Reader: “Your God is coming!”
Response: “Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power.”
Scripture: Isaiah 40:1-15
“Comfort, comfort my people,”
says your God.
“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned.
Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over for all her sins.”
Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!
Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills.
Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places.
Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together.
The Lord has spoken!”
A voice said, “Shout!”
I asked, “What should I shout?”
“Shout that people are like the grass.
Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field.
The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the Lord.
And so it is with people.
The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”
O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops!
Shout it louder, O Jerusalem.
Shout, and do not be afraid.
Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!”
Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power.
He will rule with a powerful arm.
See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart.
He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.
Who else has held the oceans in his hand?
Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers?
Who else knows the weight of the earth
or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale?
Who is able to advise the Spirit of the Lord?
Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him?
Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advice?
Does he need instruction about what is good?
Did someone teach him what is right
or show him the path of justice?
No, for all the nations of the world
are but a drop in the bucket.
They are nothing more
than dust on the scales.
He picks up the whole earth
as though it were a grain of sand.
Once again, some background will help in our understanding of the implications of this passage. Hezekiah was a king of Judah (yes, there really was a Hezekiah!), and he had been quite ill to the point of death. Isaiah came to tell him that he was about to die. In his despair, Hezekiah prayed to God and God gave him twelve more years to live. The king of Babylon sent him best wishes and a gift upon hearing of his recovery. In gratitude and pride, Hezekiah gave the entourage a guided tour of everything in his palace. Not surprisingly, a few years later Babylon came and took everything they had seen and hauled the Israelites off into exile including Hezekiah’s sons who were made eunuchs. Hezekiah’s response? “At least there will be peace and security in my lifetime.” Sad. God used the Babylonians to bring judgment on Israel’s for their rejection of God. Thus ends the first two-thirds of the book of Isaiah.
Beginning with chapter forty, Isaiah brings a message of ultimate hope in the last twenty-six chapters of his book. God’s character and purpose is revealed more and more as his plan for his people is spelled out in greater detail. The Lord is coming; prepare the way! It was common for roads to be leveled and smoothed out for the arrival of royalty. The Romans did it often for the visit of high officials. Isaiah’s message? The Lord is coming in great glory and everyone will see him. Prepare yourselves for his arrival.
In the text, Isaiah helps us understand God’s ultimate plan by contrasting mortal people with God’s word. The word of God stands forever. People are bound by time, God is not. In fact, all time is in God. He is coming and ruling in power. But in all his power and judgment, he led his children like a shepherd carrying a newborn lamb with great gentleness and love next to his heart. Having raised lambs on our farm, they are sweet, gentle, and easy to love. That is the image of the Lord Isaiah gives to the people.
Then he moves on to describe more of this good Shepherd by asking eight rhetorical questions to which the answer is in every case a resounding, “No one!” The questions deal with God’s power, knowledge, creator, wisdom, morality and justice. Isaiah ends this portion of Scripture with a global perspective. Think about this. The nations of the world are a “drop in the bucket. Nothing more than a drop in the bucket, dust on a scale. He picks up the whole earth as though it were a grain of sand!”
That’s our God! the United States, China, Russia, Japan, Europe, Africa, Australia, South America, Asia, all of them and more are but a single grain of sand in God’s hand. Compared to God, nations are nothing! Astonishingly, he cares about your heart and where it is in relation to him. It is most important in the unsettling nature of these days that we keep perspective as to who is sovereign in this world. God used evil Babylon to accomplish his purposes and bring judgment on Judah in Hezekiah’s day. God uses nations and peoples in our day to bring judgment when people reject him. We are foolish to believe otherwise. “The word of the Lord stands forever.” God is working out his master plan to bring restoration and reconciliation to every aspect of his creation even now. He will not be thwarted. Never has been, never will be. He is surprised by nothing. All of his work goes through his glorious Son, the Redeemer of the world, the One in whom his Father is well pleased. Stop worrying. Don’t let fear get hold of you. We are in good hands. Relax and rejoice! Glory to God!
Music: “O Thou that Tellest Good Tidings to Zion” St. Paul Chamber Orchestra
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ia9xoGmjOHM For those of you wondering(!) the soloist is what is called a countertenor using a well-developed falsetto. Countertenors were very common singing that part in Handel’s day (and today!)
Father in heaven, there are times when fears get a hold on us. We are bombarded daily with “news,” most of which is negative and often antagonistic toward you. The world tells us incessantly what we don’t have in terms of health and material goods. It seems there is always a disaster somewhere. Our minds are filled each day with the evidence of this fallen world. It’s easy to lose your divine perspective and truth in regard to living. Moreover, you have promised we’ll have everything we need and yet we wrestle and wonder anyway. We can fret over everything while you have said to be anxious about nothing. We are fearful about our health, but you notice each little sparrow that falls. Lord Jesus, may our hunger for you and your written word to us increasingly give us your mind that we might truly rest in you, casting aside our fears and doubts. And may the words of this world pass away as your eternal word becomes more and more deeply rooted within our hearts and minds. This we pray through you, Jesus, who reigns with the Father and Holy Spirit, one God, now and throughout all eternity. Amen.