God is Coming!
Topic: Expository Passage: Isaiah 40
God is Coming!
Good morning! I’ve often said the nice thing about preaching stand-alone sermons is that you get to cherry-pick the best passages in the Bible. I’m going to do that again this morning. But before I tell you where to turn in your Bibles, I want to make you think.
How many of you enjoy visits from out-of-town guests? You say, “It depends on who the guests are,” right? And yet in general, I think we all enjoy getting visits, especially from people we love. At our house, about fifteen minutes before guests arrive, our children ask to watch for them at the window. And if you’ve ever visited our home, you’ve probably been mobbed by our three little girls running out to greet you. As adults, we don’t show our emotions that much, but we still feel about the same way, don’t we?
Let me ask you a question: what if Jesus visited Life Point? Let’s just imagine that we got a letter stating, “Jesus will be visiting your church on September 20, 2020! Please be prepared.” What would those preparations look like?
These grounds would be cleaner than they’d ever been before! The entire inside of the building would be spotless (even if we were meeting outside). We’d probably plan a barbeque! We’d do a huge campaign–put up a banner, print invitations, create Facebook ads, take out ads in the paper–inviting people to come and meet Jesus on September 20th! And everywhere you went–Stater Brothers, AutoZone, the post office–you would be telling people, “Jesus is coming to my church! Come and see!” We’d all be wearing our best clothes that Sunday, and half of us would probably get fresh haircuts. We’d all be there early that morning!
I’m sure if you knew that Jesus was coming to Life Point on September 20th, you’d hurry up and deal with sin in your life. You’ve read the gospels; you know that Jesus knows people’s hearts! You would make sure that all of your sins were confessed prior to church on Sunday, September 20th! You’d be ready! I guarantee it.
But now what about this? What if we got a letter stating, “Jesus is coming to Life Point Baptist Church. Please be prepared.” You flip it over, read it again. “No date. It doesn’t say when He’s coming! It just says, ‘He is coming. Be prepared.’” What do I do with that?
That, my friends, is the situation God’s people have found themselves in since Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden. And we’re still in that position today. Turn to Isaiah 40.
As you are turning there, let me tell you a little about the context of this chapter. Things aren’t going so well for God’s people. The nation of Israel had already been split in two over two hundred years ago. Now you had “Israel” in the north and “Judah” in the south. God’s people were divided. And they were oppressed by their enemies. In fact, the Northern Kingdom had just recently fallen. It was conquered by the brutal Assyrians. Now, that same army was threatening to attack Judah. Thankfully, God had given His people a good, wise king at this time. His name was Hezekiah. But Hezekiah just made a foolish, sinful decision by welcoming some diplomats from Babylon! Now the prophet Isaiah was saying that God would destroy Judah, too! The news was mostly bad.
And it wouldn’t get any better. Just over a hundred years later, Judah was indeed conquered, just as Isaiah had prophesied. And for the next almost six hundred years, God’s people would be bounced back and forth between foreign powers. First, the Babylonians conquered Judah. Then, the Medo-Persians conquered the Babylonians! Next, Alexander the Great would come through and conquer. Then his empire would be destroyed by the Romans! For very little time in those six hundred years were God’s people ever totally free.
And yet, in response to all of that suffering, anticipating the dark years to come, God wrote His people a message of hope through the prophet Isaiah and others like him. The message was this: “God is coming” (Isaiah 40).
This is a rich and beautiful chapter. It’s deep, it’s theological, it’s poetic, it’s inspired probably hundreds of songs and hymns (including portions of Handel’s Messiah, which I couldn’t stop singing last week). All that to say, we could easily get lost in the details. But we have to guard against that this morning, because we only have 40 minutes, and if we’re not careful, we’ll miss the message as a whole, which we don’t want to do! So in order to keep us thinking big picture, I’d like to present Isaiah 40 as a conversation between God and His people, sometimes referred to as Israel, Jacob, or Jerusalem throughout the chapter.
Now, this is a little tricky, because for the most part, we only have one side of the conversation, and that is God’s side; and yet, if we look carefully, I think we can discern Israel’s part. So here we go. The conversation starts with Judah, and this is what they say. (If you’re taking notes, you might want to write these main conversation points down. It will really help you to follow the sermon.)
Israel: “Bad things keep happening. I’m anxious and depressed.” You say, “Where do you get that, Pastor Kris?” First, from v. 1. What is the first word of v. 1? (“Comfort”) And notice God says it again (vv. 1-2a). God says it three time! Let me ask you a question. What kinds of people need to be comforted? Anxious people. Depressed people. Fearful people. Discouraged people. Right?
