The chapter starts with a command. Comfort – then it repeats, almost like to emphasize on an emotional level – comfort my people, says your God.
Why Lord? And How? The “why” is explained in the next verse. I find that the The Message version is easier to understand.
“Speak softly and tenderly to Jerusalem, but also make it very clear. That she has served her sentence, that her sin is taken care of—forgiven! She’s been punished enough and more than enough, and now it’s over and done with.” (Isaiah 40:2 MSG)
I hesitated to post that verse. The idea that God punishes us for our sins is not very appealing. “I thought God is love? I thought God forgives?”, we protest. The fact is God IS love, but He is also Just. His laws are clear: “I am the Lord your God, you should have no other gods besides me”, “Be holy for I am Holy”, “Love your neighbor”, and so on.
There are consequences to disobedience to His laws – which to us looks like punishment. But, God is also love. For those who understand God’s nature, this punishment is actually less than what we deserve. We deserve death and separation, but He gives life and redemption. For His children, this punishment is discipline – yes, because of our stubbornness we need it, because of His love he allows it. When we protest, it probably is because we have double standards. We are quick to agree that God should punish those who we think are wrong, but when it is about us we disagree. Man’s standard is subjective, God’s standard is clear. In the presence of a Great and Holy God, no man can stand. The comfort is this: in spite of our sin, God loves us.