January 1 – Isaiah 40

2017.01.01 - 1HBS

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This year, how are you making preparations for his coming?

Isaiah 40.1-31 is often called the “Book of Comfort.” After 39 chapters of discussion about the coming destruction of the Lord on both Israel and her enemies, chapter 40 strikes a word of hope about the future.

To be fair, all of Isaiah prior to this chapter is not gloom and doom. There are moments when the coming of the Lord and the restoration of his people are mentioned, but by and large, the first section of Isaiah serves as a stark warning to God’s people of the punishments to come.

To gain a sense of the importance of Isaiah 40, it is good to look at the chapter in outline form. You see a flow of God’s restoration better this way.

The very first word of this first section (vs. 1-2) is “comfort.” Yes, Israel is punished for her sins (of turning away from God), but those sins had been paid … in fact, Israel paid double for her sins. This is good news. Punishment was coming to an end.

Next (vs. 3-5) we hear of the passage most often tied to John the Baptist in the New Testament that a voice is calling in the wilderness for the people to get ready for the coming of the Lord. After punishment was over, God came to recall or re-gather his people Israel. Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes these verses in his “I Have a Dream” speech; referring to the ways the coming of the glory of the Lord would ease the burdens of the oppressed people. In King’s day, it was people of color and in Isaiah’s day, it was Israel whose punishment would soon be over.

We cannot forget, however, another way in which the mountains being made low and the valleys raised up are significant: When John the Baptist describes the coming of the glory of the Lord, he is referring to Jesus who would give God’s people salvation. It was impossible to find salvation in God without the coming sacrifice to which Jesus fulfills and John refers.

The next section of verses (vs. 6-20) contrast the life of people, who wither and fade like grass, with God, who created the world and rules eternally. When the Old Testament refers back to the creation story and more specifically God’s role in creation, it most often is describing the sovereignty of God. (Sovereignty meaning the one who has all power due to his creation of the world and his current ruling over that same world.) We should not see God in the way we see one another in that we have limited lifespans. God, as creator of the world, is also the sustainer of the world and reigns forever. God is also not an idol, crafted by human hand. Idols, Isaiah points out, are inferior to God’s sovereignty.

The last two sections of Isaiah 40 both begin with the same text: “Do you not know? Have you not heard?” (v. 21, 28) Similar to the section above, the first of these two sections (vs. 21-27) describe God as the creator of the universe and asks the question: “To whom will you compare me?” The answer is obviously, “No one.” There is no comparison to the God who not only created the stars, but also knows each one by name.

Finally, the last section of Isaiah 40 (vs. 28-31) reminds the reader that because God is the creator of the world and because there is no comparison to him, he does not grow tired or weary. Remember the original opening of this chapter: Isaiah is writing to a people who have completed their punishment and I would assume who are extremely weary and extremely tired. Isaiah goes on to say that while humans do get tired—even youths get tired and weary—God (because he does not) is the one who provides renewal for their strength. They soar like eagles, Isaiah says, because of the Lord.

So, we see in Isaiah 40 a progression of comfort given to a people who were at the end of their punishment and who would be revived by the coming glory of the Lord. When the Lord comes, when he is revealed, those who see him are renewed.

Questions:

In what ways have you seen the glory of the Lord revealed to you? How would you contrast the glory of the Lord with things here on earth today that are competing with God’s position of sovereign king?

If God is the one who created the heavens and brought forth the starry hosts (v. 26), why do you think people are so quick to focus on inferior things (Isaiah would call them idols) as their “gods?” How can we be reminded to focus more on God’s coming glory than for these “gods” who clamor for our attention?

Why does the “voice calling in the wilderness” describe valleys being raised and mountains being made low, etc.? What connection do these things have with the coming of the Lord? Since this is the case, what can you do in your own life to prepare for the glory of the Lord to be revealed?

For Your Family:

What obstacles prevent you and your family from receiving fully the glory of the coming Lord? What specific steps can you do today and in the days to come with your family to better receive him?

The more important you make God a priority in your own life, the more your family understands the coming of his glory because they focus more on him. What things can you do with your family to show the importance of God in your life and in the life of your family?

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