This post is part of the current Common English Bible Tour. You can read Isaiah 40.1-11 in the CEB here.
In Isaiah 40.1-11, Israel is in exile, a very dark place in their history. They doubted their status as God’s chosen people; they even doubted the sovereignty of God.
This portion of scripture seeks to assure Israel that the Lord still has compassion for them and the Lord, despite the triumph of Babylon their enemy, is still Lord of the heavens and over history. In fact, the Lord will act soon to allow the exiles to return home, a journey more glorious than the journey out of Egypt.
This is the real time scenario; and yet it foreshadows the coming of the Messiah. And that coming foreshadows the second coming of Christ, also a theme of Advent.
The first word is a word of comfort.
Comfort, comfort my people! says your God. Speak compassionately to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her compulsory service has ended, that her penalty has been paid … (Isaiah 40.1-2, CEB)
Even in your most desperate of situations, there is hope. There is a word of comfort. The Lord holds these circumstances in his hand, and he will deliver.
This is such an appropriate word for this season. We look at this season as one that is to be filled with joy. If we have suffered loss of any kind—death of a loved one or the separation of a loved one by miles, sickness, dementia, relational difficulties, or infertility, etc.—our loss is magnified during this season.
And so we turn to God and hear his word, “Comfort, comfort.”