Since the peace of Eden was lost through Adam’s fall, mankind has been locked in a warfare with the Serpent and his seed. We are in this war because of our sin, and we must war to overcome our sin (1 Jn. 2:14). If we are to “fight the good fight”, we must understand the actual status of this war, and to do this we need God’s perspective of the conflict we are in. The war against remaining sin can often times leave us discouraged, but God has given unto us, through the prophet Isaiah, some precious words of comfort and encouragement for the fight we are entrenched in.
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
Summary of The Text
The series of songs, which comprise the majority of the second half of Isaiah, commence with words of comfort (Is. 40:1), and loving, tender words of warfare ended, sins pardoned and debts paid (Is. 40:2). This good news is announced by a “voice in the wilderness” (Is. 40:3) which prepares the way for the Lord to come, by removing all obstructions (Is. 40:4). In this way God’s glory will be revealed to all flesh, and we are assured it will come to pass “for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it” (Is. 40:5).
In Is. 40:6-8 we are told what the voice in the wilderness (Is. 40:3) is to cry, viz. that flesh is like grass, soon grown, soon withered, soon replaced & forgotten; and this is contrasted with the Word of the Lord which stands forever.
It is Zion herself, that is to declare this message, and she is to do it from a high mountain, with fearless strength; and her message is: “Behold your God” (Is. 40:9)! This is then expanded in Is. 40:10-11, and can be summarized by saying that when the Lord comes, He will come in strength, to rule, to reward, and to work; further, He is presented as being like a shepherd, caring with gentleness for the entire flock.
What War? What Sin?
The most natural question to be answered as we look at the comfort being offered by Isaiah is, “What war is ended? And what sin is pardoned?” Judah had witnessed their Northern brethren carried away captive–as had been prophesied–by the Assyrians, and they themselves were just emerging from a successful resistance to their own Assyrian threat (Isaiah 36-37).
But as the Assyrian empire began to wane, the Babylonian threat began to arise. It is right before this chapter that Isaiah has declared to King Hezekiah that the Jews would be exiled by the Babylonians. So, the declaration that their warfare is ended seems like wishful thinking, or some PR stunt. The political climate was anything but stable and certain.
Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, was known for leading Judah into some of its most profound depravity; so it would seem that even at this juncture the people of Judah weren’t wholly bent on serving the Lord. So, although Isaiah repeatedly denounces Judah’s apostasy, unbelief, and idolatry, they are ever so prone to rebellion. But despite their continual sin, and the raging of nations all around them, Isaiah, by the Spirit of God, sees fit to proclaim to their heart (as the Hebrew has it) a message of prophetic comfort.
Their comfort, as well as ours, is found in the good news that the warfare would end, and that their many sins would be pardoned; and all of it would be done by the Son of David, the perfect servant, the gentle shepherd, the mighty God.
The war was the result of their sin. It was their warfare, and it was their sin; but it was the Lord of Glory who would both finish the strife of their war and pardon their sin. Where the Davidic Kings faltered, where national Israel failed, thus bringing disappointment, disillusionment, and exile; Christ, the true son of David, and true servant of Yahweh, would bring joy, light, and gather together all God’s people into God’s city. Which is why Zion’s proclamation, in verse nine, is what it is: “Behold your God!”
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:30-31
The “Lord of Glory” has come and conquered for His people, and tends them like a shepherd. You have, by faith and hope in the Lord, been given strength that is not yours, to endure to the end of your earthly struggle with sin and Satan. We are more than conquerors (Rom. 8:38-39), “through Him who loved us and gave Himself for us”.
This is your comfort and confidence; you are in Christ, the rider on the white steed who goes forth conquering and to conquer (Rev. 6:2)). We all too often live as if we must negotiate terms with sin and Satan, when in reality, we are sent forth to proclaim the good tidings that our Enemy is defeated. Take comfort, the war is over; now go, and live like free men.