This often happens to us in life. We hit certain things in life that we feel are insurmountable. There’s nothing we can do. We feel completely defeated, depressed, discouraged, maybe even suicidal simply because we don’t see a way around it and God does. God is our ever-present help and source of strength. Isaiah 40:30 is emphasizing not only the limitation of human ability, but the inadequacy of human ability. What Isaiah is basically saying is that even though this may happen, even though you may be overwhelmed, it is different for those who wait upon Yahweh, those who have their trust in Him.
When we come to the word for “wait” here it is the Hebrew word qwh, which means basically, it is translated “to wait” but it’s more than just sort of sitting there twittling your thumbs. It’s emboldened by a future orientation of expectation. A second way in which it is used and translated is the idea of “hope” because you are waiting expectantly for something. You are not just waiting, stopping, hoping, and if you watch every five minutes something is going to happen, but it is waiting for something positive to happen. There is a tone of expectation and confidence that is part of the waiting process. So it has that idea of waiting expectantly, of having confident expectation.
Now you may have read in some books, older books that talk about the faith-rest drill, that have explained this word as having a background in weaving. That is completely and totally erroneous. Some of that work and most anything written before the early 90s probably go back to that because that idea came out of a Hebrew lexicon known by those of us who used it forever and ever, as BDB, which is the abbreviation of the authors-editors Brown, Drivers, and Briggs. The BDB lexicon came out in 1918 or 1919. I think there was an earlier 1916 edition that went into public domain. So if you use a computer program, if you use a concordance, you use LOGOS, you use word search, some of these other programs, Bible Works, they will have that 1916-1917 edition of BDB and you can also get the upgraded version.
BDB was written right before this explosion of discovery of ancient near eastern languages. Ugaritic was discovered in the 20s; Arcadian was discovered in the early 29th century, and with the study of these related Semitic languages to Hebrew. The positive thing was that it corrected the understanding of a lot of words in Hebrew. The idea that was taught that waiting is the idea of weaving a rope that you lay in one thread and then another thread and then another thread, and as you weave it together it produces something of strength. That is completely erroneous, has nothing to do with the history of the background of the word. The key tool that is used for lexical work now in Hebrew is called HAL or HALOT, which stands for the Hebrew-Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (OT). This was a multi-volume work that came out in the early 90s and is also available in most of your lexicons.
One of the problems that you get with BDB also just as sort of an aside is that when the New American Standard Bible was translated the default position of the translators was to take the meaning that BDB assigned to the Hebrew word and they took that without question, without any further analysis, and by the late 60s when New American Standard was translated there was a lot of new lexical data that had come out since the 20s. So it is important to understand the sense of these words and in HALOT the basic meaning of the word qwh is to wait expectantly for something, to hope confidently for something, and has nothing to do with the literal meaning of weaving something together. No matter how helpful that illustration was it is erroneous and has nothing to do with the background of the word.
It is very similar to the Greek word ELPIS, which has that idea in the Greek as well, as a confident expectation. The word qwh is used several places. You can take out your Bible concordance, Strong’s Concordance, Young’s Concordance, some of the better concordances. You can usually search this somehow with some different computer programs, and you can find other places in the OT where this Hebrew word is used. In doing that you can discover some other tremendous passages and promises. Isaiah 25:9 (slide 28) states, “And it will be said in that day.” This refers to a future time. “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him and He will save us. This is the LORD.” Whenever you see that uppercase LORD it translates the tetragrammaton, the personal Name of God in the OT, YHWH. “This is YHWH. We have waited for Him.” See, there is our word. We have waited expectantly for Him. The conclusion, “We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”
Isaiah 33:2 (slide 29) states, “O LORD, be gracious to us; we have waited for You. Be their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.” This is a prayer, a cry for God to rescue them in times of trouble based upon the fact that we are waiting expectantly for the deliverance. Psalm 25:5 (slide 30) states, “Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait (confidently, expectantly) all the day.” Psalm 27:14 (slide 31) reads, “Wait on the LORD;” this is a command. We are to wait expectantly on the LORD. “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart;” what a great verse to claim when we feel overwhelmed by the details of life. God will strengthen our heart. He will strengthen our soul, our mind, from His Word. God is not just going to zap you and make you feel better, but you are going to focus on His Word and that is going to get strength to your soul. “Wait, I say, on the LORD!”
Then we have a connection to hope in these two verses: Psalm 39:7 and Psalm 130:5 (slide 32). Psalm 39:7 states, “And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.” So we have the connection of the word “wait,” which is qwh with this other Hebrew word yehl, which also is a synonym meaning to wait or to hope confidently for God. Psalm 130:5 says, “I wait, qwh, for the LORD, my soul waits.” Twice qwh is used there, and in conclusion, “And in His Word I do hope.” See, the focus is in His Word and what He has revealed. It gives us a confident expectation of the future. So the verse starts off “Those who wait upon the LORD [YHWH] shall renew their strength.”
