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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 40

 

 

Introduction

Commentary chapters 44-55.

The first 39 chapter of Isaiah have been based on prophecies made at different times and brought together in a pattern. They were made at various times throughout his prophetic life. Now we come to chapters 40-55 (alternatively we may see it as beginning with chapter 34) which were written as one whole with a continuing theme. The amazing deliverance of Jerusalem from Assyria had awakened in his heart a recognition that Yahweh had a supreme work for His people, and that God must have delivered them with a purpose, in order that they might be His Servant who would take His truth to the nations.

In order really to fully appreciate his thinking we have to understand the background from which he wrote. It is quite clear that he had been meditating in Genesis. He had noted how the world in Genesis 1-11 had gradually developed in its opposition to God, a rebellion expressed in terms of ‘the city’. First Cain rebelled against God and went into the land of ‘wandering’ (nod) and there he built a ‘city’ (Genesis 4:17), probably representing a grouping of people in caves, or some other kind of primitive shelters. It was probably to be seen as the first gathering together of people in a combination to live together without being reliant on Yahweh. Then as mankind advanced this grew into the first empire. The mighty Nimrod established his empire based on Babel (Babylon) and its neighbouring cities (Genesis 10:10) and from there he established his empire in Assyria and built Nineveh and its related cities, the latter making together ‘the Great City’ (Genesis 10:11). This was then followed by the attempt at Babel (Babylon) to build a tower up to heaven and establish their own name as a people who were independent of God (Genesis 11:1-9). The idea of the city therefore came to be seen as representative of opposition to God, and as an expression of man’s independence of God and of man looking to his own resources, with his own independent religion based on his tower, and to be connected with Babylon. We see this idea clearly represented in the first part of Isaiah as Isaiah depicts ‘the city’ as the object of God’s judgment (Isaiah 24:10-12; Isaiah 25:12; Isaiah 26:5; Isaiah 27:10), and sees ‘Babylon’ as the enemy of the world and doomed to total destruction (Isaiah 13:1-22).

Then Yahweh called a man, Abraham, the son of Terah, to leave ‘the city’, Ur of the Chaldees, (and thus connected with the Chaldeans and with Babylon) and go to the land which God would show him. Thus he was called to depart from Babylon. Once he had arrived in Canaan God promised him the land, and that through his seed the whole world would be blessed. However it was not long before the king of Babylon (Shinar) and the king of the nations invaded His land (Genesis 14:1) and seized a ‘son of Terah’ (Lot). However, by the hand of Abraham, the King of Babylon and his fellow kings were thwarted and despoiled and the son of Terah was freed (Genesis 14:1-16), thus leaving Abraham free to carry forward God’s commission as God’s servant. Babylon was thus constantly revealed as the great enemy of God’s purposes, in Isaiah’s time association with Assyria, while in contrast Abraham was revealed as God’s servant..

We can therefore imagine Isaiah’s thoughts when Yahweh’s land, the land that was to fulfil God’s promises to Abraham, was invaded by Assyria, with Nineveh as its capital city, and Assyria then utilised Babylon to control Israel (2 Chronicles 32:11). It must have seemed that history was repeating itself. However, the last ditch deliverance of Jerusalem had brought home to him that again Yahweh was active, that Assyria was not to be allowed to have its free way with God’s people, and it was as a result of that that God revealed to him the future that was to come.

We must note that chapters 44-55 know only of oppression of his people by Egypt and Assyria (Isaiah 52:4). Yet he was undoubtedly very much aware that behind all was the arch-enemy Babylon, the great city noted for its magic and interest in the occult, that boasted of its own superiority to all the cities of the world (Isaiah 13:19), and had now become the centre of the Assyrian Empire. So we can understand why, when Assyria and Babylon began to work as one (2 Chronicles 32:11), he recognised in this a renewed attack on God’s purposes through Abraham.

But as he looked into the future he saw the fulfilment of God’s promises to Abraham being brought about in terms of the coming Servant who would bring His blessing to the world, and thus he saw the opposition to the Servant in terms of ‘Babylon’, who had been the great anti-God from the beginning. That is why in chapter 40-55 we have a continuous picture of the rise of the Servant and the need for the destruction of Babylon. It was like Abraham versus the king of Babylon all over again.

If when Uzziah died in 739 BC Isaiah was eighteen, and he lived into old age, Isaiah could well have been around at the time during Manasseh’s reign (687-642 BC) when it became clear that Babylon were involved under Assyria in overseeing Judah (the involvement would ante-date the seizure of Manasseh). And he would unquestionably have been appalled by Manasseh’s submission to Assyria and Babylon. Thus while it may be that he did not actually prophesy publicly during Manasseh’s reign (Isaiah 1:1) he may well have written this second part of his prophecy to be passed on to the future.

For the chapters from 41-55, following the opening chapter in which God’s great power and visitation of Jerusalem is emphasised, contain the account of the raising by Yahweh of His Servant for the fulfilling of God’s purposes as promised to Abraham, and His dealings with the arch-enemies of idolatry and Babylon. In Isaiah 43:14 Isaiah stresses that for His Servant’s sake Yahweh will cause the rulers of Babylon to flee from Babylon (the rulers are rendered powerless), in Isaiah 46:1-2 he stresses the powerlessness of Babylon’s gods (the gods are rendered powerless), in 47 he depicts Babylon’s humiliation (Babylon is humbled to the dust), in Isaiah 48:14 he declares that Yahweh will work His good pleasure (or Isaiah’s good pleasure) on Babylon, and in Isaiah 48:20 he tells all who are involved with Babylon to desert it and flee from it. Babylon must no longer hold sway over the people of God. From that moment on idolatry does not arise as an issue in chapters 49-55, and the Servant goes on, first to suffering and then to victory. These are the basic facts that lie behind these chapters.

Chapters 40-55 The Work of God and the Coming Servant of Yahweh.

This section can be divided up into three.

1) The Promise of Yahweh’s Powerful Presence And Activity, And The Rise of the Servant of Yahweh (Isaiah 40:1 to Isaiah 44:23).

2) The Restoration The Temple and the Destruction of Babylon the Enemy of God (Isaiah 44:24 to Isaiah 48:22).

3) The Future Work of the Servant on Behalf Of Israel and the World (Isaiah 49:1 to Isaiah 55:13).

In this part we will concentrate our attention on Isaiah 40-48, 49-55 will be dealt with in the next section.

