Isaiah 40 begins with an exhortation to comfort:
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.”
Isaiah speaks forward to the generation of God’s people who would be in Babylonian captivity because of their sins and refusal to repent. Even though they were punished for their evils, God still provides comfort and encouragement for them. He promised to bring them back out of the captivity and give them a new beginning.
Then a voice cries in the wilderness, a section that is readily recognized as being fulfilled in John the Immerser as he prepared the way for the coming of Jesus Christ (Matt 3:3). The voice that cries then speaks to the contrast between the enduring nature of God’s word against the temporal nature of all flesh. Peter quotes this passage as well (1 Pet 1:22-25). The New Testament shows that the greater fulfillment of comfort is to be found in Jesus Christ. Recall how Simeon at the temple, at the time of Christ’s birth, was “waiting for the consolation of Israel,” and He knew Jesus fulfilled this promise (Luke 2:25-32).
The greatness of God is a continual theme in this Isaiah 40—a theme that we do well to be continually reminded of as we try to wind our way through a world that can be so difficult and discouraging.
I also find it interesting that in the midst of a passage intended to provide comfort for God’s people, and in declaring God’s greatness, we find this (Isa 40:15, 17, 23):
“Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales” …“All the nations are as nothing before him; they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.” God “brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.”
No nation will stand forever. If Assyria and Babylon were but a drop from a bucket, accounted by God as less than nothing and emptiness, with princes and rulers brought to nothing, so also is the USA, Russia, China, and every other nation.
Christians, then, while seeking the welfare of the place wherein they live (wherever that may be), are not to idolize any nation or ruler, for all nations and rulers will come and go. To God, they are as nothing. They will be taken up like fine dust. Do not put your trust in earthly princes or powers.
Regardless of our earthly citizenship, which sometimes can be utilized for the benefit of the spread of the gospel, our heavenly citizenship overrides all other factors (Phil 3:19-20). We are part of a “kingdom that shall never be destroyed” and will never be “left to another people” (Dan 2:44). Even so, all the nations are yet invited to partake of the tree of life for their healing (Rev 22:2). There is, indeed, great comfort in all of this for we are reminded that God is in control and He will always do what is right. Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The comfort continues in Isaiah 40 and speaks to those who feel like they are not being heard:
Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”? (Isa 40:27)
This is the cry of those who feel forgotten and forsaken. Does God care? Is He there? Is He listening? Or has He just abandoned people in their plight? The answer, in context, is this (Isa 40:28ff):
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
When we feel forlorn and forsaken, wondering if God is listening or if He cares, here is His answer. He is everlasting, the Creator who does not get tired and whose understanding is past finding out. He gives strength to the weary and will cause His people to mount up with wings like eagles. In other words, God provides comfort and strength through tribulation and distress.
God has not forgotten His people, and He does hear. He ultimately answers in Jesus Christ and shows that nothing can tell us that God does not love us (Rom 8:31-39). The night may feel that it is taking much too long, but the morning will come. Trust God, and know that in Christ we will find our strength.