February 7, 2024

Have You Not Known? Have You Not Heard?

Prayer for Understanding

O God, with Your Spirit, focus our attention as we listen to the Scriptures.

Help us absorb Your Word, come to know You better, and serve You with greater purpose for Christ’s sake. Amen.

On October 13th, 1972, a Uruguayan chartered flight from Montevideo, Uruguay, to Santiago, Chile, crashed in the Andes mountains. The flight was carrying 45 passengers and crew, including 19 members of the Old Christians Club rugby team, along with their families, supporters, and friends.

Some died immediately and several more died soon after due to the frigid temperatures and the severity of their injuries. Search and rescue aircraft overflew the crash site several times during the following days, but failed to see the white fuselage against the snow. The harsh conditions gave the rescuers little hope that they would find anyone alive so rescue efforts were called off after eight days of searching.

During the 72 days following the crash, the survivors suffered from extreme hardships, such as exposure, starvation, and several avalanches, which led to the deaths of 13 more passengers.

To survive, they had to eat the dead bodies. This decision was not taken lightly, as most of the dead were classmates, close friends, or relatives. For days, they agonized. The survivors gave each other permission to use their bodies for food in case they died. Left with no alternative, they consumed the bodies of their deceased friends and relatives.

As days went by in hunger and cold, they asked, “Why?” and “When?” a thousand times. “Why me? Why us?” “When will the rescuers come?” “The world has abandoned us and forgotten us. Oh God, have you forgotten us?”

But, in the midst of the unbearable conditions they encouraged one another, trying to be hopeful and faithful.

When the weather improved, two of them, Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa who had no rock climbing gear, no area map, no compass, and no climbing experience, climbed the 15,260 ft mountain peak and hiked into Chile, traveling 61 kilometers. After 10 days of hiking and walking in the snowy mountains and valleys, they finally met three Chilean muleteers.

Two and a half months after the crash, three days before Christmas, the 14 remaining survivors were rescued. Some people say it’s a tragedy while some say it’s a miracle.

Today’s text is from the book of Isaiah. Those who come to Thursday's Bible study may remember that the prophet Isaiah ministered in the southern kingdom of Judah during the time of King Hezekiah. The northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed by Assyria, the invincible superpower of the day in the year 722 B.C.

The southern kingdom of Judah survived the Assyrian invasion. However, the people still did not turn to God.

In 587 B.C., God allowed the new empire of Babylon to sweep away Jerusalem, their king, their temple, and enslaved the Judah. Everything was gone. The warnings of the prophets had become reality.

The shameful and traumatic Babylonian captivity might have led the Israelites to believe their God was in some way an inferior deity when compared with Marduk, the god of Babylon.

In ancient times war was regarded as more than a matter between nations, it was also regarded as a matter between deities. The peoples of conquered nations often adopted their conqueror’s religion because they believed their conqueror’s deity was superior to their own.

The Israelites cried out to God but were frustrated because God hadn’t rescued them yet. They were in doubt and also fearful because they thought that perhaps God wasn’t going to rescue them.

After a while, they started thinking that God didn’t care anymore and wasn’t going to do anything to help them, saying “My way is hidden from the Lord, He doesn’t care what happens to me.”

To the questioning people of Judah, God asks, “Do you not know? Were you not told long ago? Have you not understood the foundations of the earth?” They needed only to be reminded what they knew - and that is the purpose of this rhetorical question, “Who created these?”

God reminded them “Your God, who sits on His throne above the earth and beyond the sky, stretched out the sky like a curtain, like a tent in which to live.” “I am able to bring down even the mightiest people on the planet, like the powerful emperors of Assyria and Babylon.  Their earthly majesty and power mean nothing to me. With a wave of my hand, I am able to turn even the proudest and strongest to dust.”

“Are you comparing me with the man-made idols of Babylon? How ridiculous to imagine that something fashioned by human hands could rival ME? Who is my equal?”

We know the answer, right? Absolutely nothing and no one can be compared to Yahweh. Our God whom we believe has no rival, no equal. His name is above all names.

And the Almighty God knows your name and calls each of us by name. He knows everything about you and even the very hairs of your head are numbered by Him. He not only knows about you but cares about you deeply.

There are times when our problems seem bigger than God. We want to give up when our prayers are not answered soon. And we start wondering if the promise of God and the love of God were ever really true, asking, “Why me? Why is this happening to me, to my family?” “Are you listening to my prayers? Have you forgotten me?”

Friends, our problems seem big only when our God is small. Our God does know your troubles, hear your prayers, and see your tears. Our God who watches over you does not slumber or sleep. And He Himself will not grow tired or weary, but gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak.

Have you ever watched an eagle fly? When I visited an Indigenous reserve on Vancouver Island, I saw many bald eagles sitting on tall trees. An eagle can spot a fish from a mile away, dive at 100 miles per hour, and sink its talons into that fish before it knows what happened.

Then the eagle goes way up high and rarely flaps its wings up there. It spreads its wings outstretched in a majestic form and soars along being kept uplifted by the winds under its wings.

That’s what God does sometimes when we put our hope in Him and cry for help. He plunges into the situation and snatches us out of it. He soars high above the storms of life and carries us.

Sometimes, God helps us by running along with us in the situation so that together we can repair it. He empowers us so that we can run and not grow weary. He runs beside us like a pacemaker so that we can continue our race. We feel like slowing down and giving up, but He cheers us on, “You can do it. Do not give up.”

But there are other times when God’s help doesn’t change the situation at all. He doesn’t rescue us out of the situation dramatically and He doesn’t seem like running beside us. Instead, He simply gives us the strength to endure, so that we are personally renewed.

The situation doesn’t change, but we grow stronger. We think we will faint but we don’t. We just keep walking through the situation and we emerge on the other side of it as a renewed person, because God gives us the strength to endure just like the survivors of the plane crash. Just like Jesus Christ who endured suffering and death on our behalf.

Friends, most of the time, our situation doesn’t change at once. As we continue running the race of our faith, as we continue walking the journey, as we endure each hardship along the way, we are being renewed and strengthened.

Our faith is renewed not by new revelations or extraordinary experiences that we’ve never heard before. But God takes us right back to the foundation of that which we’ve already heard of or we already know. We are strengthened each day by Jesus Christ our Redeemer, and Him crucified, and Him risen.

When the survivors of the plane crash had to take the last resort of eating the deceased, they compared their actions to that of Jesus at the Last Supper. As Jesus gave His body and blood for us to live, the dying people permitted their friends to eat their flesh. And the survivors were able to taste the sacrifice of Jesus, Him laying down His life for them. That is true love.

In a moment, we are going to come around the Lord’s table. As we share the bread and wine, hear the word of God.

“28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the Lord 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.”

Let us pray.

Holy Spirit, breathe new strength into our lives so that we may soar on wings like eagles as we take the journey of faith and hope in the Lord. Remind us, O God, that You are bigger than any problems, perplexity, or threatening circumstances that we encounter in our lives. As we eagerly wait on You, renew us. In the most powerful name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.