Let’s say something about the first reading, which opens Chapter Forty in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. A disconcerting thing about the Book of the Prophet Isaiah is that there is a time lapse of about a hundred and seventy years between Chapter 39 and Chapter 40. Chapter 39 tells about a Babylonian embassy to Jerusalem to the court of King Hezekiah shortly before the year 701 B.C.. Chapter 40 describes the end of seventy years of Jewish captivity in Babylon at about the year 530 B.C.
Now, Isaiah could not have lived on through that hundred and seventy year time gap, so we must conclude that the prophetic words of Isaiah are concluded at the end of Chapter 39. The text from Chapter 40 on must have been composed by some unknown author. By mistake the scroll of these later chapters was bundled up with the prophesies of Isaiah. For the want of a better name we call the composer of the later chapters Deuteron Isaiah, or Second Isaiah.
In 536 B.C. the Persian ruler Cyrus II conquered Babylon, and on seeing the file on the Jews, he decided they should be allowed to return to Jerusalem. Our prophet, Second Isaiah, found that the Jews had made themselves comfortable in their seventy years of captivity. They were deciding to stay on in Babylon rather than face the journey through the wild land between them in Jerusalem.
In Chapter 40 the prophet assures the people that the journey would be easy because God was sending an angel before them to make every stage of the passage smooth.
Christians feel that story from 530 B.C. was just a foreshadowing of what would come when John the Baptist would be our angel. He will tell us to break off the comfort we have fond for ourselves during our earthly captivity. We should let him smooth the way to heaven for us.