It must be very hard for people living near the controversial road construction to cushion the sound of heavy machinery doing battle against earth.The energy expended ends up as sound and heat and dust.It is heavy work. Isaiah 1-39 overall ,has been described as the pounding words of God waging war against the conscience of Judah. Chapter 40 is like the peace which comes when all the tractors and heavy equipment are signalled away.
The peace and quiet that follows is in stark contrast and those used to the noise ironically find it hard to cope with the eerie silence.It is as if Isaiah used a pneumatic drill for chpts 1-39.He keeps hammering at them the judgement of God He keeps battering away at their souls with the charge of Idolatry,and injustice.And then suddenly at the end of chpt 39,the prophecies are very different,.Comfort you, comfort you my people. Good tidings I have for you lets tell the whole world , lets be heralds of good news.
Seek you the Lord while he may be found.He was wounded for our transgressions,the whole atmosphere is different from 40 onwards . Why .? why the change.The first verse comfort gives the chief theme for the rest of the chpts to 66.Comfort.
Comfort here is not quite the way we use the word.WE talk of comfortable shoes, or clothes, meaning that they do not hinder our walking, or movement..It literally means here. To be with strength, Forte.- means strong.And to comfort a person is to put strength strength into their soul. It is to put steel into their heart. Not to wrap them in cotton wool.And so comfort here does not mean just to make a person feel good who is upset. Comfort is to put strength into you.Strengthen my people . Fill them with fortitude. And the HolY Spirit. is the comforter.
Look how The Holy Spirit transformed those disciples frightened of The Jews with their confidence at an all time low, their backs to the wall into men ready to tell and die for Christ. They had been comforted.They had been filled with strength and courage.And to comfort a sick person is not to say.Look there are a lot of others worse off than you are.To comfort a sick person is to make them ready to face the future whatever may come.
Comfort is a strong word.they needed that in isaiah's time.They had been dragged through the courts for their disobedience to The Lord and now they needed building up.To make them hopeful and rejoicing and confident.Comfort my people.
This change of condemnation to comfort./From punishment to pardon. From Justice to mercy. from war, to peace. this change is reflected in the vocabulary the style, the grammar and indeed in the layout in the rest of the book.
If you had not seen the two parts under the same name . " Isaiah" It is doubtful if you would have thought they belonged to the same prophet or the same book.You would give one name for chpt 1-39 and a different name for chpt 40-66. The next thing is not only is there a difference in the content of the sections of the book,there is a difference in historic time.In the first part the dominant world power was assyria.Assyria was the instrument of judgement on Judah.By the time of chpt 40 Assyria had faded as a world power and was overtaken by babylon.Everything was babylon babylon.
A different enemy.So the historical background of the second half is 150 years later than the first half. The events described in detail in the second half of Isaiah took place 150 years after Assyria left Jerusalem alone.Isaiah was speaking and preaching to people 150 years after his death. If it was just predicting the future that would be amazing enough.What is more remarkable is that he was preaching to that day to a future day.And this is unique among the prophets, many of the other prophets predicted something that was yet to happen. That was normal in the Bible , that is quite common. here we have not prediction about the future, but preaching to it. Here is A prophet actually preaching to people who lived 150 years after he did.He is not just saying that certain things will happen, he is saying . Now that these things are happening you ought to be doing this. He is preaching to a congregation that hasn't been born yet.It would be like finding a sermon written 100 years ago among our historical records and in it, the preacher was warning us about the ease and pace of life as typified by the lack of parking and the use of credit cards .That our slick and busy society would by and large be deaf to the word of God. and that we need to be watchful in our own spiritual lives.It would be miraculous if there was such a sermon written 100 years ago.Of prediction and application to our day, now, as well.
Isaiah did just that beginning at this chpt. .Chpt 40. He is speaking to The generation of the people of Judah who were captives in Babylon. His message to them in Babylon is this. Your suffering will soon be over.You are soon going to return to Judah.God is coming to save you. You have been punished sufficiently for the wrong things you did.Now I am going to bring comfort.Comfort you comfort you my people.What a relief it must have been to those people.
And almost everything said from Isaiah 40 onwards refers to that point in time.And Isaiah is saying this . Babylon is soon to be conquered under the command of a man called Cyrus the king of Persia.And the king of persia will allow you to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild it. That is the message of Isa. 40 onwards..
Here is a man preaching and giving a sure and historical message 150 years after he lived.You see we are not just dealing with a human book.We are dealing with a divine book. We are not just dealing with a book that comes from a human author.but from a divine author. And God is a god who knows the end from the begining.And God is a God who is perfectly capable of preaching to a congregation 150 years ahead.by inspiring the writings of a person.He knows our lives from the beginning to end, the things which lie around the corner for us .And already he is shaping us to take those bumps ahead unseen by us.
Some people find it difficult to believe that it is the one author. There are a number of factors which point to the fact that there was one writer.The N.T quotes from both parts of the book. And when it does so. It says as isaiah the prophet has said.The phrase that Isaiah uses for God is always the "Holy one of Israel" A phrase hardly used by any one else . it only occurs 5 times in the whole of the . O. T. Outside this book.INside this book it occurs 26 times . 13 times in the first half and 13 times in the second.The local colouring of chpt 40-66.are Judean and not Babylonian. The trees and Mts. The scenery are described as by one who knew Judea and not one who knew Babylonia.The trees the Myrtle and cypress are found in JUdea.