In the light of what God had done for His people by His amazing and unforgettable deliverance of Jerusalem from Sennacherib (Isaiah 36-37), but having regard also to His warning of what was to happen to the house of Hezekiah at the hands of Babylon (Isaiah 39:6-7), Isaiah was now faced with two conflicting situations. On the one hand was the fact that God had triumphed, against all earthly odds, over a powerful enemy, who had been driven off in total disarray. His worship was now in the ascendant in Jerusalem, the people were filled with relief, expectancy and gratitude, and all false gods had for a time been thrust into the background. But on the other was his recognition that the house of David was rejected and awaiting severe punishment at the hands of Babylon because of their failure to trust wholly in Yahweh (Isaiah 39:6-7). For Yahweh’s servant ‘David’, as personified first in Ahaz and then in Hezekiah, had failed at the hour of need.

And he seemingly further recognised that because of the sins of God’s people (Isaiah 43:22-28) there had to be a future cleansing of Jerusalem and a replacement of the old Temple which had been so severely defiled by idolatry (Isaiah 44:26 to Isaiah 45:7). The chapters that follow deal with both these situations.

So in chapter 40 we have an exalted description of the universal and triumphant power of God, which is followed in Isaiah 41:1 to Isaiah 44:23 by a description of how through Abraham, the man whom He called from the east, He has raised up His people, the seed of Abraham, as His servant to do His bidding. This is to result in the establishing of Yahweh’s righteous rule over the nations under His chosen King (Isaiah 42:1-9), the putting to flight of the rulers of Babylon (Isaiah 43:14), the final rejection of idolatry (Isaiah 44:9-20) and the praising of Yahweh by the whole of creation (Isaiah 44:21-23).

This section was probably first written not long after the humiliation of Assyria.

But in view of the people’s previous behaviour (Isaiah 43:22-28) this is then followed in Isaiah 44:24 onwards by a recognition that as a result of that behaviour the Temple has been defiled and needs replacing, and that as a result Jerusalem is once more to suffer under the hands of the enemy so that it will need to be rebuilt. This is seen as necessary before the Servant can fulfil his role. These chapters may well have first been written some time after the previous chapters, once it had become established that Babylon was responsible for the oversight of Judah as representative of the Assyrian Empire and had begun to exercise its insidious influence over Judah, so that it would have to be destroyed (47).

There has also been brought home to him the fact that God will raise up a deliverer from the house of Cyrus I in Persia, whom he may well have met in his position as a prophet of Judah. The house of Cyrus was chosen as the one which was to fulfil all His will (Isaiah 44:26 to Isaiah 45:7) Through it He will finally judge those who have so defiled Jerusalem (possibly having in mind Isaiah 39:6-7) and through Cyrus He will arrange for their destruction, the rebuilding of Jerusalem once it has been ravaged, and the erection of a new undefiled Temple. This prophecy may well have resulted from a visit to Jerusalem by a group from the Persian court who on learning of the humiliation of Sennacherib by Israel’s God, and Isaiah’s part in it, had come bringing the good wishes of their monarch and a promise of support in the future, together with the news of the birth of the new prince, Cyrus. Or alternatively from an embassy sent from Judah to the Persian court for the same reason, in which Isaiah participated.

The Persian monarch at this time would be Achaemenes, whose grandson was Cyrus I, who was born during the lifetime of Isaiah, and his house was clearly seen by Isaiah as providing the future conqueror who would restore the Temple (Isaiah 44:28 to Isaiah 45:1).

So as we move into these next chapters of Isaiah we can understand the feeling of exaltation and certainty that gripped him as he looked ahead, an exaltation that was, however, held in tension with the black cloud that hung over the house of David. On the one hand his expectations were positive, on the other there yet remained much that was to happen. We have here the same dichotomy between imminence and delay which characterises the New Testament. God will act, but meanwhile certain things must happen first.

The Condition of Judah.

We must remember that in spite of her glorious victory over the forces of Sennacherib (36-37), Jerusalem had not got away scot free. Her wealth had been hugely diminished by the fine that they had originally paid to Sennacherib to buy him off, prior to his second invasion of Judah (2 Kings 18:15-16), and her adjoining land and people had been totally devastated by the intrusion of the Assyrian armies. Her second city Lachish lay in ruins, and the whole land had become a wilderness. In the words with which Isaiah opens chapter 40, she had received ‘double for all her sins’.

Thus she is promised that now Yahweh will make a way for her, will raise her up as His Servant, establishing over her the righteous King promised in 7-11, and will restore what has become a wilderness and will fill it with pools of water (Isaiah 41:17-19; Isaiah 43:19-20), so that she has a way to walk in. And along with this He will not only pour out His rain on them, but will also pour out His Spirit Who will transform the whole people (Isaiah 44:1-5), having removed the encroaching threat of Babylon (Isaiah 43:14).

The Continual Threat of Assyria.

He was, of course, aware that Assyria remained a threat. It was Assyria who had oppressed them in the past (Isaiah 52:4), and, even though it had at present withdrawn its forces, and was busy elsewhere (Isaiah 37:37-38), he probably had no doubt that they would attempt to do so again, indeed were probably already doing so under Manasseh. He must have been well aware that Assyria would not stay away permanently. Their threat, therefore, continued to loom large over God’s people. Their attempted overlordship, brought on Judah by the unbelief of Ahaz, had been a constant problem, and would continue to be so (Isaiah 7:17-18; Isaiah 7:20; Isaiah 8:4; Isaiah 8:7; Isaiah 10:5; Isaiah 10:12; Isaiah 10:24; Isaiah 11:11; Isaiah 11:16; Isaiah 14:25; Isaiah 19:23-25; Isaiah 20:6; Isaiah 21:4; Isaiah 21:6; Isaiah 27:13; Isaiah 30:31; Isaiah 31:8; Isaiah 36-39; Isaiah 52:4). But it was not of too great a concern to him. God had shown what He could do with Assyria. So he did not see them directly as a matter of great concern, and indeed was informed that Yahweh would deal with the threat by giving Egypt, Cush and Seba to Assyria as a ransom for His people (Isaiah 43:3).

The Threat of Babylon.

