HOME IS NEARER THAN YOU THINK
*Good Monday morning. I hope you had a great weekend. We are still in the Book of Isaiah. We have been covering the first few chapters of the book, but today I want to skip all the way to the fortieth chapter. You may recall that I said at the beginning that there are three sections to Isaiah. It is also believed, though not a popular belief, that the book was written by three authors. There is 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Isaiah. Isaiah as a book covered over two hundred years. We have seen where God has been angry with the people and warned them as to what was to come. Even in the midst of warning, however, God still sent a promise. Now, we look at "Second Isaiah." (Isaiah 40-55)
"Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, 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 for her sins." (Isaiah 40:1-2)
Second Isaiah was written during the time of the Babylonian exile (6th century). As you read this section you will quickly notice that some of it is past tense, some present tense, and some of it looks into the future. The narrative in Second Isaiah differs from the material in First Isaiah. Most of Second Isaiah is poetic. This section of Isaiah has often been referred to as the "Book of Comfort."
In the above passage the destruction of Jerusalem is a past event. Now God speaks to the prophet words of comfort and hope. Keep in mind that when Jerusalem was destroyed the temple was as well. The question would then be: "Where did God go when the temple was destroyed?" Many believed that when the temple met its demise God went into the wilderness.
"A voice of one calling: In the desert (wilderness) prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness 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. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all mankind together will see it." (Is. 40:3-5)
Perhaps this passage sounds familiar to you. This passage is used elsewhere in the Bible. Do you remember where? John the Baptist quoted this passage at the River Jordan before Jesus appeared for baptism. Well, if people believed that God went into the wilderness, then this is a play on that belief. The "God of the Wilderness" will now reveal himself and lead the people through the wilderness and then back home. It will be like a re-entry into the Promised Land. This time, however, there will not be a Red Sea in which to cross. God will not take them "the long way around," but will lead then on a straight road to home.
"This is what the Lord says-he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters; who drew out the chariots and the horses...Forget the former things; do not well on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!" (Isaiah 43: 16-17a,18-19)
What is taking place is a New Exodus. Again, without all the violence of the first exodus. However, according to Isaiah the Egyptian exodus will be nothing compared to the future exodus from Babylon. God even uses creation as a way of encouraging the people. (Is. 48: 12-13) If God was able to call every thing into being then he is surely able to lead his people home.
Now, how will God get the job done? What are God's "tools of the trade"? How does God work miracles? Can God use "unholy" sources to bring God's plans into being? The answer is: Yes! Isaiah gives us proof of this. If you recall, in Exodus the death of Pharaoh's son caused him to release the people. How will God arrange for the release of the people this time?
"This is what the Lord says-your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, who has made all things...who says of Cyrus, He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, 'Let it be rebuilt, and of the temple, 'Let its foundations be laid.'" (Is. 44: 24, 28)
Cyrus was the Persian monarch who opposed the Babylonian Empire. It would be Cyrus who would free the Judeans and even helped some of them to return to Jerusalem and paid to rebuild the temple. So, God used a foreigner to help free the people and to get them home.
We will read more about the return later. There is something else we need to see in Second Isaiah. It is found in chapter 55. If you recall, we have read about the covenant that God established with King David. God promised David that the covenant was eternal. The interesting thing is, David was not mentioned in Second Isaiah until now:
"Give ear and come to me; hear me that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David..." (Is. 55:3) The Davidic covenant is now transferred to the people as a whole. It is now a national covenant.
Tomorrow we will conclude our look at Isaiah. We will find the people back in their homeland where many will discover just how difficult it is to return home after being away for a long time. I pray you have a great day. -Pastor RIck