We are happy to welcome ministry-focused college and seminary students from around the country to write in June of 2020 for The Park Forum. Each of them is pursuing a career in ministry and received free coaching on their writing as a part of the program. For more information about the program and a profile of each of our student writers, visit our Student Writers Month page.
Today’s student writer is Dennis Nicholson, a student at Liberty University.
Scripture Focus: Isaiah 40:26-27
26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.
27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Reflection: Faithful Through Exile
By Dennis Nicholson
Throughout his writings, Isaiah likes to jump around in time. Most of his prophecies foretell future events like the exile. But Isaiah also speaks at length about Israel’s present sins and sprinkles in historical narratives to illustrate his prophecies.
Isaiah 40 marks a particularly sudden leap forward. We’ve just read about Hezekiah welcoming the Babylonian envoys and Isaiah’s harrowing prophecies of exile. These events would have been familiar to the people of Judah.
But imagine the confusion in a public reading when they heard the next verses. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God … Proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed.” (Isaiah 40:1-2). What a stark contrast! Not only does Isaiah speak of comfort, he speaks of it as if it’s at the very gates—as if the exile’s already over.
When we read these words, we rejoice, remembering God’s past redemption of his people. But if we lived in Israel, we might be tempted to complain. Isaiah might speak of comfort in the present tense, but for Judah, comfort feels distant. Judgment seems like the starker reality. How can God promise salvation when he also promises exile? Does he truly care about his people? Or does he stand as far off as the comfort he promises?
In response to these questions, Isaiah reminds us of God’s timeless perspective. Exile might loom over Israel, but God sits enthroned over the whole world (Isaiah 40:22). Like a good shepherd, he gathers his people, tends to their wounds, and restores them to his sheepfold in Zion (Isaiah 40:11). Though Judah has been faithless, God is faithful. He will bring comfort.
The God who calls the stars by name will call his people out of exile (Isaiah 40:26).
For us, the exile of Judah is itself a distant event. And yet, in many ways, we live in exile today. We witness racial injustice, violence, bigotry, haughtiness. We struggle with acedia and anger and apathy. Maybe we too wonder if God really walks alongside us (Isaiah 40:27).
But in the midst of exile, comfort is near—at the very gates. For the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise but patient, longing for all his sheep to return to him (2 Peter 3:9).
“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord” (Hosea 6:1).
Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
O Lord, watch over us and save us from this generation for ever. —- Psalm 12.7
Read more about Knowing Promises in Part
In Isaiah three things are being described at the same time—the destruction of Israel in the immediate future, the return from exile in the near future, and the reconstruction of Israel in the far future.
Read more about Hope Amidst Destruction
Even among the destruction of what is coming to Judah in Isaiah’s prophecies, there is hope. God promises to place his glory over the remnant, like a tent or shelter.