“The Lord of Glory Is Coming!”
(Isaiah 40:1-5 – Advent 2 – December 6, 2020)
Isaiah 40:1-5 – 1“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God. 2“Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.” 3The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; 5the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
Dear Redeemed of God in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ:
“The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” In many places in Scripture, the Lord reveals His glory as the God of grace who dwells among His people, bringing salvation. He delivers them from their enemies and brings them the blessings of His Kingdom.
The term, “The glory of the LORD,” reminds us of the time God heard the cries of His people when they were in captivity in Egypt. In fulfillment of His covenant promises, the Lord delivered them with powerful signs of His glory. As He led them out of Egypt and on to the Promised Land, the Lord went before them, revealing His glory visibly in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. In this pillar of glory, the Lord stood between the Israelites and the Egyptians at the Red Sea. To His people, the glory of the Lord appeared as a bright light of deliverance; and He brought them through the Red Sea safe and sound. But to His enemies, the glory of the Lord appeared as a dark cloud of destruction; and He drowned them in the Red Sea. As the Lord led His people through the wilderness He continued to reveal His glory as He descended on Mt. Sinai, then on the tabernacle, giving His Word through Moses. Later, when He had brought them into the Promised Land, after Solomon built a temple at Jerusalem, the glory of the Lord filled the temple. So the Lord continued to reveal His glory, as the God of grace who keeps His covenant promises and brings salvation to His people.
“The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” This is the message God gave Isaiah to speak to His people, when they needed to be reassured that He keeps His promises. He would not abandon them in their captivity; He would come in glory as their Savior. This is especially in view of the Messiah, the Lord of glory who would come to deliver His people from their enemies and restore them in the blessings of His Kingdom.
In this season of Advent, God’s Word in Isaiah reminds us that He has kept His promise to us. He has not abandoned us in our captivity to sin, Satan and death; He has come as our Savior. The Lord who spoke His Word of promise through the ages, has come in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). He has come to save us from our enemies and bring us all the blessings of His Kingdom. He has come lead us on to the Promised Land of heaven. “The Lord of Glory Is Coming!” In light of the fulfillment in Christ, let us 1) Listen to His gracious comfort, and 2) Prepare the way for His coming.
1) Listen to His gracious comfort
Here, the Lord wanted Isaiah to bring His Word of comfort and reassurance to His people, even after they had gotten themselves into trouble by their sin. The Lord of glory wanted them to know, even now, that He had not abandoned them; but He was coming to them as the Savior of sinners. Let us hear His gracious comfort in verses 1-2: “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.”
Truly these were gracious words the Lord spoke, words the people did not deserve to hear. The Lord had been faithful to His covenant and brought them into the Promised Land. He had continued to protect them from enemies and provide for them, generation after generation. Yet by now, many of the Israelites had turned away from Him and become like the nations around them, steeped in idolatry and immorality. Therefore, they would face the consequences of sin. The glory of the Lord would depart from the temple at Jerusalem. He would give them into the hands of enemies as chastisement, to bring them to repentance. The Babylonians would conquer and take many into exile hundreds of miles away, where they would languish for decades, longing to return to their homeland. Would they ever see the glory of the Lord again?
Yet there in exile, a remnant of believers would cling in hope to God’s Word of forgiveness and promise of restoration, which they had heard through Isaiah. Here ahead of time, the God of grace provides that Word to which their faith would cling. The Lord, who is faithful to His covenant, tells what He would do to save them. First He has Isaiah address them by these words: “‘Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ says your God.” Even after all their sin and unfaithfulness, He calls them “My people” – sinners whom He would redeem back for His own. Then He says: “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.” Thus after their sin had brought warfare, destruction, and exile, God announces that the time of chastisement would end. He would not treat them as their sins deserved, but they would receive a double portion of grace from His hand. In place of sin, the Lord announces pardon. In place of punishment, the Lord announces restoration. The Lord of glory would come to deliver His people from captivity. He would bring them home. A new temple would be built in Jerusalem, and the Lord would fill the temple with His glory, showing His gracious presence among them.
But all this was not because their years in captivity made up for their sin; and it was not because they were on their best behavior to earn back His favor. It was only because God forgave their sins according to His covenant of grace. As He had taught His people all along, there is only one way sin is forgiven. It is by the blood of an innocent victim, the blood of the Lamb of God. This was emphasized year after year in Israel by the sacrificial system. And it would be fulfilled one day in the work of the coming Messiah. As God had Isaiah write in chapter 53:6-7: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all… He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.”
