The word of God endures for ever - 30 June 2022

By Ben Fourie

The book of Isaiah consists of three parts and more than one author wrote it. The second part of the book starts with chapter 40. From here on, the events that are described are not from the time of the historical prophet Isaiah. He was called as a prophet by God in the year 740 BC and was still a prophet when Sennacherib laid siege to Jerusalem in 701 BC. The period covered by this second part of the book is that of the people of God who were in exile after Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem in 597 BC.

Chapter 40 is meant to bring a word of consolation to those who were far from their country and far from the centre of the Jewish religion. Although Nebuchadnezzar stripped the temple of valuables and razed it to the ground, it was still seen as the centre where God should be worshipped. Some of those who were not carried away in exile still went to the ruins of the temple to bring their sacrifices. When one reads the whole of chapter 40, one can see what a wonderful message of consolation God is sending to his people in exile.

In poetic verses, God is pictured as the powerful God who will save and bring back his people to their own land. In Isaiah 40:12 his power is said to be so great that he “weigh[s] the mountains and hills on scales.” He is not only powerful but also the loving shepherd of verse 11, and according to verse 29, “He strengthens those who are weak and tired.”

Could those who were in exile believe all these prophecies? Caught up in a strange country with strange customs and strange gods, one can imagine that they might have wondered about these promises. Knowing human nature, God also knew there would be sceptics. So he gave them a special assurance. In verse 8, grass and flowers are used to put the second part of the verse into perspective. All things on earth have a limited lifetime, “but the word of our God endures for ever,” and so it happened. The exiles returned to Jerusalem in the time of King Cyrus. The walls and the temple were rebuilt. A promise made by God will always be kept, because his word endures for ever. That is still true for you and me.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that your Word never changes and your promises always come true. Amen