Very different was the threat of Babylon. He could not overlook what Yahweh had revealed to him of what Babylon was going to do to Judah’s royal house (Isaiah 39:6-7), and he was disturbed by the fact that Babylon, having been yet again subjugated by Assyria, was ominously being re-established by them after its earlier defeat (Isaiah 23:13), with authority over Judah. He recognised therefore that, as in the past, it would no doubt in the future ill treat God’s people and be a menace to the world (Isaiah 14:3-4; Isaiah 14:6; Isaiah 39:7). Indeed he probably saw them as the greater problem. For as we have seen in chapters 13-14 he saw Babylon as supremely the enemy of God because of its proud boasts and high claims against God. It was the city that from the first had stood up against God and built a tower up to heaven which had resulted in the dividing of the world (Genesis 10:8-12; Genesis 11:1-9). It was the city whose king (Amraphel, king of Shinar) had invaded Canaan and seized Lot, Abraham’s nephew, along with much spoil, and against whom Abraham had to raise an army so as to recover both him and the spoils (Genesis 14). It was a city from which every superstition emanated. Thus Babylon was an ever present menace, and now that Assyria were re-establishing it he had no doubt that it would again encroach on God’s people. And that Assyria does indeed later appear to have administered its jurisdiction over Judah from Babylon, comes out, as we have seen, in the fact that Manasseh was taken there when arraigned by the Assyrian oppressors. So it was clear that if Judah was to be free from evil influences Babylon was a city which must be destroyed.

What later happened to Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33:11 quite clearly confirms that Assyria were at that time controlling Judah through Babylon, which itself was being ruled by a son of the king of Assyria, for when Manasseh was arraigned as a rebel he was dragged off to Babylon.

The Problem of Israel’s Scattered People.

But as he thought of God’s purposes for Israel Isaiah was also aware that many of God’s people were still scattered around the world. Exiles from both Israel and Judah were in Assyria, in Media, in Babylon (Shinar), in Egypt, and even further afield. See Isaiah 11:11; Isaiah 11:16; Isaiah 27:13; 2 Kings 17:6; and compare 2 Kings 17:24 for regular movements of peoples under Assyria. (And this be it noted without any independent Babylonian invasion). Many of the people of God were far from their own land.

Among them would be Manasseh, who was later taken to Babylon by the Assyrians, no doubt with a number of other exiles from the royal house (2 Chronicles 33:11), as Isaiah had earlier warned (Isaiah 39:7). But it was nevertheless Assyria who still continued as the prominent oppressor (Isaiah 52:4), even though her teeth had temporarily been drawn.

So wanting to proclaim a message of encouragement and deliverance to his people, Isaiah, who knew that in the end Yahweh had promised to deliver His people from all outside influence, proclaimed the greatness of His power and what His future intentions were.

Let Judah, therefore, now consider what the deliverance of Jerusalem and departure of Sennacherib had revealed. It had demonstrated the sovereignty and overlordship of Yahweh in world affairs, so that now, if they would, they could seize their opportunity, rid themselves of all their enemies and become Yahweh’s Servant to the nations in accordance with His purpose established in Abraham.

The Coming Deliverer.

Furthermore he has in mind God’s promise of the raising of a Deliverer, one born miraculously from the house of David (Isaiah 7:14), who will rule the nations and bring peace and justice to the earth (Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:1-4; Isaiah 42:1-4), and this in spite of the fact that he has seen the failure of the house of David to live up to expectations. For he knows that the One Who will come in the future, will be of a different stamp (Isaiah 40:7-11). Like ‘David My Servant’ (Isaiah 37:35) He will be God’s Servant, and He will be totally dedicated to fulfilling the purposes of Yahweh. But He will not be simply an earthly king like the others. They are too fallible. He will be miraculously born (Isaiah 7:14).

Does Isaiah Have the Future Exiles in Babylon In Mind?

Significantly there is no mention anywhere in Isaiah of exiles being taken to Babylon, apart from the king’s own ‘sons’ (Isaiah 39:7), and those taken there by the Assyrians, probably from the northern kingdom (Isaiah 11:11). Thus to make the return of Judean exiles from Babylon prominent in these chapters is to ignore what is actually written and to read into these chapters what is not there. It is to see them in the light of future events of which Isaiah was not necessarily aware. This is fine as long as we realise that what we are doing is seeing a fulfilment beyond Isaiah’s expectations. But whoever wrote these chapters does not speak as if aware of a large scale Babylonian exile resulting from a Babylonian invasion, does not speak of a Babylonian ‘world empire’, does not speak specifically of returning exiles from Babylon and in fact, while mentioning it, does not lay great stress on Babylon at all except as a city which must be destroyed, as described in chapters 13-14 and Isaiah 23:13, because of what it is, the great Anti-God.

That does not mean that we ignore the later situation in Babylon. Only that we must not, if we are to be fair to the writer, interpret Isaiah 40 onwards solely as if he had the Babylonian exile under Nebuchadnezzar in mind. The impression actually given is that he did not. His mind was not on Babylon in that way. It is commentators who are obsessed with such a Babylon, who read Babylon in everywhere and interpret it in this way despite any lack of encouragement in the text, because it fits in with what they want to make the writer say, and with a future of which Isaiah was actually unaware. Isaiah in fact only mentions Babylon once in chapters 40-44 and twice in the following chapters (in 47 and Isaiah 48:14; Isaiah 48:20).

What is in fact made quite clear is that Isaiah was not concentrating his attention on Babylon. That is to demean his prophecy which had a wider worldwide view. He looked rather for worldwide redemption, for that was why Yahweh was raising up His Servant. He was concerned for all the exiles scattered around the world, and was speaking to the people of his own time.

What is actually so surprising in the light of chapters 13-14 and the clear inference in Isaiah 39:7 of a sacking of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and of the expected Babylonian jurisdiction over Judah (which is why hostages would be taken), is that we have so little mention of Babylon (only in Isaiah 43:14; Isaiah 47; Isaiah 48:14; Isaiah 48:20), with nowhere a reference to exiles returning from there. In fact his non-reference to these latter is quite marked, arising from the fact that he never did realise that so much of Judah would in future be carried off into Babylon. For Babylon was nowhere his great concern except as something to be destroyed by God (chapter 47), and the taking of the sons of David as hostages by them would be seen as but one more in their long list of crimes.

What then was his concern for Babylon? Simply that for Isaiah Babylon was a symbol. Babylon had to be destroyed because it represented the great enemy of God (Genesis 10:9-12; Genesis 11:1-9), that boasted against God (Isaiah 13:19; Isaiah 14:12-15) and ever threatened the people of God (Isaiah 39:7; Genesis 14:1). It was seen as the city that having been laid waste by the Assyrians (Isaiah 23:13), was being rebuilt to carry on its blasphemy, and was the one world city that must be finally destroyed, never to rise again. It should never have been rebuilt (Isaiah 13:19-20), and Yahweh will yet thus destroy it once again.

