Isaiah 40: this is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. And one of my memories of it stems from an Adventures in Odyssey show about a battle in World War II. Whit tells of how he read this verse just before an attack that nearly killed him. Years later, a comrade comes by to tell him what that day did in his life. This chapter is quoted by a lot of people, actually, if you count up the number of times it is referenced in the New Testament by Paul, Peter, and James. I like it a lot, too.
It opens with a cry to comfort Israel! I feel like “comfort” is a word used too often in “comfortable.” But true comfort is only realized after true hardship. This comfort comes as the King comes into the land, with a herald spreading the news ahead of him. It reminds me of John the Baptist and the book of Revelation.
But Isaiah was told to cry out also, about how fast man lives and fades. A breath, an instant. But God’s word stands forever. It is depressing, but it also comforts. This good news of God’s salvation is not limited to the lives of one generation. God will endure beyond the rise and fall of kingdoms.
God is like a Shepherd: carrying, gathering, gently leading. He is King, yet He pays such close attention to us!
And who are we to question Him anyway?
This passage reminds me of Job 38-41. God questions Job as to his involvement in the creation of the earth. If he was not there, when his world was started, how can he question the God who came before it?
Isaiah has a similar message:
“Who has measured the [j]waters in the hollow of His hand,
And marked off the heavens by the [k]span,
And [l]calculated the dust of the earth by the measure,
And weighed the mountains in a balance
And the hills in a pair of scales?
13 Who has [m]directed the Spirit of the Lord,
Or as His counselor has informed Him?”
What can you compare God to? Gold or silver? Or wood if you can’t afford more? You want a stable image of a god, after all. But is it not obvious that God, who was before all these, is able to change the circumstances of princes and rulers in an instant? Who will you compare Him to? Who do I compare Him to? How do I get an accurate view of Him?
One way is to start by looking around at creation…the stars…He calls them by name, claiming authority over them, like explorers and astronomers have practiced since maps were invented.
So does God see? Does God hear what I am going through? The weight of the world is pounding on me tonight…the evil, the threats, the bombs, the corrupting love of chaos. And when the world is creaking and rules are disregarded like nails coming out of a wall, this is what God says (audio version here, from 4:00):
“Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
And the justice due me [z]escapes the notice of my God”?
28 Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
29 He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
30 Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
31 Yet those who [aa]wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will [ab]mount up with [ac]wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.”
God, You know how often I fall. And You pick me up. And as I am on this long road, I know it’s going to be too much for ME. But with You, well, I can learn to not just walk, but run. Not just make it, but make it flying. It will not always look like it on the outside. But You bring hope to the darkness, and Your words never fail through the generations of people You shepherd. Thank You for that Comfort! Amen.