“Comfort…comfort my people.” These words signal a shift in the message of the book of Isaiah. Up to this point the prophet had brought a message of judgment against the ungodliness of Israel and her neighbor nations. But here in chapter 40 his tone changes to one of comfort, forgiveness, and hope — hope that looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah talked prophetically about the Messiah, Jesus Christ, more than any other prophet of the Old Testament. Jesus is God’s message of comfort to a hurting world and hope for lost sinners. (Note: Isaiah has 66 chapters, with 39 chapters of judgment against sin followed by 27 chapters of hope in the Messiah. Is it just a coincidence that the Bible has 66 books, with 39 in the Old Testament followed by 27 in the New Testament?)
In verses 3-5 Isaiah begins his message of comfort and restoration by picturing a highway of hope leading out of the wilderness of judgment. There is a road map for this highway, the eternal Word of God (v.8). Only in God’s Word will we find the way out of sin and into salvation.
As Isaiah rose to proclaim that message as a “herald of good news”, he pictured God as a loving shepherd, tenderly picking up His sheep and caring for their needs. We are safe in the arms of our gentle shepherd, for no one is as big and as powerful as He. Isaiah’s description of God’s immeasurable presence and His unmatched power inspires us to trust Him more. God holds all of creation in His hands (v.12-16). The combined population of the world, including all the great cities, all the powerful governments, and all the armies, are “less than nothing” compared to Him (v.17). God sits above the orbit of the earth (v.22). He has named and numbered every one of the trillions of stars He created, and He holds them each in place (v.26). His great power is never diminished, never runs low, is never depleted (v.28).
And that God cares about you! He knows when you get tired and feel like quitting, and if you “wait on Him” (completely trust Him), He will give you strength to walk, to run, and to soar to new heights (v.31)! Until the strength comes He will carry you (v.11), and you are safe in His strong arms.