Here we are led to consider the greater deliverance the Lord of glory has come to bring us. As sinners by nature, how often don’t we feel the captivity sin brings? The sinful nature brings “warfare” against God (Romans 8:7). It shows in all the ways our sinful nature leads us to live for ourselves instead of the Lord of glory who made us. Even when we want to obey His commands we must say with Paul in Romans 7:23-24: “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Indeed, how often, after we like sheep have gone astray, seeking greener pastures in our own way, we end up feeling the captivating consequences of sin. After following deceitful desires of the flesh, we find ourselves languishing in prisons of guilt and shame. We see faces of captors, in those who remind us of wrongs we have done; images of the past that bring regret and sorrow. Sometimes captivity to sin leaves us wondering if we will ever see the glory of the Lord again.
Yet here the Lord reveals His glory, not as a Judge who comes to condemn, but as our Savior who comes to deliver us. He speaks His gracious Word of comfort to us in His Gospel. He pardons us; He releases us from captivity to sin, Satan, death, and hell. This is not because we have done our time by suffering hardships; it is not because we have earned His favor by our best behavior. It is because the Lord Himself has come in our flesh, as the Lamb of God, to earn our forgiveness by His blood sacrifice. He has come to remove all guilt and condemnation from us by taking it all away on the cross. And in exchange, we have received from the Lord’s hand a double portion of His grace. He has forgiven our sins and imputed to us His own righteousness. He has restored us as His children by faith, with the promise of everlasting life in His Kingdom!
2) Prepare the way for His coming
To prepare hearts for the coming of this Messiah, as the Savior of sinners, God had Isaiah speak these words of prophecy in verses 3-5: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’ “
The Lord Himself would cross the barrier caused by sin to deliver His people from captivity. He would come out of Zion, and cross the Arabian Desert with all its obstructions, as a King coming to His people on a royal highway. No mountain or valley would stand in His way. As He had once set His people free from captivity in Egypt, He would set them free from Babylon. And He would bring them home. All flesh would marvel at the power of the Lord; all the nations would see the glory of the Lord in keeping His covenant of grace to His people.
But Isaiah’s prophecy announces deliverance on a much greater and farther reaching scale. For the Lord has come to set us all free from our spiritual captivity. He has crossed that desert barrier of sin that stood between a fallen world of sinners and the holy God of heaven. He has descended from His throne in Zion. He has come in our flesh, to be the sacrifice for our sin. He has come to lift us up in His forgiveness. He has come to restore us children of God through faith. So let us prepare the way for Him, and receive Him with joyful hearts!
As we heard in today’s Gospel in Mark 1:1-9, John the Baptist was that voice of one crying in the wilderness, preparing the people’s hearts for the Lord’s coming. “John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” As John prepared people to welcome the Savior, he preached the thundering Law of God to break down any mountains of pride and self-righteousness that stood as barriers in the heart. But he also preached the gracious Gospel of God to raise up hearts from the valley of despair. People came with broken hearts, acknowledging their captivity to sin, confessing their guilt with heartfelt sorrow; and John baptized them for the remission of sins, proclaiming God’s pardon and deliverance in the coming Messiah. Then as the Lord of glory Himself came forth, John pointed to Him saying: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”! (John 1:29).
Behold the Lord of glory, who has come to you as God in the flesh, the Savior of sinners! The Lord of Glory, who spoke His Word of promise to His people through the ages, has come in the Person of Jesus Christ. The glory of the Lord does not reside merely in a temple built by human hands. The temple at Jerusalem would be destroyed. Yet Christ Himself is the temple; “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). Now with eyes of faith opened by the Spirit of God, we have beheld His glory. “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
We have seen the glory of the Lord, in our crucified, and now risen and ascended Savior. He reveals His glory among us, bringing His grace and salvation to us in Word and Sacrament. As we confess our sins with broken and contrite hearts, He lifts us up in His Word of Absolution. In baptism, we die with Him to sin with, and He raises us up in His cleansing forgiveness, uniting us to Himself in eternal life. In His Holy Supper, the Lord invites us to commune in His very body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins. So the Lord reveals His glory among us as our Savior, speaking His gracious Word of comfort, restoring us as children of His Kingdom.
One day, when the Lord comes again in all His glory, He will bring our final deliverance. He will lift us up from our humble place in this world, to dwell with Him in the glory of heaven! He will bring us into the New Jerusalem, giving us perfect restoration in body and soul. the Lord of Glory is coming! As we cling to His promises, we welcome Him with joyful hearts.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.