Summary: In some of the storms of life, God intervenes and shelters us. In others, He allows us to be exposed so that we will be pressed more closely to Him.
Opening illustration: Whether we are reading the daily paper, listening to the radio, or watching TV, the news is filled with what one might call the fruits of discouragement and even despair. Life is like a continuous newsreel showing the futile actions of people trying to live without a biblical hope, one solidly fixed on God as their defense and refuge.
Without question, we live in a strife-ridden world, one torn by wars, by famine, by disease and sickness, by natural disasters of gigantic proportion, by injustices and corrupt governments run by self-seeking politicians who are like capricious children (Isaiah 3: 4). But what is even worse, they rule over a populace that by-in-large has become indifferent to the moral improprieties in its leaders. Ours is a world polluted by demonic powers and humanistic ideas where man is wise in his own eyes and clever in his own sight. Through this satanically-inspired, man-made wisdom, man perverts and distorts what is good and wholesome, and in the process, takes people further and further away from God. As it was in Isaiah’s day, evil is called good, and good evil, darkness is substituted for light and light for darkness, bitter is substituted for sweet and sweet for bitter (Isa. 5: 20). The root of the problem is that we have become wise in our own eyes and clever in our own sight (Isa. 5: 21) for we now live in a day where we have not only taken prayer out of the schools, but where it is against the law for a teacher or even a judge to have a copy of the Ten Commandments in their class or courtroom.
Daily events demonstrate two things in America today:
(1) The restless and yet futile activity of a world full of people who know not the comfort of God because they refuse to live under the shelter of the Most High so that they might enjoy the shadow (the comfort and protection) of the Almighty.
(2) The tragic results of man’s choice to ignore God’s shelter. The result is a society that, in its mad pursuit to find meaning and happiness without God, is bombarded by spiritual, social, and moral decay. Isaiah portrays this as the constant churning of a restless sea with its waves constantly buffeting the shore and casting up mire and mud. What a graphic picture of the moral pollution that covers society.
Isaiah 57:20-21 reads, “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.’”
Introduction: Isaiah 40 is a passage filled with princi¬ples which any believer may draw upon for comfort and strength in any age. It is a comfort and strength however which should lead us as individuals (and as churches) to experience the promise of Isaiah 40: 31 and Daniel 11: 32.
The people of God are reproved for their unbelief and distrust of God. Let them remember they took the names Jacob and Israel, from one who found God faithful to him in all his straits. And they bore these names as a people in covenant with Him. Many foolish frets, and foolish fears, would vanish before inquiry into the causes. It is bad to have evil thoughts rise in our minds, but worse to turn them into evil words. What they had known, and had heard, was sufficient to silence all these fears and distrusts. Where God had begun the work of grace, he will perfect it. He will help those who, in humble dependence on him, help themselves. As the day, so shall the strength be. In the strength of Divine grace their souls shall ascend above the world. They shall run the way of God’s commandments cheerfully. Let us watch against unbelief, pride, and self-confidence. If we go forth in our own strength, we shall faint, and utterly fall; but having our hearts and our hopes in heaven, we shall be carried above all difficulties, and be enabled to lay hold of the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus.
How to find God’s Comfort?
1. Acknowledge Him as the Creator (vs. 25 – 26)
Note the methodology of this passage. Through a series of rhetorical questions it makes the reader focus on the greatness of our God rather than on the nature and size of our problems. Compared to God, our problems are nothing. This is not to minimize them, for problems are real, cause great pain, and are a personal concern to the Lord. But we must learn to see them against the backdrop of the incomparable majesty of God.
When I think about the greatness of God’s Word and how it points us to God I am reminded of the child’s description of an elevator: “I got into this little room and the upstairs came down.” God’s Word is the little room that brings the reality of God who sits in the heavens, down to the realities of my life.