Isaiah 40:3-5 declares the greatest hope ever, the hope of the gospel, to every person who has ears to hear this good news. The Word has been sent into “the wilderness.” The Messiah is coming and He will see to it that every crooked pathway is straightened. Christmas hope is here and we had better prepare.
Isaiah 40 was written to the nation of Israel, which is being judged and will be sent into exile for their disobedience to the Lord. Scripture always uses the term “wilderness” to describe a place or a state of barrenness, desolation, disobedience, chaos and anarchy. Israel found herself here under Moses (Numbers 14:11-35). At the time Isaiah 40 was written, God’s people were metaphorically in this same wilderness. John the Baptist physically led people into the wilderness outside of Jerusalem in order to preach to them this same message (Luke 3:1-6). And our culture today is in that same wilderness of sin and disobedience – worshiping created things instead of the Creator (Romans 1:25), living for sex, money, success, or just to hang out with friends and work during the week and get messed up on the weekend. In the wilderness of our sin and rebellion, some people give lip-service to following God, but their hearts are far from Him (Isaiah 29:13, Mark 7:6). Others just could care less about God at all. All of us are self-obsessed (2 Timothy 3:2) and dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1) apart from the heart-transforming work of Christ.
Isaiah tells us in this passage that a day is coming when the glory of the Lord will be revealed in such a way that all flesh will see it together (Isaiah 40:5). This passage is not pointing to the first advent of Christ that we celebrate at Christmas. Clearly, all flesh together has not yet seen the glory of the Lord. When will this happen? Jesus says that it will be at the time of his second coming (Matthew 24:29-30).
The Lord will come with power and great glory. And all the tribes of the earth will see—not just believers—but everyone, all flesh will see it together. Some will rejoice with crazy joy as they hear the cry: “See your God.” And others will mourn and weep and gnash their teeth as they hear the cry, “See your Judge.”
Think very seriously about this today. If Christianity is anything, it is the promise that Jesus Christ is sovereign, and that his glory will reign supreme over all the earth. In the end Satan and all his forces and all who have worshiped him and followed him will be judged and cast into the Lake of Fire. I believe with all my heart that the day is coming when Jesus will be utterly and totally triumphant over all his enemies.
When the glory of the Lord is revealed as these verses say, those who have been in love with the world, who have walked in disobedience to Christ, who have played at religion without knowing the power of the gospel, who have taken pleasure in sin will be so frightened at his appearance there will be nothing but regret and misery for the rest of eternity.
But before the revelation of that awesome glory, God planned another revelation first. He ordained that his Son suffer many things and be a once-for-all sacrifice for the sins of all who will trust him. And to suffer those things, he had to become a man. And to become man, he was born of a virgin.