Summary: God's people were in exile, facing hardship and a sense of abandonment. But God's plan of resoration cannot fail; we must keep our focus
The Jews were in exile in Babylon. They had turned their backs on their God, and they were, you might say, in a state on national depression. You only have to, for example, look at the words of Psalm 137:
How could we sing
the Lord's song
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy.
Yet: if they had abandoned their God, he surely had not abandoned them. They were his people; people with whom he had made an everlasting Covenant. It was in God's covenant with Abraham that he would give the land as an everlasting possession. Their desparate words in the psalm surely reflect their question: ˜Why aren't we there?" From Isaiah they hear the message: ˜DON'T LOSE YOUR FOCUS.
For the prophet begins with words of clear promise; words offering hope, words bidding them not to give up under their present distress and depression. "The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad...it shall blossom abundantly".
What I think these words, and all that follows them in this passage are words for God's people for all times and ages. The God of Abraham is the God and father of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We live in times that could easily make us to despair, to give up hope. Do I need spell it all out: economic hardship, Afghanistan, climatic threat- and that's all without whatever personal hardships we may have to face, and words indeed to us if we have personally turned our back on our God. To the Jews of the 6th century BC; to us the message is: ˜DON'T LOSE YOUR FOCUS.
"They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. (v3)
And notice it's all ˜shall"; not maybe.
The Jews in exile desired a restoration to their own land- the land their God had given them. And God is a God of restoration; a God of putting all things right. That, indeed, is salvation's story.
Everything went wrong when sin came in. God came down to the Garden and placed a curse; man and woman made in his image had marred that image, and his creation was out-of-synch. Yet God's first curse was on the Serpent, and in the words "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel". God's desire was to restore. God commits himself from the very start to, as John puts it in his first episle: The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.(3:8)
The Jews desire to return to their land was eventually fulfilled, and the soundness of Isaiah's advice vindicated.
But this principle doesn't just reply to the Jews of 2,500 years ago. God's deeper purpose, as God declared in Eden was restoration: restoration of fallen, sinful mankind. If we fast forward 500 years, let's recall the message that the seventy took with them: "The Kingdom of God has come near to you" (Luke 10:9). This is the ultimate restoration: the coming of God's Kingdom. That will be the ultimaate, final restoration.