Isa 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary [yaw-gah]. His understanding is unsearchable.
Isaiah 40 is commonly used as a prooftext by those engaged in negative theology. The phrase “[God] neither faints nor is weary” is taken from its context to advocate some sort of immutability concept. God’s repentance is undermined because repentance often involves some sort of mental anguish. If God does not weary then, it is argued, God cannot show mental anguish. Isaiah 40:28 is often used in response to Jeremiah 15:6:
Jer 15:6 You have forsaken Me,” says the LORD, “You have gone backward. Therefore I will stretch out My hand against you and destroy you; I am weary [law-aw] of relenting!
Although the Hebrew word for “weary” differs, the ideas are equivalent. In Jeremiah 15:6, God has spared Israel too many times. The idea is that God is frustrated because He keeps showing mercy yet the Israelites do not internalize the mercy. Instead, they continue in rebellion. God gives up and resorts to punishment.
Now, this reading is antithetical to both Augustinian and Calvinistic theology. If God foresaw the wickedness, the continual rejections of God’s mercy, then God would not be frustrated and repent in showing mercy. One would only become frustrated if they had some sort of expectation that their actions would lead to results, yet those results never materialized. If God knew the future, this entire verse would not make sense, so the Classical theologian has to find out a way to neuter this verse. They do so my playing a “verse trumping” game.
Isaiah 40:28 is quoted to trump Jeremiah 15:6. The argument is that both verses cannot be true and thus one has to be interpreted in light of the other. It is assumed that Isaiah 40:28 is absolute and Jeremiah 15:6 needs to be subservient. Verse trumping is an illegitimate method of reading the Bible because it is arbitrary, it rejects the text, and it ignores normal reading comprehension standards. Normal reading comprehension would suggest the reverse of this conclusion. Usually the more encompassing statement is a generality and a specific example is an exemption.
The most straightforward method of dealing this with contradiction (and atheists list this as a contradiction) it to use normal reading comprehension and to understand each statement in light of the respective contexts.
God is Almighty; therefor God has a lot of power. No power act is going to tire God. God is not going to have to recharge His power. In the context of Isaiah 40:28, God is said to extend this resistance to fatigue onto those who serve Him.
The context of Jeremiah 15:6 is about mental fatigue. God is weary because God is trying to get a response from Israel. God continually has shown mercy, but that has just resulting in Israel further rejecting God. So God gives up. Mercy does not work, so God will finally just punish. The idea is similar to Isaiah 5:
Isa 5:4 What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, Did it bring forth wild grapes?
Isa 5:5 And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
Isa 5:6 I will lay it waste; It shall not be pruned or dug, But there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds That they rain no rain on it.”
In Isaiah 5, God is frustrated. He has exhausted His ideas on how to reach Israel. God asks Israel, in a rhetorical way, to give Him ideas as to what else He could have tried. The implied response is silence. God tried His best, expected results, and was left in disappointment. As in Jeremiah 15:6, God responds by just giving-in to unmitigated punishment. God’s mental frustration is apparent.
In Isaiah 43, just three chapters after “[God] neither faints nor is weary”, Isaiah explains that God does get weary. Again, the context is mental frustration and not power fatigue. In this illustration, God contrasts Him wearying the people and the people wearying Him:
Isa 43:23 You have not brought Me the sheep for your burnt offerings, Nor have you honored Me with your sacrifices. I have not caused you to serve with grain offerings, Nor wearied [law-aw] you with incense.
Isa 43:24 You have bought Me no sweet cane with money, Nor have you satisfied Me with the fat of your sacrifices; But you have burdened Me with your sins, You have wearied [yaw-gah] Me with your iniquities.
Isa 43:25 “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.
God is saying here that He has not wearied the people with burdensome tasks and contrasts. In contrast, the people sin without penance. As such, they weary God. God’s response is one of utter frustration. God chooses not to judge Israel, not for anything that they do, but because God just wants to be done with the entire ordeal. God’s offer is to give Israel forgiveness, allow the sin to go unpunished, contingent on Israel turning to Him. The other alternative is punishment, in which God promises not to show mercy as He has in the past. The mental fatigue is evident.
“God becoming weary” is another case which shows the danger of divorcing short phrases from the context. God does not tired through power acts, but God can get tired of human sin, rebellion, and even unanswered mercy.
Elsewhere in the Bible
Elsewhere, God is said to not fatigue. Again, the context is about God’s power acts. God asks Ahaz to request a sign that He might do it to prove to Ahaz that God’s prophecy is real. Ahaz responds by saying that he will not test God. God seems to be angry about this and says:
Isa 7:13 Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary [law-aw] my God also?
The affront to God appears to be the extent of God’s power. Perhaps Ahaz’ rejection of a sign was routed in his belief that God was incapable. Or perhaps God is angry that Ahaz is not taking the prophecy seriously. God rhetorically responds by saying that He does not fatigue. No matter how great the sign, God says that He could perform it.
Elsewhere, God is fatigued mentally. In Isaiah 1:14, God is weary of people who undergo symbolic ritual in a perfunctory way with no strong intent behind their actions. God says that He has endured this for too long. The meaningless ritual has wearied Him:
Isa 1:14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary [torach] of bearing them.
In Jeremiah 6:11, Jeremiah is pronouncing judgment on Israel. Either God is saying He is weary of holding back His wrath, or Jeremiah is saying he is weary of being filled with the knowledge of God’s wrath and needs to pour it out. The first seems like a more reasonable stance.
Jer 6:11 Therefore I am full of the fury of the LORD. I am weary [law-aw] of holding it in. “I will pour it out on the children outside, And on the assembly of young men together; For even the husband shall be taken with the wife, The aged with him who is full of days.