When he went into the hospital in January, it didn’t seem that serious. An infection, perhaps, was what caused him to lose ten pounds in eleven days. I saw him in the ER; he was in great spirits. He was only supposed to be in the hospital a couple of days and then back home. Three and a half months later, he was dead.
The whirlwind of his sickness, the back and forth to the university hospital, and then his last week—all of these increased the sorrow of his loved ones and friends. We needed to hear God speak with His comforting voice and give us assurance that He was still with us.
One of the striking things about Isaiah 40 is that while God tells His prophet to comfort His people Israel, three times a voice speaks (vv. 3, 6, 9). Whose voice is it that speaks? It is God’s voice—He points them to the place where they might find comfort.
Where does God’s comforting voice point us? First, the glory of God. On the surface, we may not think that God’s glory would bring us comfort. After all, earlier in Isaiah’s prophecy, the display of God’s glory and holiness caused him to cry out, “Woe is me! . . . For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:5).
But what does Isaiah 40 tell us? “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together” (v. 5). When will that happen? When the Lord Himself comes—the way has been prepared for Him (40:3). Has God come to His people to show us His glory? Yes: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory” (John 1:14). Jesus came to display God’s own glory; through His righteous life and substitutionary death, He made it possible for us to see and savor His glory. As those trusting in Jesus, we see God’s glory and know His comforting voice.
God’s comforting voice also points us to the Word of God: “The word of our God will stand forever” (Isa. 40:8). God’s Word is permanent, unlike humanity. We are like grass, like the flower of the field. Though we try to persuade ourselves that our lives here are permanent, we know that they are not. That’s why we must rest our hopes and our hearts on the permanent realities found in God’s Word.
God’s Word, His voice, points us to the glory of God as displayed in the character of God. What we find is that our God is both our strong Warrior and tender Shepherd (40:10–11). The arms that won great battles and gained the spoils of war—the benefits of salvation—are the arms that tenderly gather small, frightened, tender lambs and carry them home. Here is both the wonder and glory of God: that He is majesty and meekness, omnipotence and compassion, great power and steadfast love.