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Sermon24-2 Is40 Guide

Isaiah 40:1-11, theme verse Isaiah 40:10

The praise and honor and glory be to our heavenly Father who seeks true worshipers who worship Him with the Spirit and truth.

Last week, through Isaiah chapter 64, we saw that the Israelites prayed for God’s grace, after recognizing that they could not live according to God's will on their own. And this week, in Isaiah chapter 40, God the LORD Himself promised to come to the Israelites who are in such misery. So, while reading and meditating on Today’s text, I hope we may learn few lessons together.

1) As we saw already last week, the theme of this Book of Isaiah is that the Holy One of Israel challenged his people to live according to the righteousness required by God the LORD who dwelled among them. And the book of Isaiah can be divided into five paragraphs: In the first through the third paragraph whose historical background is the 8th to 5th century BC, Southern Judah, who witnessed Northern Israel was destroyed by their sin, continued to practice idolatry and injustice, so the Prophet, Isaiah, prophesied that if they continued to sin, not relying on God, they eventually would be destroyed like Northern Israel. And then in the fourth paragraph, chapter 40 to 55, where today's text appears, Isaiah prophesied again to the people of Southern Judah, who were eventually destroyed by Babylon and taken captive around the 6th century BC, that after the promised period of exile, they would definitely receive God's grace. And then, in the last paragraph of chapter 56 to 66, to the people of Judah, who returned to Jerusalem around the 5th century BC by the grace of God, Isaiah encouraged them to live before God according to God's justice from then, prophesying the new heaven and new earth that will be created on the last day of the world.

2) In particular, in the fourth paragraph of chapter 40 to 55, Isaiah summarizes three challenges faced by the captive of Southern Judah as follows: First, Isaiah says in today's text of chapter 40, that the circumstances they faced up with was the first challenge. And the second challenge was the fear in their hearts, described in chapter 41 to 44. And finally the third challenge, described in chapter 45 to 48, was their enemies, the world powers. In response to these practical challenges, Isaiah exhorted them to “lift up their eyes and look to God the LORD,” since the LORD is greater than their circumstances, fears, and enemies they faced up with.

3) First, Israel's unique geographical location can be well understood by a map drawn by Heinrich Bünting of Germany in the 16th century, I mean, Israel, depicted in a small circle in the center, is surrounded by three great powers, namely Europe, Asia, and Africa, like a shrimp caught in whales’ fight. Therefore in such a geopolitical situation, no matter how powerful they are, they cannot fight with these great powers by themselves, therefore, Isiah exhorted them to rely only on God.

4) We can find such an example from the Six-Day War in 1967, in which Israel fought against Arab allies, including Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. I mean, on the Sabbath day on Jun 5, in order to end Israel, the Arab allies took advantage of Israel's rest on the Sabbath and began the war by carrying out carpet bombings. Yet at 6 p.m. that day, when the siren sound which signaled the end of the Sabbath rang out throughout Israel, the broadcasting station broadcasted Amos 9:14 and 15, “’I will bring my people Israel back from exile. They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them’ says the LORD your God.” These Words were continuously broadcast on the air, and the entire Israelites listened to these broadcasts and went to war, eventually defeating the Arab allies in six days and winning the war. After the war ended, correspondents around the world declared the war a victory, when General Moses Dian, who led the team was asked about the secret to victory, he said, “We used new weapons in this war. We have engraved the words of Amos 9:14-15 into the hearts of every soldier going to war.” Over the past several thousands of years, great powers such as Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, Persia, the Greek Empire, and the Roman Empire have arisen and disappeared around the Israel, but God is greater than those powers, and I think relying only on God was the reason why Israel survives to this day.

5) However, even with such geopolitical situation, Israel did not rely on God and was eventually destroyed and taken into captivity. So, Isaiah, in Today text, Isaiah chapter 40, explained their circumstances in three perspectives; I mean, Their circumstances behind them, their circumstances before them and their circumstances within them: Firstly, the prophet Isaiah describeed that their circumstances behind them in verses 1 to 11 of chapter 40 of today's text were that they did not listen to God's warning to rely fully on Him, yet continued to sin, so, eventually they fell down and became a failed nation and people taken captive to Babylon. And then in verses 12 to 26 of chapter 40, Isaiah explained that their circumstances before them was hopeless, And also even in verses 27-31, Isiah diagnosed that their circumstances within them, I mean, their hearts were full of despair.

