Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

2. Comforting Strength – Part 1

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Isaiah 40:1-11

“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. 2 “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over for all her sins.” 3 Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! 4 Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. 5 Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,     and all people will see it together. The Lord has spoken!” 6 A voice said, “Shout!” I asked, “What should I shout?” “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. 7 The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the Lord. And so it is with people. 8 The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” 9 O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops! Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!” 10 Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. 11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.

It’s here that Isaiah speaks of an everlasting comfort that comes from the everlasting Word of God, and results in an everlasting strength. Now the book of Isaiah is divided into two parts. The first 39 chapters deal with impending judgment while the second part deals with forgiveness and deliverance. The first 39 chapters deal with sin where the last 27 chapters deal with the Savior, that is 66 chapters in all. Some view Isaiah as a small Bible, for there are 39 chapters in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament, a total of 66 books in all. Just like the book of Isaiah the Old Testament often deals with the sins of God’s people while the New Testament deals with the Savior who came to die for those sins. Beginning in chapter 40 there is a distinctly different tone and message. The first 39 chapters warned of the destruction of the nation and the deportation of its people to invading nations because the people had turned away from God. When the people abandoned God they became orphans. The first part of the book deals with their hard hearts where the second deals with hope. As Isaiah penned the first part of this book, disaster had not yet fallen on God’s people. The people had grown tired of Isaiah’s warnings and their need to repent and return to God. But Isaiah wrote the second half of the book to a people who would go into exile and slavery. He was prophesying about a time that was yet to come when the nation would be destroyed. Jerusalem with its beautiful temple would be left laying in ruins, and God’s people would experience the agony of their apathy. It’s here that Isaiah shares three things with the people, first, he spoke to them about an everlasting comfort. Something they would need as captive slaves in Babylon. You see they did not need Isaiah to shake his fist at them or point his finger and say, “I told you so.” No, what they needed to hear was that God still cared for them and that there was hope. Which is exactly the word that came from God to Isaiah, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” Isaiah 40:1-2. Now, something that is very interesting is the Hebrew word that Isaiah uses for comfort because it can also be translated “repent.” The word and its root have the idea of breathing deeply. It can, therefore, mean to breathe deeply with sorrow for your sin or to breathe deeply as you comfort and console someone. It reminds us that God’s comfort comes as we repentance and return to Him. Because they have breathed deeply in repentance, God has breathed deeply as he consoled and comforted them. Isaiah had spoken these words to them, “in repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength,” only now they were finally ready to receive it. Their sins had been paid for and deliverance was in the air. But this was not the result of what the people had done, no this was the result of the work of God. This is God’s grace and mercy, undeserved, unmerited favor. God was coming to deliver them, but first, the way had to be prepared. In his vision, Isaiah heard a voice calling and saying, “A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken’” Isaiah 40:3-5. God was coming to them, and the call was going out to prepare his way. Now in ancient times before our modern superhighways, history tells us that months before a king’s entourage would set out on a journey, the call would go before him: “Prepare the way for the king. Make a straight way in the wilderness and a highway for the King.” The people would run before the king to remove any obstacles and fill in the rough places in his path. They would build a road and fill in small valleys and dig through the hills so the king’s progress would be smooth and unhindered. Their reward was simply to see the king coming in his entire royal splendor. In this passage, God is on his way to his people who are now in slavery to a foreign nation. Coming to comfort and deliver them from captivity by bringing them home on the highway which has been prepared. The picture is one of God coming in glory to bring his people back to himself, this was the great comfort the people had longed for. Only God has the strength and power to rescue and redeem you, to come and bring you comfort. Are you looking to Him and leaning on His power or are you trying to find comfort in something other than Christ?

 

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