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Introduction:

We continue in our Advent series today, Caught In the Undertow and we will be looking at Isaiah 40:1-11 and you can turn there now if you would like.

Often, we thinking about gift giving this time of year. We think about the gifts that Santa will bring and that we will give to our families.

Billions of dollars are spent in giving gifts. Around trees and inside stockings are filled with presents being given to another.

I love to give gifts. I have a lot of fun doing it. Angelia gives me a hard time because my favorite part of Christmas is stuffing the stockings. I love to be generous and express my love through gifts, no matter how small.

But, I have a hard time receiving gifts. As I talked a few weeks ago about having a hard time receiving a compliment, receiving gifts is also difficult for me. Perhaps I feel a sense of unworthiness or embarrassment. Whatever the case may be, I have a hard time being on the receiving end of generosity.

For centuries, the Israelites had heard about a wonderful gift of the Messiah that God would send. They waited in anticipation to receive this Messiah but they struggled to maintain their faithfulness while they waited. Along the way, they received promises, gifts, and blessings, but they did not always receive them well. Often, they did not receive God’s gifts with appreciation.

But the Lord is persistent and continues to speak, calling them towards the coming Messiah. Our passage today comes from the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah is the greatest of all of the prophets of Israel and his name literally means “the Eternal One is Salvation”. His ministry was timely and far-reaching in its influence and it is fitting that even his very name is calling people towards the Lord God.

Movement 1:

Our passage this morning in Isaiah 40:1-11 is the divine announcement is that servitude is ended, inequity is pardoned, and sin is atoned.

Isaiah 40:1-11

“Comfort, comfort my people,”

    says your God.

2 “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.

Tell her that her sad days are gone

    and her sins are pardoned.

Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over

    for all her sins.”

3 Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,

“Clear the way through the wilderness

    for the Lord!

Make a straight highway through the wasteland

    for our God!

4 Fill in the valleys,

    and level the mountains and hills.

Straighten the curves,

    and smooth out the rough places.

5 Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,

    and all people will see it together.

    The Lord has spoken!”

6 A voice said, “Shout!”

    I asked, “What should I shout?”

“Shout that people are like the grass.

    Their beauty fades as quickly

    as the flowers in a field.

7 The grass withers and the flowers fade

    beneath the breath of the Lord.

    And so it is with people.

8 The grass withers and the flowers fade,

    but the word of our God stands forever.”

9 O Zion, messenger of good news,

    shout from the mountaintops!

Shout it louder, O Jerusalem.

    Shout, and do not be afraid.

Tell the towns of Judah,

    “Your God is coming!”

10 Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power.

    He will rule with a powerful arm.

    See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.

11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd.

    He will carry the lambs in his arms,

holding them close to his heart.

    He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.

Whenever I read this passage I immediately am rushed back to my freshman year of college. I began as a vocal performance major and took voice lessons from the chair of the department of fine arts. He, himself was a classically trained tenor. I then took voice lessons from another teacher whose husband was a professional classical tenor who sang all over the world.

I began to work my way through The Messiah and learn each tenor solo. This particular passage is found in one such tenor solo. Let’s take a moment and listen to a portion of this great work. As you do, imagine that you are an Israelite, who has been in slavery, gone without food, seen your fellow people murdered, and been cast out from your land. Then hear the words of the prophet Isaiah.

Video: “Comfort Ye My People” (Messiah)

 

Even if classical music is not your go to listening station, there is still something beautiful about the entire work of the “Messiah”.

Movement 2:

As we take a deeper look at this passage, we discover just how important these words were for the everyday Israelite and how important they are for us today.

Verse 1:

“Comfort, comfort my people,”

    says your God.

Comfort comes from the verb for “comforter” (John 14:16, 26)

John 14:16 (NLT)

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate (or comforter) who will never leave you.

