Advent: Isaiah 40:1-11

Isaiah 40:1-11

Advent

December 6, 2020

Advent Big Idea: Jesus is the God of Isaiah 40, and he has come as promised, so we look to him, our Good News, alone. 

NOTE: My preparation for this sermon has felt so disjointed for so many reasons this week. Some of it is due to trying to put chronological order to things God really didn’t intend to be in my cultural value of “order”. 

HERE IS WHAT I MEAN: Chapter headings were added for help in the 5th century, and chapters and verses were added around 1551 for the NT and 1571 for the OT. 

This is important because we have a tendency as westerners who think in a linear and timeline fashion that thought progresses in a linear fashion particularly when it comes to reading narratives. 

This is NOT the case. 

Isaiah 40:1-11 is a prime example of that in that the core content of the passage comes in verses 9-11 (at the end). 

We only see the contrast between Hezekiah and Yhwh when we are instructed in verses 9-11 to actually take a look at God. Then, and only then, will we see the contrast and how glorious God actually is when we have our gaze redirected at him. 

Historical Background

  1. Hezekiah is the king of Israel during the time of our passage. He reigned from 715 BC to 686 BC (29 years). 
    1. He was 25 years old when he became king.
      1. Assyria had taken the northern kingdom of Israel (10 tribes) captive in 722 BC, and Judah is all that is left of God’s people in the Promised Land. 
      2. Chapters 36-37: Assyria was positioned to invade Judah, but Yhwh rescued them according to Hezekiah’s prayers. 
  2. Hezekiah was a good king. He brought sweeping reforms for the spiritual good, so the prayers of this righteous man are powerful and effective (James 5:16).
    1. See 2 Chronicles 30. 
  3. Chapter 38: Hezekiah gets sick right after YHWH delivers Judah from Sennacherib. 
    1. Hezekiah prays for healing and YHWH heals him. 
  4. Chapter 39: Hezekiah, upon recovery, gets a visit from a Babylonian envoy as Assyria is weakening and Babylon is rising to power.
    1. Hezekiah shows this envoy everything he has. 
    2. Hezekiah’s last act is one that leaves us less than impressed. 
    3. This less than ideal ending is what causes Isaiah 40:1-11 to be so amazing!

Let’s Look at Yhwh By Starting With the Good News We Find at the End: Isaiah 40:9-11

  1. 40:9-11
    1. Zion and Jerusalem personified as a “herald of good news”.
    2. Zion and Jerusalem’s audience: Judah
    3. Zion and Jerusalem’s message: “Behold your God!”
      1. The good news message: Take a look at God!
    4. Good news: 
      1. God is better than Hezekiah: Clearly seen in the contrasts. 
      2. Verse 10 & 11 – The Lord comes in might and with care while Hezekiah fades away in weakness.  
        1. 40:1-2 – The Lord comforts and pardons sin while Hezekiah is just a sinner like us. 
          1. Pardoned because of Romans 3:21-26
          2. NOT because she has been disciplined (receiving from the LORD double for her sins). 
            1. Discipline is NOT atonement for sin.
        2. 40: 3-5 – The Lord comes for his people powerfully like a conquering king while Hezekiah passively fades into history. 
          1. As kings invade with shows of power, the Lord comes in might. 
        3. 40:6-8 – The Lord’s promises to his people are sure because his word is sure while Hezekiah’s efforts and good work will just die with him. 

Who Is YHWH?

  1. The gospel writers in the Christmas narratives tell us Jesus is YHWH of Isaiah 40!
    1. 40:3-4 show up in Matt. 3:3; mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6; John 1:23 
  2. What is the point? Jesus is better than any earthly king. 
    1. Jesus came mightily in weakness to seek and save the lost. 
    2. Jesus, through death and resurrection, pardons sin. 
    3. Jesus’ promises to his people are sure. 

How Do We Apply Isaiah 40:1-11?

  1. This Advent, let us cast off any functional saviors we may have and look to Jesus the great king.
    1. Functional saviors – objects we look to that meet some real or perceived need ahead of God
      1. Kings were functional saviors for Israel. 
        1. And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. – 1 Samuel 8:7
      2. Baal was a functional savior in seeking provision for agricultural sustainability.
      3. Ashera was a functional savior in seeking fertility. 
    2. What are your/my functional saviors?
      1. Ministry/service that supplies me with meaning and significance?
      2. Children, that we live vicariously through?
      3. Jobs that we can’t imagine not having because our identity is wrapped up in them?
    3. Agriculture and fertility and meaning and provision and work are NOT innately bad. 
      1. When they take the place of Jesus as first, they turn into functional saviors and thus idols. 
      2. All functional saviors are good things that we treat as “God” things and then they become bad things. 
    4. Let’s fight to throw off any functional savior by looking to Jesus!
      1. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. – Colossians 1:28-29
  2. Ezekiel 36:37-38
    1. “Thus says the Lord GOD: This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: to increase their people like a flock. Like the flock for sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem during her appointed feasts, so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the LORD.” – Ezekiel 36:37-38
      1. Increase our people.
      2. Increase our holiness.
      3. Increase our sending. 

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