Am I the only one who thinks about “a year in review” and tends to cringe? There’s something very cathartic about reflecting on the past year, and then again, there’s also something heavy in that reflection as well. I wish I could say my tendency is to look back and think of all God has done and the ways in which He has moved and included me in that movement, and all that is true of His faithfulness and love for us. However, my human, fleshly tendency is to look back and see all of the things I did wrong, failed to do, or didn’t meet the standard I set for myself. There are countless ways in which I know I deserve God’s wrath and judgement due to my own lack of faithfulness. The times over the last year in which my pride dictated my thoughts, decisions, and actions are too numerous to even recall.
And we can see from Scripture that the people of Israel are not foreign to this type of reflection. (So I’m in good company? Perhaps not the company I want to keep.) The book of Isaiah begins with the judgement of Israel for their lack of trust in God and the ways in which they have lived selfishly and unjustly. In his prophecy, Isaiah even described the coming judgement upon the Nations, giving specific attention to each nation separately.
I think that is how I can tend to view God at times. Specifically going through each of my sins, offenses, and shortcomings from the last year and looking on me with disappointment. I continually recognize that I am my own worst enemy and my biggest stumbling block.
And yet, God turns the page in Isaiah 40 and overwhelms His people with a message of hope and comfort.
“Comfort, comfort My people,” says your God. “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.” (1-2)
We see that the idea of comfort here implies to encourage, to speak tenderly. God clearly communicates that the judgment is over, the sentence has been fully satisfied before God. Now God has a word of hope for His people… and for us. His deep love and great compassion can be felt in His words of comfort for His people. He has not abandoned us; we are still His.
But then, to make sure we are certain, we are reminded that none of this depends on us. We see in the next few verses in this chapter, God comes to His helpless people. NOTHING can prevent Him from coming and coming swiftly. No obstacle, mountain or valley, will stand in His way.
A voice of one calling: In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. (3-4)
The hope comes in that HE comes to us, HE rescues us, HE does not abandon us, HE is faithful. Deliverance comes ONLY through God. Then, HIS glory is revealed! God will come, nothing will stand in His way, He will continue to reshape our hearts to be a greater reflection of Him, and in that His glory will be revealed. We can bank on that because it comes directly from the mouth of our Lord. What immense hope!
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (5)
But, it would be just like me, a few days, a week or a month after reading this and internalizing God’s hope, to revert back to the stirring in my heart that says, “But now what? What do I do now?” In His goodness towards us, God reminds us, “You can’t be trusted. You will mess up again. You are not ultimately faithful. But I AM.”
The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever. (7-8)
The Word of our God remains forever. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1-2) Jesus will remain forever. Jesus is our hope that will never fade. Jesus is the One we hang onto when our sinfulness and brokenness are glaringly obvious. That is good news!
All we need, we have in Him. We can reflect back on the past year and have great hope because of the One who has rescued us from our despair and rebellion, continues to mold our hearts to align with His, and whose love and faithfulness are unending. We can look for Jesus in our past year and rejoice because of His pursuit of us, even in our brokenness,
See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart. (10-11)