It’s my favorite moment of this survival series my wife and I have been bingeing lately. And, of course, it speaks to me of what I’ve been reading in Isaiah.
The show’s concept is simple: contestants are dropped, individually, into a wilderness. Each person has to rely on his or her tools and wits to survive. (And film themselves.) When they’re no longer able, they radio and are pulled out.
The last one wins a fortune.
That final adventurer is, by then, in desperate straits. Lonely. Emaciated. Barely hanging on. When the medical crew comes to check on him (so far, only men have won) that last day, though, they bring a surprise: his loved one, who sneaks up from behind and embraces him. As he laughs and cries in astonishment, she speaks to powerful words:
In Isaiah 40 today, I read the following:
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 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.
Weary (vs. 29) and tired (vs. 30) are the same word, which speaks of our inherent strength failing. But weary in verse 30 is a different word, pointing to being worn down by the hardships of life. It’s easy for me to imagine the youth here as the famished, weakened contestant of my show – literally stumbling from lack of calories – awaiting rescue. To him, and to us, God comes with strength and power.
In Revelation 2:17, Jesus says, “To the one who is victorious, I will give…” In my mind’s eye, I can visualize meeting him after this life in the scene I've described: Jesus throwing his arms around me while telling me that I’ve won.
I like that picture. But then it dawned on me -- it falls far short of the truth of the gospel!
For Isaiah tells us that God’s power renews our strength. It’s transformative. And ongoing. Just as Paul says: I can do all things through the one who continually strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)
So, let’s change how we frame this. When does this joyful embrace happen? Every day. That’s the glorious truth told throughout Scripture. Every day, despite our sin, despite our world-weariness, Jesus clasps us and tells us of our victory.
And like the contestants in the show, we reply, incredulously, “Really? I’ve won?”
“Yes,” he answers us. “I did it. You’ve won.”
What is our prize? A fortune. A feast. And eternal fellowship.
Jesus, you promise to renew our strength moment to moment, meeting every challenge with your presence and power. We welcome that embrace! Truly, because of you, we have won the greatest prize of all: the Father’s good pleasure. This day and forever.
Reader: tell me a time when you had the joy of a long-awaited embrace. And if you do, I’ll tell you of the most dramatic hug I’ve ever witnessed. (Haha!– now I’ve resorted to bribing you!)