Prepare the way of the Lord. 40:1-11
In chapters 38-39, the prophet speaks of the destruction of Zion; all is lost. Now from 40:1 to 42:17, he gives a message of comfort. Disaster must befall Israel because of the unfaithfulness of the people, yet they are still "my people" and the Lord is "your God". For Zion and for the world community, the Lord's promised blessings will find fulfillment. The Lord's words of consolation, his promises to Israel, are based on his character; he is the creator, sustainer and ruler. Thus, Zion's consolation is assured. Our passage for study presents three messages of consolation which rest on God's character.
v1-2. The messengers are commissioned to express comfort and kindliness to God's people, particularly to Zion, Jerusalem. The day of punishment is over; the price for Israel's sin is paid, paid for completely, two times over.
v3-5. The first message proclaims that the Lord will come in glory. The glory of the Lord is about to be revealed to Israel, and like the Exodus, it will be seen by all the nations. In preparation, the people are called upon to construct a ceremonial highway, straight, level and without any obstacles. The Lord's coming is assured, so prepare the way for his arrival.
v6-8. The second message proclaims that God's word is sure. Human nature is frail and corrupted and therefore withers before the hand of the Creator. We are unreliable and so cannot stand before our God. Thus, our word carries little weight. Yet, God's words, his promises, are mighty; they "stand forever".
v9-11. The third message proclaims that God's kindness endures forever. The returning Lord is virtually in sight, so the messenger is instructed to cast off fear, to dispel any doubt of his coming, but rather, go up on a high mountain and proclaim the good news of his coming. The Lord's coming will be a mighty one, his sleeves rolled up, for he has completed his work, gained his "reward" and now it is time for blessing. The blessing, or "recompense", is for the flock of his people; it is they who "accompany" him. God's people will be blessed as they experience the depth and wonder of a new relationship with the Lord. He will be to them a shepherd, caring for his flock, watchful of their needs, identifying with them, helping them ("gathers the lambs", "leads those that have young"). The coming Lord surrounds those who are "close to his heart" with intimate loving care.
A word of consolation
The Lord's message of consolation through Isaiah is a message to a people who know and experience the chastening hand of the Lord. Isaiah gives us three messages to encourage us while we wait for his coming.
1. Be prepared, the Lord indeed will come in glory
It is often assumed that a believer prepares for the coming of the Lord through their obedience, or better, their faithfulness. "Don't let the Lord find you slacking when he returns", is the constant exhortation we face Sunday by Sunday. "Slacking" is always a problem.
The messenger calls for the building of a ceremonial highway in preparation of the imminent coming of the king. Being ready for Jesus means being ready to welcome him. "Come into my heart Lord Jesus." We are ready to meet our Lord, not because we are worthy to meet him, but because we want to meet him.
2. Rest on the Word
We are the most unreliable of creatures. In fact, we should be amazed when a person does something positive, rather than feel disappointed in the face of human frailty. We are driven by our hormones, by our genes and our corruption, such that we are anything but reliable. Much of our behavior is actually quite offensive.
Yet, the Lord our God, the coming one, acts rightly, and above all, sticks with his word. What he says, he will do. This may not be a human quality, but it is certainly the way God functions. We can rely on him.
3. Our God is a tender loving God
There is a sense where we are like scattered sheep, far from the shepherd's hand. We can often sense this loneliness, particularly when things are going wrong. Yet, we can shout from the mountain top that on Calvary the Lord Jesus secured a mighty victory. He rolled up his sleeves and worked out our salvation. So now and for eternity, we are a blessed flock. Jesus tends us, identifies with each one of us in all our needs; he covers us with tender loving care. Sure, not every tear is wiped away now, but a day is coming soon, a day of "good tidings to Zion."
1. How should we prepare for the coming of the Lord?
2. "All men are like grass". What does this mean?
3. Identify the role of the shepherd and discuss, v9-11.
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