Summary: Isaiah wrote Isaiah 40 to teach Israel that comfort is found in the Messiah who is a sovereign Shepherd, an incomparable Creator, and a strengthening Savior.
Opening thought: Ever had someone tell you to get out of your comfort zone? Those who say that want you to get out of your complacency, drop the laziness, get moving, do something you’ve never done before, try something risky. In today’s passage, Isaiah encourages us to find a real comfort zone and get in it – a different kind of comfort zone – a comfort zone of anticipation of our coming King, a comfort zone of celebration of a sovereign Lord, a comfort zone where the universe’s Creator desires a close relationship person to person with you, a comfort zone of strength and renewal that comes from the Savior. What a great day, and what a great passage of Scripture. Let’s read together Isaiah 40.
Pray and Read: Isaiah 40
Today we launch the second half of Isaiah’s incredible prophecy. The fortieth chapter of Isaiah is a famous one by itself. G.F. Handel powerfully set many of these verses to music. And Isaiah 40 begins the second of two sections of Isaiah’s prophecy. Chapters 1-35 announce a coming judent on the earth and a coming Messiah who can rescue all who call on him. Chapters 36-39 serve as a pivot for Isaiah’s work, proving God’s commitment to his people, his faithfulness despite their unfaithfulness. Notice that there is no mention of the coming Exile to Babylon, when the nation was hauled away from the land for disobedience and the land was desolate. Chapters 40-66 give us a comforting vision of the coming future and the coming Messiah who will make that vision reality.
In the Hebrew Bible, the book of Kings (our 1 & 2 Kings), which comes just before Isaiah, narrates the building and then decline of Jerusalem and the Davidic line. Then Isaiah 1 portrays a sick Israel with a ruined Jerusalem, but in chapter 2, Jerusalem is restored and becomes the capital of the world with a descendant of David on the throne. In chapters 36-39, Jerusalem is attacked, but God protects her and preserves Hezekiah, the heir of David’s line. In 40:2, Jerusalem’s pain is over and comfort has come through a Shepherd (like David). At the end of Isaiah (65:17-19), Isaiah envisions a new heavens, a new earth, and a New Jerusalem.
At the beginning of Isaiah (1:4), Israel is a nation mired in transgression (chatat), but at the beginning of this section, her transgression has been paid for (40:2). In the song of praise at the end of the first segment of Isaiah (12:1), the nation is comforted by forgiveness of its sin, a foreshadowing of the tender comfort of 40:1-2.
Key Truth: Isaiah wrote Isaiah 40 to teach Israel that comfort is found in the Messiah who is a sovereign Shepherd, an incomparable Creator, and a strengthening Savior.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about knowing Christ’s comfort.
Comfort is found in a Sovereign Shepherd (Isaiah 40:1-11)
Comfort is found in an Incomparable Creator (Isaiah 40:12-26)
Comfort is found in the Strengthening Savior (Isaiah 40:27-31)
Exposition: Note well,
1. COMFORT IS FOUND IN A SOVEREIGN SHEPHERD (Isaiah 40:1-11)
a. 40:1-2 – “Comfort!” Isaiah’s opening cry is “Comfort, comfort my people.” The original word for comfort is naham, meaning ‘console.’ It is a deeply emotional word, overflowing with concern and pity. In chapters 1-35, Isaiah has cried out against the spiritual insensitivity of his generation and warned of devastating consequences. But God’s love for Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem has never changed or weakened. In the Exile, God made an example of the nation that was commissioned as his representative (Deut. 4:5-8, 23-24), but they cry out in exile for the grace proclaimed by Isaiah 40:1-2 (Ezra 9:6-8; Neh. 1:5-10; 9; Daniel 9). Now Isaiah speaks to the remnant, the shaken survivors, to comfort and console them, to announce to them their forgiveness. God’s commitment to his own never changes. Notice that comfort is repeated twice (40:1) to balance the double punishment for sin. God is the one who shows mercy (40:2).
b. APPLICATION: Perhaps today you find yourself in the shaken survival of the ravages of sin in your life. Are you in need of a comfort zone? Are the winds blowing so hard you wonder, ‘what next?’ Christ brings comfort, but you must be willing for him to embrace you with his consolation. Won’t you let him forgive you? Won’t you forgive yourself? Comfort is found on the other side. As believers who have been forgiven, we have been called to a ministry and mission of comforting others (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
c. Isaiah 40:3-5 – Highway in the desert. The exiles hear a herald’s voice ordering a highway to be built in the desert (40:3). The desert often is a symbol of God’s punishment and desolation (34:8-15; Numbers 32:13), but it has also been a place of discovering or returning to God (Exodus 3:1-2; Hosea 2:14) or even of testing and empowerment by God (Matthew 4; Luke 4; Israel in Wilderness; Paul-Galatians 1:17-18). The herald comes calling for a new exodus from Babylon (Exodus 16:10). It will be a smooth road (40:4) paved by a Messiah (35:8-10). The gospel writers saw this passage applied to the role of John the Baptizer, preparing the way for the coming of Christ (Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23). The coming of God brings deliverance for his people and brings God’s glory (40:5).