God announces through the prophet Isaiah Good News of enduring salvation
1 Comfort, comfort [i.e. comfort greatly, emphasised] My people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to [lit. speak to the heart of, encourage] Jerusalem [the Lord’s people], and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double [punishment] for all her sins.
- They had endured the punishment of captivity and exile.
- This section starts with an announcement of the Good News; it continues.
3-5 A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare [clear] the way for the Lord [remove the obstacles]…
- This voice, God’s messenger who prepares the way for God’s coming, was identified with John the Baptist in all four of the gospels Matt 3:1-3, Mark 1:1-3, Luke 3:4 and John 1:23.
- In Isaiah 35 the picture is of a holy highway with the people travelling towards Zion, where the Lord has come. The imagery here is reversed; the Lord is coming out to the people (verses 9-11).
…make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.
- ‘Desert’ is not smooth sand but a picture of sharp crags and crevasses – terrain that is difficult to negotiate. NLT renders this “Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills, straighten the curves and smooth out the rough places…”
- The Near East custom was to send representatives to prepare a processional way; a bit like preparing a way down the Mall for the Queen in the royal coach.
And the glory [and majesty and splendour] of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
- Yahweh – the Lord – could not be seen; every Israelite knew that. But they needed assurance that the Lord was with them. The was the cloud, kabod, which unlike our idea of damp, grey clouds had a radiance as well. In Exodus 24:17 it is called a consuming fire. It is felt and not just seen – when the tabernacle was completed God’s glory so filled it that even Moses was unable to enter Exodus 40:35. The glory of the Lord that was the constant reminder that God was with the Israelites is the glory that Isaiah here will be seen again by everyone. The Transfiguration of Jesus was a cloud of dazzling radiance that surrounded Jesus and revealed others Matt. 17:1-3.
A voice says, “Cry out [prophesy]!” And I said, “What shall I cry?”
[The voice answered] “All people are like[all humanity is as frail as] grass, and all their faithfulness [lit. all that makes it attractive] is [momentary] like the flowers of the field.
7-8 The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely [all] the people are [like] grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”
- Quoted by Peter in his first letter: 1 Peter 1:22-25
9 You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem [God’s people], lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”
- ‘Shout’ – this is a message for all to hear.
10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and He rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with Him, and His recompense accompanies Him.
- Unlike the unjust, and ultimately powerless, rulers who He will judge, God’s rule will be different: marked by compassion and righteousness – with power to rescue, Isaiah 59:16 and defeat enemies such as the Egyptians, Isaiah 63:11-12.
- His reward is with Him – God is Himself the Good News.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; He gently leads those that have young.
- The Ezekiel 34 passage (Nov 26 readings) portrayed God as the careful shepherd who would Himself rescue and shepherd His flock, Ezekiel 34:11, 15-16
This is a message of hope and encouragement for God’s people. The immediate hearers were Jews of the 8th century BC. But we can take hold of this as a lesson about God’s character; uncompromising in holiness and angered by our stubbornness and independence, but essentially loving, gracious and having our protection and best interests at heart, like the best kind of shepherd.
We may have done all sorts of things (and held all sorts of attitudes) entirely worthy of God’s anger. That is why we go back to Him often and agree with Him that we are prone to fall into sin, usually through our own independence. He has given us free will, to do what He would have us do, or to do what we want to do. Of course we get it wrong at times. The nation of Israel kept on getting it wrong, ignoring clear warnings and lessons from history, until they were expelled from their holy city and holy land to a life of servility in exile.
Here God is announcing that this ‘hard service’ has been completed and His love and mercy will once again override the need for judgment.Unlike the Jewish nation, we have a ‘fast track’ to God through Jesus. The hard service or worse that should have been ours, from our inherited independence and human pride, has been completed by Jesus in his dying for us. For the Jewish nation there was, quite justifiably, condemnation. The Bible word for us is that for us who have sincerely chosen to give our lives to Jesus, there is no condemnation, Romans 8:1-2 . There is always a way back for us in Jesus. The announcement of Good News is for our hearing. As we respond and turn to meet God, we find Him coming out to meet us. The way for Him to come, needs some levelling and preparation; thanks to Jesus we are equipped to do that.
- What are the obstacles, or obstructions, to God coming to us again and showing His glory?
- How do we do our bit to make straight… a highway for our God?
Also published on Medium.