Can you remember a time when you received good news? Something like the birth of a child; or a loved one coming to visit. Do you remember what it felt like? Joy, elation, happiness! How about a time when you expected the news to be bad, but the news turned out to be good instead? Like waiting for the lab results from a test that concerned your doctor, but the results were benign. How did you feel then? Relief, thankfulness!
Two of the passages in today’s devotion are among the most famous and oft quoted in the Bible, and many sermons have come from these texts. I want to try to focus on how the passages are bringing unexpected good news, and what that might feel like. The prophet Isaiah is not known for his overly cheerful and optimistic attitude, yet in this passage the unexpected good news comes to the people of Israel in three ways. First, comfort and relief for Jerusalem from her sins. Second, the news that the glory of the Lord will be revealed for all mankind. Third, the good news will be shouted from the high mountain, and the Lord gathers his own as a shepherd gathers the lambs. Think of the reaction after all the sad things Isaiah has said to the people.
John’s Gospel brings out the good news from Isaiah in the person of John the Baptist. As in the time of Isaiah the people of Israel were experiencing some hard times and were looking for some good news. John the Baptist refers back to Isaiah 40 in presenting the glory of the Lord in the person of Jesus the Messiah. It seems to me that the Baptist is letting the people know that in Jesus is the comfort, the relief, and the glory of the Lord that Isaiah talks about to the people of Jerusalem. For me these verses say that when we are experiencing hard times or expecting bad news the Lord through Jesus Christ is there to give us the good news of comfort and relief.