Is there any other indication from this chapter that Israel was anxious and depressed? Yes, in the middle of v. 9, God tells them not to be afraid; and then in v. 27, we actually hear Israel speak. Here’s what she says (v. 27). In other words, Israel is saying, “God doesn’t see what I’m going through. He’s like a judge who is too busy to hear my case.”
Now, the fact that Israel had a case means she thinks she’s been wronged by the nations, which was certainly true! And yet, Israel also knows that most of this is her fault. Let me ask you a question. What’s the worst kind of suffering? I submit that the worst kind of suffering is the suffering you know is your fault. Why? Because then you have no one else to blame, and you have guilt on top of your pain! Look with me at v. 2. What two words do you see there that tell us Israel was at fault? They are the words “iniquity” and “sins.” How had Israel sinned?
Well, hundreds of years earlier, when God’s people were a new nation, God had given them the Law. He gave it through Moses at Mount Sinai. This law is found in the Old Testament in portions of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The most famous portion of the law is the 10 Commandments. Can you name the 10 Commandments with me? Commandment #1: “You shall have no other gods before me.” Commandment #2: “No graven images.” Commandment #3: “Don’t take the LORD’s name in vain.” Commandment #4: “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.” Commandment #5: “Honor your father and mother.” #6: “Don’t murder.” #7: “Don’t commit adultery.” #8: “Don’t steal.” #9: “Don’t bear false witness against your neighbor.” And #10: “Don’t covet.”
Now, we don’t have time to explain those commandments this morning, but chances are, you know what most of them mean, and chances are you also know that you’ve broken at least several of them. Am I right? Raise your hand if you’ve broken one of those commandments.
So had Israel. In fact, they broke lots and lots of them over and over. Which is why they had to be punished. You see, along with His law, God gave His people two promises. #1: “If you keep this law, I will bless you magnificently.” #2: “If you break this law, I will punish you severely.” And break it they did. That’s why the Northern Kingdom had already been conquered, and why the Southern Kingdom was about to be conquered! The sin of God’s people was the number one explanation for why they were suffering.
Have you been there? What’s the solution when the suffering is all your own fault? Let’s hear God’s response.
God: “I am coming to save you.” If you want to write down the core message of Isaiah 40, here it is: “God is coming” (vv. 3-5, 9-10a).
We know all about doing things remotely with Covid, don’t we? Many of you have worked remotely. Your kids go to school remotely. You go to the doctor remotely. For a time, we met as a church remotely! It’s like, next thing you know, you’ll be brushing your teeth remotely!
And yet at the same time, we’re all fed up with doing things remotely, aren’t we? There are some things you just don’t want to do remotely! No one wants to be saved remotely. Thank God, that isn’t His plan. That’s why He said to Israel, “I’m coming.”
“Wait, You personally? How is that going to work?” He doesn’t explain it completely, but He says, “I am coming. And all flesh will see my glory. So get up on a high mountain and tell your people, ‘Behold your God!’”
God is coming. And when He comes, He will do a couple of things. First, He will judge the wicked (vv. 23-24). Second, when God comes, He will reward His people. Verse 10 talks about that. Third, when God comes, Israel’s sins will have been fully dealt with (v. 2). Wouldn’t it be nice to know that your sins are forever behind you? Fourth, when God comes, He will rule as both Shepherd and King (vv. 10-11). We have that hymn, “Jesus Strong and Kind.” What a beautiful picture of kindness and strength we have in these verses! In v. 10, the arm of the LORD rules! But then in v. 11, that same arm gently gathers His lambs.
When Jesus reigns as Shepherd and King, everything will be alright in the world. I know that’s hard for you to imagine right with everything going on in the world right now, but one day, everything will truly be right with the world. Do you believe that?
Unfortunately, Israel didn’t. They doubted God’s wonderful promises! So here’s Israel’s next response.
Israel: “How do I know for sure that these good things You say will really happen?” You say, “How do you know that Israel was asking that question?” Because twice God tells them, “Whatever I say will happen”; and then the entire second half of the chapter is His response to that question!
The people of Israel doubted God’s promise because their eyes were upon man. Pastor Kit has a book, When People Are Big and God Is Small, and that’s exactly what happened to Israel! Their view of the nations around them got bigger and bigger, so their view of their God got smaller and smaller. So how does God respond? Here is God’s next response.