It is significant in this regard that in 40-47 regular diatribes against the gods are given, but, once the destruction of Babylon and its magicians is described, these diatribes cease, not to reoccur again until after chapter 55. Thus in 40-55 Babylon stands for all that the gods represent. It is the home of extreme evil. It is the very centre of idolatry. The destruction of Babylon is therefore the destruction of the very ‘centre’ of the gods without according them any status. And that is why all righteous people mustfleefrom Babylon (Isaiah 48:20) (which the later returning exiles did not do, they marched out confidently). They must desert all that it stands for. For Babylon represents idolatry of the most heinous kind. It represents the anti-God. It would be seen as such to the end (Revelation 17-18).

The Importance of Abraham.

There is a further point that we should note, and that is the importance of Abraham to Isaiah. He is the one who loved God (Isaiah 41:8), he is the rock from which Israel was hewn (Isaiah 51:1-2), he is ‘the one’ who became ‘many’ (Isaiah 51:2), he is the one whom Yahweh redeemed and in whom his seed is therefore to be redeemed (Isaiah 29:22).

In our modern day, with our modern knowledge, we see things very differently from the ancients. We seek, for example, to set Abraham in his background, as historically a minimal and unimportant figure, a minor tribal leader compared with the great nations of the world. But it is doubtful if ancient Israel saw him in that way.

To the people of Israel/Judah Abraham was a colossus. He was an essential part of their history and they knew well the stories about him. They knew that at the call of God he had with his family tribe come down initially from the east, from Ur of the Chaldees (Genesis 11:31; Nehemiah 9:7), and then from the north (from Haran - Genesis 11:32 to Genesis 12:1), entering Canaan where he called on the name of Yahweh (Genesis 12:8; Genesis 13:4), and was God’s chosen, the one who loved Him (Genesis 41:8). They knew that he had had many momentous experiences of God, great revelations and theophanies, and had had many powerful covenants made with Him by God that determined both their future and the future of the world for ages to come. They knew how he had grown in power so that even Pharaoh had had to yield to him and give him gifts (Genesis 12:10-20). And they knew how when the kings of Babylon and Elam, with their allies, invaded Canaan it was Abraham who pursued them and administered to them a resounding defeat as leader of an alliance against them (Genesis 14). They knew that he was closely involved with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and had indeed interceded for them (Genesis 18-19), that the king of the Philistines had made treaties with him (Genesis 21:32), that he was a redoubtable Prince (Genesis 23:6). And they would take it all as it stood without seeing it against the background of history as known to us today. Thus they would have had no doubt that had Abraham been alive Assyria and Babylon would have had to watch out. Abraham had been a ‘mighty one’.

When the little boys in Israel lay in their beds, they would say, ‘Mummy, tell us again how Abraham drove out the kings of the east from his land, and rescued Lot. Tell us how he fooled the Pharaoh of Egypt. Tell us how he prayed about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Tell us about his adventures with the king of Gerar. Tell us how the people called him a mighty prince’. To them Abraham was a hero.

So when Isaiah speaks of one who was raised from the east and came from the north (Isaiah 41:2; Isaiah 41:25), who was called in righteousness to His foot (Isaiah 41:2) and who called on the name of Yahweh (Isaiah 41:25; Genesis 12:8; Genesis 13:4), who defeated nations and kings and pursued them (Isaiah 41:2-3; Genesis 14) and trod upon them as a potter treads the clay (Isaiah 41:25), and in a context where Jacob/Israel, who are addressed as God’s servant, are connected with, and yet contrasted with, Abraham, the one who loved God, we may safely assume that Abraham is in mind in the whole context. And the same probably applies to the bird of prey from the east who is ‘a man of His counsel’, brought from a far country, who brings near righteousness and salvation (Isaiah 46:11). To be described as a bird of prey would not have been seen as defamatory but as glorious. It is saying that he was magnificent, like a great eagle. And it was as a great eagle that Abraham had previously swooped on the king of Babylon (Shinar) (Genesis 14).

Furthermore in Hebrew thought when Abraham entered Canaan his seed entered with him. All entered triumphantly in his body. He came as the one who loved God, and as Yahweh’s servant (Genesis 26:24; Exodus 32:13; Deuteronomy 9:27; Psalms 105:6; Psalms 105:42), and in him came also God’s servant, Israel (Isaiah 41:8). In him came God’s servant David (Isaiah 37:35). And in him came also the greater David yet to come, God’s ultimate Servant (Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12). The whole future of the Servant entered Canaan with Abraham. Essentially the Servant was ‘the seed of Abraham’ (Isaiah 41:8) and incorporated all that seed from Isaac onwards. And as the Servant it was God’s purpose that they might transform the world

Final Comment.

But of course those who interpret the chapters as referring mainly to the Babylonian captivity, against all the pointers, see Cyrus everywhere instead of just in Isaiah 44:28 to Isaiah 45:6, and that despite of no mention of him prior to Isaiah 44:28. They thus interpret verses which refer to Abraham in terms of Cyrus. One thing to be kept in mind here therefore is that translations often seem to support this case simply because the translators assumed that it was correct and translated accordingly, gliding over controversial verses, not out of a desire to deceive but in order to make them ‘clear’. The problem is that this then prevents fair assessment. For this purpose we would suggest in these passages reference to RV or ASV for a translation which has mainly remained close to the original text.

It is against this background and these warnings then that we must interpret these chapters for ourselves.

THE CALL TO DELIVERANCE: BEHOLD YOUR GOD! (Chapter 40).

Chapter 40 The Greatness of God and The Need To Return to Him.

Following immediately on the gloom resulting from the failure of the Davidic king in chapter 39, and the revelation of the future consequences in the taking of Jerusalem and removal of the Davidic line to a resurgent Babylon (which occurred under the Assyrians - 2 Chronicles 33:11), Isaiah now declares God’s certain final triumph. In the end, Isaiah tells Israel/Judah, God will triumph over all, whether Assyria or Babylon or anyone else, because of Who and What He is.

He sees before his eyes what God has done to Assyria, and how He has humiliated her, and he must have wondered why others did not see it as well. Did they not recognise that God was now on the verge of acting finally if only His people would respond? They had paid heavily for their sins in the invasion by Sennacherib, they had received double for all their sins. But now God was calling on them to forget Assyria, to forget Babylon, and to behold Him and trust Him. It is very similar to Jesus standing at the door in Revelation (Revelation 3:20). The moment of truth is here if only they are willing to trust in Yahweh and open the door.

