In my last post, we learned about Envoys from Bavel in Yesha’yahu 39:1-8. In this post, we begin to explore Comfort for God’s People in Yesha’yahu 40:1-11.
In chapters 1 through 39, we’ve seen Adonai as sovereign sitting on the throne. In chapters 40 through 66, however, we see Adonai as Savior, hanging on the Execution Stake. In chapters 1 through 39, we saw the law of Adonai pointedly proclaimed. The first section dealt with the judgment from Adonai. The second deals with the joy of Adonai.
1 “Comfort and keep comforting my people,” says your God.
Though the hearer of Adonai’s words are not here specified, it is best to see these words as being directed to the prophet Yesha’yahu, who was commanded to bring words of comfort rather than judgment to Adonai’s people. The words address the prophet as if he were living in the time of the future exile of Y’hudah to Bavel. Adonai anticipated the questions that His people would have as they experienced His judgment.
Many people call this section the Gospel according to Yesha’yahu. It begins with these words, which, in a sense, introduce the Gospel story because we hear Yochanan the Immerser, in introducing Yeshua, quote this particular chapter. After thirty-nine chapters of Adonai convicting His people, He now begins to comfort them.
2 “Tell Yerushalayim to take heart; proclaim to her that she has completed her time of service, that her guilt has been paid off, that she has received at the hand of Adonai double for all her sins.”
How was Yesha’yahu to comfort Adonai’s people? First, he was to tell the nation that she has completed her time of service, that her guilt has been paid off. How are we to comfort others? By telling people that troubles are coming to an end, that life is short, that life goes fast, that Yeshua is coming back.
3 A voice cries out: “Clear a road through the desert for Adonai! Level a highway in the ‘Aravah for our God! 4 Let every valley be filled in, every mountain and hill lowered, the bumpy places made level and the crags become a plain.
Messengers (A voice cries out) were well known in the ancient Near Eastern world. They played an essential role as the bearers of political and civic news to the inhabitants of a city. Virtually every town had a messenger who announced important news to the inhabitants. Foreign invaders often sent a herald to a town to discuss terms with those remaining in the city.
The roads of the ancient Near East were for the most part unpaved. Although unpaved, those intended for wheeled transport had to be staked out, leveled and consistently maintained. However, very few texts describe the construction and maintenance of these roads. Roads for heavy transport were somewhat rare and were primarily along the trade routes. 
This is the essence of ministry for you and me as well. We are not to draw attention to ourselves, but rather we are to prepare the way for Yeshua. We can be like Yochanan. We can share Yeshua, preparing a way for Him.
5 Then the glory of Adonai will be revealed; all humankind together will see it, for the mouth of Adonai has spoken.”
Sin had broken the fellowship between Adonai and His people, but Yesha’yahu looked beyond their punishment to the return of the glory of Adonai.
6 A voice says, “Proclaim!” And I answer, “What should I proclaim?” “All humanity is merely grass, all its kindness like wildflowers: 7 the grass dries up, the flower fades, when a wind from Adonai blows on it. Surely the people are grass! 8 The grass dries up, the flower fades; but the Word of our God will stand forever.”
The awareness of fleeting human mortality is not exclusive to ancient Isra’el. The concept of forever in the ancient Near East connotated continuous and permanent time rather than endless time. In contrast to the withering grass and fading flower, the Word of our God stands forever. His promise that He will never leave you, that He is going to finish the work He began in you, that He’s coming back for you will never change.
9 You who bring good news to Tziyon, get yourself up on a high mountain; you who bring good news to Yerushalayim, cry out at the top of your voice! Don’t be afraid to shout out loud! Say to the cities of Y’hudah, “Here is your God!
If you want a life of purpose and substance, do the work of an evangelist. Lift up your voice and tell people to behold the One who created them, who loves them, who has a plan and a purpose for them. Say to those around you, “Here is your God!
10 Here comes Adonai Elohim with power, and His arm will rule for Him. Look! His reward is with Him, and His recompense is before Him.11 He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering his lambs with his arm, carrying them against his chest, gently leading the mother sheep.” ~ Isaiah 40:1-11 (CJB)
In Scripture and throughout the ancient Near East, the shepherd was a familiar image for a ruler. Y’hudah had been subject to weak and evil shepherds or kings, but the nation would once again have a strong and compassionate shepherd. This speaks, of course, of Yeshua, our Shepherd. I’m so glad it is the weakest of us that He carries closest to His heart and that it is those of us who are bogged down with cares or concerns that He gently leads.
In my next post, we continue to learn about Comfort for God’s People ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 40:12-26.
 The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.