They that wait upon the Lord shall renew (exchange, Newberry) their strength Isaiah 40:31 KJV

Those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength” Isaiah 40:31 NASB

Exchanging strength! This is perhaps what Paul experienced when he related that he was able to do all things because Christ was pouring His strength into him (Phil 4:13). Our verse in Isaiah promises, not that our strength will be increased, but that our strength (really, our weakness) will be exchanged for His might. The principle being stressed, and the lesson being taught is that all strength for spiritual life must be from the Lord and not some calling upon inherent capabilities. Strength for soaring, running, walking, must all come from Him.

The One Who is the ultimate source of all strength was “crucified through weakness” (2 Cor 13:4). To understand this, it is helpful to note the context in which Paul makes this statement. The attitude of some in the assembly at Corinth, and perhaps of those who falsely claimed to be apostles, was that Paul was weak and could not exert his influence on them. To them Paul appeared weak because he did not act as they did – with arrogance and assertiveness. Paul had chosen, with many tears, to allow time for repentance, rather than “forcing” the issue (2 Cor 1:23, 24). His delay was to allow them to respond willingly; but it was interpreted as weakness.

We admire Paul for his grace in allowing himself to be misunderstood and falsely accused of either cowardice or weakness. But he makes very clear that it was a “permitted” weakness – not actual. In a similar manner, the Lord Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified by men who viewed Him as helpless, as unable to do anything to save Himself.

The taunting jeers of men surrounding the cross were, “He saved others, let Him save Himself” (Luke 23:35).” And, “If Thou be the Christ, save Thyself and us” (Luke 23:39). Earlier in the day, Herod and his men of war were first hand observers of this “permitted weakness” on the part of Christ as they “set Him at naught,” toying and amusing themselves at His expense.

What grace on the part of the Lord Jesus Christ that He allowed men to mock Him, amuse themselves at His expense, blaspheme Him, and taunt Him with their vile words, and yet never retaliate. His strength of character controlled the might of His strength.

But we cannot avoid the reality that as a perfect Man, a Man Who could hunger, thirst, and experience weariness, He did experience physical weakness in His human body. The grief of anticipation in Gethsemane, long night of interrogation, the beatings, and the suffering on the cross, all caused genuine reactions in His body. He was not impervious to all the physical demands placed on His body by the events. He was not going through Calvary in a robotic fashion, like an actor fulfilling his part in a drama. It was real!

While possessing omnipotence, He experienced weakness. He was “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Heb 1:3) while being held to a cross! The One Who promises to strengthen others in trial, literally exchanged strength for weakness at Calvary.

Consider:

  1. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all give us some statements or indications of the Lord’s physical weakness going to or on the cross, yet John does not. Why?
  2. Would this “permitted weakness” be part of what the writer of Hebrews meant when he wrote, “In the days of His flesh … learned He obedience by the things that He suffered” (Heb 5:7, 8)?