(10.) Words that Sustain the Weary

(10.) Words that Sustain the Weary

(10.) Words that Sustain the Weary.

“The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue,

to know the word that sustains the weary.

He wakens me morning by morning,

Wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.”

(Isaiah 50:4, NIV)

Isaiah is singing one of his prophetic Servant Songs. This passage in Isaiah 50 is the third Servant Song, and is a two-stage rocket. The first stage is that Jesus Himself is the fulfillment of this Word from the Lord. The Lord God equipped Jesus with an instructed tongue, and Jesus lived into that instruction by offering a word of encouragement, comfort and aid to those who were exhausted and burdened. “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:28-29). Jesus indeed woke up every morning to listen to the Father for His guidance and wisdom. In fact, Jesus states seven different times in the gospel of John that He spoke only what the Father taught Him to say (eg, John 8:28 and 12:49). The very spirit of Jesus was continuously open for business, receptive to His Father and thus always poised to sustain the weary. Jesus, the submissive disciple of the Lord God. Jesus’ words were anointed because He first listened to the Sovereign Lord.

By extension then, every follower of Jesus is likewise equipped to offer pastoral care to the burdened. And that’s the second stage of the rocket. Christians are called to offer a timely word to the weary, an anointed word that comes only after listening to the Lord. Another way of saying this is to state that every disciple is asked to be a paraclete. What is a paraclete?

When Jesus said that He was sending the Holy Spirit to us, He used a Greek word “paraclete” for the Spirit (eg, John 14:16; 14:26, 16:7), which is a word that is often translated as Comforter, Advocate, Encourager, Counselor. The word generally means Helper, but it actually means so much more than that. The Holy Spirit is our heaven-sent paraclete, which is defined as that Person who is called to come alongside us in order to bear burdens through Pointing to God, Advising, Reminding, Advocating, Comforting, Listening, Exhorting, Teaching, and Encouraging. Paraclete is quite the mouthful. And this is the work that Jesus assigned to the Holy Spirit, the work that the Spirit is called to do for each of us.

And it’s exciting to realize that we are invited to continue this work of the Spirit, who is the Big paraclete. We are called to be little paracletes for each other! “Let us be paracletes to each other.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Whenever one sees the word “comfort” or “encourage” in the Epistles, it usually points to the word “paraclete.” For instance, Barnabas, who was often called the Son of Encouragement or Son of Comfort (Acts 4:36), is actually Son of Paraclete. All through the Epistles we are called to be paracletes for each other, just as the Holy Spirit is called to be our Paraclete… Comforter, Encourager, Sustainer, Advocate, Counselor, and Helper.

One passage that highlights our role in coming alongside others is the Amplified version of 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. In this scripture, whenever you see the words console, comfort or encourage, the actual Greek word is paraclete. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of sympathy and the God Who is the Source of every consolation and comfort and encouragement; Who consoles and comforts and encourages us in every trouble, so that we may also be able to console, comfort and encourage those who are in any kind of trouble or distress, with the consolation, comfort and encouragement with which we ourselves are consoled and comforted and encouraged by God… Through Christ, comfort and consolation and encouragement are also shared and experienced abundantly by us.”

Isaiah 50:4 is a buried treasure, so let’s dig in:

“Sovereign Lord.” Two proper Hebrew names for God are used here… Adonai and Yahweh. Adonai means Master, Owner, Authority. We are not our own, we are God’s dear possession. He has supreme authority over us and over all creation. The name Adonai implies that we have a servant relationship with His Royal Majesty. Yahweh is the Great I AM, the name God used for Himself with Moses at the burning bush. Yahweh is God’s mysterious, spiritual version of the “to be” verb… I AM WHAT I AM; I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE; I AM HE WHO IS. I exist. I am the One who was, who is, and who ever will be. There’s Me, God is saying, and then there’s everything else. When Adonai and Yahweh are used together, the Hebrew scholars say, they are meant to reinforce God’s singular matchlessness. When we refer to Adonai-Yahweh, we can only bow the knee and take off our shoes.

