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Isaiah 40:1-11

Introduction

This message begins three studies in the 40th chapter of Isaiah about how God Takes Care of Us. This first study is from verses 1-11 God Is Our Comfort. The next study is from verses 12-22 God Reaches Down to Us in Power, and the final study is from verses 25-31 God Gives Us Strength. As we look at these passages from Isaiah, I believe our faith will be strengthened as we see how God truly does take care of us.

Verse 1

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

God is our comfort when we are worried. The nation of Israel had been in exile. They were unsure of what the future would bring. But God sent this message from his prophet Isaiah to comfort the people. When we are worried or in despair, God sends his comfort. He wants to help his people. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."

If you are worried or anxious for anything, know that God is your comfort. He cares about you, and he is by your side to help you through whatever difficulty you may be facing.

Verse 2

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins.

God is our comfort when we are afraid. The people were under foreign oppression living under fear. But God told Isaiah to "speak tenderly to Jerusalem." God speaks tenderly to us when we are afraid. David learned this, as he wrote in Psalm 61:2-4, "From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings."

When you feel, as David did, that your heart is crying out to God, know that he will shelter you. He will comfort you even in times of fear and distress. Notice this verse promises Israel two things – her warfare was ended, relief from physical problems; and her iniquity was pardoned, relief from spiritual problems. God promises us the same thing today. God comforts us in our physical problems: health, financial, marital, and God comforts us in our spiritual problems. He makes us complete in him.

Barnes comments, "To speak ‘to the heart,’ is to speak in such a way as to remove the troubles of the heart; to furnish consolation and joy. It means that they were not merely to urge such topics as should convince the understanding, but such also as should be adopted to minister consolation to the heart."

Verse 3

A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God."

God is our comfort when we are overwhelmed. Do you feel like you have been going through a wilderness or a desert? Notice the two promises he makes in this verse. God is preparing a way in the wilderness – what wilderness are you in? Does there seem to be danger on every side? Do you feel lost and dismayed? God is preparing a way for you.

God is also making a highway in the desert – what desert have you gone through? Are you scorched and burned from the heat of your trials? Do you feel thirsty for relief but none appears in sight? God said that he would make a straight highway for you.

Barnes gives us some good background information, "The idea is taken from the practice of Eastern monarchs, who, whenever they entered on a journey or an expedition, especially through a barren and unfrequented or inhospitable country, sent harbingers or heralds before them to prepare the way. To do this, it was necessary for them to provide supplies, and make bridges, or find fording places over the streams; to level hills, and construct causeways over valleys, or fill them up; and to make a way through the forest which might lie in their intended line of march."

Verse 4

Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.

God is our comfort when things appear bleak. The psalmist is looking ahead and what does he see? He sees deep uncrossable valleys and steep mountains and hills. The terrain is uneven and rough before him. Things look very bad. Do you ever feel that way? Everywhere you look there are obstacles or barriers. It doesn’t seem like there is much hope. But this verse tells us every valley shall be lifted up – every low point in our life will be raised. Every mountain shall be made low – every obstacle in our way will come down. The uneven ground shall become level – the rollercoaster of our life will be calmed. And the rough places a plain – God will smooth out the rough places. God will help us through whatever we have to go through. No matter how bleak things may appear, remember God is our comfort.

Verse 5

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

God will make himself known to us. His glory shall be revealed. We will see his might and his power overcome our circumstances because the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.

Audrey Mieir wrote this poem

It Matters to Him about You
Be not troubled with thoughts of the morrow,
Of duties you surely must do.
On the Lord cast your burden of sorrow;
It matters to Him about you!
Be not weary when trials are given,
But trust Him to carry you through.
He will make all a pathway to heaven;
It matters to Him about you!
Then be patient until His appearing,
'Tis dawn almost now on your view;
For the mists of this dark age are clearing.
In love He is planning for you!

Verse 6

A voice says, "Cry!" And I said, "What shall I cry?" All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.

God is our comfort when we are in sorrow. A voice says, "Cry!" and the psalmist says, "What shall I cry?" There are times when we are overcome with sorrow, and don’t know how to respond. We know this life is just temporary as the grass of the field. We know that even our times of rejoicing are but for a brief span like the flower of the field. There may be times when we don’t feel like living is worth it. We may feel overwhelmed with the burdens and cares of this world. When we feel that way, God will reach down to us to console us and give us strength.

Barnes comments, "The idea is, that the plans of man must be temporary; that all that appears great in him must be like the flower of the field; but that Jehovah endures, and his plans reach from age to age, and will certainly be accomplished. This important truth was to be proclaimed, that the people might be induced not to trust in man, but put their confidence in the arm of God."

Verse 7

The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people is grass.

God is our comfort when we are sick Sometimes we feel weak and helpless like the grass which withers and fades away. We are frail. There may be times when we feel strong and feel like nothing can stop us. But all it takes is some little germ, like this recent influenza virus which wrecked havoc on so many people, to make us realize how truly fragile and weak our human condition is. I think it is good for us to be reminded of our frailty every now and then. It puts things in perspective.