God: “Have you forgotten who I am? First,” He says, “I am the transcendent Creator” (v. 12). Have you been to the beach lately? When God wants to measure the oceans, He picks them up like this. Not only that, but He measures the heaven with a span. A span was the distance from a man’s fingertip to his elbow. We measure the universe in light-years, but when God wants the measure the universe, He says, “It’s about this big.” Not only that, but He’s calculated the dust of the earth in a measure. A measure was about the size of a quart. I put several quarts of oil into my van Friday night. God puts all of the dust of the world in one God-sized quart! And He weighs the mountains on a little scale.
What’s the point? The point is that God is transcendent. That’s a big, hairy theological word. Transcendent. Can you say it with me? “(Transcendent”) Transcendent means that God exists outside of His creation. He is not in the mountains and the trees; He made the mountains and the trees! And if He wanted to, He could pick them up like this.
You say, “What does God’s transcendence mean for us?” Well, for one, it means that a God that big cannot be stopped! Ever. End of story. I mean, look at how God views those big ugly nations that Israel was so afraid of! He says the nations are nothing (v. 15)!
The last time you went to the doctor and the nurse weighed you in, did she say, “Oh, wait just a minute. Let me brush off the dust from the scale. I wouldn’t want to get an inaccurate reading.” Did she say that? No! Why not? Because nobody cares about the dust on the scale! It doesn’t affect the reading! It doesn’t affect anything! It’s inconsequential. God says, “So are the nations. They’re like a drop in a bucket! Do you really think they can stop my plan? Really?”
God says in v. 23 that the nations are like grass. You drive the Cajon Pass right now, and those hills are brown! But not four months ago! They were quite green! What happened? God says the nations are like that.
We really appreciate those of you who set up the pop-up tents this morning. Verse 22 says that God set up a tent too. It’s called “the night sky” with all of its stars. It’s a beautiful tent for us to live under. And unlike you, God didn’t even break a sweat setting up His tent!
Not only is God strong, but He’s also wise (vv. 13-14). The word “directed” in v. 13 probably means “comprehended.” God says, “Who really understands what’s going on in My mind and my heart? Anyone? Not only that, but who taught Me?” Sometimes in frustration, an adult will ask a child, “Haven’t you learned anything.” Of course, the answer to that question is always, “Yes, they’ve learned something.” But have you ever considered the fact that God is only one in the universe who has truly never learned anything? Why hasn’t He learned anything? Because He already knew it all to begin with!
One of the commentators I was reading this week said that when God was concocting the plan of redemption, He didn’t do so in some kind of a heavenly committee meeting or brainstorming session. God doesn’t need any counselors. Whatever He decides to do, He decides all by Himself. And His decisions are perfect.
All of these truths point to the fact that God’s Word can be trusted (vv. 7-8). God’s word stands forever. If He says that He’s coming, He’s coming
So God is coming; we know that now. And yet, Israel still has one final objection.
Israel: “When, LORD? I’m tired of waiting!”
This is where we come down to vv. 27-31 (v. 27). Have you ever been on the phone so long that you’re convinced the people on the other end of the line have forgotten about you? Wouldn’t it be nice sometimes to know what was happening on the other end of the line? When God puts His people on hold, so to speak, we never need to worry that He has forgotten about us. Our ways are not hidden from Him. He does not neglect to hear our prayers. Instead, He’s just making us wait. For His own good purposes that we don’t fully understand. So, God’s response to His people is, “Wait!”
God: “Be patient. I am coming. And in the meantime, I will strengthen you (vv. 28-31).
Do your kids or grandkids ever tire you out? You think to yourself, “When will they stop? I don’t think they sleep!” But we all know that even the youths faint and grow weary. Even the young men–the strongest among us–grow tired! And what is true physically is also true spiritually. We all get discouraged. We get tired of obeying God day after day while we wait for His promises. But God says, “Be patient. Don’t lose heart. Keep waiting. Keep obeying. And while you do, I will strengthen you. You will soar like an eagle. You will run and not grow weary.”
The Continuing Story
That’s where the conversation ends in this chapter. And yet, the story continues. Did God ever come to Israel? (That’s sort of a trick question.) In one sense, yes, He did! God came to Israel in the form of His Son! Turn with me to Matthew 3:1-3 (Mat 3:1-3).
So according to Matthew, John the Baptist fulfilled Isaiah 40:3-4. He is the voice crying, “Prepare the way; God is coming!” So what does that means? It means that in His first coming, Jesus fulfilled these promises in Isaiah 40–at least partially. You say, “Why do you say partially?” Okay, turn with me now to Revelation 22:12, but keep a finger in Isaiah 40 (Rev 22:12). I want you to keep those two words “reward” and “work” in your mind and then flip back to Isaiah 40:10 (Isa 40:10). The same two words for “reward” and “work” that are found in Revelation 22:12 are found in this verse. That’s not a coincidence. Revelation 22:12 alludes to this verse. Not only that, but some of these promises in Isaiah 40 about God’s reigning and the whole earth seeing His glory have not been fulfilled yet, at least as far as I can tell. You say, “What does that mean?” It means that God fulfills His promise to come in Isaiah 40 in two stages, and we live in between those two comings.
