Click here for the reading: Isaiah 40:1-11.
Isaiah 40 marks a major turning point in the book. Hezekiah in the previous chapter has misunderstood the seriousness of what is about to happen. Israel is about to be taken away into exile. It seems contrary to God’s former promises to take away His people in this way. Are there times in our days when God seems to act contrary to Himself? How do we find comfort in the promises of God when He seems to be opposed to us or opposed to His own Word? What does Paul mean in Romans 8 when he says all things work together for good?
The threefold message of comfort speaks to Israel’s situation. It was not an accident of history that brought about the exile, but it was the just judgment for the sin of God’s people. Yet now that time of judgment comes to an end. Why do people think of themselves as victims in times of hardship? Why does this lead them to misapply God’s promises of comfort? How should we understand hard times in the light of God’s Word? Compare the words of Jeremiah 23 and the dangers of a false message of peace.
A voice cries out to prepare a way for the coming of the Lord. Note here that the image does not have God’s people in view, as if the highway being prepared was for them. Rather, God Himself is on the move, and all flesh will see the glory of what He has come to do for His people. Why does Isaiah focus on what God is doing when speaking of His glory rather than on His people? Why do we give God glory? Do we sometimes inadvertently try to take that glory for ourselves? How do the Gospel writers apply this passage in Matthew 3 or Luke 3, and why do they use it there?
As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:30, grass is a perfect picture of the transitory nature of this world. The grass which seems so green and lush withers as winter approaches. Flowers too, for all their beauty, disappear in a moment. Why do people treat the things of this world as if they were lasting? Where do people turn in times of trouble? Consider the book of Ecclesiastes. What is the ultimate message of the Preacher in the face of the vanity of life?
Isaiah describes the power and the glory of the Lord as a message of good news. As the rest of Isaiah 40 declares, our living God can do what idols and false gods cannot. The Lord laid the foundations of the world. Who is like Him? Since people usually associate Advent with the coming of Christmas, why is it important to talk about who God is and what He can do rather than simply what He has done? How can we see God’s glory in our own time? How does God speak to Israel about his glory in other passages like Ezekiel 36?