The first 39 chapters of Isaiah are jam-packed with messages of worldly wickedness, unfaithfulness, destruction, and despair. Isaiah pleads with his audience to trust in the Lord and wait on him, but most of his words are coated in lament and anticipated judgment. With only a sprinkling of hope, reading the book of Isaiah can be rather depressing as you wait for the tension to break — that is, until you reach Isaiah 40. Finally, Isaiah’s prophecy breathes in fresh air, and God’s tender mercy feels like a soothing balm on a chapped and calloused wound. Finally. Comfort.
2. READ ISAIAH 40:1-11
Before reading this passage, imagine yourself chapped and calloused from being in the sun for an extended period of time. As you read, feel the words of comfort as a refreshing balm on your dry skin.
“Comfort, comfort My people,” says your God.
“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and announce to her that her time of forced labor is over,
her iniquity has been pardoned,
and she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”
A voice of one crying out:
“Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness;
make a straight highway for our God in the desert.
Every valley will be lifted up, and every mountain and hill will be leveled;
the uneven ground will become smooth and the rough places, a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will appear, and all humanity together will see it,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
A voice was saying, “Cry out!”
Another said, “What should I cry out?”
“All humanity is grass,
and all its goodness is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers,
the flowers fade when the breath of the Lord blows on them;
indeed, the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flowers fade,
but the word of our God remains forever.”
Zion, herald of good news, go up on a high mountain.
Jerusalem, herald of good news, raise your voice loudly.
Raise it, do not be afraid!
Say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”
See, the Lord God comes with strength,
and His power establishes His rule.
His reward is with Him, and His gifts accompany Him.
He protects His flock like a shepherd;
He gathers the lambs in His arms
and carries them in the fold of His garment.
He gently leads those that are nursing. (HCSV)
Advent promises to bring relief down to the depths of our souls. When Jesus arrives in the flesh, we see him reverse the effects of sin and extend comfort. Are you currently experiencing comfort from God? If so, how does that feel? If not, what’s standing in your way from receiving the comfort God extends?