Summary: Isaiah 40:1-11 tells us four truths about God who comes down to his people with a comforting promise.
In his book, titled The Pressure’s Off, psychologist Larry Crabb tells a story from his childhood to illustrate how God works in our adversity.
One Saturday afternoon, Larry said, when he was three years old he decided that he was a big boy and could use the bathroom without anyone’s help. So he climbed the stairs, closed the bathroom door and locked it behind him. And for the next few minutes he felt very self-sufficient.
Then, it was time to leave. But, to his horror he discovered that he could not unlock the door. He tried with every ounce of his three-year-old strength, but he could not unlock the door.
He panicked. He felt like a very little boy again as the thought went through his mind, “I might spend the rest of my life in this bathroom.”
His parents—and likely the neighbors—heard his desperate scream for help.
“Are you okay?” his Mom shouted through the locked door. “Did you fall? Have you hit your head?”
“I can’t unlock the door!” shouted Larry. “Get me out of here!”
Now Larry was not aware of it right then, but his Dad raced down the stairs, ran to the garage, found the ladder, hauled it off the hooks, and leaned it against the side of the house just beneath the bathroom window.
With adult strength, his Dad pried open the window, then climbed into Larry’s prison, walked past him and with that same strength, turned the lock and opened the bathroom door.
“Thanks, Dad!” Larry said. And then he ran outside to play.
Larry said that many of us think that this is how the Christian life is supposed to work. When we get stuck in a tight place, we do all we can to free ourselves. But when we can’t free ourselves, we pray. Then God shows up. He hears our cry—“Get me out of here! I want to play!”—and unlocks the door to the blessings we desire.
The truth is that God sometimes does unlock the door for us.
But, more often than not, the Christian life does not work that way. We find ourselves in some kind of adversity, and we cry out to God to open the door for us. But nothing happens.
What do we do when a marriage is falling apart, when health worsens in spite of much prayer, when a child is diagnosed with a terminal illness, when a spouse dies, when a teenager rebels, when a friend betrays, when a job is lost, when financial reversals strike, when the threat of terrorism lurks, when loneliness intensifies, when depression creeps in, when hope dies?
Sometimes God disciplines us and leaves in the bathroom for a while so that we can examine ourselves and repent of our disobedience.
Then he climbs through the window into the bathroom with us. But he doesn’t walk past us and unlock the door. Instead, he sits down on the bathroom floor to comfort us. He seems to think that being in the room with us matters more than letting us out to play.
We don’t always see it that way of course. “Get me out of here!” we shout. “If you love me, unlock the door!”
We think that the way to blessing is getting what we want—to get out of the locked bathroom so we can go out and play.
But the way to blessing is to sit down with God, as it were, and take the opportunity to listen to him and be comforted by him.
Isaiah ministered to the people of the southern kingdom of Judah from about 740-700 BC. The northern kingdom of Israel had been attacked, defeated, and taken into exile by the Assyrians in 722 BC. The people of Judah were scared that they would be next.
They were in fact attacked, defeated, and taken into exile by the Babylonians more than a century later, in 586 BC.
Now, in Babylonian exile God’s people were defeated and disillusioned. They were locked in a bathroom, as it were, and they were crying out to God for help.
The message of the prophet is that God would come down, sit with them, and comfort them. Let’s read Isaiah 40:1-11:
1Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins.
3A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
5And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,