During the month of July, we will take a few opportunities to focus on the prophet Isaiah and some of his most well-remembered and influential chapters in his book. We continue this week with Isaiah 40.
Take a moment and read Isaiah 40 here.
As you read these words from Isaiah, there are sure to be a few phrases or verses that stand out.
- Comfort, O comfort my people (v. 1)
- A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord” (v. 3)
- Every valley shall be lifted up and every mountain and hill be made low (v. 4)
- The word of the Lord will stand forever (v. 7)
- Have you not known? Have you not heard? (vs. 21 and 28)
- He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (vs. 28-31)
There are many recognizable passages from this one chapter. We turn back to it, and read it and understand it in light of who Jesus is and the beginning of his ministry. We turn back to it for encouragement in hard times to know that God does not grow tired or weary. We turn to it when we need to be reminded that this story matters and it is not fleeting.
And as we read this chapter together, I am especially drawn to this last idea. That our part of the story of God’s people is not just a fleeting moment with no meaning, but that it matters deeply.
In verses 6-11, Isaiah draws our attention to the fact that our lives are like that of the grass. The grass withers, the flower fades. And our lives can be just like this, especially when we think about them on the cosmic scale of all of history. And when we hear that, we can have 1 of 2 reactions. If everything is just going to wither and fade, then life has no meaning. Or, even though life withers and fades, what happens during the time that we are alive has enormous meaning.
And for Isaiah, I think he believes the second. In verse 8, Isaiah follows that up by saying that the word of our God will stand forever! While we might find it difficult to comprehend our mortality, there is a constant that will not change–the word of the Lord! And Isaiah tells the people, he tells us, to herald this everywhere we go. We should speak of God’s enduring word–of how he will feed his flock, gather the lambs, carry them, and gently lead them.
Isaiah is letting us know God’s desire for us as his creation–that we would understand the great meaning that God gives to us in our lives. Our meaning is not found in our own names, statures, or what we can build or provide for ourselves in our lifetimes. No, our meaning is found in how we relate to God and how God in turn relates to us! God will lead us as a shepherd leads his flocks. God will care for and provide for us as he does for the sheep of the sheepfold. And if we can hear this message, then we should share it too. God’s provision is for all. And God’s provision will last!
Isaiah offers us a gift here. We do not have to create meaning for our lives from nothing. God offers us meaning in relationship to him, and he invites us to speak that word to the world around us. May we be comforted in knowing that the word of the Lord endures forever, and may we herald this wherever we go.