Seized by his enthusiasm for the moment Isaiah now goes on to describe in detail the greatness and glory of God compared with this puny world. This, he says, is the One Who can make it all happen. Why do they not respond?

And then God Himself takes it up and confirms Isaiah’s words (Isaiah 40:25). Let them but all but see Him and respond to Him, and they will be all conquering. Let them wait on Him and they will find that His strength is more than sufficient.


Verses 1-8

The Preparing of the Way (Isaiah 40:1-8).

The humiliation of Assyria has, in Isaiah’s eyes, opened up a new opportunity for the future for Judah/Israel. Yahweh has delivered His people, and awaits their response.

Isaiah 40:1-2

‘Comfort, comfort my people,

Says your God,

Speak to the heart of Jerusalem,

And cry to her,

That her warfare is accomplished,

That her iniquity is pardoned,

That she has received of the hand of Yahweh,

Double for all her sins.’

These are the words of the great Judge of all the world. The court has sat, the verdict has been reached and the sentence passed, and it is one of mercy. The words announce a change in Isaiah’s perspective. Previously he has mentioned quite regularly the deliverance and final blessing of Israel and Jerusalem, but here it takes centre stage. The time has come if only they will respond. The enemy has fled back to his own land (Isaiah 37:37). Now is the time to trust in Yahweh.

The verb ‘comfort’ is in the plural. Its repetition indicates the intensity with which it is spoken. The speaker is God, but this raises the question as to who are called on to comfort God’s people. There are two possible answers. Firstly that it is those who are to prepare the way of Yahweh (Isaiah 40:3), the heavenly beings who speak to each other in Isaiah 40:6. Or secondly that it is the small group of faithful Israelites gathered around Isaiah and his ministry, the faithful remnant. Or it may be a general command to be obeyed by both. The nations are withering, but the way is being prepared for Yahweh, the great King, to come, and Israel can therefore be comforted.

But the other question is, why can she be comforted? And the answer is, because, if she will accept it, all her tribulations are past, her iniquity is pardoned, she has received ‘double’ for all her sins. They have been ‘doubly paid’, paid in full. In other words she is now in a position where God can show His mercy because of her suffering.

But it was not to be so immediately and later in chapter 53 we will discover that this mercy is in fact shown because of One Who will suffer on her behalf. It is He Who will pay double for all her sins. Isaiah is not under any illusions. He is perfectly well aware that no man can pay for his own sins except by death. That is one of the things he was wrestling with. Thus he in the end comes to the conclusion that Jerusalem can only be delivered because of the price paid by the greatest of her sons. That is why her iniquity can be pardoned, because they will have been borne by Another (Isaiah 53:4; Isaiah 53:8). And yet included within that is that she has also been purified through suffering (Isaiah 4:4). Compare the Psalm of Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:15-17). God’s activity has made her ready if only she will see it.

‘Her warfare is accomplished, ended.’ The word translated ‘warfare’ regularly means ‘host, army’ and is so used in ‘Yahwehof hosts’, but therefore it also came to mean ‘war’ or ‘battle’ (Joshua 4:13; Joshua 22:12; Joshua 22:33). Here therefore it depicts all Jerusalem’s trouble with which she has battled through the years. It has now been gone through to the full.

‘Her iniquity is pardoned.’ It is not that she has suffered undeservedly. It is because God has stepped in with a pardon (Isaiah 44:21-22). It is already so in the mind of God. The word for ‘pardoned’ is used of the acceptability of a sacrifice for atonement (Leviticus 1:4), and then for general acceptability (Deuteronomy 33:24), for reconciliation (1 Samuel 29:4), and thus for ‘being pleased with’. The idea is therefore that the barrier between God and His true people has been removed. But in the passive (as here) the verb only ever refers to the acceptability of a blood sacrifice (Leviticus 1:4; Leviticus 7:18; Leviticus 19:7; Leviticus 22:23; Leviticus 22:25; Leviticus 22:27), which points strongly to that meaning here. Once again it connects with the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:10-11). They are pardoned through His sacrifice.

Alternately reference may be to Leviticus 26:43, ‘they will accept the punishment for their iniquity’, indicating that Jerusalem has accepted her guilt and whatever punishment has been meted out. But it still required that God would accept it too, which is what is in mind here.

‘She has received of the hand of Yahweh double for all her sins.’ Even Israel would recognise that this could not be strictly true, unless there was more to it than just her own suffering. Isaiah will later point out that it was because One Who was unique would suffer for their sins that this could be so (Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12). The world for ‘double’ suggests a piece of something doubled up (it comes from the root ‘to fold’) so that both sides exactly match. Thus the exact punishment has been achieved.

It is not therefore out of context that Isaiah 40:3-4 are cited in Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:2-3; Luke 3:4-6. In the end the preparing of the way was in order to prepare for the coming suffering Servant of the house of David, Who could be called the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6).

There is no real reason for thinking that this passage should be applied to the ending of the so-called Babylonian captivity (which was only one of a number of captivities), of which Isaiah says nothing. No Babylonian captivity is mentioned and Babylon is only mentioned as a city that must be destroyed because of what it represents. It is unmentioned in chapters 40-42 and hardly prominent in the following chapters. The emphasis is rather on looking forward to the time when the Lord Yahweh Himself, having paid the price of sin through His Servant, will come as a Mighty One, to shepherd His flock and gather His lambs in His arms (Isaiah 40:10-11), in the everlasting kingdom (compare Ezekiel 37:24).

Isaiah 40:3-5

‘The voice of one who cries,

“Prepare in the wilderness the way of Yahweh,

Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley will be exalted,

And every mountain and hill will be made low,

And the crooked will be made straight,

And the rough places plain,

And the glory of Yahweh will be revealed,

And all flesh will see it together.

For the mouth of Yahweh has spoken it.” ’

Different members of the heavenly court cry out for the carrying out of the verdict described in Isaiah 40:1 (compare Isaiah 40:6). The cry here is for another ‘coming out of the desert’ by God, another deliverance, when God will again come to act on behalf of His people. Compare Isaiah 29:6; Isaiah 30:27-28; Deuteronomy 33:2-5; Judges 5:3-5 where we have the same idea of God marching out of the desert into the land on His people’s behalf. He is the God of Sinai, coming to call His people back to the covenant, and coming to act on their behalf. And the way is to be prepared for Him. But by whom? Here by Isaiah and his followers, and in the New Testament days, by John the Baptiser.

