Isaiah 40
Isaiah 40 Kingcomments Bible Studies


Overview main part 2.1 – Isaiah 40-48

The sovereignty and promise of the LORD

The first part of the second main part (Isaiah 40-66) includes Isaiah 40-48 and can be divided as follows:
1. Good news for Jerusalem (Isaiah 40:1-11)
2. God, the Incomparable (Isaiah 40:12-31)
3. God, the Lord of history for His people (Isaiah 41:1-29)
4. The Servant of the LORD (Isaiah 42:1-25)
5. Grace abundant and despised (Isaiah 43:1-28)
6. Israel’s great God and the folly of idolatry (Isaiah 44:1-23)
7. God’s acts through Cyrus for Jerusalem (Isaiah 44:24-45:25)
8. The useless idols and the LORD Almighty (Isaiah 46:1-13)
9. The fall of the proud Babylon (Isaiah 47:1-15)
10. God’s purpose of grace (Isaiah 48:1-22)

Introduction to Isaiah 40

With Isaiah 40 begins the second great main part of Isaiah that continues to the end of the book. This second main part begins with the promise of the forerunner, John the baptist (Isa 40:3), and ends with the new heaven and the new earth (Isa 66:22).

The first main part focuses especially on the past history of Israel and its future, as well as those of the nations with which it has to deal. It is about the work of God to deliver Israel as a people from the power of the nations – represented by Assyria – and the restoration of Israel as a nation. In the second main part it is mainly about the work of God in the heart, to make the heart turn to Him. For this the people must be delivered from the power of Babylon, prophetically the religious power of the future.

This second main part can be divided into three parts. Each part contains nine chapters:
1. Isaiah 40-48
2. Isaiah 49-57
3. Isaiah 58-66

The subject through all these chapters is twofold. They contain the call to repentance and the promise of salvation. In connection with the first subject, the call to repentance, each part concludes with an earnest warning to the wicked (Isa 48:22; Isa 57:21; Isa 66:24). This same warning marks the division into three parts of nine chapters each.

The call to repentance is based on the faithfulness of God. God remains faithful despite our unfaithfulness. This is shown in Isaiah 7-39. For everyone who wants to trust Him, like King Hezekiah (Isa 37:1-4; 14-20), there is always salvation. The same goes for Israel (Isa 44:24-26). Serving the LORD is only possible for Israel if the people learn to trust in the undeserved grace of God, a God Who, despite their disobedience, offers salvation without money and without price (Isa 55:1).

In the first part, Isaiah 40-48, the prophet speaks to the people because of their idolatry. He presents two contrasts to the people:
1. the contrast between the LORD God of Israel and the idols, and
2. the contrast between Israel and the nations.
Idolatry is the first great sin of Israel, especially of the ten tribes realm.

In the second part, Isaiah 49-57, his indictment is that they rejected the Messiah. In this part he presents the contrast between the suffering of the Servant of the LORD and His future glory. The rejection of the Messiah is the second great sin of Israel, especially of the two tribes realm, Judah.

In the third part, Isaiah 58-66, he shows the contrast between the hypocrites and rebels, the apostates who follow the antichrist, and the faithful and persecuted, the believing remnant of Israel.

In each of the three parts we see an aspect of the actions of the triune God:
1. The Person of the Savior – presented by God (Isaiah 40-48).
2. The work of salvation – performed by the Son, the perfect Servant of the LORD (Isaiah 49-57).
3. The salvation – effected by the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 58-66).

God’s actions for Israel will take place in grace and love (cf. Jer 31:2-3). In this second main part of Isaiah we see the result of these actions of God in the hearts of the believing remnant of Israel.

The first part (Isaiah 40-48) speaks of several glories. We read about the glory
1. of the LORD (Isaiah 40; see Isa 40:5),
2. of His counsel (Isaiah 41),
3. of His grace (Isaiah 42-43; see Isa 43:25),
4. of His promises (Isaiah 44-45) and
5. of His power (Isaiah 46-48).

The famous, unparalleled Isaiah 53 is the middle chapter of the second (middle) part of these three parts of Isaiah.

Since it is clear from the first part of Isaiah (Isaiah 1-39) how the true condition of the people of Israel is, the question arises whether this is the end of the book of Isaiah. Does the judgment on Israel – Maher-shalal-hash-baz, means ‘swift is the booty, speedy is the prey’, the name of the second son of Isaiah (Isa 8:1) – have the last word? The answer is a surprising one. God is not a God with whom judgment has the last word. He is a God of salvation – after all, that is the meaning of the name ‘Isaiah’. This is now shown in the second part of Isaiah, Isaiah 40-66, where the meaning of the name of the first son of Isaiah, Shear-jashub (Isa 7:3) – meaning ‘a remnant will return’ – will be fulfilled.