“instructed”. This Hebrew word is used to signify a disciple, a student, a follower, an apprentice. The student in this verse is well-educated, highly taught, skilled, well-trained. Remember that this verse first applies to Jesus, then to the followers of Jesus. The learner here is one who is able to speak well about what he has learned, is receptive and open to offering to others what he has first received from Adonai-Yahweh. This instructed one is always learning, receiving God’s wisdom in order to grow and then to offer it to others. This verse in Isaiah implies that we are all sitting at the feet of the Lord, learning His wisdom, developing His character as we humbly walk with Him every day. “I have not mastered human wisdom, nor do I know the Holy One. Who but God goes up to heaven and comes back down? Who holds the wind in his fists? Who wraps up the oceans in his cloak? Who has created the whole wide world? Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection. Do not add to his words, or he may rebuke you and expose you as a liar.” (Proverbs 30:3-6, NLT). “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be pleasing in your sight O Yahweh, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Ps. 19:14).

“tongue”. In this case an instructed tongue is a well-trained student who has the ability to speak on behalf of God, who represents God’s thinking. This tongue offers to others what God would say if He were you… a timely word in season. This student of God seems to have wisdom at the tip of the tongue, the gift of inspirational speech to those who need encouragement. This highly skilled follower of God offers his anointed tongue as an “instrument of righteousness.”  (Romans 6:13). Only God can produce that, as He did with Moses… “Then Moses said to the Lord, ‘Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since thou has spoken to thy servant, for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Is it not I, the Lord? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to say.” (Exodus 4:10-12, NASB). If we are well-trained by Adonai-Yahweh, we could be a Moses, or we could be a Jeremiah… “Then Yahweh stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and Yahweh said to me, ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jeremiah 1:9, NASB).

“know”. This Hebrew word “yada” is jam-packed with meaning. On the one hand it implies acquiring something factual through the intellect. It is mentally grasping some piece of knowledge and remembering it. When you know something, your mind says, “I got this.” So on the one hand, knowing is a mental exercise. But on the other hand yada is so much more. In the Hebrew meaning, knowing implies an intimate understanding of something. Knowing is a deep personal union (Adam “knew” Eve), a personal experience with truth. In the Hebrew mind, one didn’t really know something until it became a part of you, until you could live it out. To know was to be involved, to participate in that truth. Something isn’t truly known unless it changes the knower. To know a truth means the knower is responsible to use it properly in his life. True knowledge is a personal relationship with the truth. In this Isaiah verse, to know the timely word is to experience it in your life and offer it to others. “Make me know thy ways, O Yahweh; Teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth and teach me, for thou art the God of my salvation; for thee I wait all the day.” (Ps. 25:4-5).

“sustain”. This particular Hebrew word “uwth” (ooth), is used only once in the entire Hebrew Bible (the O.T.), and this is the time. The word combines support and encouragement with the idea of hurrying. It gives the picture of someone who hastens to help someone in need, unafraid to step in and offer words of comfort when it’s needed. There is a sense of urgency with this word. If indeed Adonai-Yahweh is training your tongue, don’t be shy when offering a word in season to someone who needs it. Be ready, willing, and able to come alongside someone and be a little paraclete. “Thus says Yahweh of the Angel Armies, the God of Israel… For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes.” (Jeremiah 31:25, NASB). “The tongue of the wise brings healing; the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.” (Proverbs 12:18; 10:11).

“weary”. To be human is to be susceptible to times of weariness. Sometimes it’s physical or emotional, and sometimes it’s a soul-weariness that assaults our spirits. Everyone at some point is heavy-laden, overburdened, fearful or exhausted in the struggle to live life as it comes. A timely word in season to the weary is life-giving and brings courage to face adversity. We all need a sustaining word now and then from a well-trained paraclete listening to the Holy Spirit. We come alongside the burdened just as the Comforter comes alongside us. “Winsome words spoken at just the right time are as appealing as apples gilded in gold and surrounded with silver.” (Proverbs 25:11, TPT). An important aspect of being a little paraclete is to Point to Yahweh in times of weariness, and become equipped to offer His word of comfort and encouragement. “For, He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of His understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in Yahweh will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”  (Isaiah 40:28-31, NLT).

