“Comfort” is the first word of Isaiah chapter 40. It marks the beginning of a different tone, a different emphasis in the prophet’s message. Where Isaiah’s earlier writings warned Israel and Judah about destruction and captivity that would come because of their sins, these later prophecies were meant to comfort the Jews over 150 years in the future—after Jerusalem was destroyed, the temple was desecrated, and the people were taken captive by Babylon. But these prophecies reach even further into the future than to the defeated, disheartened Israelites. They speak to us, who also sometimes feel defeated, disheartened, and even lost.
Isaiah’s message to them and to us is simple: “Fear not” (Isaiah 43:1). All is not lost. The Lord has not forgotten you, and He has power over situations that seem out of your control. Isn’t the Lord “he that created the heavens, and … he that spread forth the earth, and … he that giveth breath unto the people upon it”? (Isaiah 42:5). Isn’t He more powerful than Babylon, than sin, than whatever is holding you captive? “Return unto me,” He pleads, “for I have redeemed thee” (Isaiah 44:22). He can heal, restore, strengthen, forgive, and comfort—whatever is needed for you, in your case, to be redeemed.