Day 5: Isaiah 40:1-11
“Comfort, comfort my people,”
says your God.
“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and announce to her
that her time of hard service is over,
her iniquity has been pardoned,
and she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.”
A voice of one crying out:
Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness;
make a straight highway for our God in the desert.
Every valley will be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill will be leveled;
the uneven ground will become smooth
and the rough places, a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will appear,
and all humanity together will see it,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
A voice was saying, “Cry out!”
Another said, “What should I cry out?”
“All humanity is grass,
and all its goodness is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flowers fade
when the breath of the Lord blows on them;
indeed, the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flowers fade,
but the word of our God remains forever.”
Zion, herald of good news,
go up on a high mountain.
Jerusalem, herald of good news,
raise your voice loudly.
Raise it, do not be afraid!
Say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
See, the Lord God comes with strength,
and his power establishes his rule.
His wages are with him,
and his reward accompanies him.
He protects his flock like a shepherd;
he gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them in the fold of his garment.
He gently leads those that are nursing.
1. This is the opening statement of Isaiah’s turn from the present to the future. The first 39 chapters of the book that bears Isaiah’s name is concerned with the sins of the people at that time, and the prophet aims to call them to repentance. At chapter 40, his voice changes and he speaks of a distant hope that will appear only when the people of Israel have suffered all the consequences of their misdeeds, and the message is for the exiles. The first statement is one of hope: there will be redemption. Their iniquity [will be] pardoned. Their God will speak to them again. The second statement is said to come from a voice calling in the wilderness. Isaiah had been the King’s prophet in Jerusalem. Now the voice is from the wilderness. And the voice is declaring apocalyptic change: a highway in a desert. Valleys raised and mountains flattened. When the glory of the Lord appears, he will be seen by all humanity. The third statement is from another voice, which declares all humanity is like grass… the grass withers, the flowers fade… but the Word of our God stands forever. There will be both suffering, even to the point of grass being burned; but the Word of God will persist and it’s promise will not fail. The last statement is from a person called Zion, who goes to the top of a mountain in Jerusalem and says Here is your God! He will reestablish Jerusalem and care for it’s people as a shepherd.
2. Jesus is the glory of the Lord which all people will see. He is the Word of our God which remains forever. He is Zion and Jerusalem, the herald of good news. He is the good shepherd that cares for his people.
3. Isaiah teaches us to look both forward and back. We look back to the promises made to the people of God in their darkest moments, when they were at the height of their disobedience. And the promises were kept: First John and then Jesus appear as the voice of one calling in the wilderness and the herald of good news. Yet we also look forward, as the promises made to the people of God are both kept, and yet to be fulfilled. Our response is less about actions and more about hope. Comfort, comfort, for no matter how dark the night, the day comes.
4. The shepherd both carries the lambs and cares for them, and defends them from harm. He is the gentle shepherd, and the Lord God with strength, who bring his reward with him. The future hope of the believer is the future hope of a world under the rule of the good shepherd, when all the promises made become promises kept.