The people who were in exile in Babylon were a strange mix. There was the true remnant, and also a larger group mixed in with them who were not convinced God was present for them. They believed in the Lord God of Israel but had become hopeless. Their captivity in Babylon had ruined their faith. As far as they knew, God had discarded them. He wasn’t concerned about their circumstances. And that’s why God sent Isaiah. God sent the prophet to declare the truth. Everyone needed to hear the promises of God that would bring them to true faith, especially those who’d lost hope.
Isaiah came to affirm that God was the creator and protector of all creation. He would not forsake what he’d made. He never grew tired of his people. None of their struggles were hidden from God. None of their complaints were too much for him to tolerate. But they didn’t believe this so when Isaiah came, his message flipped their whole view of things.
Now, the truth was clear. God would give strength to those who were exhausted and oppressed. Even if their children ran out of youthful energy, and even though they knew from experience that all life was frail and temporary, the Lord promised that those who waited on him would be changed for the good.
That’s why even today, when we wait on the Lord, we’re waiting for him to fulfill his promises to us. That’s why we also pray for patience to not become indifferent. We wait in faith, but sinners that we are, we become restless and eager, and that can tempt us to become hopeless.
Hope for God to fulfill his promises is an active thing. English Bibles usually alternate between translating the Hebrew word “qawah” with “hope” or “wait.” Two words that communicate the same sentiment as the original. Hope is a consequence of expectant faith. Hope believes liberation is coming. It waits for it. It yearns for it with eager expectation. It knows it will happen. We just don’t know exactly when.
But when liberation comes, when God gives us freedom from our concerns and struggles, we will escape from our fetters like eagles who take flight.
However, there’s another lesson from Isaiah. The way that leads back to the promised land will be long and arduous. We will be set free in an instant. We will run away from all that imprisons us. But our initial sprint to freedom will slow to a walk. The return to our true home will not happen overnight. However, God will not allow this to divert us. We will not become hopeless because the Lord is with us. Our confidence is in his promises. Our hope is in the fact that he leads us home. He who sets us free, who never slumbers or sleeps, goes before us the whole way.
That we wait for the coming of Jesus doesn’t mean it may not happen, even though this is how the world views our hope. Instead, our hope is the consequence of active faith. We know the truth about Jesus’ coming. It will happen soon. So we who wait for the Lord and pray not to get tangled up in the temptations of this life. We ask the Lord to keep us focused on our preparations so we can greet him when he arrives. In faith, we want to live in the light of this hope. We will receive renewed strength for all life’s difficulties from God through his Word and gifts.
Today we look forward to the liberation that will soon come. The appearance in glory of our God and Savior, Christ Jesus. And until he arrives, we will comfort each other with God’s Word and prayers. We will especially pay attention to those of weak faith. We will encourage them with God’s promises so that they too may live in hope. We will teach each other from God’s Word about the best ways to prepare for his arrival. We will build our faith on God’s Word and gifts of salvation. No matter what we may do in the present, ultimately, we must wait on the Lord. We live by what he gives: his faith and hope, his strength, and his timetable for leading us to our true home.
Yes, we will often suffer feelings of anxiety because we want Jesus to arrive sooner than later. We will become tense because life is difficult, and there are numerous temptations that come to steal our hope every day. However, these are just signs that we are unsettled in hope. We wait with eager, confident expectation that Jesus is coming soon.
Isaiah’s message of comfort, and that of all God’s preachers, hangs on this point. Listen to God’s promises. He’s coming to set us free. He will come in power to liberate us who are captive to sin, death, and Satan. Jesus is coming to set us free and lead us to everlasting peace and righteousness.