Sometime in the 6th century BC, the Israelites — God’s chosen people — went into captivity in Babylon, far away from their homeland, and facing severe famine. The Lord had revealed this to Isaiah 150 years before the exile, knowing that there would come a time when His people would lose all hope of deliverance. And that’s the context for Isaiah 40.
But the three promises of God laid out in this chapter hold true even today — and are especially comforting in these troubling times.
Of all the life lessons this pandemic has taught us, the frailty of man is the most sobering. We are such weak, finite beings; here today, gone tomorrow. All it took was a virus — a microscopic particle — to teach us who we are: a mere breath.
All it took was a virus — a microscopic particle — to teach us who we are: a mere breath
Isaiah 40:6-7 says, “…All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass.”
But just as we ponder the brevity of our existence, notice the sudden change in tone a little further down the passage. “Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’” (v.9) — as if to say, ‘Stop focusing on yourself; turn your eyes upwards and cheer up!
We would do well to pause and reflect: who is this God who we serve? Look around. There is nothing in all of creation that is not made and sustained by Him. Notice how this lies in sharp contrast to the fleeting mortality of man described in verses 6 and 7.
Verse 12 stretches our minds further as it describes the omnipotence of God: how He has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, held the dust of the earth in a basket, and weighed the mountains on the scale. This is the Almighty God; the Alpha and Omega; the Creator of the ends of the earth. And it is the same God, who never grows tired or weary, who will bestow His strength to them that have none (v.29).
Many of us are grieving over the loved ones we’ve lost to the coronavirus. But as we wonder how to move on, God reminds us that He will carry us through. “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (vv.30-31).
He who created us knows our weak frame. And as our days, so shall His strength be sufficient.
He who created us knows our weak frame. And as our days, so shall His strength be sufficient
Our God not only promises to strengthen us to endure, He promises His presence amid our trials. The same brush that paints the picture of the omnipotent God now presents Him as tender and loving, able to quieten our fearful and timid hearts. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (v.11). What a beautiful promise!
I praise God that He has likened us to sheep. They describe our character so aptly. Unlike other animals, sheep are easily scared of the dark. They are fearful when they cannot see the way forward and they do not know how to respond when faced with imminent danger. This is why they need the guidance of a shepherd at all times.
As we look ahead to an uncertain and unstable tomorrow, our God promises to meet us in the middle of our storm to reassure us that we are not alone. He will hold us fast and calm us like a mother soothes her hurting baby.
We are not meant to live fearful, defeated lives here on earth. Two thousand years ago, our God came to live among us. Though truly God, He experienced the vulnerability of being a man. He was tired, hungry, and distressed at times — just like us. He chose to suffer and die on the cross, carrying the weight of the sin of the world. He didn’t remain dead, but rose again on the third day. And now, in Him, we have a glorious hope!
Jesus has already won the fiercest battle — death itself — on our behalf. And we have the same power as we live through Christ in us. If this omnipotent God is for us, who can be against us? Whether in trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:31-37).
We are not meant to live fearful, defeated lives here on earth
Life can be difficult, but even amidst the uncertainty and chaos, we can still have true peace and hope in the God who will lead us home. This world was never meant to be our home.
Isaiah 40:10 says, “Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.” Our Saviour will come again — and soon. This time, to take us home to be with Him. All the hardships of this life will fade away in the light of eternity. God Himself will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:4) and eternal joy will be ours.
God cares for us infinitely more than we can ever know in our lifetime. You can feel His heart as He tells Isaiah to pen the first verse of this beautiful chapter: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem…” (Isaiah 40:1-2). This is the God who will sustain us until He calls us home to be with Him forever.
On that glorious day, we will no longer see mere glimpses of His glory. But in awe, we will worship Yahweh — the Eternal God — who stooped to rescue us as the Immanuel, God with us.
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