Holy Literary Structure!

Three things converged to blow my mind today. First I read this bookthen I listened to this teachingand then yesterday I read this poem by George Herbert titled “Easter Wings 1” Take a look:

    Lord, Who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
Most poor:
With Thee
O let me rise,
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

See how both the words and the structure have meaning? See how the first stanza talks about the fall of man and his reduction in sin and then beautifully builds up again in the second stanza because of Christ? See how if you tilt your head sideways the poem itself looks like angel wings? Incredible.  And then I was reading a very familiar passage in Isaiah 40 and realized…it’s a poem! Don’t ask me how I’d never seen it before; I guess today was the day the Holy Spirit decided to reveal this to me.  Here’s the verses we all know:

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 40:30-31)

Here was the running commentary in my head:

That’s so nice. Waiting on the LORD renews your strength. Isn’t there a song about this? Yes, that’s a nice song.  Oh wait, I think I see parallelism in there like R.C. Sproul talked about in Knowing Scripture…what kind was it? *goes to look it up* Ah yes, synthetic parallelism, the kind that builds. Renew their strength, run and not be weary, walk and not faint! 

Feeling pretty good about myself right now and my killer Biblical literary analysis. Then a question:

What is it, I wonder, that actually causes the renewal of strength? Why does waiting for the LORD make us run without growing weary?

And then I remember – context, context, context!  So I back up and read Isaiah 40:28-31:

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.
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.

Holy literary structure! I get it! Thank you ESV translators for using the same words in there for slow people like me that take years to figure this out. Do you see it? The poem starts with the subject, the Creator with a capital C. The everlasting God. Then it says he does not faint or grow weary. To him who has no might he increases strength. Pretend it’s George Herbert’s poem backwards. Second stanza now is about us. In beautiful parallel symmetry, Isaiah shows how waiting on the LORD renews our strength causing us to run and not be weary, walk and not faint. And the structure now answered my question.

There’s not a magical infusion of strength that happens when we wait on the LORD. It’s not like a sports drink commercial: “Using ‘Wait for the LORD’ will allow you to run a marathon and never get tired!! Buy your ‘Wait for the LORD’ today!!” It’s about the Creator God of the universe and His character. “Waiting for the LORD” renews our strength because He is strong. We run without becoming weary because he never grows weary. We walk without fainting because he never faints. Why can we endure? Because the LORD endures and He upholds his chosen eternally.

Isaiah40

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