Isa 40:1-11 are the introduction to a new section. In four balanced stanzas a foundation is laid for the message given to us in the rest of the book. In it we see confirmed that from now on the message is not judgment, but
1. the restoration of Israel (Isa 40:1-2);
2. that restoration is a personal intervention of God (Isa 40:3-5);
3. that no power of men will be able to stop it (Isa 40:6-8);
4. that thereby the gospel of God’s power and mercy is proclaimed (Isa 40:9-11).

Comfort for God’s People

These verses are in fact the title of the second main part of the book. This chapter begins with words that are a great encouragement to the suffering faithful remnant now and also prophetic in the great tribulation. The prophet Isaiah is instructed to comfort the people of God. God wants to comfort His people through His prophets (cf. 1Cor 14:3). They are comforted by their God Who knows the urgent need for this (Isa 40:1). Hence the repetition of the word ‘comfort’. It is the fulfillment of the promise of Isaiah 12 (Isa 12:1).

Comfort literally means ‘deep sighing, relief’. That is why this second part of Isaiah is also called ‘the Book of Comfort’ with Isaiah 53 as the center and climax. It is also telling that the dwelling place of the Lord Jesus on earth is the village of Capernaum. Capernaum means ‘village of comfort’. The words “says your God” mean that this comfort is only promised to those who are in relation to God, to whom “your God” can be said. These words also imply the certainty of comfort because God says it.

The order of comfort is emphasized by adding to “speak kindly to Jerusalem”, literally it says “speak to the heart of Jerusalem”. This means that comfort must be spoken to Jerusalem because God wants to win the heart through comfort (Isa 40:2; cf. Gen 50:21; Rth 2:13; Hos 2:14). For the time of her suffering is almost ended and her iniquity is removed. The punishment is almost over and she will soon be able to go out freely, away from Babylon, back to God’s land and city.

The call “call out to her” has the meaning “declare!”, “proclaim!” Then three things are mentioned:

1. The time of her suffering is accomplished. The punishment – that is time of suffering, battle, originally: military service – is over and she can go out freely, away from Babylon, back to God’s land and city.

2. Her iniquity has been removed – “He was crushed for our iniquities” (Isa 53:5a).

3. She has received double for all her sins – the exile and the great tribulation have done their work in heart and conscience, as it did with Joseph’s brothers in prison (Genesis 44-45).

The foundation for the removing (or: atonement) will be laid by the Lord Jesus, the Servant of the LORD, on the cross (Isa 53:1-12). God’s holiness is satisfied through the atonement that will be made through the work of His Son, of which the value to Him is predetermined. Because of this, He can also allow to let the sins previously committed go unpunished (Rom 3:25). Now that she has acknowledged her iniquity, there is complete forgiveness.

She has received for “all her sins”. There is nothing more that requires judgment. That she has “received double” for her sins – that is, that she has received the full what she deserved (Isa 61:7; Jer 16:18) – is in accordance with the law (Exo 22:4). There is not only loss of property to be compensated for, but there is also emotional damage – God is dishonored – to be met. It may mean here that judgment has been exercised to the fullest extent on the double sin she has committed: idolatry (Isaiah 40-48) and rejection of the LORD and His law and Word (Isaiah 49-57). Instead of this, there is a double comfort: “Comfort, O comfort.”

In the New Testament God reveals Himself as Comforter in three Persons. God the Father is the “God of all comfort” (2Cor 1:3). The Holy Spirit is called “Comforter” several times by the Lord Jesus (Jn 14:16; 26; Jn 15:26; Jn 16:7; “Helper” is “Comforter”). The Lord Jesus is also called the Comforter. The word “Advocate” in 1 John 2 can also be translated as “Comforter” (1Jn 2:1). Also the fact that the Lord calls the Holy Spirit “another Comforter” (Jn 14:16), means that the Lord Jesus is the Comforter for His disciples until the coming of the Holy Spirit.

The hallmark of the Lord Jesus is “to comfort all who mourn” (Isa 61:2b). Thus, in our way on earth, we may rejoice in the great privilege of the enduring presence of the triune God Who comforts us when we experience disappointments.

