Text: Isaiah 40.1-11 (Read it here.)
You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
(Isaiah 40.9, NIV)
“Comfort My People!”
Author: Jesse Long
With words that echo across the centuries, the God of Israel and all creation charges the prophet to “Comfort, comfort my people” and to “speak tenderly to Jerusalem,” to a people in exile who have paid a heavy price for their sins (vv. 1-2, ESV). A voice cries out: “Prepare the way of Yahweh; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. . . . The glory of Yahweh shall be revealed and all flesh will see [God’s salvation (LXX)]” (vv. 3-5). A voice commands the prophet to “Cry out” that all men are like grass which fades away, but the word of God stands forever (vv. 6-8). The voice then calls Zion/Jerusalem, as a “herald of good news,” to “lift up your voice” from a high mountain and announce to the cities of Judah that the Lord Yahweh comes as king in strength and as a shepherd who will “gather the lambs in his arms” and “carry them in his bosom” (vv. 9-11).
With a powerful, trustworthy voice, Isaiah proclaims the good news of divine comfort from God (cf. Isa 40:1; 49:13; 51:3, 12, 19; 52:9; 54:11; 61:2; 66:13). In so doing, the prophet anticipates the coming messianic deliverance (cf. Matt 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6), when God himself would return as divine warrior and as shepherd to lead His people in a New Exodus from the bondage of sin and death.
Waiting for Isaiah’s promised comfort/consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25), the righteous Simeon saw the infant Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem, took him up in his arms, and proclaimed, “My eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples” (vv. 30-31). Isaiah’s comfort appeared in the form of a baby and flourished in the ministry and mission of Jesus of Nazareth, the divine shepherd who comforts, who in resurrection defeated evil to bring about God’s salvation.
For the Christian who mourns, Jesus offers comfort from God. As our victorious king who has conquered death, He protects us from the evil one. As our shepherd, he holds us close. In his arms, we take comfort!
When you think about the story of the Israelite people, why would a word of comfort from God be such an important part of their story? How do you feel when you are punished for something you have done? How do you feel when that punishment is complete? How has God offered a word a comfort to you for sins you may have committed?
How would you define “sovereignty?” How is power and might related to your definition? When we think about God being the one who created the entire universe, what implications does this make about his ability to take care of us?
How would you answer Isaiah’s question: “To whom can you compare [God]?” (Verse 25) What examples would you give to show there is none comparable to God?