In today’s reading the prophet’s vision transcends the immediate concerns about Assyria and Babylon and exalts the LORD before His people. The prophet’s voice in chapter 40 begins in the quiet mists, then launches to herald the coming king: “…Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” He is commanded to “Go on up to a high mountain…lift up your voice with strength…say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’”
Chapter 41 shifts to the voice of the LORD, who makes a bold assertion: “I, the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am He.” This builds a claim that the LORD makes over the next few chapters: the God who chose Israel, who helps them, who winnows them, is the only God. He challenges idols to: “Set forth your case…tell us the former things…tell us what is to come…that we may know that you are gods.”
Chapter 42 begins a reset – almost as though a covenant is being re-established. It begins with a reminder of the LORD’s sovereignty: “…who created the heavens and stretched them out…” then commends Israel to remember how it was chosen to be “a light for the nations.” However, the LORD has given them up to the plunderer, because they would not walk in His ways.
Some believe that Isaiah is not responsible for all the oracles in the book that is his namesake. This would not be unusual: the books of Samuel are named so because of their first big character, not because Samuel penned their entirety. I mention this because I want you to notice some subtle changes in the literature from here forward.
First, we’ve lost the formula “And the word of the LORD came to me…” that reflected a first-person intimacy, which is absent in the second half of the book. Second, Assyria completely drops out of the story as an immediate character, as though they no longer exist or no longer matter. And while Babylon takes Assyria’s place in the prophet’s mind, you’ll notice also that the prophet’s concerns range mostly beyond even them: to a time of restoration and peace, when Jacob’s people will outlast even these mighty kingdoms. None of this necessarily forces Isaiah himself out of the picture; but it’s important to notice that the tenor and concerns have changed.
Our verse for this week is 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Isaiah 40 through 42. Now let’s read it!
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.