ISAIAH OF THE EXILE
Bible Background: Most Bible scholars agree that the book of Isaiah spans a large swath of Judah’s history (and more than one prophet’s lifetime.) Chapter 40 begins what is referred to as Second Isaiah, and we hear a prophetic message to the people in exile (587 BC-538 BC). These people would be in a hopeless situation, grieving the loss of their homeland. This passage speaks an uplifting word and an amazing promise to them.
Digging Deeper in Isaiah 40: 1. The people have understood that their exile is a result of their unfaithfulness to God. Now comes this word “Comfort, comfort my people. Speak tenderly to them. Tell them their ordeal is over.” Who wouldn’t like to hear a word like that? What thoughts and feelings have you had when some ordeal in your life was finally over and you could look forward to something new and better?
2. When have you experienced a time when you felt like you were “in exile?” Maybe a time of being uprooted? Maybe a time of having your hopes dashed? Or a time when it seemed like there was no future? How did you experience God’s presence during that time? What would it sound like to hear that “God comes to you. Before you have your act together, your God comes to save you?”
3. Think of people “in exile” today. Refugees are more numerous than any time since WW2. Their plight is heart-rending. Some are hope-filled. Some are hope-less. Have you heard any of them express their trust in God? What would it take to work as God’s hands and feet, and ‘shepherd’ refugees? Do you know we as a congregation sponsored the Umarov family 12 years ago? And 70 years ago sponsored the Taagen family? Could God be calling us to do that again?
4. A key line in Isaiah 40 is that “the word of our God will stand forever.” (That’s not a generic reference to the Bible being around forever.) What does that suggest? Which promises of God last through our lifetime and beyond? Which promises of God do we need most in this violent, angry world? Try these: “Do not be afraid, I am with you.” “I make all things new”. “The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever”. “God is our refuge and strength.” What promises of God would you add?
5. Isaiah 40:11 shines the image of God as our Shepherd, tenderly caring for us. In what ways do you need to feel God’s care for you? In what ways can you show God’s care for others?