Whose Voice?

Patrick Vestal

The Assyrian and, then ultimately, Babylonian exile is one of- if not the biggest events in the Old Testament. Many books- both those you would expect like Ezekiel, Daniel and ones you wouldn’t expect like Ruth and Job- focus on the exile of God’s people. Both exiles were horrible events. Many people were killed, villages were burned and destroyed, livestock and crops killed and many people were enslaved. We simply don’t have anything else to compare to these atrocious events. 

The question surrounding the events leading up to the exile and the exile itself was, “Who’s voice?” Who could be trusted, who even knew the truth to tell it? Who was in authority? Who should I listen to and obey? The Israelites chose to listen to voices that told them what they wanted to hear. The prophets that God sent were mistreated and even killed because they spoke counter-culturally. 

Today, we live in a culture of extremes, fear and panic. We’re sold vast insurances and schemes to protect ourselves from any kind of harm. We go to great lengths to make sure that we are taken care of. At any moment, it seems, the news media wants to shift our attention from one emergent thing to the next. It leaves us scared and exhausted or jaded and apathetic. Neither of those are appropriate responses. 

In Isaiah 39, the people are told that exile is coming upon them. It’s no longer a question of “if” but “when.” All of those hardships are going to befall them. It’s a time when we may think God is furthest away. It’s a time for panic and dread- right? No. That’s not how God responds. In the very next sentence God says, “Comfort, comfort my people. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.” 

Isaiah rightly asks, “What should I say?!” It’s the same question that we may find ourselves saying from time to time. “What could I possibly say to make things better or to help or to encourage? Who am I to say anything to someone who’s going through something so difficult.” 

God’s response in 40:6-31 is one of the most comprehensive passages on God’s character in the Bible. For Jesus followers, the voice we need to be listening to is God’s. The message that we need to be talking about, sharing with others and focusing on is about God’s character and the Gospel of Jesus. The people that are around you that don’t know Jesus- in the grocery store or on your social media- are scared. They have no foundation for hope of a better future. Don’t get caught in the trap of spreading fear and anguish. You have a better story than that to share. 

In Isaiah 40 a number of questions are raised about present circumstances. God’s refrain is, “Do you not know? Have you not heard?” followed by a statement about God’s sovereignty. Times change, hardships come and go, nations rise and nations fall but God remains. He is faithful, powerful and loving. His word is the “news” we should be tuning into and his gospel should be the refrain on our lips. 

“Why do you complain, Jacob?

    Why do you say, Israel,

‘My way is hidden from the Lord;

    my cause is disregarded by my God’? 

Do you not know?

    Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

    the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary,

    and his understanding no one can fathom.”

Isaiah 40:27-28

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