- Curt Leonard
The Greatness of God on Display - Part 1
Updated: Oct 13, 2022
Last Sunday’s message focused on the ways to help battle fear. And one of the means mentioned was to know God better. Isaiah 40 is a text of Scripture that helps us do just that. We will look at the chapter through 3 different studies. My prayer is that you will use these studies as a daily devotional to strengthen your faith and give you fresh confidence in God during these uncertain times. CONTEXT Before we look at the text it is important to give the context of the chapter. This chapter begins the second half of the book. The first half of Isaiah focused upon the current sinful state of Israel at the time of Isaiah. They were deeply disobedient to God and His laws. God spoke against the nation and called for a future judgment upon the people. This discouraging message is followed with encouragement beginning here in chapter 40. God wants to comfort His people who will be discouraged in the face of the judgment that will fall on them. He will reassure them that He will deliver them and He will eventually bring about His grand plan for the world— His personal reign on the earth and a visible display of His glory on the earth, as opposed to the false gods that they were worshiping. It would be better to read the entire chapter, but if you are pressed for time, read 40:1-11. ISAIAH 40:1-2 God wants Isaiah to speak comfort to the people. The comfort is needed in light of the judgments that are coming their way.
What were they guilty of? (read 1:1-23)
What will the judgment involve? (read 39:5-8)
Isaiah is writing about the future after Judah and Jerusalem return from the judgment of exile. This is terrifying news and one that easily leads to discouragement for the people. Now Isaiah turns his attention to speaking to those who will return from captivity. Thus, he is speaking both to people who are not yet in captivity as well as those who will eventually be returning from captivity. He is giving them a message of encouragement and comfort for their discouraged souls.
Why is it crucial to see that God speaks comfort to Jerusalem even before they are judged?
Their judgment has ended, she has been forgiven and now Isaiah is commanded to speak “tenderly” to Jerusalem; a phrase that indicates affection and kindness (Gen 34:3; 50:21). So whatever God is saying here is meant to be a loving and affectionate encouragement to Jerusalem. God pours out comfort for His people when in need.
Do you tend to think of God mainly in terms of harsh punishment or in terms of comforting?
If you are a Christian how has God shown you “comfort” through the cross of Jesus Christ in regard to past sins?
One thing that we should not think is that it was possible for Jerusalem to pay for her own sins. God does not mean that they earned or merited their forgiveness through their suffering. We know this because God Himself is the ultimate reason they are forgiven and rescued (verses 3-5) and Isa 53:4-5. ISAIAH 40:3-5 In this section we see a voice crying out in the wilderness a message of preparation. Why the need to prepare? The Lord is on His way (3b, 5). We now are thrust into a distant vision of the future where God will emerge onto the stage of our world and show Himself to all of humanity (“all flesh” 5). This is referring to the end times when He will show up in our world and display His glory. Our role is to prepare ourselves for His eventual arrival in our world by preparing the way and making straight a highway for our God (3). But why give details about the end of all things, when the people are just concerned with their return from exile? Often prophecy operates like this, mixing the immediate with the distant future. The more immediate comfort is the certain arrival of God to help deliver Israel and bring about their return. The distant comfort is His revelation to the world when He reveals His unspeakable greatness to mankind. God is speaking comfort to the people by telling them that He will arrive and help in our world. He comes to reveal Himself. He comes to rescue His people and give comfort.
So, what is our role in response to God then?
We can prepare our hearts, but He alone saves us. And He saves us, Himself. This section shows us the valuable truth: God is the Good News for us sinners in desperate need for grace and help. God is the rescue for His people. When providing help He does not simply say, “Here it is” but rather, “Here I Am!” Application: When you need help, do you tend to think about help as something that is sent by God or is the help, God Himself? How may this truth of God’s own presence and person being the rescue and comfort, transform the way you think about receiving help when you are in trouble? ISAIAH 40:6-8
This section is focused on the unwavering nature of the word of God. And contrasts the unstable, waffling and fickle nature of humanity and our strength. At first it seems a little out of place with the section that we just read. What is the connection between verses 6-8 and verses 3-5?
The people in exile may find it very hard to believe that God will bring them back in the land and show grace to them again. They likely may doubt the truthfulness of these promises. And the further thought that God will make His entrance into our world also may seem doubtful on our darkest days. We can become fixated on the difficult and seemingly impossible nature of the event and begin to doubt the possibility of its occurrence. Can God do these things? Will He truly arrive? God declares the absolute solid and unwavering nature of His promises and plans in this section. Yes, the word of our God will stand (8). He is not like weak, waffling humanity. We are like grass (6) and even our glory is like a brief, fleeting beauty of a flower (6). So temporary and transient is our strength and beauty that if the Lord’s breath blows upon it, we fade and perish (7). But what will remain firm and certain will be the words that God gives. Here, that word is the reality that He will bring His people back from exile and eventually return to this earth and set things right (3-5). We can bank on these truths and stake our lives on them regardless of what the current circumstances are like. He will certainly bring it about. We can count on it.
What promises of God seem so far away from happening?
Do you tend to look around and feel encouraged or discouraged by the state of things?
The Bible tells us to have hope or full confidence that God will work all things out for His glory and our good. How does this text help us to better believe Him?
ISAIAH 40:9-11 Now we see a wonderful and detailed picture of the coming of God to His people, seen in the words, “Behold your God!” (9). When God comes, what will He be like? What can we expect to see when He arrives? The message is Look! Here is your God! In particular, the focus is on His character and actions toward His people. God reveals His character to His people.
Summarize the way that God describes Himself in verses 9-11. Please take your time here and meditate on the text, thinking through what the images mean and why they are so important.
What does it mean to say that His “arm rules for him”?
His “arm” ruling before Him was a way of describing the actions and activity of God. Throughout Isaiah the picture of God’s “arm” often carries the idea of the actions of saving and judging (50:2, 9; 59:16; 63:1-6). He will come with absolute power to bring about His holy actions on this world—judging sinners and bringing rescue to His people. And when He comes, having achieved victory, He will bring to His own people the blessings of His victory- the blessings of reward dispersed among His own people. He comes in power, but we see a display of power used for the good of His own people. He comes as a Shepherd Warrior, but a Shepherd nonetheless (11). He will tend and care for His own people like a Shepherd watches over His lambs. The gracious and kind manner in which He treats His people is the picture of God carrying the lambs in His arms. Note the beauty seen in God’s arm bringing rescue and judgment as He rules (10) but also using those same arms to carry His own people (11). We also see the tender, loving display of carrying them in His bosom and gently leading the young lambs. We see God displayed in wonderful glory— certain, unshakable power, victorious and all- powerful but tender, kind and immensely loving, using His power for the good and help of His people.
Why is it so helpful to see that God has immense power to rule and yet immense power to help His people?
How does this truth challenge your perception of God during times of personal crisis?
What ways does this picture of God correct any false views you may have of God’s character?
How does seeing God’s character displayed here encourage us today?
CONCLUSION Main point: Take comfort. I am coming and I am your help. We discover this wonderful truth here—the Good News for our lives and our world is God Himself. He will come. He will reveal His glory and greatness. And we can take encouragement from this reality for He will not fail to bring it about, and His character provides us with all that we need. He brings rescue, power, victory, reward, judgment and tender care for His people. When we behold our God, we gain help and strength.
Final Application: Take the time to meditate on the text some more. What are things that you need to praise God for? What are things that you need to confess and repent of? What are ways that you can obey the truths in this passage?