I hope you are still trying to read Isaiah. Don’t get bogged down and give up. Even reading one verse is better than just giving up. Think as you read. Look for biblical principles. Look for Jesus..
Isaiah 40 starts a whole new book. This was written by 701 BC. No one knows exactly when. But, the date is important because of all that was predicted and all that came true. My friend, Roger Ellsworth, calls chapters 40-67, “God’s Book of Comfort.” It certainly comforted the believing Judean exiles to Babylon after 586 BC and all the generations of believers since.
Do you find yourself needing a little comfort now and then? How can we experience true spiritual comfort?
After promising to uphold and strengthen His people, making them strong like an eagle, God asks His people to think together with Him about who He is, who they are, and the circumstances they find themselves in. (Those circumstances were dire. Israel had been destroyed as a nation because of their becoming just like the nations around them–idolatrous and immoral. They were hauled off to North Eastern Turkey, and probably dispersed all over E. Europe and Russia, Judah had been ravaged and tormented for over a hundred years by repeated raids and taxes from Assyrian and Babylonian invaders. All this was joined with warnings to turn back to God from their idolatry and sinful lifestyle. Now they were in Iraq, exiled to live without being a nation or having their own religion, their temple destroyed, etc. This sounds very harsh to our 21st century ears, but it is nothing to the judgment of God described in chapter 34! This was corrective discipline, not judgment in the way unbelievers will be judged for their sins. After 70 years, Babylon was destroyed, invaded by Persia. The Persian king, Cyrus, not only allowed, but funded, a group of the exiles to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their nation and reestablish their religion. This took place around 500 BC).
These chapters are all about giving comfort to God’s people while they are in exile. Promises would be made specifically about Cyrus and Christ.
KEYS TO UNDERSTANDING MEANING:
Judah and Israel are tangible examples of God’s people. God does not change. His relationship with His people today is the same. The context is important. Servant can mean God’s corporate people or Christ, depending on the context. These chapters are focusing on God’s people as His servant.
THINK, REMEMBER, REASON
Idols would be challenged to put up or shut up! God asks them to think and remember some very important things:
God is all powerful, The most powerful being in existence (40)
He would strengthen them and undergird them and never leave them. (40:28-31)
He was the one who brought in invaders,(41:1-4) but they were responsible for becoming idolaters (41:5-7)
He has chosen, elected them, set His love upon them to be His friend and servant (41:8-10)
Their enemies would be destroyed (41:11-13); They would be made strong and nourished and watered (41-14-20)
WHAT HIS SERVANTS ARE TO DO; WHAT GOD WILL DO
Part of this reasoning process would be to remember and sing about the long-promised Redeemer, His justice and gentleness and righteousness. They are to give glory to God and tell the nations about Him (42:1-12.) And hear and see. God will act like a mighty man of war to straighten things out. He will be satisfied by Christ’s righteousness and will make his law very visible and honored (42:13-21). But, will His people hear? Will they realize their troubles result from their idolatry?(42:22-25) Will they tell of God’s character, power, and friendship? Will they praise Him and give Him all the glory? (43:10-12; 21)
WHERE IS THE COMFORT?
By remembering the promise of our Redeemer and God’s being satisfied by His righteousness as a cover for our sins. (Look to the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved!)
By remembering that God helped His people then, and will now.
By remembering the power God has to do that–can turn king’s minds, lay waste the most powerful and advanced nations.
By remembering the power of the Holy Spirit to bring revival and stir hearts to honor God and His law.
By remembering the love God has shown by choosing you to know and praise Him. This kind of thinking comforts and warms our hearts. Help each other to think like this! (44:21-23)
I hope this helps you keep on reading and thinking about Isaiah’s message to us, and to actually know what it is to experience comfort from our LORD. As Martyn Lloyd Jones reminds us in his “Daily Readings,” it all starts with right thinking. Thinking BEFORE experiencing. And R. C. Sproule of Ligonier Ministries would remind us of that same thing.
Grace and comfort to us all!