|Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins. (Isaiah40:1-2)|
Isaiah 40 is a much beloved chapter.
Thematically it marks the transition where the prophecy moves from rebuke for rebellion and idolatry to a pronouncement of hope and restoration. Historically it describes Israel's exile in Babylon (and why it happened) and moves to the promise of a return. Spiritually it describes the human predicament and exile in brokenness and offers us a God-given restoration!
This magnificent chapter provides hope, it describes God and invites us to a place of intimacy with God.
And so the chapter begins with assurance of Comfort.
Historically it addresses the consequence of their rebellion.
Israel had ceased to rely on God and this led to a moral and spiritual breakdown that allowed a another nation to defeat them.
But God has seen their brokenness. (They have received "double" for their sins - in Hebrew idiom this simply means "enough".)
God's love and consequences for sin are difficult concepts to hold in tension until we factor in the dynamic of free will. Free will allows for wrong choices and wrong choices have consequences (that's what makes them wrong choices!) And God, who gives free will, also allows the consequences of wrong choices.
But God sees our pain - He wants to comfort and heal us.
And so begins the journey of restoration - anticipated by Isaiah, inaugurated by Jesus and fulfilled at Calvary and the Empty Tomb.
Listen to the tenderness of a God who offers comfort to people who in no way deserve it... They had earned justice (the full consequence (double) for all her sins) but now they have mercy and comfort.