The picture is of a great king making a journey, with his people going ahead so as to prepare the road and make the way smooth for him. Mountains were to be levelled off, valleys were to be filled in, crooked roads were to be straightened, rough places were to be made flat so that the king could take his journey with ease (this was often literally done). But here the great King is Yahweh, and thus the responders must be His subjects.

The Babylonians could speak similarly of preparing the way for a god. In a hymn to Nebo they said, ‘Make his way good, renew his road, make his path straight, hew him out a track.’ But the thought there was of making a processional way for the god as he was carried in his cart. There was no thought of the god as coming in person.

This call could thus be referring to His angel attendants, those who have already been told to comfort Jerusalem, who would go before Him, gladly serving Him. This would demonstrate heavenly activity on behalf of the people of God (compare Hebrews 1:14). Or it could be referring to the faithful among the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem as preparing the way by repentance and response, by an enthusiastic return to the covenant and the offering of true worship, and by acting as God’s servant towards the people. In the latter case the thought is that they should prepare the way by dealing with all that offends. Once they have removed sin and all that displeases God from their midst He will then come in glory and be revealed among them. This is probably the idea in its use in the Gospels, and in the light of what follows may well be in mind here.

But in general Isaiah sees the way as being preparedforHis people, notbythem. See Isaiah 35:8 where it is for those made holy; Isaiah 42:16 where it is for the blind, making darkness light before them, and crooked places straight; Isaiah 43:19 where He makes a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert; Isaiah 55:12 where it is for those led forth in peace. Thus it may well be that we are to see the way for God here as prepared primarily by the heavenly court. God does all. The angels go before Him to prepare the way. His people humbly receive the benefits. (Although this does not prevent man from having some humble part in it). When God acts, His own follow (compare here Isaiah 62:10-12).

‘And the glory of Yahweh will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together.’ Once the way has been prepared Yahweh’s glory will be revealed (compare Exodus 16:10; Exodus 33:18; Exodus 33:22; Exodus 40:34). All flesh will behold it (compare Revelation 1:7). And Yahweh has declared it, and thus it will be so. (See Isaiah 2:10; Isaiah 2:19; Isaiah 2:21; Isaiah 4:5; Isaiah 28:5; Isaiah 33:17; Isaiah 33:21; Isaiah 60:1; Isaiah 60:19-20). So His glory and splendour will be seen by all flesh, and some will wither before it (Isaiah 40:6-8) and flee for a hiding place (compare Isaiah 2:10; Isaiah 2:19; Isaiah 2:21) while His people will rejoice in it and enjoy its splendour (Isaiah 24:23; Isaiah 60:19-20).

John saw this as fulfilled in the coming of Jesus. ‘And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14).

Isaiah 40:6

‘The voice of one saying, “Cry out.” And one said, “What shall I cry?” ’

Compare here Daniel 12:5-6. Heavenly beings are involved in clarifying what is happening. They are here declaring doom on mankind in his frailty, and the certainty of the fulfilment of God’s word. A Qumran scroll supported by the Greek and Latin versions, has ‘I said’ but there is no known good reason for the change except that it is an obvious simplification.

Isaiah 40:6-8

“All flesh is as grass,

And all its covenant love is as the flower of the field.

The grass withers, the flower fades,

Because the breath (spirit) of Yahweh blows on it.

Surely the people are grass.

The grass withers, the flower fades,

But the word of our God will stand for ever.”

The heavenly voice is to declare the frailty of men in contrast with Yahweh. Man is as grass, his response to God and to his fellows (chesed - covenant love to God and neighbour) is as withering vegetation, and when the wind of Yahweh comes it withers and fades. Man is unreliable. So man is as vegetation, he withers and fades, but in contrast what God has said, the ‘word of God’, stands for ever. It never withers, it never fades. It is everlasting. In Isaiah 37:27 this description of man as grass and vegetation is specifically referred to those too weak to stand against Assyria. In Psalms 103:15-16 it is referred to the brevity of life. It represents man in all his frailty.

The wind or spirit of Yahweh here indicates judgments (Isaiah 4:4). Once these come men are unable to stand against them, and their behaviour is badly affected by them. Their changeableness is made apparent. Here the thought is of the effect of the searing wind on vegetation in a hot country, causing it to wither, likening it to the effect of God acting on the generality of mankind.

But in contrast to their fickleness God’s word stands for ever. It never withers or fades. He is unchangeable (see James 1:17). His promises never fail, His purposes always come to completion. He is totally reliable.

The overall thought connects with Isaiah 40:5 where all flesh sees the glory of Yahweh. But most are blasted over by it. It is only towards His own people that He acts in deliverance.


Verses 9-11

Jerusalem Is To Respond Like A Town Crier (Isaiah 40:9-11).

Isaiah 40:9

‘O Zion, you who proclaim good tidings,

Get up into the high mountain,

O Jerusalem, you who tell good tidings,

Lift up your voice loudly (‘with strength’),

Lift it up, do not be afraid,

Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” ’

Those who have official responsibility for proclaiming good news when it comes, the ‘town criers’ of Jerusalem, are called on to get busy. They are go into a high mountain where all can hear, they are to shout loudly with their stentorian voices. They are to do it without fear, for it is certain of fulfilment. They are to go to all the cities of Judah and cry, “Behold, your God!”

The implication of this is that they are in Jerusalem and speaking to the people of Judah in Jerusalem’s name. There is no thought of exile here. The feminine verbs indicate that they take Zion and Jerusalem as their subjects. Note the progression from the beginning. In Isaiah 40:1 God cries out. In Isaiah 40:3; Isaiah 40:6 the voices (of heavenly beings) cry out. Now it is Zion which is to cry out through its town criers. All participate in crying out God’s verdict.

‘Do not be afraid.’ This is regularly a preparation for a theophany (Genesis 15:1; Genesis 26:24).

Isaiah 40:10

‘Behold the Lord Yahweh will come as a mighty one,

And his arm will rule for him.

Behold his reward is with him,

And his recompense before him.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd,

He will gather the lambs in his arm,

And he will carry them in his bosom,

And gently lead those who are feeding their young (give suck).

