Day 15      Isaiah 40:6b-31 ... Who's in Charge?

The book of Job concerns the sufferings of one man. The prophets of Israel and Judah spoke to the sufferings of an entire race. Their history had begun with God's covenant with Abraham and had culminated in a splendid nation centered in Jerusalem, dispersed by Assyrian and Babylonian armies. The minority who had returned to Jerusalem lived under the total domination of a foreign government if Persia. The same questions Job had asked while scratching himself with shards of pottery, the Jews asked about their race. Had God abandoned them? Would they have a future?

The Jews' hope for the future centered in a Messiah, who had been promised by almost all the prophets. After Malachi, as the years dragged on, the Jews scoured the scrolls of these prophets, seeking clues into their destiny. Of all the prophets, Isaiah gives perhaps the clearest picture of what the Jews might expect. His earlier messages blasted his nation's sin and unfaithfulness. But beginning with chapter 40, Isaiah shifts into a new key. Gone are the bleak predictions of judgment. Instead, a message of hope and joy breaks in. "Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed...."

According to Isaiah, what happened to Judah was not God's defeat. God had in mind a new thing, a plan far more wonderful than anything seen before. In words that have become familiar, the book of Isaiah explains why the future holds hope - not just for the Jews, but for the whole world. A mysterious figure called "the servant" would, through his suffering, provide a means of rescue. Later, in a faraway time, God would usher in peace for all in a new heaven and new earth.

Chapter 40 introduces this last section of Isaiah with the sweeping declaration that God reigns over all. In many ways, these soaring words restate in global terms God's personal message to Job. "Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket....He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers." God shows himself master of nature, of history, indeed, of the entire universe.

Point to Ponder: Why are there so many rhetorical questions in this chapter? What effect is the author trying to produce?