God’s Saving Word: Encouragement
Isaiah 40:1-17: Chapter 40 begins a section in the book of the prophet Isaiah that speaks to a time when many of the people of Judah were in exile in Babylon, crushed and without hope. Isaiah proclaimed that God would set the people free and bring them home to Jerusalem to begin a new life. In today’s reading, the prophet proclaims words of hope, comfort, and encouragement.
Words of Hope
40 “Comfort my people,” says our God. “Comfort them!
2 Encourage the people of Jerusalem.
Tell them they have suffered long enough
and their sins are now forgiven.
I have punished them in full for all their sins.”
3 A voice cries out,
“Prepare in the wilderness a road for the Lord!
Clear the way in the desert for our God!
4 Fill every valley;
level every mountain.
The hills will become a plain,
and the rough country will be made smooth.
5 Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it.
The Lord himself has promised this.”
6 A voice cries out, “Proclaim a message!”
“What message shall I proclaim?” I ask.
“Proclaim that all human beings are like grass;
they last no longer than wild flowers.
7 Grass withers and flowers fade
when the Lord sends the wind blowing over them.
People are no more enduring than grass.
8 Yes, grass withers and flowers fade,
but the word of our God endures forever.”
9 Jerusalem, go up on a high mountain
and proclaim the good news!
Call out with a loud voice, Zion;
announce the good news!
Speak out and do not be afraid.
Tell the towns of Judah
that their God is coming!
10 The Sovereign Lord is coming to rule with power,
bringing with him the people he has rescued.
11 He will take care of his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs together
and carry them in his arms;
he will gently lead their mothers.
Israel’s Incomparable God
12 Can anyone measure the ocean by handfuls
or measure the sky with his hands?
Can anyone hold the soil of the earth in a cup
or weigh the mountains and hills on scales?
13 Can anyone tell the Lord what to do?
Who can teach him or give him advice?
14 With whom does God consult
in order to know and understand
and to learn how things should be done?
15 To the Lord the nations are nothing,
no more than a drop of water;
the distant islands are as light as dust.
16 All the animals in the forests of Lebanon
are not enough for a sacrifice to our God,
and its trees are too few to kindle the fire.
17 The nations are nothing at all to him.
Today’s Key Verse: Isaiah 40:1
“Comfort, my people,” says our God. “Comfort them!”
The punishment Israel had to endure because of its sins is now over and the time spent in exile has now been fulfilled; their sins are forgiven (see Isaiah 43:22-25). Reread verse 2. What words of hope are given? The Gospels (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6) quote verses 3-5, using Isaiah’s prophecy to describe John the Baptizer, who came from the desert to prepare the way for the Lord’s Messiah, Jesus. In today’s reading, these verses describe the journey of the exiled Israelites from Babylon to Jerusalem, which will be a reprise of Israel’s exodus from Egypt (see Exodus 14 ff). But this second exodus will not be like the first; the mountainous landscape will miraculously be leveled. In what ways do these verses speak of God’s steadfast love and care? What “good news” is proclaimed in today’s reading?
Sovereign God, you rule with power and might, and like a shepherd you care for your people. I thank and praise you for the good news of your steadfast love and care. In your holy name, I pray. Amen.
Isaiah 40:18-31: A hymn celebrating Israel’s incomparable God.