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The opening words of Isaiah 40 are so beautiful that Handel used them in his famous opera, the “Messiah.”
This chapter sets the stage for the remaining message from God to his people in Isaiah.
A Message of Comfort
The history of the Hebrew people is filled with tragic and horrific events. From generations of slavery in Egypt to the Babylonian exile to the Holocaust, they have known deep pain and suffering.
God has never forsaken his people. In their suffering, he pledged his care for them.
Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins. (Isaiah 4.1-2)
The Apostle Paul stated the obvious when he wrote, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3.23).
Paul also revealed the cost of sin. He said, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6.23).
All humans know the reality of sin. We are people who daily fall short of God’s intentions for us.
We also know the results of sin. Each time we sin, we die a little. Spiritual death and separation from God are the product of sin. No doubt, there is a penalty to be paid for sin.
God’s grace is bigger than our sin. He speaks his word of comfort to sinful people.
People who are familiar with Paul’s writings know that I didn’t include the entire verse from Romans 6.23. The full verse reads, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus.”
Praise God! He saves and comforts sinners.
Prepare the Way
I remember the construction of I-55 that connected St. Louis to my hometown, Cape Girardeau. Before I-55 was completed, a trip to St. Louis could easily take over three hours on a dangerous, winding, two-lane road.
Isaiah pictured the construction of a superhighway. Its purpose was for God’s glory to be revealed to all people.
A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40.3-5)
If these words seem familiar, they were on the lips of John the Baptist as he paved the way for Jesus’ appearance (see Luke 3.4-6).
When Jesus walked the earth, the glory of God was visible to humans. John wrote, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1.14).
Every word that Jesus spoke and every deed that Jesus committed revealed an aspect of God’s character. Jesus was a living, breathing expression of God’s glory.
Jesus is active today through the work of the Holy Spirit. When we live in a vibrant relationship with God and allow the Spirit to work through us, we are part of the superhighway that allows God’s glory to be known.
The coronavirus has made the world aware of how vulnerable life is. During the past year, over 3.5 million people have died from the virus.
Isaiah declared what we all know. Life is short and often difficult.
A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40.6-8)
There is a wind that blows from Israel’s desert that turns every green plant brown in a day. This is an excellent picture of the frailty and vulnerability of life.
Still, God’s word remains. When we think of “God’s word,” we often imagine the Bible. That is a correct answer, but there is more.
My father often said, “A man’s word is his bond.” If that was true of my father, how much more so it can be applied to God.
God’s word is his promise to people who live in a relationship with him.
— We can fully rely on his promises to answer prayers.
— We can trust Jesus’s words, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28.29).
— We can live in the joyful realization of the availability of the Holy Spirit.
God has given his people many promises and these are but a few.
Here is the issue. Do we worry and fret, because we rely on human abilities? If so, our power is as frail as grass before a scorching wind.
Will we learn God’s promises and rely on them to guide our lives? As we do, we remember that his word will stand forever.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross is an excellent student of Isaiah. Rudy and I have a video you can see on the Bob Spradling YouTube Chanel.
Rudy will bring a different dimension to Isaiah than what is in my blog. I hope you will check out and enjoy my interviews with him.
I am indebted to a book by Dr. John Oswalt on Isaiah for his insights into this powerful book.
If you have a prayer request, please email me at email@example.com or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist prayer team will pray for you.