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“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 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 40:29-31).*

*You will need your Bible for this study. If I copied all the texts this post would be a small book.

Isaiah 40 contains a passage that many Christians hold dear. We often cling to verses 29-31 when we are exhausted in our journey to follow Jesus amidst life’s challenges and trials. The principle of an indescribably awesome (in its truest and fullest sense) God supplying us soaring, sustaining, and steadfast power brings great comfort (see Isaiah 40:1-2) to those in dire need of such strength. Yet often this energy seems inaccessible and merely words – words that we believe but rarely experience. And why is this? Because these magnificent promises are only understood and realized as we digest and apply what precedes them. In other words, one must interpret Isaiah 40 backwards to get the full picture.

The 2 previous verses to our focal text tell us that this power is connected to faith: “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”? 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 faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable” (Isaiah 40:27-28). Clearly the prophet says we must believe in order to experience the strength of an all-knowing and all-powerful God. But faith in what?

Faith in Him and Him alone. We see this from the previous verses where Isaiah’s oracle makes fun of the silliness of idols in light of the nature of the one and only true God (vs. 18-26). He mocks those who erect false gods that can’t even stand on their own (verse 20 reminds me of “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down” as it describes the wish to craft an idol that won’t topple over). Ridiculous, eh? But for our purposes, an idol is not a graven image but anything that we treasure, love, and desire more than God. An idol can even be seemingly good things (like religion, humanitarian efforts, ministry, or family) that supersede God in importance in our lives. This includes the most insidious of idols – our own energy, effort, and ingenuity (let’s just call this self-sufficiency or pride). The prophet says that to experience the unfathomable power of God we must believe in Him in all of His greatness and nothing can be more important than Him.

But moving further back in the text, we see that it’s not just believing in God but having a right vision of His awesomeness and boundless might. This is what we see in verses 12-17. Here He is described as an immeasurably powerful Creator and the sustainer of all things. What we have described in these verses is mind-boggling. It, as best limited human language can, portrays God as incomprehensibly mighty. As compared to our pathetic, limited, and vastly inferior ability, we see that, “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God…” (Deuteronomy 10:17). As James MacDonald says, “It’s not that your problems are too big. It’s that your God is too small.”

But how are we connected to this awesome God? In and through the Son of God who became Jesus the Christ (vs. 1-11). Scripture shows Him to have this same power and character as Yahweh, Jehovah God (John 1, Hebrews 1, and Colossians 1). We see the mighty ruling arm of God (v. 9) become the lovingly tender arm of God (v. 11) by way of Jesus (vs. 1-5). This is called the good news (v. 9 – better understood as “great news”) of the Messiah, whose coming was heralded by John the Baptist with Isaiah’s words, “A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (v. 3). And this is the “Word of our God that will stand forever” (v. 8).

So, in summary, to access the unfathomable strength of God (29-31) we must have genuine faith (27-28) in God and not ourselves or our God-substitutes (18-26). And our trust must be in an awesomely large and limitless God (12-17) that has connected us to His immeasurable power through our surrender to the person and power of Jesus (1-11) and experienced through His Holy Spirit.

So, if we want the soaring, sustaining, steadfast strength of our supremely awesome God, it will only come from Jesus when we:

• love Him above all else and lean only on Him

• yearn for Him and yield to Him

• are devoted to Him and dependant on Him alone

• are surrendered to Him and sustained only by Him

• faithfully fix our gaze on Him and feast on His Word

The New Testament equivalent of the powerful principle of Isaiah 40 is found in Hebrews 12:1-3. The writer connects the dots and gives us a passage to call our own as we seek the strength of God found only in Christ:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”

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*Section 1 – Kingdom Character

Two – Hope for the Broken

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

Jesus’ entire, complex Sermon on the Mount begins with this mind-blowing statement: Heaven belongs to the poor in spirit. Before a crowd called “His disciples” (Matthew 5:1) that likely included the down-and-out, the average laborer, the wealthy, the young and the old, as well as women, children, and some leaders from the local synagogue, Christ extended through these words an important clue regarding entry into and connectedness with God’s kingdom.

In Christ’s day, religious leaders called Pharisees held incredible power. These “holy” men were generally thought to stand in favor with God through their meticulous keeping of tedious laws and their pious ability to create new ones. If any man were worthy of God’s kingdom, some may have thought, surely I qualify! When, however, Christ explained that those who are “poor in spirit” are welcome—practically given—the keys to the kingdom of Heaven, every listener grew aware that wealth, confidence in one’s self, and knowledge of do’s and don’ts prove unhelpful in gaining God’s favor. With one brief comment Jesus dethroned the religious types and gave spiritual hope to the desperate.

An informed understanding of just what Jesus meant by “the kingdom of heaven” proves essential as we enter The Beatitudes or “the blessings.” Christ’s phrase referred to the kingdom of godly men and women over whom God would forever reign. It includes the spiritual, eternal, and eventually visible rule or dominion of Christ over His children and creation. Or, simply described, the kingdom of God is the manifestation of God’s ruling presence. Therefore, the kingdom refers not just to the place where the godly go when they die; instead, it encompasses the entire, living body of Christ—His church—as they work together and encourage one another in the days leading up to sin’s demise.