Now this is another interesting and important word to see here for “renew” (slide 34). It is the Hebrew word chlf. It is a rough guttural ‘ch’. It is in the hiphil, which is causative, which gives it more of an intensified meaning, and it means not just renew in the sense of getting something new or in addition to the strength we already have. It is a word that talks about exchanging one thing for something else. We are taking our strength and it is irrelevant, it fails, and we are replacing our strength with God’s strength. It is not that God just comes along and sort of reinforces us a little bit. The emphasis here is that it is really going to strengthen us with an exchange of His strength for our strength.
What we see here, to bring up a little summary, “Those who wait upon the LORD.” This is a wait that has a confident expectation. It is not a waiting that is some sort of psychological gimmick or tool, which we often see in a lot of motivational speakers today, where they are really talking about faith in faith. You hear people say, well, just trust. Trust in what? Or just believe, things will get better. It is sort of this believe in an impersonal universe that somehow something is going to align itself in the stars and somehow things will straighten out. Some trust in some impersonal cosmic deity; that somehow the universe will right itself and everything will end up being okay.
You often hear Christians say that, but the key is “trust” in the Word of God; “trust” in God’s promises. Focus upon Him. The Text is saying that they wait on Yahweh. They wait upon the person of God and a Jew that would be a reminder. Using that Name Yahweh is associated with God’s covenant with Israel and it would be a reminder to them that they are to trust in that Person Who has guaranteed the destiny of Israel by virtue of His own character in the Covenant. They trust in the Person of God because of how He has revealed Himself. It is not just an act of believing in belief.
Then it says, “those who wait” will do something. They will have an exchange of strength as a result of waiting upon the LORD. Now this word chlf is used in a fascinating passage over in Job. Job 14:14 (slide 35) states, “If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my struggle I will wait, until my change comes.” So it connects that change with waiting. He is not looking for some burst of new energy that God is going to somehow going to give him a little more of what he already has. It is also a context, if you look at Job 14, it is a context that involves despair on Job’s part as he looks around at the environment around him. We look at the opening verses and we read, “Man who is born of woman is a few days and full of trouble.” Doesn’t that just lift up your soul? Don’t you feel better now? You are born of a woman and your days are full of adversity. That is not a positive thought. “He comes forth like a flower and fades away. He flees like a shadow and does not continue.” Life is short and ephemeral and really doesn’t have any long-term value. You are here today and you’re gone tomorrow. He is very negative at this point.
He says in Job 14:3, “Do you open your eyes on such a one and bring me to judgment with yourself?” He is responding to his critics at this particular point. Then we will move forward to Job 14:7. In his argument he (Job) says, “There is hope for a tree if it is cut down that it will sprout again.” If you chop down a tree it is going to come back. Maybe there will be a new shoot and it will still develop and tender “shoots will not cease. Though its root may grow old in the earth and its stump may die in the ground.” There is still some kind of hope. In Job 14:10 he goes back to this note of futility and he says, “But man dies and is laid away, indeed he breathes his last and where is he? As water disappears from the sea and a river becomes parched and dries up, so man lies down and does not rise till the heavens are no more they will not awake or be aroused from their sleep.” This is a very depressing time.
But then when we come to Job 14:14 (slide 35) he’s shifting his thinking away from the human viewpoint focus on circumstances to divine viewpoint. He says, “If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my struggle (hard service) I will wait, until my change comes.” So this is talking about something that is completely new. A picture of a change from one thing, his mortal body, to something else. Notice it is based on waiting. It is a change that takes place over time. It is not immediate. We can apply this to the principle of waiting. That we wait and it goes on and on and on. We may not see the fulfillment of that for many, many years; and we may not see the victory over our enemies until the Lord returns, but it will happen.
Job goes on to say in Job 14:15-17 (slide 36) giving a great promise. He says, “You shall call, and I will answer you; you shall desire the work of your hands; for now you number my steps, but do not watch over my sin; my transgression is sealed up in a bag, and You cover my iniquity.” Here he is expressing his hope in God and the background for this, the main reason we looked at it, is this idea change is the exchange of one thing for something else, and it comes over time and involves waiting. We’re waiting upon the Lord.
Next time I am going to come back and we’ll have a brief review and then we are going to go forward into talking about some other ways to claim promises and going to the next stage, which is understanding the underlying rationale.
Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study these things today, to be reminded of Your faithfulness of Your Word and we pray that You will help us to understand these things and to implement them into our lives that we might be challenges to memorize Scripture, to make it part of our soul so that as we go through life we can react to situations claiming promises, focusing on Your Word, ultimately leading our attention, our concentration to Who You are, Your love for us, Your care for us, and Your provision for us in Your Word. We pray this in Christ’s Name, amen.