Lift Up Your Eyes

“O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see?” So begins a hymn composed by Helen Howarth Lemmel and published in 1918, which, though written many years ago, speaks very clearly to us today.

Lift Up Your Eyes

In the first part of Isaiah’s prophecy there is a description of God’s judgement on the nations. God’s chosen people, Israel, had indulged in idolatry and followed their own way, thus demanding God’s just punishment. God would deal with their sin, while also allowing the surrounding nations to come to know who Yahweh was, as His people found themselves dispersed (see Daniel 4:1-3). The people had been displaced from their homes, families, and comfort zones. Weary, discouraged, and isolated from all that they previously held dear, they questioned Yahweh’s faithfulness, and wondered what the future would hold for them as God’s people.

Maybe you too feel this sense of weariness, looking back over months of difficulty, and towards a future of uncertainty and stress. Maybe you are questioning God’s character, desperate for a sense of Him and wondering how to have a mind of peace that finds rest in Him. Yet, in Isaiah chapters forty to sixty-six there are beautiful descriptions of comfort. God calls out to His people; with a heart full of compassion, speaking truth into weary hearts, He reminds them of who He is and what that means for them.

“Thro’ death into life everlasting, He passed, and we follow Him there; O’er us sin no more hath dominion.”

In the early verses of Isaiah 40 God reminds His people that their iniquity has been removed (v.2). The warfare of sin had been defeated (v.2), and they were set free from its heavy burden. How great a truth this is for believers today! We understand the book of Isaiah in light of the cross, when Christ Jesus removed our iniquity, once and for all. Child of God, if we are wearied by the shame and weight of sin within, then we must look up to Christ, through whom “as far as the east is from the west, so far has [God] removed [our] transgressions”. (Psalm 103:12). Come to Him, for He will grant rest to all of us, as believers, who labour and are heavy laden, just as He did when we came to Him as sinners (Matthew 11:28). As Paul reminds the Christians at Rome, the believer can claim this promise through Christ: “sin shall not have dominion over you” (Romans 6:14).

“There’s light for a look at the Saviour, and life more abundant and free.”

Thus, having dealt with the weight of personal and corporate sin, Isaiah 40 urges God’s people not to look within, or around at the discouragement of present situations, but instead to look up. “Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these stars” (v.26). Look up, weary heart in need of comfort. Look to the One who sits above the earth and sustains each person, drawing near to His people. He comforts weary hearts, proves Himself worthy of our full affection, and reminds us of His redeeming work of salvation that has taken place in our hearts.

The challenge is to look at life with a heavenly perspective, determining situations and events through the lens of eternity (v.26). This is the antidote for discouragement, despair, and fear: deliberate meditation on the attributes of God. Behold Him, who has “measured the waters in the hollow of His hand” (v.12) and “stretches out the heavens like a curtain” (v.22). To God, the nations are like “a drop from a bucket . . . as a speck of dust on the scales” (v.15 NASB); He is over all. Having seen His power, God’s people are asked: “To whom then will you liken God?” (vv.18,25). Or on what will you place more value than on Him? Friends, job, devices, stability, wealth, comfort, popularity?

“Then go to a world that is dying, His perfect salvation to tell.”

The Everlasting God, faithful to His people today as He ever has been to the nation of Israel, is never weary. Our lives just now are marked by the agony of uncertainty, and we are quickly fatigued and discouraged by the circumstances we find ourselves in. Yet, our God is immutable, and His strength is unfathomed and unending. Wonderfully, God promises to give strength to His people, the weary (v.29). In turn, as we claim His strength, a weary world, lost in sin, can see through our lives and witness a reason for hope.

How can we come to know His strength and power in our lives? By waiting on the Lord (v.31), and fixing our thoughts on God who is far above, sovereignly in control, and full of compassion. He sees our weary hearts as they wonder what the future will hold, lament the loss of the past year, and question our purpose for today. God sees, and this is the precious promise He gives to His people if they faithfully wait on Him: “[They] 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”. As the eagle flies high in the sky, viewing both the mountain tops and valley lows, so we too, with spiritual eyes elevated to focus on God’s sovereignty, will be given renewed strength to face each day. As we wait on God, meditating on His Word and spending time alone with Him in prayer, the idols in our lives will become distasteful and empty. And as we focus on God’s greatness, our emotions and thoughts will be lifted from despair to awe of Him.

So, lift up your eyes; away from self and circumstance and up to Him. There is delight when we lift our weary hearts and look to the One who loves us with an everlasting love. He is not unaware of the quiet frustration and weariness that lingers within us, or the questions that we ask in the moments of sobering silence. And yet, He is waiting, ever waiting, for us to lift up our eyes and find in Him a strength that changes everything.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”