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Isaiah 40

YHWH – God of Comfort


(v2 – "Double" is saying that Israel paid all it can, nothing more is possible, word used for emphasis of this. It is nor saying that Israel paid more than it should.)

Introduction: Watersheds (turning points)

There is a watershed here in the book of Isaiah, a turning point, a change in direction.

Is. ch. 1: Talks about Israel’s sin, how its full of brokenness. There has been a long history of SIN. The burden of the message is judgement.

Is. ch. 40: The proclamation of judgement has ended.

Now – There is a shift to hope, on the other side of exile.

Before in Is. ch. 39: Future of exile, ch. 40: after being taken to Babylon. Called to turn from sin and despair. Israel’s watershed is: Which way will they turn?

YHWH – able to comfort

Exile and the powerlessness of Israel -, and her God?

Israel was immersed in the most powerful nation the world had ever seen. It felt powerless. Israel had been given to the by God their LAND, KINGS and TEMPLE – all are central to their existence. Now they are in exile in Babylon, defeated – All this reflected on Israel’s God, people in the Ancient Near East would have believed that Babylon’s gods had defeated Israel’s God. Israel should have believed that God was NOT defeated by other gods, but many may have believed this. This passage addresses this.

(Like us: Persecution, poverty for some, violence against Christians. Here: the church has no real voice, It is held in contempt. We ask – where do we belong? 1Peter 1

Is the church and her God powerless? God doesn’t care?)

God of sovereign power – majestic poetry, stinging satire.

Isaiah 40 addresses the belief that God is powerless –

vv. 3-5: Path prepared for YHWH to come home, from Babylon to Jerusalem. A straight and flat, smooth path home. (Fulfilled again in John the Baptist – Mt.3:3, Mk.1:3, Lk.3:4-6, Jn.1:23)

vv. 9-10: God is on the move. He is on the move as a VICTOR, bringing all the spoils of war.

v. 15: Nations are nothing.

vv. 18-20: The other gods are hand made. Compared to God who made everything and is in sovereign control.

YHWH is able to comfort

The poetry says that God is able to comfort and is in control. This gives a true picture of God and how Israel’s reality really is.

But this then leaves open the question, is YHWH willing to comfort?

YHWH – willing to comfort?

But does He want to?

v. 27 – Israel is saying that is God ever cared for Israel, He doesn’t now. He has left them, He doesn’t care. (God answers 50:1…, 54:5-8.. etc)

Israel has lost all symbols of their special relationship with God – They ask if the covenant is broken beyond repair (bear in mind they had broken their side of the covenant).

(The land was part of their covenant with God [Deut. 28]

A chapter bracketed with comfort – YHWH is willing

It opens and closes with comfort.

vv. 1-2: Double call for comfort to His people to drive home – God is calling out to comfort Israel.

vv. 28-31: God comforts His people

YHWH uses His ability to comfort Zion (vv. 10-11)

His power is not disinterested power. The arm of God which He uses to rule is also the arm which He uses to comfort.

The comfort of forgiveness

But how can he comfort His SINFUL people?

The book of Isaiah opened speaking of Israel’s sin and coming judgement in exile.

Comfort and forgiveness – vv. 1-2

Proclaim her hard service has ended, her sin has been paid for.

v. 6: All humans are grass. Our faithfulness is like a flower (withers) – Picked and it dies, but the Word of God stands forever – basis of comfort. God has spoken, God has forgiven.

Comfort and YHWH’s faithfukness, not ours – He comforts us, not because we deserve it, but because he is able and willing to save and forgive.

Israel is called here to remember God and what he has done for them, and to turn to Him, trusting Him. Deliverance is solely on God’s grace, power, love – Word of hope does not depend on the strength and faithfulness of God’s people but on the grace and love of God – We can turn to Him in hope knowing our weaknesses, turn to God (thanks and praise), not be overwhelmed by our sins and weakness.

Conclusion – the watershed of hope

This is hope IN disaster, not out of it (c/f Jesus..)

In the light of Christ, we stand assured – truly, YHWH our God is able and willing.

We stand at the watershed of hope – which way will we turn? 1 Peter 1:3-4