Isaiah 40:1-11                             “Peace, God’s Comfort”


            Have you ever noticed that ants rarely make a straight path to wherever their trail is leading. Sometimes they seem to make a huge detour for no reason. The ant only knows the way that another ant has gone before. So, if a scout ant finds a good source of food, he will follow his own scent mark back to the anthill, going in every direction he went in his scouting operation. The worker ants that come out to transport the food back will follow the scout’s scent perfectly. It is very rare for a scout ant to go right directly to food; hence it is unlikely that the worker ants will have a straight trail to follow. If an ant trail is interrupted in some way and the scent is lost to the worker ants, then they will spread out trying to find the trail again.

            My father used to say that the shortest distance between two points was a curved line. I am not sure I really ever understood that. However, when we read this passage from Isaiah, we must realize that it was written about a time in history when Israel was being held captive in Babylon. Cyrus the Great (That is just another name for Ahasuerus, whom we have heard a lot about in the Book of Esther) had just conquered the rulers of Babylon, and wanted to release the Israelites as new allies back into their ancestral home. In those days, the normal and safest route between Babylon and the Land of Israel was to go up north and around the desert that lies between. Taking that route allows the traveler to be able to graze his or her animals and to buy food.

            The Israelites decide not to take the road more traveled. God tells them to risk heading straight across the desert to go home. This is not the more comfortable route home. It may be shortest, but it is the most difficult. So, the words come down that the people shall be comforted in this ordeal by God.


            The word “to comfort” in Hebrew is םחנ (nacham) [Nehemiah =”comfort of God”] and literally means to be “sighed” over. With this understanding of the idea of “sighing over somebody,” I get a picture of God’s Spirit flowing over the people in their time of need. When I sigh over somebody else, I am usually in thought about how I can assist that person in my relationship with him or her. It is usually just before I speak to them. In other words, somebody comes to me in an hour of need. I listen. I take it all in. I sigh to show understanding and unity of purpose in sympathy.

            In Romans 8:26-39, we can read Saint Paul’s words to the church in Rome that was going through extraordinary struggles and persecutions. He writes that the Holy Spirit of God intercedes with “sighs too deep for words.”

            So, we have this picture of God sighing in sympathy over the people with the understanding that this will lead to intercession and God speaking to the people. All of this will allow the people to go straight home rather than taking the longer journey. The hardest way will then become the easiest way for the people of Israel.

            Before the coming of Jesus as a baby at Christmas, we can imagine God looking down on this world and letting out a huge sigh: “I have got to go down there and comfort my children. I need to show them the love, joy, hope, and peace I have for them.” Then, Mother Mary once Jesus is born looks down at the face of God resting in her arms and comforts the newborn savior and breathes gently over him. A sigh of comfort for the world. Jesus sighs back–everyone loves a baby’s sigh.


            Also in this passage, we hear of a voice crying out in the wilderness. At Christmas, we relate this passage to John the Baptist because we read this in John 1:23. John himself claims to be the voice crying out in the wilderness that the Kingdom is about to be reestablished by the Messiah who will come after him. The passage continues in Isaiah about making a straight path. What better way for God to make a straight path to His children here on earth than to come down to us from Heaven in the person of Jesus Christ, His Son!

            Of course, we know that John the Baptist and Jesus are cousins. In Luke 1:39 and on we have the wonderful telling of how John’s Mother Elizabeth and Mary the Mother of Jesus came together. At that time the two babies still in their respective wombs recognize one another and jump for joy! Immediately Elizabeth recognizes that cousin Mary is carrying the Son of God and blesses her and the child.

            If we just continue on in Luke up to Luke 3, we now see John the Baptist is fully grown and is engaged in his ministry on the Jordan River. He has a proclamation of the coming of Jesus that is quite the retelling of our text in Isaiah 40:10-11. He does add just this one piece in Luke 3:6, “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Amen to that! So, Isaiah is now no longer about the Jewish exiles coming out of Babylon at the time of Ahasuerus, Cyrus the Great, now we must understand the prophecy to be about our salvation through Jesus Christ.


            At the very end of the passage we had from Isaiah today, we read that Jesus is going to carry us in His bosom like a sheep being brought back by the Shepherd. I love this analogy. I love carrying little baby sheep. When Sami brought her sheep to church those times, we all loved carrying and petting the animal. That is the peace that is promised to us through Jesus carrying us through life. No kidding, life is rough. Jesus carries us through like we are innocent lambs.

            Now note in this metaphor of the lamb being brought to the breast that Jesus is not hugging one hundred sheep. Note that we are all to be comforted, but not en masse. We will each and every one of us personally feel the comfort of our Savior. This peace and comfort that we get from the Lord is something very personal and beautiful. God is coming directly into the world but specifically to pick you up and carry you! Feel that peace. Be comforted. These are glad tidings of comfort and joy indeed. Amen