Summary: Comfort in the certainty of God's Word.
We have before us a passage which may well be very familiar to us: yet please do not allow its very familiarity to breed contempt. This is a little Gospel, a sort of proto-Gospel written by the prophet many years before the event. Our task is to ask Isaiah concerning the what, when, why and who of his message, and the what of ours.
1. What is his message?
It is a message of preparation, of levelling the land and clearing the highway to make way for the coming of the LORD (Isaiah 40:3-4).
It is a message of certainty (Isaiah 40:8).
He brings judgement against those who oppose Him, but reward for those who have persevered in His seeming absence (Isaiah 40:10).
This message speaks of the tenderness and compassion of the Good Shepherd (Isaiah 40:11).
2. When, what time, does this message speak of?
After 39 chapters of comparative doom and gloom, judgement and warning, Isaiah leads us out on to a new plain. It is a word of comfort for the children of Israel under the Assyrian threat.
It is a message of encouragement for the exiles in Babylon 150 years later (Isaiah 40:2).
It is a word for the generation who would hear the preaching of John the Baptist (John 1:23), who proclaimed the coming of Jesus.
It is for the church in all generations, and for the church to proclaim to all generations.
By now Israel has suffered enough for her sins (Isaiah 40:2). “Double” may mean tit for tat, an exact mirror image of what she deserves - or it may even mean she has paid more than enough. Whichever it may be, her warfare is accomplished, her iniquity is pardoned.
For the Christian this means we no longer have to suffer the full penalty of our sin. This is not a license to sin, but a severing of our former relationship with sin (Romans 5:21-6:2). Sin does reap consequences, but the penalty of our sin has been paid by our Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9-2:2).
4. Who shall proclaim this message?
The prophets from Isaiah himself through to John the Baptist;
the Church and ourselves.
5. Who is this message for?
It is for Isaiah’s contemporaries in times of upheaval.
It is for those in the Babylonian captivity, and those returning from exile.
It for those who await Messiah in John the Baptist’s days.
It is for us, as we await Jesus’ return.
Yet let us not stand gazing into heaven (Acts 1:11): we need to be proactive as a living witness to those around us. There is no end of people who need a word of comfort, good news, and encouragement in the midst of the doom and gloom of World news.
6. What shall we cry (Isaiah 40:6)?