>Why am I calling this “Part 1 of sorts”? Because I’m relatively ambitious. At this point, I fully intend on continuing through the rest of Isaiah 40. However, I’m also horribly inconsistent when it comes to writing ideas. I love writing. I really do. I enjoy reading and studying as well. The problem isn’t doing the work – it’s the motivation. I get fairly unmotivated from time to time and months will pass before I continue doing any real work, as can be seen from the gaps in my archive to your left. So, yes, I fully intend on disciplining myself to the point that I can actually work all the way through Isaiah 40, but I am also realistic… or is that pessimistic… about the actuality of it all. But that’s enough rambling on that subject….

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins (Is 40:1-2, ESV)

Given the flow of the first 39 chapters of Isaiah, it is no surprise where the Israelites are going. It continually talks about Israel’s (or, rather Judah – the southern kingdom) unfaithfulness, which climaxes in the word of God spoken through Isaiah to King Hezekiah in chapter 39 – Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon (Is 39:6-7).

Judah is done. They have gone past the point of safe return. Exile at the hands of the Babylonians is inevitable. What’s the big deal about exile? No people group in the ancient world ever returned from exile. Once you were exiled by a dominate country, you were done. It was the end of the line. Your people were intermixed with other races and eventually disappeared altogether as a distinct people group. There was no recovery. But wait a minute – didn’t God promise the land to Abraham? Didn’t he also promise that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars of the sky? Are God’s promises only temporary? This is where Isaiah 39 leaves the reader – anxious, uncertain of the future, in despair. But God is not finished with these people just yet.

What are God’s first words? “Comfort, comfort my people.” What in the world is so comforting about promised exile? The fact that it is not the end of the line. Now, Isaiah writes these words a century before the exile even happens, and the return, historically, was 50 years later (give or take a couple years). Yet, 150+ years ahead of time, Isaiah is so certain of the promises of God that in the same book he writes about exile, he writes about a return. God is so faithful that Isaiah writes in the present tense – not the future tense. The idea is not that the Israelites will return, but that they are returning. It is not a message of hope so much as a message of certainty. Now, I’m getting a little ahead of myself – what is the thrust of the first two verses here?

No matter how big of a mess we have gotten ourselves into, no matter what we have done to separate us from God – God is faithful, but God’s faithfulness does not preclude discipline. Discipline is often confused with punishment. Punishment is not restorative. Punishment merely addresses the symptoms. Discipline has a purpose. Discipline addresses the illness. After the exile, I don’t recall idolatry being a major problem with Israel – at least not in the classical sense of the word. They were not worshipping other gods, as had been the case for the majority of their history before the exile. Of course, by the time we get to the New Testament, there were other issues that needed to be dealt with, but the problem of worshipping idols was not one of them. There were things that replaced the idols which one could consider to be idolatry – money, pride, power, position, etc. – but the Israelites learned from their exile. Their illness was addressed, and Isaiah 40 begins the restorative process.

Just some musings from a traveling pilgrim.