Monday, August 1, 2011

The 40th Power

For thirty-nine chapters, the book of Isaiah cries out blistering warnings: cities and civilizations will fall. Jerusalem, Egypt, Moab, Babylon will be defeated. The Nile will dry up. The land will be desolate. God will enact judgement on the idolatrous.

Isaiah sings a sad litany of sin, details the error of those who said they loved God. It builds a tower made of example after example of wrongdoing and then topples it with one wide swipe. God's people bury themselves in the rubble, a pile that dwarfs 9/11 in that it is anchored by sin and condemned by eternal judgement.

Then, I turn the page.

Comfort my people, say your God. Speak consolingly of Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her period of exile has been completed, that her iniquity has been forgiven...A voice calls out in the wilderness--clear the way of God; make a straight path in the desert, a road for our God.--Isaiah 40:1-3

Blossoms rise in the field, voices open in song, and God carries his people on eagles' wings. Suddenly, hope and strength grow where only dust and ashes lay. But they do not come on the strength of men. They come only with the power of God.

Ascend upon a high mountain, O herald of Zion; raise your voice with strength! Raise it, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, "Behold your God!"--Isaiah 40:9

Men, then, remain weak and corrupt. If they finally triumph, it is because God carries them in His mighty arms. If they rise from ashes, He clears their eyes. Beginning with Chapter 40, Isaiah draws a stunning picture of the heights to which God can raise men who look to Him. He shows us our future. He shows us our Savior.

Exponents in math show growth densely multiplied and mathematicians call them powers for a reason. Each successive power builds on its predecessors, zeros upon zeros, until they soar in imagination. Isaiah's prophecy builds in much the same way, and by Chapter 40, he has taken us nearly to heaven. From then on, we see visions and dreams and images of God's beautiful powers that inspire and bring hope to anyone sad and torn. Isaiah, through intense contrast, sings of God's glory in a way that multiplies grace and soothes our spirit.

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