This is the good news to be proclaimed to Judah. That Yahweh is coming as a Champion to His people. He will rule by His mighty arm (compare Isaiah 30:30; Isaiah 33:2). He has received His reward (His wage) in His people (the Hebrew brings out that it is the reward to Him that is being spoken of), and His recompense for what He has done is before Him. They are the fruits of His victory. For we know that they are His holy ones (Isaiah 4:3; Isaiah 26:2), His elect on whom He has set His love (Isaiah 35:10 compare Isaiah 1:27), the weak ones whom He has forgiven (Isaiah 33:23-24 compare Isaiah 1:25-26). Thus He will reveal His gracious covenant love towards them.

Notice the threefold ‘behold’. They are to behold their God. They are to behold Him as their sovereign Lord Yahweh, their Champion with His mighty arm. They are to behold Him as the One Who has won them and Who treasures them as His reward.

And He has come as their Shepherd. He will feed them as a shepherd feeds his flock, He will gather the lambs in His protective arm where they are safe, He will carry them next to His heart, and have special care for the nursing mothers who are responsible to their lambs. The picture is one of love, concern and protection. He is the good Shepherd (contrast Ezekiel 34:12 where He is the seeking Shepherd).


Verses 12-31

The Greatness Of God Proclaimed (Isaiah 40:12-31).

And He will be able to do it because of His greatness. In this vital passage the greatness of God to do What He declares He will do is now revealed in all its fullness.

He Is Over Creation.

Isaiah 40:12

‘Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand?

And measured the heavens with a span?

And enveloped the dust of the earth in a measure?

And weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?’

The first concentration is on the vastness of God as Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. He is the One Who takes the oceans in the palm of His hand to examine their size, He measures the heavens with the span of His fingers. He takes the dust of the whole earth into His measuring jug (literally ‘his third’), picks up the mountains and puts them in His scales, and weighs the hills in His balances.

Water, sky and earth were the three basic constituents of creation in Genesis 1. So all the basic things in creation are seen as coming under His survey, and He is seen to be vaster than them all.

He Is Omniscient.

Isaiah 40:13-14

‘Who has directed the Spirit of Yahweh?

Or being his counsellor, has taught him?

With whom did he take counsel and who instructed him?

And who taught him in the path of judgment?

And taught him knowledge?

And showed him the way of understanding?’

The next thing about God is His omniscience. No one can teach Him anything. He is all wise, all knowing, all comprehending. No one has given directions to His Spirit, or has been appointed as His adviser and guided Him. He has never sought counsel from anyone, or needed to be taught how to make right judgments, or been given knowledge, or needed to be shown what is sensible and right. It is He alone Who directs the Spirit of Yahweh, and gives counsel and teaches men knowledge and understanding, and shows them what is right.

This is in contrast with the myths of the nations where the gods regularly make mistakes, consult and seek counsel, and have to learn and grow in knowledge and understanding. When the Babylonian god Marduk is depicted as wanting to ‘create’ he did not just act of himself, he sought the guidance of Ea, the all-wise. But they are to recognise that in reality all advice and counsel comes from Yahweh.

He Is Greater Than All.

Isaiah 40:15-17

Behold the nations are as a drop in a bucket,

And are counted as the small dust of the balance.

Behold he takes up the isles as a very small thing,

And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn,

Nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering.

All the nations are as nothing before him,

They are counted to him less than nothing, and emptiness.

Look! They should be aware that even the greatest nation is like a drop of water at the bottom of a bucket as God peers in to see whether it is dry, they are like the fine dust which a man flicks off his balances before using them, hardly noticeable and irrelevant. The furthest isles and coastlands are minute in His sight.

If a burnt offering is to be found worthy of God even all the forests of Lebanon are insufficient for fire, nor are all its cattle and small cattle sufficient for a burnt offering. Before Him all nations are but a thing of nought, they are less than a nothing, in comparison with Him they are totally empty of meaning. (The thought is one of comparison and contrast, not an indication that God does not care about them).

He Is Divinely Incomparable.

Isaiah 40:18-20

‘To whom then will you liken God?

Or what likeness will you compare to him?

The graven image? A workman casts it,

And the goldsmith covers it with gold,

And casts for it silver chains.

He who is too poor for such an offering,

Chooses a tree that will not rot.

He seeks for himself a skilful craftsman,

To set up a graven image that will not be moved.’

There is nothing that can compare with God. The gods of the nations certainly cannot be compared with God, for they are man-made. Such an idea is to be dismissed with contempt. They may be splendid, or they may be sturdy, but they will not be moved, either by themselves or by others. There they stay, lifeless and imprisoned on their bases. What care men take over them, and yet they are nothings. And their quality depends totally on whether their maker is rich or poor. (And besides, ‘the tree that will not rot’ will rot in the end). How then can they be compared with Him?

As often when idols are mentioned the description is pragmatic. The idea is that the worshippers may sense something beyond the idols, but that really there is nothing. Both Old and New Testament however go further and say that what lies behind them is devils (1 Corinthians 10:19-20; Deuteronomy 32:17).

He Is Supremely Great Beyond All Things and All Men, King Over All.

Isaiah 40:21-24

‘Have you not known? Have you not heard?

Has it not been told you from the beginning?

Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,

And its inhabitants are as grasshoppers,

Who stretches out the heavens as a curtain,

And spreads them out as a tent to dwell in.

Who brings princes to nothing,

He makes the judges of the earth as nought.

Yes, they have not been planted, yes, they have not been sown,

Yes, their stock has not taken root in the earth,

What is more he blows on them and they wither,

And the whirlwind takes them away as stubble.’

The questions are put to mankind as a whole going back to the beginning of time. They have known, and heard and been told right from the beginning, even from the foundations of the earth, that He is the One Who sits on high, the One Who is ‘out of this world’, on His throne. And to them there was only one way of getting out of this world, and that was upwards. God was above and beyond all that they knew. What a contrast to the idols fixed to their bases.

The circle of the earth probably has in mind the course of the sun, rising from the east and setting in the west, and then going below the earth to arise again on the east. Or it could refer to the circle of the horizon. We should not read into this scientific ideas, even ancient scientific ideas. Few asked those kinds of questions. They described what they saw. Such questions were for Babylonian priests who did engage in such speculation, not for small country savants. No one in Judah would have a theory about the world, other than that they knew that God had made the world. They knew that He had made it as it was and they simply described it as they saw it without speculating.

‘Its inhabitants are as grasshoppers.’ This description may have arisen because they knew what the men below looked like from a mountain top, like a bunch of grasshoppers, and knew that God looked down from even higher. Or it may simply be a way of describing man as tiny compared with God.

