The God of Hope

40: 12-31

    The first eleven verses in this chapter answer the question; Does God want to deliver Isra'el (and us)? And that has been answered in the affirmative. But that gives rise to another question. Can ADONAI deliver us? It is one thing to want to act, but it is quite another to have the ability to act. Although God had once dramatically delivered His city from the Assyrians (37:36-37), would not its fall to the Babylonians, as predicted by Isaiah’s own words (39:6), mean that the LORD was merely one more local god who would be swallowed up by the relentless march of world empires and their more powerful gods?155 Isaiah answers with an emphatic no.

   Because the exile would give ADONAI an opportunity to show His trustworthiness and His sovereignty, Chapter 40 makes two points: God can be trusted to deliver Isra'el (40:1-11), and the LORD is sovereign over all nations in the world (40:12-31). The series of questions asked by God and His prophet remind us of the long list of difficult questions directed to Job by ADONAI in Job 38-41. Like Job, God’s people in exile needed to learn that the LORD is worthy of praise because His majesty and power (40:12-26) guarantee His goodness and mercy (40:27-31).156

    It is into a setting just like ours that Isaiah speaks. He speaks to people who have lost hope. The impossible has happened. The Jews were sure that their nation could not fall, that their Temple could not be destroyed, and that their God would not let them down. Yet, all that happened. They were full of regret. Yes, ADONAI may have acted in the past for other people (don’t we always say that), but to the Jews sitting in Babylon, it seemed like their situation was beyond Him. It seemed like it was beyond His compassion and beyond His power. And to us it sometimes feels like He has forgotten us, and we are hidden from His sight. Well, it wasn’t true for the Jews in Babylon then, and its not true for us today.

    Isaiah says to us as he said to them, “No! There is nothing beyond My compassion or My power.” We are persons of worth to Him. Are there chains of doubt about God that are just as real as the Judeans endured? Of course there are. But the LORD can break those chains. To be sure, the way He does it is His business. One of the recurring themes in the following chapters is the discomfort the people have with the way ADONAI chooses to act on their behalf. We cannot dictate the terms or the means, but we can hold on to Him with confident hope because He is the God of hope.

    In the same way, we can believe that the LORD can change our circumstances. There can be real change for the better. That is, there can be if we believe in a God who is both outside and inside of history. ADONAI can intervene in our lives and change it for the better. But so much depends on our faith. I am not talking about getting some idea in our heads and then doing a mental number on ourselves until we really believe it is going to happen. I am talking about a life of faith in the LORD, a life where we truly release ourselves into His hands without any reservation.

    This is clearly what the Jewish exiles were going to have difficulty doing in the crisis of the exile, and Isaiah knew it. In a real sense the problem he addresses in his own day and the problem we face today is the same. In his own day, the people did not believe they could trust the LORD to deliver them, so they trusted in other nations. They needed to hear God’s word in ways that changed how they thought. That is what we need to do also. We need lives of faith that are shaped by God’s written Word and His view of reality. If I cannot believe ADONAI and hope in Him in the sense of surrendering my life to Him in a kind of life that I know pleases Him, then His power cannot transform me. But if I will actively believe in His Word, there really are no limits to what He can do for me. There is hope.157

 

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