When the dead sea scrolls were discovered in 1948 there was great excitement, would all these chpts be in one book. in Isaiah because the dead sea scrolls were 1000 years older than any copy of Isaiah we had up to that date. that was why there was excitement.And our knowledge of the book of Isaiah was carried back 1000 years nearer to the time of its setting.The copies of the dead sea scrolls with Isaiah in it kept chpt 1-66 together as one., attributed to one author.
Comfort you my people.Vs 1-11 we have four voices crying in the night.Four voices crying in the darkness and suffering of God's people. And these are the words to read when we are going through trials of various kinds.When we are being lonely. The four voices begin with a whisper and end with a shout.They begin. Speak tenderly and they end "lifT up your voice with strength and the four voices of prophecy lift up the people of God." The first voice is clearly the voice of God or the voice of an angel giving a message of God.
Comfort comfort .Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that her warfare is ended That her iniquity is pardoned that she has received at the Lord's hand double for all her sins. Speak tenderly .A courting couple speak tenderly to each other.that is the thought here.God is wooing his people, drawing them into his love.Speaking to them.Your warfare , your conscription is over. Your service is over.Think of the last world war when .when a soldier at the end of the war finally hears that your demobilization is at hand.That was good news.Here your service is concluded.
The second voice.The way of The Lord is straightened.In the middle east if a monarch was going to visit a place, they would build a road ,a brand new road.The middle east is full of roads like that.They lead to no where .It was not built to go anywhere. it was built for the king to come to the palace.It was built for him to parade his army,it was built for him to show his majesty.It was built for the processions.It was a highway for the king.You will find that elsewhere.road improvements for for a special visit or of an event like the olympics.
And if you built a road for the king you would not built a narrow twisting rough road for a king . You would level it out like a motorway.You would reduce the hills and smooth the rough places. You would be building a smooth broad highway for the king or queen.
The voice is crying get ready a road, " The King is coming.It's a wonderful vision.Those poor people suffering as slaves in babylon were being told your king . The King of KIngs.is going to come through the desert for you.He is going to come to His people .Get ready. everybody will see his glory . It is picture language.There was no literal highway built to access Babylon.but the picture is get ready for the king.He is coming. Every Jew would have been thrilled to hear that news. The king is on his way . Get ready.An easy road a safe road a straight road.A grand picture. It is not surprising that when we come to the N. T. these words apply to John The Bapt. What was John the Baptist's job . " it was to prepare the way of the Lord . it was to announce the coming of the king.The Coming of the Mesiah. It was to announce the coming of The Christ. And through all the bumps and roughness of human hearts. John the Baptist by calling to repentance was making a straight highway,into the lives of people for the king when he came.That was his job. So the beginning of the gospel is this " The voice crying in the wilderness.Prepare you the way of the Lord. The king is coming make the pathway into your hearts straight and smooth.The original prophecy was to the people in Babylon.
God is going to come through the desert to you.get ready.
The third voice." All flesh is grass “
The people of Judah had been 38 years in slavery.And that is a whole generation.30 years is a generation.You reckon about three generations come and go every century. And over these 39 years a whole generation had gone.Their leaders had gone.The leaders who could have fought for them and led them back to their own land all had gone.And a new generation had been born, out there in exile.Babies had grown up who never knew the promised land. Something of the tragedy of this comes across.
The fourth voice " The word of God is standing, no wonder the prophet used the illustration of flowers .babylon was a great place for flowers.The hanging gardens of Babylon.Were one of the seven wonders of the world.people came from everywhere to see the hanging gardens.Gardens seem to be able to draw people. Bowral and canberra in recent times.Hanging, because Babylon was as flat as pancake.Its ruins are found in modern Iraq near the town of Hillah. it was the illuvial plane of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.And so they built their gardens up artificially. on walls and the famous hanging gardens of Babylon are about three times the height of this church and more they hung with flowers.But all flowers fade.All grass withers when the wind blows on it from the desert.
Our human lives are just like the flowers, they flourish and then they reach their prime of beauty and then they begin to flag and they wither and pass away.And the third voice says" don't worry that your leaders have died . " don't worry that the people who led you hAve gone.Don't feel that everything has slipped away from you. There is one thing that is the same " The word of The LOrd abides for ever. It stands.
And so in Isaiah's time it was most appropriate that God had given this word ,to his prophet 150 years before . It gave them confidence that the word of God stands forever.the word of God is still relevant. I am preaching these words 2700 years later and you will find that the word of God will go on being relevant long after we have all gone from this life.
WE are like flowers, The Word of God abides forever.
The last voice says." The welfare of Judah is strengthened." The last voice calls on Jerusalem when it is reestablished ,to say to the whole district of judah, fear not it is all over.We are back again in the city. And when Jerusalem was established all the district of Judah was established. Without the capital they collapsed, but with it they would be back again. So the prophet says. " Get back to Jerusalem and become a preacher of the gospel a herald of good news.Get back say to Judah behold your God.WE have a wonderful picture, that He is not only a mighty King , a conqueror .but a tender shepherd as well.Our God is all mighty and all gentle.
It's picture of a all conquering warrior as well as a gentle shepherd.WHEN God comes to deal with the Babylonians then he is going to lead you back gently as a shepherd.There is a picture of a lamb which cannot keep up. and the shepherd gently leads the needy.
God is coming in power and then his power will change.The journey 800 Km. back to Jerusalem. The trek To Babylon out took 3 months.And for 300 miles they forced them to march and pregnant women fell and perished in the desert .And little ones who were too tired were left behind and perished . That is how the Babylonians led them off, but God will lead them back home. Comfort you comfort you my people.The warfare eternally will end one day .