In the end time there is also a double suffering of the remnant. The people have been in exile for many centuries now. Many have already returned to the land, many will return. Only now everything is still happening in unbelief. Because of the rejection of the Messiah and leading idolatry at its peak in accepting the antichrist, a man who declares himself to be God and erects an image to the beast in the temple (Rev 13:14), the people will experience another terrible time. That time is known as ‘the great tribulation’.

God will gather the nations against His people and discipline His people through the nations. Under that discipline, the believing remnant will suffer as much as the wicked mass. But the remnant will suffer double. They will suffer both from the enemies who are invading the land from outside of Israel and from the antichrist and the ungodly mass who are inside of Israel. In the realm of peace this remnant will receive double compensation (Isa 61:7).

Clear the Way for the LORD

The comfort of Isa 40:1 is not based on the good works of the people. It is also not because the exile has been long enough and the punishment has been sufficiently suffered. No, the comfort comes from the personal coming and intervention of the LORD: their God comes (Isa 40:3)!

The return of a remnant from Babylon to the promised land is worked by the LORD (Ezra 1:1), so that the promised Messiah may be presented to His people. By a herald presented here as “a voice” that “is calling” the coming of the LORD can be announced, a coming by which the full blessing of God in the realm of peace can come to His people.

That is what we see happening in the Gospels. The blessing that is announced is that the kingdom of heaven has come near (Mt 3:2) because the promised King, the Messiah, has come and is about to appear in public. The herald is John the baptist. The four writers of the Gospels make this clear (Mt 3:1-3; Mk 1:1-4; Lk 1:76-78; Jn 1:23). We see through the quotation of Isa 40:3 in the New Testament that the Godhead of the Lord Jesus is clearly taught here by the prophet Isaiah.

“Clear” means ‘removal of obstacles’. The reception of the Messiah happens, in other words, not because the punishment is over, but by removing obstacles. “The way” is the way of salvation (Isa 11:16) and is similar to the deliverance out of Egypt. It is the highway for the LORD, not a literal one, but a spiritual one. On this way the LORD will come with redemption and salvation.

Their spiritual state is like “the wilderness”. It is the beginning of God’s work in the heart of the people when the people become aware of it. They are far from God and thirsty for Him (Psa 63:1b; Psa 42:1b-2).

However, the preaching of John the baptist has not been heard. Christ is rejected and therefore the promised kingdom of peace cannot be established. But He will “appear a second time” (Heb 9:28). This will happen in the end time.

“Every valley be lifted up” indicate all those who have been in the valley of humiliation and who will eventually be exalted in the realm of peace (Isa 40:4). It also applies to those who now humble themselves voluntarily (Jam 4:10; 1Pet 5:6; Lk 18:14; Job 5:11). Every mountain and hill be made low has the opposite meaning. All those who lift themselves up will be humiliated.

What is “rough ground”, uneven, will become “plain”, smooth and even. For example, there will no longer be speaking with double tongues. The intentions will be pure. What is “rugged terrain”, the rough places where nothing grows, will become a fertile “broad valley”. In places where no life is possible, everyone will be able to enjoy life as the LORD purposed.

In the preaching of John the baptist recorded by the evangelist Luke, Luke refers to these verses from Isaiah (Lk 3:4-6). Luke is the evangelist who shows that the grace of God has appeared to all men. In order to see that grace and share in it, there must be the right spiritual mind.

1. ”Every mountain and hill be made low” refers to the pride of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Lk 3:7-9). All who exalt themselves will be humbled.

2. What is ”rough ground” refers to the tax collectors who walk crooked ways because of greed for money. They will become a plain, a straight road if they do not collect more than has been ordered to them (Lk 3:5b; 12-13).

3. What is ”rugged terrain” or rough refers to the rough soldiers. John tells them how to become “smooth roads” (Lk 3:5b; 14).

In this changed situation, the glory of the LORD will become visible to “all flesh … together” in all creation, that is, to all who then live (Isa 40:5; Rev 1:7a). Then the words of the seraphim will be fulfilled: “The whole earth is full of His glory” (Isa 6:3).

Thus we see that
1. the return from Babylon is connected with
2. the time when the Lord Jesus comes to earth in humiliation, which because of His rejection is then connected with
3. His return in majesty to judge and rule.

The closing line of Isa 40:5, “for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken”, emphasizes the certainty of the things which are proclaimed here. These words are similar to the words of the Lord Jesus that we often hear in the Gospel according to John: “Truly, truly, I say to you.”

