Devotions for Isaiah 40:1-11
November 30, – December 6, 2015
Monday, November 30, 2015
“Comfort, O comfort my people, says the Lord” (Isaiah 11:1)
Parents with seriously sick children are a wonder to behold. Most of them, after watching all of the medial procedures their children had to endure and seeing their children sick and in pain, would change places with their children in a heartbeat. Unable to do that they spend countless hours at their children’s bedsides providing comfort, a sounding board and a word of hope.
Judah saw themselves in a helpless and hopeless situation. Babylon had defeated them. They were in exile. The people had lost their land, the temple and their God. Isaiah speaks to the people a word from the Lord. God wants to comfort them, to assure them of God’s continued love and presence in their lives
Even though it may be the season for celebration, many of us find ourselves in difficult or hopeless situations. God’s word comes to us as it did to the exiles. God’s love is steadfast and nothing can separate us from God. With that assurance we can take heart and be comforted.
O Divine Comforter, as we face the challenges of life, help us to turn our attention away from our problems and look to you for comfort, strength and hope. Amen.
Monday, December 1, 2015
“She has served her term, that her penalty is paid” (Isaiah 40:2).
Stan Cummings stood before the parole board. He had hooked up with the wrong crowd in his teen years. A couple of his buddies and he decided to rob a convenience store. He was designated as the driver. During the robbery the clerk had tried to wrestle the gun away from Stan’s friend. The gun fired and the clerk was killed. Though he did not have anything to do with the killing, Stan was still involved in the crime and received a sentence of twenty years. Stan had served ten years. He’d been a model inmate and he sincerely believed that he had learned his lesson. He hoped that the parole board agreed that he was a good candidate for parole. When he was granted a parole, Stan was ecstatic.
The exiles did not know if they would ever return to their homeland. They feared that they would not and that their exile was permanent. Isaiah shared the comforting words that their punishment would be cut short. The exiles were able to regain a slight bit of hope from Isaiah’s words.
God doesn’t punish us for our foolish and rebellious behavior. (That’s one of the reasons for Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.) We may find ourselves, however, in situations that are not pleasant; situations from which we wish to escape. Like the exiles, God’s word comes to us. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
Powerful God, may we never lose hope that our difficult times will change for the better because of your grace and power. Amen.
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
“Make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3).
When a Mid-Eastern monarch traveled, he did not want to be jostled. In order to ensure that he wouldn’t be, servants would be set out and make road improvements in preparation for the monarch’s trip. Pot holes would be filled, ruts graded, passages would be cut through the mountains and straight roads would be built in the valleys and deserts. When all the preparations were completed the monarch would begin his trip.
God calls for a road to be prepared. It isn’t for a monarch to travel from his capitol to a distant land. This road is for the Lord so that he can come to Babylon and rescue the exiles. It takes times to build a road, however, so the exiles had to be patient. The exiles had the assurance that God was coming and they would be rescued and returned to the land.
When we find ourselves in difficult situations we want God to answer our prayers immediately. One more moment of struggle is too long. God often responds to our prayers with this message, “A road is being prepared.” It takes time to build a road, but at the right time God will arrive, our prayers will be answered and our hope will become a reality.
Eternal Lord, we confess that we are not a patient people. Enable us, though, to wait with eager anticipation for you to move and to answer our prayers. Amen.
Thursday, December 3, 2015
“The grass withers and the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:7).
When the storm clouds gather and we encounter the lightning, thunder, downpours, tornadoes and hurricanes of life, we find that many of our friends are “fair weather friends.” If we are honest with ourselves, we probably have been fair weather friends, also. We might not want to get involved. The price to stick by our friends might be too high. We might be fickle and first say that we are going to help, but later change our mind. Whatever the case, we know what it is like to be abandoned and to abandon others.
Thankfully God isn’t like us. God doesn’t promise to help us and then change God’s mind. God doesn’t run when the going gets tough. God doesn’t turn a deaf ear to our pleas for help because it is inconvenient or God doesn’t have the time to help us. The word of God stands forever—it is strong, unchanging and sure. The fact that God keeps God’s promises encourages, strengthens and motivates us as we take the next step of faith into the future.
Faithful Lord, thank you that you are true to your word. Reminded of this truth, may we boldly follow you wherever you lead us. Amen.
Friday, December 4, 2015
“Lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings” (Isiah 40:9).
As Isaiah speaks Judah’s call for changes. First the people are to be comforted. They then are told to wait patiently. Assured of God’s faithfulness the people are to prepare for the Lord’s arrival. Now the people are called to herald what the Lord is doing. God was doing great things and the people of Judah are told to share what God is doing with the Babylonians, who are their neighbors, those in power and authority who are their captors. To answer the call, though, takes a step of faith. The people are to proclaim what God is doing before the Lord’s arrival—even before they see the road being prepared. The words can only be based on God’s word and God’s faithfulness.
When we face serious health issues or broken and bruised relationships, it is sometimes difficult to say that God is doing something. It is challenging when we are experiencing drastic changes in our lives to confidently share that God is moving behind the scenes. Such actions appear foolhardy and we wonder if we are going to be the laughing-stock of our friends and neighbors if God does nothing. Trusting in the faithfulness of God’s word, we tell others what God is doing so that God receives thanksgiving and praise when God’s word comes true.
God of Wonders, empower us that we may be bold in our proclamation of your love and grace. Amen.
Saturday, December 5, 2015
“See, the Lord comes with might” (Isaiah 40:10).
The exiles were skeptical. In their minds the gods of Babylon had defeated the God of Israel. They questioned whether the God if Israel was powerful enough to accomplish what Isaiah told them God would do. Isaiah assures the exiles that God would come with power and might. After all, the God of Israel is the God of all creation. This is the God who rescued them from slavery in Egypt and led them through the wilderness for forty years to the Promised Land.
There are situations that we encounter where we wonder if God is powerful enough to do anything. The situations appear too hopeless and the obstacles to great. The time may be too short. Isaiah reminded the exiles in their hopeless situation that God was coming in power and might. Isaiah’s words are for us, also. God is moving in our lives and in our world with power and might. Nothing is impossible to God.
Almighty Lord, you give new life in the midst of death and are able to create good out of the bad and evil that we experience. Move powerfully now in our lives and in our world. Amen.
Sunday, December 6, 2015
“He will feed his flock like a shepherd he will gather the lambs in his arms” (Isaiah 40:10).
When Manuel’s wife Bonita died, Manuel didn’t need God to move with power and might. He needed God’s tender, loving care. God provided that care for Manuel through his friends at church and his co-workers. In the weeks and months that followed Bonita’s death, Manuel’s friends included him in their activities, took him out for coffee, arranged for him to play golf and encouraged him to participate in a grief support group. They helped Manuel through several difficult days. They couldn’t change anything, but they could stand by their friend and co-worker.
Isaiah assured the exiles that the Lord would come and feed them like a shepherd feeds his flock and carry them in God’s arms like a shepherd carries his lambs. God would embrace them with God’s love. God would protect them and provide for them. God’s love would give them what they needed to go through the challenges that they faced. Isaiah’s message is meant for us, also. God will embrace us with God’s love. That love is all we need to move forward in faith.
Loving God, thank you for your steadfast love. Resting in that love, may our fears be quelled and may we be given the courage to step forward in faith. Amen.