To appreciate fully this message Isaiah 40, verses 1 and 2 we need to understand why and when GOD spoke these words. The date was approximately 700 before the Common Era. A good and godly king named Hezekiah reigned in Jerusalem. GOD had just healed him of a mortal disease and bestowed many blessings and promises on him. But when heathen ambassadors from Babylon came to congratulate him on his recovery, Hezekiah succumbed to pride. Instead of telling them about his GOD who had so blessed him, he took the opportunity of their visit to show off his own glory, majesty and wealth. For this fatal error, GOD sent the prophet Isaiah to tell him:
‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house and what your fathers have accumulated until this day shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left’, says the LORD.
For the record, we know that good king Hezekiah humbled himself for his pride, but the sentence stood nevertheless, and in 586 BCE the people were exiled to Babylon for not doing what their king had done. Nevertheless, GOD in His compassion told them in advance that they would be brought back to their land, and we are now back to our text. There is a three-fold proclamation of comfort in these words. Jerusalem’s warfare is ended. Her iniquity is pardoned; she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.
In the law of Moses, GOD promised never to give up or cast away His people, Israel. Leviticus chapter 26 verse 44:
Yet for all that when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away nor shall I abhor them to utterly destroy them and break My Covenant with them, for I am the LORD their GOD.
In the verses following our text, we are introduced to the herald bringing the message of salvation.
The voice of one, crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare 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. The crooked places shall be made straight, and the rough places, smooth. The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
Again, we find three things are being announced: prepare the way of the LORD; every valley shall be exalted; and the glory of the LORD shall be revealed. In other words, just as GOD had brought His people out of Egypt and through the desert of Sinai to the Land of Promise, so it would be now. No obstacles would stand in the way of His redemption and just as His Cloud of Glory, the Shekinah, had guided them, so His Glory would appear to them again. There was one important addition and that was this time,
all flesh shall see it together. The revelation of His Glory would be not only to Israel, but to the whole world. The salvation He was bringing to His people would be extended to all nations.
In the Book of Malachi, GOD speaks again about this in Chapter 3 verse 1:
‘Behold, I send My messenger and he will prepare the way before me, and the LORD, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His Temple, even the messenger of the Covenant in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,’ says the LORD of Hosts. Put the two texts together and the picture emerges of a person. That person is no other than the Messiah of Israel.
The redemption from Babylon forshadowed a much greater one that would involve not only Israel, but all flesh, the whole world. We pray daily the words of Jacob;
‘I have waited for Your salvation O LORD.’ These prophecies of Messiah are GOD’s answer to that prayer. The Glory of the LORD is revealed in Him and we read in Zechariah Chapter 6 verses 12 to 13;
Behold the Man whose Name is the Branch; from His place He shall branch out. He shall bear the glory and shall sit and rule on His throne.
The herald of such glorious and tremendous news expressed his inadequacy and discouragement in view of his mortality and that of his hearers. What was to become of his message when he and his audience were no more? Verses 6 through 7;
The voice said, ‘Cry out!’ and He said, ‘What shall I cry? All flesh is grass and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades because the breath of the LORD blows upon it. Surely the people are grass.’ To these misgivings GOD’s reply is to the effect that His message outlives His messengers.
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our GOD stands forever. GOD’s Word is like Himself, eternal. It is never out of date. This fact is reiterated in Zechariah Chapter 1, verses 5 through 6;
Your fathers, where are they, and the prophets, do they live forever? Yet surely My words and My statutes which I commanded My servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers?
The promises of the coming redemption through the Messiah were for the generations to come. It was a long time before the people were taken captive to Babylon, and an even longer time before the Messiah came. Our glad message is that He did come as foretold through the prophets, and His followers gladly proclaimed Him.
The redemption He has brought us is far more than deliverance from the consequences of our sins and misdeeds. It is salvation from sin itself. Hebrews Chapter 1 verses 1 through 3;
GOD, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days, spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds, who, being the brightness of His Glory and the express image of His Person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had, by Himself, purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High. This Messiah is no other than YESHUA, JESUS of Nazareth. It was He alone who fulfilled all the prophecies concerning our Redeemer. No other but He has given His life for sinners, the just for the unjust. Of Him, John writes;
And we beheld His Glory. GOD has kept His promises. We are here not only to comfort our people, but also to announce the One in whom the needed comfort is found. It is He who brings pardon for our iniquities as our text proclaims, and it is not by accident that one of the traditional names for our Messiah is Menachem, the Comforter. May you know the comfort of sins forgiven through faith in Him.