Friday, June 7, 2013

Isaiah 39-40: The Gospel According to Isaiah

Isa 40:3-5 A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken."
Isa 40:9-14 You who bring good tidings to Zion,go up on a high mountain.You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout,lift it up, do not be afraid;say to the towns of Judah, "Here is your God!" See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Who has understood the mind of the Lord, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding? 
Isa 40:21-31 "Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.  He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff. To whom will you compare me?Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God"? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

From Isaiah 40 onward, we get a peek into the New Testament: The judgments are over; God's now abounds: "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins" (Isa 40:1-2). From this point, it will be good news, not bad news--news of comfort and joy: "You who bring good tidings (Gospel) to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, 'Here is your God!'" God is coming and He is not coming to judge but to comfort His people, to bring good news of great joy!

God is coming! That is the Good News! The Gospel of the Kingdom is this: the King is here! And this King is described as follows:

  • Powerful ("See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him"): He rules with power and might and He rewards those who seek Him. The all-powerful, all-knowing and all-present God is coming our way!
  • Caring ("He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young"): But He is not just powerful; He is also caring. He does not crush and destroy the weak but cradle and carry them like a shepherd carries the lambs. He will lead his people with gentleness, not with harshness.
  • Inscrutable ("Who has understood the mind of the Lord, or instructed him as his counselor?): God is beyond human understanding and comprehension. When scientists and theologians think they have figure out God--they are completely deluded. Just because science has understood some of the physical or biological processes of the universe and life does not mean we are now better than God. They would like the car mechanics who thinks that because he can now change the oil and filter of the car, he knows everything about what makes the car move. Or the theologians who has put God in their theological boxes and therefore think they have understood God -- enough to make sure that He does not misbehave by stepping outside their theological boxes. When we loudly proclaim that we have finally understood God, we would have demonstrated our ignorance. God's answer to such intellectual arrogance is this: "Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?" (40:14).
  • Sovereign ("Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust."): Despite our own sense of self-importance, whether because of our military power, cultural superiority or economic wealth, God's assessments of human self-aggrandizement is this: we are just like a drop in a bucket, like dust on the scales--we can't even tilt the scale at all! We boast in our military power and economic wealth, but to God, we are just nothing: "Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing" (40:17). It's like the emperor's new clothes--all our boasting is about nothing!
  • Creator ("Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name"). God created something out of nothing--nothing means  no time, no space and no energy. Before the stars came about in an instantaneous explosion called the Big Bang, time did not exist, only eternity which is just another word for timelessness. And our God dwells in this realm of timelessness, where yesterday, today and tomorrow coalesce into one moment. God sees the past, present and future as an eternal NOW. How long does He need to bring about the Universe? An instant--according to physicists, that is less than a micro-fraction of a second. 
  • Everlasting ("The Lord is the everlasting God...He will not grow tired or weary"): God will not get tired unlike humans. We start fresh in the morning, but by evening we are flat out and ready to collapse. But God is everlasting, ever-strong, ever-green. Since the first day of Creation, He has not diminished in his glory, majesty and power. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. And because He is unchanging and never deteriorate in his power, we become renewed and rejunevated in His presence: "Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Isa 40:30-31).
What a great God we have! What good news -- that this great God is coming and has already come in the person of Jesus Christ. He will come again and He has come through His indwelling Spirit.  Those who belong to Him are privileged people because we have such a great and gracious God dwelling among us. Emmanuel!

Father, what privilege to be called Your sons and daughters. Thank You that You are our God! Amen.

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