Strength in Weakness

Haftarah Portion: Noach (Isaiah 54:1-55:5)
Gospel Portion: 2 Corinthians 12, Philippians 4
Commentary By: Chris Knight

The Haftarah portion for Noah is a beautiful passage from the book of Isaiah in which we see God comforting His people, Israel. In a time of destruction and exile, God shows that there is light at the end of the tunnel. He shows us a glimpse of restoration and redemption with all credit going to Him. We read,

"Sing, O barren, you who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman,” says the Lord. “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; Do not spare; Lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited. “Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; For you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore. For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth. For the Lord has called you like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a youthful wife when you were refused,” says your God. (Isaiah 54:1-6 NKJV)

This is one of many beautiful examples of God showing His love and faithfulness to His covenant people despite their sins, flaws, downfalls, and desolation. Even in the midst of Israel having a tendency to “self-destruct” into a pattern of sin and corruption, God promises that it is His faithfulness and strength, not our own, in which we find our hope. He offers hope when the world is seemingly hopeless, life when we are surrounded by destruction, and love when we are engulfed by rejection and hate. We read later in the portion,

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Isaiah 55:1 NKJV)

This once again demonstrates His unmerited, undeserved grace to His people. He shows that He truly is provider, redeemer, comforter, restorer, and so much more in the lives of those who put their trust in Him. His “wine, milk, and water” is even available to those without the ability to purchase it. Why is this possible? Why is Israel’s future so much more glorious than its rocky past? Simply, because God is good and He keeps His promises. He is strength to the weary, healing to the sick, father to the fatherless, righteousness to the sinner, life to the dead. It is His work in which we can put our hope and confidence in as we see later in the portion,

“Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, and nations who do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you.” (Isaiah 55:5 NKJV)

This is so important for us to remember, especially to those of us who would consider ourselves religious in any sense. Why? Because we quickly have a tendency as humans to give into pride, haughtiness, ego, etc. We are drawn to the idea of being the hero, the champion, the victor, when in reality we are the ones in need of a hero, a champion, and a victor. We do this all the time without even realizing it. However, when we make ourselves the hero of our story, it becomes much easier for us to distance ourselves from the reality of a constant need for the transformation we find in Messiah. As long as we are “more observant,” “more spiritual,” or “more righteous” than the sinner, the atheist, the christian, the jew, etc, then we have less reason to be humbled, broken, and drawn into deeper levels of spiritual growth and surrender in our own hearts and lives. In reality, it is in our humility, our weakness, and our brokenness in which we can find true strength, because it is then in which we have a greater reliance and faith on God. Paul words this idea beautifully when he says,

“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.  Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NKJV)

When we face times of opposition, struggle, or pain, who are we relying on for strength and who are we praising for the victory. Are we learning to embrace God in both our feast and in our famine or are we lost in a false sense of self-righteousness and achievement? Are we victorious in our own strength or we victorious through the Messiah who lives in us?

“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:10-13 NKJV)