The Messiah in Isaiah (Part 6): Isaiah 40
Isaiah’s Messiah (part 2): Isaiah 40
Isaiah 40:1–11 “Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your God. 40:2 “Speak kindly to Jerusalem; And call out to her, that her warfare has ended . . . 40:3 A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. 40:4 “Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley; 40:5 Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed. . .
1) The Comfort of the Shepherd comes to His people because His Chastisement is Complete (40:1-2). Isaiah 40 is a striking change of theme from chs. 1-39. Now after the chastisement of the exile, the Covenant Lord promises restoration (deliverance, redemption, salvation) to Zion. The text explains that Judah’s “warfare has ended” and “her iniquity has been removed.” God has chastised His people (historically). This broad lesson is to apply to us quite individually. We are not to forsake the true Lord for idols (as was done in Israel). Their sin and our sin has consequences. Life choices are serious.
2) The Comfort of the Shepherd comes to His people because His Call will Clear (the Way) (40:3-5). God prepared for the Good Shepherd by clearing the way. Literally John the Baptist was preparing as “A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness.” But the poetry should not be misunderstood. This clearing turns everything upside down and inside out. Valleys are exalted and mountains are made low. The rough is smoothed and the craggy is flattened. What is exalted is humbled and what is lowly is exalted in terms of human pride, position and expectation. Zacharias and Mary both caught this truth in there songs (cf Benedictus & Magnificat). The Good Shepherd will undo the powers of the world and its priorities. His call rearranges power.
3) The Comfort of the Shepherd comes to His people because His Commission is Coming (40:6-11). The “call” of this “voice” is a declaring what God will do for salvation, “Ain’t’a that Good News!” This word humbles vain men’s dreams as fading plants testify to their short lives. But this voice exalts the abiding word of our God. The news of a Redeemer in Zion is a “commission” which is coming as God is revealed to Zion. We are to “Lift it up, do not fear” and we are to say “Here is your God!” The result is a flock of lambs which this comforting Shepherd will carry and lead. This is fulfilled in that Christ in His earthly ministry a) “comes” and is revealed to Israel, b) declares the gospel word in the action of His cross-work which humbles men, but exalts God, and c) forms a new Flock, a new Israel of all kinds of sheep. His commission is rearranging reality.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more