Lectionary Text: Isaiah 40:1-11
Literary Unit: Isaiah 11
Sub Literary Units: vs. 1 & 2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-11
Central Message: A New Day for the Nation of Israel and a New Day for the World
Isaiah 40:1-11 can best be described as having a double meaning. The prophet Isaiah was instructed by God to inform the nation of Israel that Israel had come to a new day in the life of their troubled relationship with the Lord God of Israel. They received the best news that any human being can receive from a loving God, “your sins have been forgiven.” The Believer’s Bible Commentary by William MacDonald offers this opening in the commentary on chapter 40. It states, “Chapter 40 opens with a message of comfort for the returning captives, Jerusalem’s troubles are over, her iniquity is pardoned, for she has received…double (that is, full and fitting measure) for all her sins.” Many biblical scholars agree that this passage is closely tied to the advent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the three year ministry he would have some thirty years after his birth.
Isaiah announces to the nation of Israel that they should clear the way for the Lord. A new day was upon them. The Lord would forgive all of their iniquities and their sins would be remembered no more. A result of this good news would be Israel’s release from a long captivity. For the first time in a long time the people of Israel would be given a new slate on which to write a new future history. Hopefully a history that would include and be firmly built on them (the nation of Israel) being the prime example of what the people of God should be, trusting and obedient.
This passage of scripture is also used by the New Testament prophet John the Baptist as the forerunner of the advent of the ministry of Jesus. John like Isaiah would announce to the nation of Israel of his time that a new day was at hand. John had been instructed to make straight the path and clear the way for the one who would come behind him. In verses 6-8, the Lord instructs the prophet to “Cry out!” to men, telling them how transitory they are, and how permanent His word is. While these verses describe the transience of all men, they may refer especially to Israel’s overlords.
As was the case in Isaiah time and was also the case in John the Baptist time, the passage of Isaiah 40:1-11 was indeed a new day for the nation of Israel. It was also a new day for the captive nation of Israel in John’s time, but the good news was and still is a new day for the millions of Christians across the world today.
MacDonald, William, Believer’s Bible Commentary, Edited by Art Farstad, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Dallas, 1995, pp. 967 & 968..
Hymns: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful”
An Advent Litany
Leader- Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
Congregation- Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to them that they have served their term,
Leader- that their penalty is paid,
Congregation- that they have received from the Lord’s hand double for all their sins.
Leader- A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the
desert a highway for our God.
Congregation- Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low;
Leader- the uneven ground shall be come level, and the rough places a plain.
Congregation- Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Leader- Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings;
Congregation- lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do
not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”
(Based on Isaiah 40:1-5, 9)