John 14:26 (NLT)

26 But when the Father sends the Advocate (comforter) as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

“Comfort my people” is declaring the covenantal relationship with Israel, that they are God’s very own possession. Hosea declared in 1:9 that they are not His people but Isaiah is prophesying the time of grace promised in Hosea 2:23.

Hosea 2:23 (NIV)

23 I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called ‘Not my people.’ ‘You are my people’;
and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”

Verses 3-4

3 Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,

“Clear the way through the wilderness

    for the Lord!

Make a straight highway through the wasteland

    for our God!

4 Fill in the valleys,

    and level the mountains and hills.

Straighten the curves,

    and smooth out the rough places.

Verses 3-4 are drawn from the engineering operations of roadmakers for kings of the East. Lava rock in the basalt outcroppings is very difficult terrain in which to build a roadway. “Thus, on the back of the voice which sets our heart right with God, comes the voice to set the world right, and no man is godly who has not heard both. The downcast must be encouraged, the self-righteous and the carnally secure must be humbled, dishonesty must give wat to sincerity, and pride of status must be given up. All of this is involved in preparing a highway for our own God through the desolations of our society to the hearts of men.”

Verse 5

5 Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,

    and all people will see it together.

    The Lord has spoken!”

The glory of the Lord, Yahweh involves the invisible God becoming visible – it would mark the unveiling of His glory. The Greek in the Septuagint reads, “the salvation of God” and this coming glory of God, this salvation is for all people.

Verses 6-9

6 A voice said, “Shout!”

    I asked, “What should I shout?”

“Shout that people are like the grass.

    Their beauty fades as quickly

    as the flowers in a field.

7 The grass withers and the flowers fade

    beneath the breath of the Lord.

    And so it is with people.

8 The grass withers and the flowers fade,

    but the word of our God stands forever.”

9 O Zion, messenger of good news,

    shout from the mountaintops!

Shout it louder, O Jerusalem.

    Shout, and do not be afraid.

It is not enough to know the good news of the coming of the Messiah but we are to tell others about it. And not just tell others, but to do it with bursting passion. We are to tell others of this great news of great joy.

Movement 3:

These words speak of the first advent of Christ and speak to the second advent when He will come again.

During this season, Advent reminds us of a few things that are important to keep in mind.

Advent reminds us that:

  1. We will receive
    1. John 14:16 (NLT) 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate (or comforter) who will never leave you.
    2. Matthew 5:4 God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comfort
  2. We will receive
    1. Matthew 13:20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.
    2. Psalm 34:5 – Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
  3. We will receive
    1. Acts 1:8 – But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
  4. We will receive
    1. John 1:16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.
    2. Hebrews 4:16 – So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
  5. We are invited to seek
    1. Matthew 7:8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
    2. Matthew 6:33 – Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
    3. Isaiah 55:6 – Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.
  6. We are invited to receive salvation
    1. Joel 2:32 – But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,
    2. John 3:14-17 (NLT) – 14 And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave[b]his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
    3. Titus 2:11-14 (NLT) 11 For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. 12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. 14 He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.

Conclusion:

We are always in a posture to receive from God. We receive his love, grace, and mercy. We do not take.

We should have a posture of hands up to receive what God places in our hands as he gives.

God enabled the prophets of the Old Testament like Isaiah, to declare to anyone that could hear to prepare for the coming of the Lord, His first Advent in the birth of Jesus.

And today, God is calling us to prepare for the coming of the Lord in His Second Advent as He will be returning one day.

My question this morning is: are you ready? Are you prepared? Have you received the grace, have you received His comfort and love? Are you living in His strength and power? Is your life marked with the joy that only He can provide? Have you responded to God’s invitation of forgiveness?

Perhaps you need His comfort and love this morning. Maybe you find yourself weak and tired, lacking in joy and life. Are you prepared to meet Christ today?

Response:

Prayer

Caught In The Undertow Comfort And Joy In High Tide Or Low

Worship

Caught In The Undertow Comfort And Joy In High Tide Or Low

Receive

Caught In The Undertow Comfort And Joy In High Tide Or Low

Expect