‘Who stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in. Who brings princes to nothing, He makes the judges of the earth as nought.’ That is, God uses the whole known universe as His tent, a temporary accommodation whenever He needs it. What is more, compared with Him great princes and judges are nothings. They count for nothing in the presence of the Judge of all the earth Who always does what is right and needs no assistance in judging (Genesis 18:25).

‘Yes, they have not been planted, yes, they have not been sown, yes, their stock has not taken root in the earth. What is more He blows on them and they wither, and the whirlwind takes them away as stubble.’ Such prince and judges are transitory, here today and gone tomorrow. They are hardly planted, or sown, or take root when God blows so that they wither, and then as stubble the whirlwind takes them away. He is permanent, they are temporary. It is His wind and breath that controls all things.

The main purpose behind all this is to describe the greatness of the Creator and the minuteness of those whom He has created, specially those whom men fear, and to put them into the context of the magnificence of God.

Isaiah 40:25

“To whom then will you liken me, that I should be equal to him?” says the Holy One.’

God challenges them to produce an equal to Him, someone whom they can remotely compare with Him. Someone who is as unique and set apart as He. There is no one that they can even begin to think of, for He istheHoly One.

Isaiah 40:26

‘Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these,

Who brings out their host by number.

He calls them all by name.

By the greatness of his might,

And because he is strong in power, not one is lacking.’

He calls on them to survey the stars, the host of heaven. They are all His creation. He simply calls them ‘these’. We can compare how the creation story dismissed them in a phrase, ‘He made the stars also’ (Genesis 1:16). But when the sky is full of stars it is He Who has brought them out. And He has a name for every one of them (Psalms 147:4). The naming of a thing indicated ownership by the One Who named. Thus God is claiming that every one of the stars is His. And they are all there, with none missing, because of His mighty power. Whatever men may think and say, they are all His and He has named each one.

‘‘Lift up your eyes on high.’ Compare here Deuteronomy 4:19 where the verb is used of those who lift up their eyes to heaven to worship the star-gods. What folly! Here they are to lift up their eyes above the heavens to see the Creator of the stars, to Whom all the stars belong.

‘Who brings out their host.’ The word for ‘bring out’ is a military term, as is clear from Isaiah 43:17 and 2 Samuel 5:2. It is similarly applied the host of heaven in Job 38:32. The sense is that the stars are like an army which its leader ‘brings out’ and enumerates.

Israel Cannot Hide Their Ways from God.

Isaiah 40:27

‘Why do you say, O Jacob,

And speak, O Israel, saying

“My way is hid from Yahweh,

And my case is being disregarded by my God.” ’

We note the first use of Jacob/Israel in this chapter, which continues its use from earlier, and is characteristic of the next few chapters. Isaiah does not see God as addressing the refugees of Judah only, He is addressing all Israel wherever they may be. His people are declaring that God does not know their situation, that He has ceased to make judgments concerning them. That their case is continually disregarded by Him. That many of them are scattered in different parts of the world (Isaiah 11:11), and that God neither knows nor cares. The cities of Judah may have had declared to them what God is going to do, but, they ask, what about the remainder?

‘O Jacob -- O Israel.’ The combination of names is a reminder of how Jacob met God as he was returning to the land, and how he became Israel, of how Jacob the supplanter became Israel the prince with God. But now the people, whether Jacob or Israel are discouraged and discontented. They have lost their vision.

‘Why do you say?’ God is upset at their attitude, and He asks them why they say this in the light of the facts. It is in fact not He Who is at fault, but they. He points out that if they had waited on Him, had trusted in Him, it would be different.

Isaiah 40:28

‘Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The everlasting God, Yahweh, the Creator of the ends of the earth,

Does not faint, nor is weary.

There is no searching of his understanding.’

His first challenge concerns Himself. Do they not recognise Whom He is? They should have known. They should have heard. But the implication is that they have not. Then He explains. He is the everlasting God, He is Yahweh the Creator of the ends of the earth. Thus He knows all that goes on in the world. And as the Everlasting One and the Creator of life itself He neither faints nor grows weary. He is always on the alert, always aware of what is going on. And He knows and understands everything. Nor can anyone even begin to search out His understanding. He is the all alive One, the living God.

Isaiah 40:29

‘He gives power to the faint,

And to him who has no might he increases strength.’

If they had only trusted in Him and waited on Him (Isaiah 40:31) they would have discovered that He did know their circumstances, and that He was there to act. For to those who are faint, and who trust in Him, He gives power. To those who have no might, but trust in Him, He gives strength. And they should have known it. And if they would only trust in Him now they would enjoy what He has promised, and He would be able to bring about His purposes through them.

Isaiah 40:30-31

‘Even the youths will be faint and be weary,

And the young men will utterly fail.

But those who wait on Yahweh will renew their strength,

They will mount up with wings as eagles,

They will run and not be weary,

They will walk and not faint.’

What they must do is recognise the power of their God, and turn from sin, and seek Him. Let them wait on Him. And then, even when the youths are fainting and are weary, and the young men at the peak of their powers are failing under the pressure, those who are trusting God will discover that by waiting on God they will fly like eagles, they will run without losing strength, they will walk without fainting. The eagle was famous for the height to which it flew, mounting into the skies until it was only a dark speck. So would rise those who waited on Yahweh, above the world and all its problems, to share their lives with God (compare Isaiah 60:8; Psalms 55:6). The runner was the messenger, enduring, keeping on running because he had an important message to take. The runner who ran in Yahweh’s name would never grow weary. And the walker was the one who went about the ordinary affairs of life. ‘Walk’ is regularly used to describe the path of the righteous. The one who waited on God would walk and not faint.

So the offer of God is available. They have been faced with God, ‘Behold your God’ (Isaiah 40:9). He is there ready to reveal Himself, to come among men in His glory (Isaiah 40:1-11). He has revealed the greatness of What He is (Isaiah 40:12-26). Let them but respond and His final purposes will come about, and He will give them the strength needed to participate. And the offer is to all both near and far. The whole chapter is a call to Judah and Israel, both near and far, to repent and respond. It is also a vision of what one day will be. First when men behold God in Jesus Christ (John 1:14), and respond to Him. And then in the final day when they will truly mount up on wings as eagles, meeting the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), ever to be with Him.

We may rightly see in this chapter an expansion of Isaiah 6. But here we have, not the Lord seated on His throne, but the Lord enthroned over all things,

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/isaiah-40.html. 2013.

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