After 39 chapters of judgment oracles, mixed with some prophecies of hope and the Messiah, we come to the second half of Isaiah’s writing. Here he changes his tone and encourages, comforts, and gives hope to Israel. They would still go through the war with Assyria, they would still go into Babylonian captivity. Yet that would not be their end.
The hard part again is identifying any particular prophetic event. We have some help in that the New Testament quotes and applies some of them. Apart from that, many of the events are similar: the return from Babylon and the spiritual return to God under the Messiah. Both are often termed in Old Testament pictures of blessing.
God promises their return and comfort (Isaiah 40.1-5, quoted and applied to John the Baptist in Matthew 3.3 and John 1.23. God’s word is eternal and thus these promised events will happen ( Isaiah 40.6-8, quoted in 1 Peter). God will come, not in wrath, but as a shepherd to gather his people and protect them (Isaiah 40.10ff) God is both wise enough and powerful enough to accomplish this. [Note Isaiah 40.13-14 quoted in Romans 11.34).
The thing that got Israel into trouble was idolatry. This is also the downfall of Babylon and the rest of the nations.
Throughout this section God emphasizes He alone is God.
- He is the first and the last.
- There was / is no god beside Him.
- He is the creator of all.
- None can compare: “to whom will you liken me” is asked repeatedly.
- He is able to tell what would happen in the future, which only the true God could do.
- He rules over nations, raising them up and destroying them in His wrath.
- God chose Israel to be His servant in bringing the Messiah.
- God chose Israel to be his witnesses that He is God.
- God will bring the Messiah, His chosen servant, to redeem and save His people.
Many people today have only a caricature image of God and thus make many foolish statements about Him and about religion. We need to immerse ourselves in these last chapters of Isaiah and get a true understanding of who God is.
“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17.3).
Do you know God?
[Hugh and I began preaching together as interns at the Johnson Avenue church in El Cajon, California in 1971. – Bill]