Summary: There is nothing that we will face in this life time, that God cannot handle.
In your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society but upward to the Great society. President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke those words at the University of Michigan on May 22, 1964. Reading them over four decades later, I ask myself, “I wonder how the Jewish captives in Babylon would have responded to what the President said?”
A rich society? They were refugees whose land and holy city were in ruins.
A powerful society? Without king or army, they were weak and helpless before the nations around them.
A great society? They had been guilty of great rebellion against God and had suffered great humiliation and chastening. They faced a great challenge but lacked great human resources.
And that is why the prophet Isaiah told them to get their eyes off themselves and look by faith to the great God who loved them and promised to do great things for them. “Be not afraid!” he admonished them. “Behold your God!”
Years ago, on the radio I heard a motto that has often encouraged me: “Look at others, and be distressed. Look at yourself, and be depressed. Look to God, an you’ll be blessed!” This may not be a piece of literature, but it certainly contains great practical theology. When the outlook is bleak, we need the up-look. “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things…for He is strong in power (v. 26)
When like Israel of old, you face a difficult task and an impossible tomorrow, do what they did and remind yourself of the greatness of God.
The Four Voices of Encouragement:
I. The Voice of Pardon (vv. 1-2)
a. The nation had sinned greatly against the Lord, with their idolatry, injustice, immorality, and insensitivity to His messengers.
b. But they were still His people, and He loved them.
c. Though He would chasten them, He would not forsake them.
i. “Speak tenderly” means “speak to the heart”
ii. “Warfare” means “severe trials”
iii. “Double” does not suggest that God’s chastenings are unfair, for He is merciful even in His punishments (Ezra 9:13)
After all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and our great guilt, since You our God have required us less than our iniquities deserve, and have given us an escaped remnant as this,
iv. God chastened them in an equivalent measure to what they had done.
d. We should not sin, but if we do, God is waiting to pardon
II. The Voice of Providence (vv. 3-5)
a. The Jews had a rough road ahead of them as they returned to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, but the Lord would go before them to open the way.
b. The picture here is of an ambassador repairing the roads and removing obstacles, preparing the way for the coming of a king.
i. The image of a highway is frequent in Isaiah’s prophecy (11:16)
And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant of His people who will be left, just as there was for Israel in the day that they came up out of the land of Egypt.
c. Of course, the ultimate fulfillment here is in the ministry of John the Baptist as he prepared the way for the ministry of Jesus.