In this chapter, the prophet responds to the really bad news he presented to the king in chapter 39 – the people of God will suffer at the hands of their enemies. In that context of distress, the beauty and grace of chapter 40 is arresting. We don’t expect the greatness of God to be extolled, but it is. And it is an incredible entrance into the character of God and our understanding of him in difficult times. In our passage, Isaiah extols the might of God:
“Behold your God! Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him;…” (40:9-10)
Growing up in Pentecostal circles meant I was privy to services and small groups where we prayed for miraculous things to happen, and from time to time, they did. I have prayed for people who were healed, we heard the stories of miraculous events, and every time it was both natural and right to praise God as a God of might and power. When we see God show up in these miraculous ways, it is easy for us to repeat after Isaiah, “Behold, the Lord God comes with might.”
But that is not the context of Isaiah 40. Instead, God’s people are experiencing a time of waiting in which they will suffer at the hands of their enemies and it will likely be a very long time before they see the kind of might and power that will free them of their political burdens.
Though it is easy and right to praise God as mighty and powerful when we experience amazing things, it is necessary to praise God as mighty and powerful when we don’t. God’s might and power never fade or change through the seasons of our life and our guard against distress and fear is to proclaim him as such in all circumstances. To complete the picture drawn by Isaiah, it is important to see what kind of God of might we are to behold.
“He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” (vs. 11)
More often than in the great miracles, we experience a God of might as he tends to his people day by day. It is in the normal humdrum of the average life that the God who created the universe leads his people in might. Isaiah’s image is of God carrying a rod in one hand and clutching a lamb close to his chest in the other.
Behold your God of might.
God is greater than “the ordinary.” He is more present than our sense of his absence. His light shines through the fog of our routine. Our Shepherd clutches us close while we pay absolutely no attention to him.
We can begin to cultivate a sense of this kind of God by simply repeating with the prophet that our God is a God of might who shepherds us through every moment of existence. We find what Thomas Kelly called a “subterranean sanctuary of the soul” where his presence is always strong and where his light is always shining.