6) And then, in chapters 41 to 44 of the fourth paragraph, after pointing out the problem of their fear, God said them, “Do not be afraid” seven times (41:10, 13, 14; 43:1, 5; 44:2, 8). Because even though there would be many challenges for the Jewish people who survived the captivity and returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and walls, so that they would no doubt be filled with fear and tremble, but they should not be fearful since God would be with them and make them succeed. And then God said another surprising things, I mean, He would accomplish His will, by using three servants, that is, King Cyrus of Persia (41:1-7), the nation of Israel (40:8-29; 43:1-44:27), and even the Messiah, the Son of God (42:1-25), for His salvation of His people. That's right. God is not only greater than the nations, but He is also the sovereign God who uses the nations as His servants to fulfill history. And also thankfully, even though, during the long period of captivity, they had forgotten their identity as God's holy people and kingdom of priests, trembling, complaining, and being fearful among the nations, yet God would raise them from their failure and made them participate in His sovereign ministry. Even, in addition to those, God promised to save them by sending His only begotten Son to this world as the Messiah.

7) Through today's passage, we would like to learn few things. First, even in their desolate situation, Isaiah said God sent four voices to comfort and encourage them, I mean, The first voice was the voice of forgiveness written in verses 1-2. Although his people sinned against the LORD, not listening to the warning voices of the prophets sent by God so that they were destroyed and taken into captivity, but God still loved them, and sent through his prophets a voice of comfort and forgiveness, saying "Comfort my people, and speak to their hearts, that is, to their conscience, that they may turn back and repent.” And the second voice was the voice of providence, written in verses 3 to 5. Although it was not only difficult, but also seemed impossible to turn them back to God and bring them back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, walls, faith, and kingdom, yet, the God who lives in Zion would break through the wilderness and lead them out of the captivity in Babylon, go ahead of them and make their way back to Jerusalem. And the third voice was the voice of promise written in verses 6 to 8. Although all flesh, such as Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, would arise yet disappear like grasses, but the word of God of promise will remain forever. And finally, the fourth voice was the voice of peace written in verse 9 to 11. After God would defeat all enemies and achieve victory, so that God commanded to proclaim this good news of liberation throughout the earth. Through these four voices, Isiah said that God encouraged His people. And, even in addition to that, in verses 11 to 26 of chapter 40, which follow today’s text, Isaiah reminded them of the greatness of the LORD, And lastly, in verses 27 to 31, God the LORD who not only knew how they are feeling and what they are afraid of, but also knew that they could not obey God on their own, so in the end, might give them the power to obey and the strength to overcome hardships and challenges. And secondly, the promise regarding the Messiah was completely achieved. I mean, as the Messiah was described in chapter 40 that a) He was the Word from the beginning (v8Jn1:1), yet, b) He was the One who came down, leaving the throne (v3Phil2:6-8), c) being filled with the Spirit of God (v7Lk4:1), d) to forgive His people’s sin (v2Lk2:25), e), and to comfort His people (v1Mk2:10), f) and His face was full of the glory of God (v52Cor4:6), g) and He is the One who reigns the world in His might (v10Mk1:7/Jn17:2), h) and the Shepherd who collects His sheep and tender them (v11Jn10:11), i) yet, He will come again with reward and vengeance. (v10Heb11:6/Mt12:18) were completely achieved in the first coming of Jesus Christ. That’s why we are celebrate the Advent season while remembering His first coming and also hoping His second coming so eagerly. Therefore I pray that in this second sunday of Advent, we all kneel down humbly before the Lord, by lifting our eyes and beholding the great God who is our strength, hearing the voice of hope promised by our Lord again in our heart, and being strengthened again with those voice of hope, through faith, we may overcome this impregnable circumstances we face up with, our adversaries such as the world and the devil, and the fear that is constantly surging into our hearts so that we may all live the life of the gospel in this side of the world and advance the kingdom of God to His glory.

Key Questions as Small Group Activity

Q1 In today's text, it seems that the problems that the people of Judah were experiencing, such as their circumstance, fear, and enemies, are not just their problems. So I hope that each of you may look back on your own circumstances and think about what challenges you have faced up with and how today's text can provide comfort and encouragement, then I hope you may share your thoughts with your team members to share grace.

Q2 And in today's text, God comforted and encouraged the people of Judah by sending four voices: the voice of forgiveness, the voice of providence, the voice of promise, and the voice of peace. So after thinking about which voice speaks to you loud and gives graces, then I hope you may share your thoughts and reasons for grace to share grace from one another.

Love you. Thank you. God bless you.

Prayer Note

Dear ( God’s attribute which you found Today ) God!

Thanks for ( something you received through the sermon or even during the week )

Praise, gratitude and glory be to You, Lord!

Today, I realized my sin (pains) that ( the sin God reminded through the sermon ),

please forgive (or heal) me and help me not to repeat ( the sins you recognized ).

I learned that ( something you learned through the sermon )

Please help me to live in that ( learned way of life )

I pray in ( Jesus’ attribute you find ) Jesus’ name. Amen.


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