Seven hundred years after Isaiah wrote these words, a little baby boy was born in a manger in Bethlehem. When He was about 30 years old, He began teaching publicly and claiming to be Israel’s Messiah. Not only that, but He backed up His claims with amazing miracles! One time, He fed five thousand people with just five loaves and two fish. Another time, He made a storm stop instantaneously. He healed the sick, made the lame to walk, gave sight to the blind, and even raised the dead. However, the corrupt religious establishment in Israel at that time did not like Jesus. They were jealous of Him. He made them feel bad about their sins. So they schemed to have Him killed, and killed He was. Around Easter Sunday almost 2000 years ago, Jesus died on a cross, as is extremely well-documented in history.
Why did Jesus have to die? Why didn’t He just come and reign the first time! Well, this same book of Isaiah that we have been studying this morning tells us why. Isaiah 53:5-6 says, “He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Jesus died as our substitute. Do you remember those sins we talked about earlier? Someone had to pay for those sins, and it couldn’t be you! The Bible is clear: good deeds don’t cover up bad deeds. All sin has to be punished. But here is the good news: Jesus took your punishment on the cross so that you wouldn’t have to suffer in hell for all of eternity! That is truly wonderful news!
But the story doesn’t end there. Three days later after His death, Jesus rose from the dead. This proved once-and-for-all He was God and that He was telling the truth. In the next forty days after rising from the dead, Jesus appeared to over five hundred people who saw Him physically and were willing to vouch that He was alive. Then, forty days later, He ascended back up into heaven, telling His disciples to spread the good news of salvation and wait for His coming again.
That brings us up to today. August 23, 2020. What do we do with this message? We’ve received the letter saying, “Jesus is coming. Please be prepared.” Now what do we do with that message? Two applications, and then we are finished.
1. Believe the Promise.
Do you believe that Jesus came and that He is coming again? There may be some of you who do not believe Jesus rose from the dead or that He is God. Because of that, you don’t believe that you owe Him obedience. Maybe you worship another God. Or more likely, you just do what you want, which means you’ve set yourself up as a god! God’s word today is calling you to repent and believe!
Jesus is coming! You do not much more time to prepare! Don’t put off believing in Him until it’s too late!
Christians, you need to believe God’s promise as well. Remember, this message was originally given to God’s people who were tired of waiting. Are you tired of waiting? God isn’t tired! His message to Israel was, “I’m coming soon!” And it was 700 years later that Jesus showed up. The original generation who received this message died before He had come. But they went to their deathbeds believing, and they told their children, “He is coming.” This went on for generations until finally Jesus was born! Can you fathom the excitement when He finally arrived?
Right after Jesus went back to heaven, He told His disciples, “I’m coming again,” and they went to their deathbeds believing that promise. Not only that, but they dedicated their lives to spreading that message! And that message has been passed down and believed by Christians for almost 2000 years. Could this be the generation when Jesus returns? It happened to the shepherds; it could happen to us!
Brothers and sisters, do not lose hope! He is coming! Wait for Him. What do we do with this message? Number one, believe the promise. Number two, proclaim the promise.
2. Proclaim the Promise.
I love this. What is the command given to Jerusalem in v. 9? What are they to do with this message? Keep it to themselves? No, they are to declare it from the mountaintops (v. 9)! Israel is to do the same thing with this message that we would do with the message that Jesus was coming to Life Point on September 20th. We would go around telling everyone, “Jesus is coming! Did you hear? Jesus is coming to my church on September 20th! Be there, be square. Repent of you sins and believe; Jesus is coming! I know things are bad with Coronavirus and politics and wildfires and all; but it’s okay, Jesus is coming!”
And do you know what Isaiah calls this activity? He calls it “bringing good tidings.” If you translate that phrase into Greek, it’s eungelizomai, which in English, includes the word “gospel.” Isaiah says, “God is coming. Now go out and share the gospel! Don’t be afraid! Go spread the good news!” We need to remember when sharing the gospel that it is good news. There is no reason to be ashamed about sharing good news!
Isaiah 40:9 ends with the epic phrase, “Behold your God!” so we are going to sing that hymn in a moment. But really, all that phrase means is “Look! It’s God! He is coming!” What a simple way to sum up the lessons of this text! God is coming (and came), so behold Him in faith. Then go out and spread the good news.