“morning”. It takes a daily relationship with Jesus, with Adonai-Yahweh, with the Holy Spirit, to develop an instructed tongue. It takes a daily submission to the Master to grow in being a skilled apprentice. It takes a consistent openness to godly wisdom to become a heavenly learner. King David wrote a powerful morning prayer for all who yearn for an instructed tongue. “Let the dawning day bring me revelation of your tender, unfailing love. Give me light for my path and teach me, for I trust in you. Save me from all my enemies, for I hide myself in you. I just want to obey all you ask of me. So teach me, Lord, for you are my God. Your gracious Spirit is all I need, so lead me on good paths that are pleasing to you, my one and only God!” (Ps. 143:8-10, TPT).

“ear”. Here is another organ to offer up as an “instrument of righteousness.” (Rom. 6:13). The Isaiah verse states that Adonai-Yahweh “wakes up” our ears each morning, if we are willing to have them awaken. The Hebrew here is “He arouses for me an ear.” Are we open to having the Lord arouse our ears to listen to Him? Remember the little children’s Sunday School chorus… “Be careful little ears what you hear.”? It is possible to close our ears to theunhealthy and open our ears to the life-giving. Open ears means we are receptive, attentive, obedient to what we hear from God. Sometimes, as David says in Ps. 40, God needs to “dig out” our ears, to remove obstacles to hearing the truth. “My ears Thou hast dug [opened].” (Ps. 40:6). The ear was an important symbol of total receptivity in the Hebrew Bible: In Deuteronomy 15:17, when a servant wanted to swear life allegiance to the master, he would pierce his right ear and commit to being a love-slave. In Exodus 29:20, when a priest wanted to consecrate a sacrifice, he would place a drop of the sacrificial blood on his right ear. The ear is holy, for how else can one hear and receive the word of the Lord? “My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding.” (Proverbs 2:1-2). “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” (Prov. 18:15).

“listen”. One can hear something without really listening. It takes deep openness to receive truth into your ears, have it register in your receptive mind, and travel to the heart of experience. Listening means it doesn’t merely go in one ear and out the other. To listen like a well-trained disciple, in the Hebrew Bible, is to listen in order to obey. To listen is to activate the will. The Hebrew word used here is “shama,” a form of the great word “shema,” the first word and title for what Jewish children said in their prayers every morning and evening. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is One! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might!” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, NASB). Jesus quotes the shema and gives it central importance in one’s life as a follower of God. In other words, this prayer is saying, Listen up, people! Hear/Do! Get ready to obey this word from the Lord! This is important! Listen carefully! And that’s something we can think about every morning when God wakes up our ears to listen to Him. For the one who speaks God’s words of comfort must first listen to God, poised to obey. There’s another aspect of listening… One can’t talk and listen at the same time. When in prayer, or as we are walking through the day, it pays spiritual dividends when we stop talking to God and open our ears to listen. May we all, morning by morning, be like little boy Samuel, who responded to the Lord’s wake-up call with, “Speak, Yahweh, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10-11).

“like one being taught”. Here at the end of the Isaiah verse we return to its beginning… the crucial role of the disciple, the student, the learner. We are life-long learners, following the Teacher, becoming trained in speaking words of comfort and encouragement, growing in our listening skills, obedient to Adonai-Yahweh and His Son Jesus through the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Advocate, the Eternal Teacher. May all His followers develop an instructed tongue to offer words that will sustain the weary.

“Jesus Christ knew men [and women]. We do not try enough to know our fellow man. We are ready enough to judge them; but we do not try enough to understand them. We should give ourselves an opportunity to understand humanity, to know those who are around us, and from them to know the individual, until we are a hiding place from the wind, a covert from the tempest, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. Every Christian ought to be a refuge.” (George MacDonald, Growth in Grace and Knowledge).

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