The Persian poet Omar Khayyam wrote in about 1100 A.D.

The Wordly Hope men set their Hearts upon
Turns Ashes – or it prospers; and anon,
Like Snow upon the Desert’s dusty Face
Lighting a little Hour or two – is gone.
There was a Door to which I found no Key:
There was a Veil past which I could not see:
Some little Talk awhile of Me and Thee
There seemed – and then no more of Thee and Me.

Verse 8

The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever.

God’s word is our comfort. Unlike Khayyam’s negative outlook on the world, Isaiah understood that though we do wither and fade, our confidence is that the word of God stands forever. We may feel dried up and drained but God has promised his comfort. Do we believe his word? No matter how discouraged or helpless we may feel, we have God’s word to comfort and encourage us. We can always turn to scripture when we need help. We can always stand on God’s promises knowing that he will fulfill his words to us.

As Barnes wrote, "Amidst all revolutions among men, his promise shall be firm. ... This is designed for support to an afflicted and oppressed people; and it must have been to them, in their bondage, the source of high consolation. But it is equally so now. Amidst all the changes on earth; the revolutions of empires; the vanishing of kingdoms, God is the same, and his promises are unfailing."

Verse 9

Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, "Behold your God!"

God comforts us as we behold him. God will place us on a high mountain above our problems, he will give us strength to lift up our voice because of the good tidings – "Behold your God." When we behold God, we will be lifted up above our despair as we see spiritual things clearer, and in comparison our problems fade away.

Do you feel like you are mired in a mudhole of depression and discouragement? Behold your God and allow him to place you on a high mountain. Do you feel weak and too weary to cry out to God? Behold your God and he will give you the ability to lift up your voice with strength. This verse tells us to lift up the good tidings and fear not. When we are afraid, we find our faith slipping. But let us behold our God and fear not. God will be there for us. He will comfort us as we look to him.

Verse 10

Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.

This verse tells us four things God will do for us. First, God comes with might. Next, he rules over every problem. Then, he brings his reward, his blessing to us. And finally, he brings his recompense, his gifts to us. God comes with his might. If we can begin to comprehend that God’s power is at our side, we would not be so easily discouraged. God will rule over every problem. There may be times when it doesn’t seem that God is with us, but we must stand firm in our faith and know that God’s arm rules over every problem we face. As we learn to trust in him, we are able to see more clearly how he is working everything out for our good.

This verse promises that God will bring two things to us. He brings his reward, which I believe is talking about all of his blessings that he bestows upon us. The children of Israel had sinned against God. They didn’t really deserve any reward from God. We also don’t deserve the blessings that God brings to us. But he brings them to us anyway because he loves us. And also he bring his recompense, which I believe is referring to the gifts that he gives us. Think of all the times that God has given you good things. He loves to give gifts to his children.

Verse 11

He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.

This verse tells us that God will take care of us. He will feed us like a shepherd, he will gather us in his arms, he will carry us, and he will gently lead us. We know that a shepherd cares for his sheep. It is he who makes sure that the sheep are well-fed and have plenty of water and green pasture. In the same way, God takes care of us. But not only does he take care of our physical needs, but when we are hurt or feel helpless, he gathers us in his arms. God is with us to comfort us and sustain us. When we are too weak and weary to go on, God will carry us. He will help us through the difficult times in our life. Have you ever experienced that? You don’t know how you’re going to make it through some trial you are facing when suddenly you seem to sail right through it. What seems like an impossible situation suddenly turns easy and you float right over the problems. That was when God was carrying you. There will come times in each of our lives when God will carry us through some difficulty. Sometimes he doesn’t carry us, but he gently leads us through the troubles we are facing. We never have to face any turmoil alone. God is always there by our side to guide and direct us.

What are you facing? Are you worried, afraid, or overwhelmed by problems? Do things appear bleak, are you in sorrow, or are you facing sickness? Do you feel surrounded by turmoil, trouble, and despair? Remember, God is our comfort. He has promised to be there for us every day, every hour, every moment. God will take care of us.

Footnotes:

This study on Isaiah 40:1-11 1998 by David Humpal. All Rights Reserved.
All scripture unless otherwise noted are from the Revised Standard Version 1971, A. J. Holman Company

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 from the New King James Version 1984, Thomas Nelson Publishers

Psalm 61:2-4 from the New King James Version 1984, Thomas Nelson Publishers

Barnes’ Notes on the Old Testament, Isaiah, vol. II, pg. 53, Baker Book House

Barnes’ Notes on the Old Testament, Isaiah, vol. II, pg. 55, Baker Book House

Barnes’ Notes on the Old Testament, Isaiah, vol. II, pg. 59, Baker Book House

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam translated by Edward FitzGerald, First Edition, Quatrains 14 and 32 1947, Random House

Barnes’ Notes on the Old Testament, Isaiah, vol. II, pg. 60, Baker Book House

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