Looking past the captivity of Judah, Isaiah saw a time when God’s people would be transformed into heroes of faith. God was going to take the nation of Israel in a new direction, one that would require his people to re-grasp the situation and exert an effort to do the opposite of what came natural to them. In order to demonstrate the eternal nature of his kingdom, God intended to let Jerusalem be destroyed and rebuilt in a whole new fashion.
Isaiah introduced a new world order that would be based on repentance. He began his message by stating, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God” (Isaiah 40:1). The Hebrew word translated comfort, nâcham (naw – kham´) means to sigh or to be sorry (5162). Nacham is translated as both comfort and repent with regards to a turning point in a person’s life. The first mention of this word is in Genesis 5:29 where Noah is listed as the son of Lamech. It says, “And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD has cursed.”
It could be said that comfort or repentance is the sign of a new beginning, a fresh start in life. Isaiah linked this new beginning to the point in time when God’s punishment of Jerusalem was finished. Isaiah stated, “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:2). Immediately following this statement, Isaiah established Jerusalem’s new beginning as the launch of the Messiah’s ministry on earth (Isaiah 40:3).
John the Baptist quoted Isaiah 40:3 when he declared Jesus to be the Messiah. It says in Matthew 3:1-3:
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
John’s reference to repentance was intended to convey the idea that individual action was necessary to become a member of God’s kingdom. God’s work was no longer about saving the nation of Israel as a whole, but about the individual people of God turning to him in order to receive salvation.
The new world order that Jesus came to establish was based on a personal relationship with God. Prior to Jesus’ arrival on earth, no one had seen God face to face. Isaiah revealed that the LORD would come to his people and be seen not only by then, but by everyone (Isaiah 40:5). The evidence that God was present would be a supernatural power that would enable those with faith to exercise divine strength to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of God’s divine kingdom. Isaiah said about believers, “But they that wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).