The fortieth chapter of Isaiah is fascinating. It was largely put to music in the oratorio ‘Messiah’ around 250 years ago. It begins, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem … that her warfare is ended and her iniquity is pardoned”. Jerusalem has been the centre of warfare for much of the time since God spoke to Isaiah. This city, with its magnificent Temple, has been twice destroyed.
In 1967 its ancient walls once again were under the control of the people of Israel. How long will it be before verse 5 is fulfilled? “And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” But the passing centuries have seen that “the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand for ever” (verse 8). Those who know their Bibles will also “stand for ever” and, for this reason they are reading verses 9-11 with anticipation – “… O Jerusalem, herald of good news … say to the cities of Judah ‘Behold your God. Behold the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd …’”
Verse 17 says, “All nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness”. This is as true today as ever in the godless world of the twenty-first century! But then the final verses address the most important question in life! “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator … they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (verses 28,31).
This reminds us of the words of Jesus, “those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection of the dead … they cannot die anymore because they are equal unto the angels …” (Luke 20:35,36). Each year we eagerly “wait for the LORD”. Our regular reading and meditation on God’s word is our source of strength until it is renewed in ways beyond our comprehension, when as Paul puts it, “we await a Saviour; the Lord Jesus Christ who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body …” (Philippians 3:20,21).