“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.” – Isaiah 40:2, NIV
We make life difficult for ourselves with every sinful choice we make, but sometimes what we need to hear is that our sins have been paid for, and that the hard service that we had to serve has been completed. This was the case with God’s people in Isaiah 40.
The first 39 chapters of Isaiah are the prophet confront the people with their sin. One of the chapters where this is most obvious is chapter 5. In verses 20-21, we read about how the people are exchanging sweet water for bitter water, trading light for darkness, and calling evil good. The people of God have clearly made their bed, and it would seem based on what we read in Isaiah 5:25-30, they’re going to have to lay in it.
“Therefore the Lord’s anger burns against his people; his hand is raised and he strikes them down. The mountains shake, and the dead bodies are like refuse in the streets. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised. 26He lifts up a banner for the distant nations, he whistles for those at the ends of the earth. Here they come, swiftly and speedily! 27Not one of them grows tired or stumbles, not one slumbers or sleeps; not a belt is loosened at the waist, not a sandal strap is broken. 28 Their arrows are sharp, all their bows are strung; their horses’ hooves seem like flint, their chariot wheels like a whirlwind. 29 Their roar is like that of the lion, they roar like young lions; they growl as they seize their prey and carry it off with no one to rescue. 30In that day they will roar over it like the roaring of the sea. And if one looks at the land, there is only darkness and distress; even the sun will be darkened by clouds.” – Isaiah 5:25-30, NIV
Here we have an imagery of God sending a call for pagan nations to come and swoop down like a pack of wild animals on his people as punishment for their sin. We see this fulfilled when Assyria comes in and attacks the people. God eventually brings judgement on Assyria for this attack, even Israel brought it on themselves (Isaiah 10).
For those first 39 chapters in Isaiah, we see God heaping on Israel woe, wrath, and judgement, but then in chapter 40 something happens. It’s all over. God declares that their hard time is over, and their sins are forgiven.
We can be stubborn and rebellious like the children of Israel. 1st Corinthians 10 shows us that we can be partakers of the covenant, and yet God can still not be pleased with us. However, unlike the children of Israel, someone has already taken our wrath and judgement for us – Jesus Christ.
What we should see in Isaiah 40 are comforting words that should encourage us to leave behind our sin and run to Jesus. When He says it is finished, He means it.