December 7, 2020, 4:00 AM

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Isaiah 40:1

Isaiah 40 is a seminal chapter in the Bible. Truth be known, the entire Old Testament seeds the soil of the New Testament, beginning at Matthew 1:1. However, in Isaiah 40, there is The Promise that moves much of the Old Testament from a seeming Rorshach Test to genuine Masterpiece: The promise of a Messiah from God to right the wrongs of rebellion, indifference, moral decay that brought the covenant curse of exile to the people of God. Of course, the word “Messiah” is not used in the chapter — but the idea begins to take shape here.

Her [Israel] [People of God (us)] warfare is ended
Her iniquity is pardoned
She has received from the LORD's hand
double for all her sins.
A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD
“Make straight in the desert a highway for our God”[!]

The people of God exiled in Babylon emerges in the pages of the New Testament as the quintessential paradigm of the predicament of all humankind of all-time. Exile here is like Adam and Eve's banishment from the Garden of Eden. The consequences of sin displayed as cosmic divorce. In disfellowship, every facet of the image of God in humanity subjected to corruption – where we get the oft-misunderstood theological concept of “total depravity.” (BTW, it is not primarily being a bad person, though a depraved person can be bad. Good people and bad people alike, are tainted by depravity.) Exile to Babylon; expectation and hope for deliverance from Babylon – becomes the template for sin and salvation in the Gospels. This is why John the Baptist uses this Isaianic language while baptizing at the Jordan, expecting the imminent arrival of the One who must increase.

(Luke 3:3-4) "He went into all the region around the Jordan,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
'The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'"

If you are challenged this time of year to read through the prophecies of Isaiah, I would recommend that you keep the person and work of Christ always on the front burner. Keep the concept of return from exile there, too. And of course, relish the imagery of the coming, awesome Day of the Lord, when God in Christ returns to bring the New Heavens and the New Earth. It’s all there. Isaiah’s prophecies are all seemingly baptized in that hope.

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