Summary: Comfort, comfort my people, a voice cries out in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord.
“Isaiah 40:1-11 “A Comforting Embrace”
Pictures of Comfort
We all need a hug at some point in our lives. In fact, experts say that we need to experience the touch of another person at least fourteen times a day for us to be able to lower stress, anxiety, and to enjoy life. We are comforted knowing that we are not alone. We are encouraged when we realize that somebody cares about us and is with us. Touch and hugs allow us to hope that we are loved and that gives us the ability to move forward.
In this passage of scripture God gives the people of God a verbal hug. God wants to comfort them and ease their fears.
EXILED IN BABYLON
Through the dynasties of scores of kings and for hundreds of years, the prophets had warned the people of God’s coming judgment. The prophets accused the people of abandoning God and of prostituting themselves at the altars of false gods and idols. The called God’s people to repentance, but the people never sought to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
The judgment came in 587 BC. Babylon invaded Judah and laid siege to Jerusalem. Once the people of Judah surrendered, they were exiled to the City of Babylon. Foreigners were brought in to populate the Promised Land, and the temple was destroyed. The people had lost everything: their families, their land, their temple and their God. From their perspective, the situation was hopeless.
Into this hopeless situation the Lord sent the prophet. He is usually known as Second Isaiah. He was to offer words of comfort to the exiles. The prophet announced to the people that their time of judgment had come to an end. God was coming to deliver them and what God promises will come to pass.
Certainly, the prophet’s words can speak to our hurting world. With another mass shooting, our hearts are filled with grief and fear. It seems to us as if evil is winning and we have little hope that it will change. In the season of celebration many of us face difficult, even hopeless, situations. Health, finances, relationships, addictions threaten to overwhelm us and destroy us.
WATCH WHERE YOU PLACE YOUR TRUST
Speaking through the prophet the Lord promises that God will come and deliver the people. A royal highway is being built. It’s not for the monarch to travel out to his kingdom, but rather it is for the Lord to come to his people. Preparations need to be made and it will take time for the highway to be built, but the Lord has promised that God will come.
The prophet has a warning for the people in addition to the promise. “All people are grass,” he says. In other words, don’t put your trust in people—not ourselves and not others. The situation that we find ourselves is beyond human power. Only God’s intervention will succeed.
This does not mean that we sit back and do nothing. It may mean that we become creative in our responses. In Matthew 5:40 Jesus instructs his followers, “If anyone asks for your coat give to him your cloak also. Many have interpreted this to mean that Christians should make no resistance and allow their enemies to walk over them. In reality it is a call to “kill your enemies with kindness.” A Roman soldier could as a person for his coat, but no more. If he was given a person’s cloak as well, he could be severely disciplined.
The prophet’s words are also a call to get our eyes off our problems and work on preparing the way of the Lord. This would include serving others, meeting their needs, and sharing God’s love and grace with them.
COMING WITH POWER AND GENTLENESS
In verse 10 and 11, the prophet describes how the Lord will come and deliver God’s people. The Lord will come with might. God will do what is needed to get the job done. Doors will be opened for a job. Wounds will be mended and health restored. We are able to hope because God is the God of all creation and there is nothing beyond God’s power.
God will also come with gentleness. God “will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom and gently lead the mother sheep.”
In the most difficult of times, it is the reminder of God’s love that has set my mind and ease and has still the fears and concerns of my heart. God’s love is a powerful force.
God’s word of comfort has come to us. As we live in the hope and peace that God’s Word gives to us, we can share those same words of comfort with others. We can be prophets at this time and place.