Summary: God is speaking to His world. His Spirit-filled Word provides opportunity for growth and hope for His people. Those who receive the eternal Word and are changed will find eternal reward because of it.
ISAIAH 40: 1-11
THE CREATOR COMFORTS
How majestic is the second part of the Book of Isaiah. The new section opens by stirring the people of God with the promise and hope of redemption and restoration. The Prophet begins with the sharp contrast between the failure of the past and the hope of the future. Israel is to be comforted in the assurance that her trial has ended and her sin been purged. What great news!
This Good News must be announced [and a herald and forerunner of the coming King is called upon to express God ultimate hope]. Though humanity continues to pass away, there is hope for something eternal. That hope is the Word of God which not only will be fulfilled but will stand forever. That Word of God here is the [comfort and restoration based on] atonement and forgiveness provided when the glory of the Lord is revealed.
The way will be prepared and God will come. Frail humanity will be visited by the God who will indwell His people. We are told to proclaim the glad tidings with the strong voice of gladness and certainty.
The structure of the section naturally suggests a fourfold division.
I. A VOICE OF COMFORT, 1-2.
II. A VOICE OF COMING, 3-5.
III. A VOICE OF CONTINUANCE, 6-8.
IV. A VOICE OF DECLARATION, 9-11.
The recurring themes of the ensuing chapters are the fact and the means of restoration. The first two verse dramatically set the tone of the next 27 chapters. The opening words are an assurance that all is paid, all is forgiven. "Comfort, O comfort My people," says your God. (2) "Speak kindly to Jerusalem; And call out to her, that her warfare has ended, That her iniquity has been removed, That she has received of the Lord’s hand Double for all her sins."
Without any transition or preparation, the repeated imperatives strike the hearer with sudden intensity. Comfort is the wonderfully tender word given to those who return to God. They speak of the compassion expressed to someone who is grieving over the death of a family member (Gen. 24:67; 37:35; 2 Sam. 10:2; Jer. 16:7). God is the God of All Comfort (2 Cor. 1:4). Whatever may lie ahead for the people of God, His ultimate purpose for us is not destruction but redemption, not death but life.
Furthermore, these are the words spoken to My people by your God. What a world of yearning love there is in the two little words ‘My’ and ‘your’! The rebellious are still His; He who has hidden His face from them so long is still theirs. And what was true for them is true for us. Sin may separate us from God, but it does not separate Him from us, for He formed an imperishable bond with us, which is the ground of our comfort. Without question this is the language of the covenant (Exod. 6:7; 19:5; Lev. 26:12; Deut. 26:17-18; etc.).
This tone of kindness and gentleness is also unveiled and reinforced in the permanence of His relation of love even to sinful and punished men. Note the tender manner of His voice to us, and prescribe the tone for all His servants: ‘Speak kindly to Jerusalem,’ with loving words, which may win His people’s love. To speak to someone’s heart is to speak encouragement. [The encouragement might be admonishing (2 Chr. 30:22) or affectionate (Gen. 34:3; 50:21; Ruth 2:13), or even congratulatory (2 Sam. 19:8 [Eng. 7]), but in all cases ] its purpose is to move someone who might be paralyzed by circumstances to take heart and believe. [Her lover has not cast her off. However serious his anger with her may have been, she has every reason to continue to believe in his love (cf. 12: 1; 40:27-31; 49:14-18; 51:3).]
[Is she not the bride of Christ, fallen though she be? Are not Jerusalem’s people the beloved of Jesus who unveiled the heart of God to us that our hearts might be won? How shall human voices be softened to tenderness worthy of the message which they carry? Only by dwelling near enough to Him to catch the echoes and copy the inflections of His voice.]
It is as if the prophet says, "Alright, so much for the past. It’s all true, but it’s not all there is to the truth: Don’t forget that the sin which brought about the long, hard service it is forgiven, and, more wonderful and gracious still, God’s mercy regards that the repercussions which came from their unfaithfulness have more than purged it. Israel has suffered immensely for her sins, but now it is complete; she need fear nothing more from God’s hand.
The captivity may be in the foreground of the prophet’s vision; but the