Isaiah 40 - the beginning of what's called Second Isaiah - understands a new era is coming for God's people, and for Jerusalem as the holy city. "Comfort" is the opening word, as opposed to judgement which was received so harshly at the hands of the Babylonians who took God's people into bondage in exile after destroying the Temple and Jerusalem. She (Jerusalem) has paid the price, and her sentence is now complete.
Isaiah points to a new day and proclaims a new way, God's way through the desert wilderness that transforms the landscape as it will transform God's people.
But God's people admit their unfaith and spiritual weakness. But the promise of God abides, the strong arm of the warrior, and the gentle embrace of the shepherd for his flock.
John the Baptist also reveals a new way, calling for God's people to prepare themselves for the imminent coming of the Lord. Baptism brings forgiveness, John declares, shunning the traditional mode of Temple and priestly rites. Appearing like Elijah, thought to be the forerunner of the Messiah, John the Baptist makes clear that his new way will be surpassed by another. While John baptizes with water, the One who comes will baptize with the Holy Spirit.
[Inset image of John the Baptist from Jack Baumgartner. See more of his excellent work by clicking here.]
There is a new way coming as God comes again to be with God's people and lead them into Gods promise. Get the whole picture in the sermon video below, and note the downloads below the video panel.