The sovereign Lord of the universe allows His creation to live as part of His kingdom! To honor Him through service that points people to Him and brings glory to His name. I can think of nothing greater than daily experiencing the kingdom of Heaven, of faithfully living as a servant of the King of Kings. When we consider that God created humanity for the purpose of glorifying Himself, we find that living as part of the kingdom of Heaven defines the purpose of our existence! This life-transforming way of life should be the highest pursuit of every man.

Jesus asserts that the means to participate in God’s kingdom comes not in the manner that mankind might think, and both His ancient audience and modern students of His Word stagger under the teaching. In Matthew 5:3 He proclaims that humility proves the key component. Self-love, self-promotion, and self-effort fall short. Only through poverty of spirit—the recognition that we lie helpless and hopeless in light of God’s holy standard—are we fit to enter His kingdom.

Christ spoke to those who could see their spiritual bondage and sin-debt before God (see Matthew 6:22). Only those listeners who were “poor in spirit” could recognize the pervasiveness of their sin and acknowledge their spiritual bankruptcy (see Romans 3:10-17). They, along with all hearers of the good news, must see that fallen humanity stands condemned as guilty before God our judge (Romans 3:19). Like the prodigal son who “came to the end of himself,” we must realize that we possess no good thing that makes us pleasing to the Father. We must grasp that we are a spiritually impoverished mess before we’ll truly cry out for salvation.

The entire Sermon on the Mount makes it clear that fallible and frail humanity proves incapable of living up to the high standards of God’s new kingdom, a kingdom built on the sacrifice Christ made on the cross. The notion is reminiscent of the Old Covenant God extended to mankind, an offer of relationship made to the descendants of Abraham. The terms of both pacts reference the huge rift that man’s sin places between him and God.

No person could ever live out God’s high, holy standards. Since the moment Adam and Eve disobeyed the one rule God set over His garden paradise, humanity has suffered under the pain of separation from Him. We cannot satisfy His righteous demands on any level (Romans 3:10). All break His law, and we have broken all of it (James 2:10). Not one of us will ever be good enough or wise enough to win our way back into His favor. The only hope extended us comes through the emptying of self.

As if to remind hearers of this truth, Jesus refers to the most righteous folk of His day as a reference point: “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). In saying this, Jesus clarified that no one can enter Heaven on merit. Only when people accept the perfect life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection of Jesus do they find forgiveness from sin and the hope of participating in His unending kingdom.

Spiritual poverty speaks of a humility that forces us to look to Jesus. Christ said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4). We come to know God by letting go of our right to be big in our own eyes, by submissively and obediently recognizing Christ’s supremacy and surrendering all of ourselves to Him.

Remarkably, accepting who Christ is and what Christ did for us leads us to supernatural reward. Through poverty of spirit and the acceptance that Jesus provides our only means to understand His kingdom (John 14:6), we are blessed in the grandest sense of the word. For we then have access to the Creator of the universe and all that entails. Author and speaker C. H. Spurgeon said, “The way to rise in the Kingdom is to sink in ourselves.”[i]We must dismiss our reliance on self in any form in order to find acceptance through the One who draws unworthy humanity into His kingdom.

Sadly, the first beatitude and others, prove contrary to popular proposed messages regarding the means to blessing and happiness. In our post-modern culture we receive a constant diet of self-reliance, self-sufficiency, self-assertion, and self-absorption. The underlying messages? You can be good enough and wise enough to do anything on your own! The pursuit of your own happiness in your own strength is what satisfies! These ideas, however, ring false. Dependence on our misguided human strength and wisdom proves futile. Only Jesus’ way leads to ultimate blessing and entrance into God’s kingdom.

God chooses to fill empty vessels, those people willing to put away any form of self-reliance or self-focus in order to depend on Him. He serves as our infinite source for all spiritual blessing. When we accept our poverty of spirit—a denial of the teaching that we can produce in ourselves anything we really need—we become empty vessels. In that moment, we sit ready to receive God’s beauty and majesty.

Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). Essentially this means that we have to die to that part of us that chooses the world’s “live for me” attitude and find new life in adopting one that says, “Lord, my life is Yours.”

Being “born again,” becoming a follower of Christ, finding entry and acceptance in His kingdom, all come down to a decision. Experiencing the kingdom of the God of the universe and enjoying His blessedness happens only through Jesus and His cross (John 14:6). We’ve got to come to Him in brokenness over our sin, surrendering to Jesus as our only hope (see Romans 3:23; 5:8; 6:23; 10:9-10). God, desiring that we become His children by exchanging our life for His, compels us by grace through faith (see John 1:12-13; Ephesians 2:8-9). I pray that if you haven’t already, you will humbly and sincerely cry out to Jesus to receive His free and full offer of salvation.

Apply It.

Read James 4:6-10 and 1 Peter 5:4-6. Why is humility necessary for entrance into Christ’s kingdom? For living out His kingdom? Pray that God would give you the “poverty of spirit” necessary to receive and believe Him and critical in living for Him.


[i] Spurgeon, C.H. The Gospel of the Kingdom (Passmore and Alabaster, 1893), 21.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-Encounter/dp/1615073418/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-1     

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B004KAA9UC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-2

Barnes and Noble in book form – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captivated-by-the-King-and-His-Kingdom/Linden-C-Wolfe/e/9781615073412/?itm=3&USRI=captivated+by+the+king

Other eReader formats – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33572

If you follow along with this category (albeit, backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!

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