The Flesh Opposite the Word of God

After describing the glorious state of things in Isa 40:3-5, another voice is heard, giving the command to call out (Isa 40:6). As a reaction to this, the question sounds, what should be called out. The first calling out, in Isa 40:3, has as contents the glory and splendor of the LORD. This second calling out has as content the nullity of man.

The answer to the question of what to call out is twofold. A twofold statement must be made. On the one hand, the perishableness of the flesh is proclaimed; on the other hand, the imperishableness of the Word of God is proclaimed (Isa 40:7-8; 1Pet 1:23-25). What God says, He is (Jn 8:25). Hence, just as He Himself is eternal, His Word is eternal. The Word is also a Person (Jn 1:1; Rev 19:13).

All the glory on which the unbelievers of Israel boast will perish, while what God has said and Who He is will stand forever. God’s Word is fulfilled to the smallest letter (Mt 5:18). The unbelieving mass will wither like the grass. This is a well-known picture in Israel of the effects of the hot wind from the wilderness, the so-called chamsin. When this wind blows, within two days everything that grows and blossoms is withered. That is what becomes of man without God.

To the believer it is an encouragement to know that the Word of God remains as the unshakeable support when all support in man and from man is lost. The contrast between man’s perishable nature and the imperishable Word of God cannot be presented more strongly.

Behold, Here Is Your God

Now that everything is turned for the better for Zion, that is Jerusalem, Zion is called to climb on a high mountain (Isa 40:9). In the realm of peace, Mount Zion will be the highest of all mountains (Isa 2:2), while all of Judah will be like a plain (Zec 14:10). The proclamation of the gospel will come from Jerusalem (Acts 1:8). This is about the good message that God Himself has come to redeem Israel. Zion may pass this message on to the other cities of Judah. Jerusalem in the Old Testament is the starting point for the revelation of the glory of God.

Through the rejection of the Lord Jesus, God’s glory has disappeared from Jerusalem (Eze 10:4; 18-19; Eze 11:22-23). But now God has returned in Christ. Of this they must, with strength and without fear (cf. 2Tim 1:7), herald the joyous message to all the cities of Judah. They may proclaim it: “Here is your God!” or “Behold your God!” (Darby Translation). It is the great message that the Messiah, Who is God, has come to His people and has delivered Zion. The prayer of Psalm 14 has been answered (Psa 14:7)! From Zion comes the Savior (Rom 11:26).

We also see the call “behold” concerning the Lord Jesus in other places, some of which we can connect with the way He is presented in the Gospels:

1. Here we read: “Behold your God” (Isa 40:9). This refers to the Gospel according to John, where we see the Lord Jesus as God the Son.

2. We will hear again: “Behold, My Servant” (Isa 42:1). This reminds us of the Gospel according to Mark, where He is presented as the Servant.

3. Then we also hear: “Behold, a man whose name is Branch” (Zec 6:12). This reminds us of the fact that He is truly Man, Whom we meet especially in the Gospel according to Luke.

4. Finally, it sounds: “Behold, your king is coming to you” (Zec 9:9). This determines us at the Gospel according to Matthew, in which He is described as King.

After the first “behold” in Isa 40:9, two times another “behold” follows in Isa 40:10 as an assurance that the Savior really has come. Through the one “behold” the eye of the cities of Judah is directed toward Him Himself, “the Lord GOD”. He will also show His power for them and they will experience that He takes His dominion. The other ‘behold’ draws attention to what He has with Him. He has “His reward” with Him for the faithful, and for the enemies of His people He has “His recompense” with Him. He is the Conqueror, He is the Judge.

These three times ‘behold’ also show us that Israel will get to know Christ in three ways:

1. “Behold your God.” When Christ is revealed to Israel, the people will realize that Christ is the God of Israel. Now Israel denies the Godhead of the Lord Jesus, but then the veil will be removed from their faces. In that day, the people will be very willing (Psa 110:3). Like Thomas, who is a picture of the faithful remnant of Israel, they will come to the confession: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).

2. “Behold, the Lord GOD.” With might He will come, and His arm will rule. Israel will also discover that the Lord Jesus is also the sovereign Ruler, the “Lord” (Adonai), the King of Israel and the King of kings, and “GOD” or the “LORD” (Yahweh), the God Who fulfills all His promises. Like Nathanael, who is also a picture of the faithful remnant of Israel, they will acknowledge: “You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel” (Jn 1:49).

3. “Behold, His reward is with Him, … like a shepherd …” (cf. 1Pet 5:4). The remnant of Israel will also discover that the Lord Jesus is the true “good Shepherd” and the “great Shepherd” of Israel (Jn 10:11; Heb 13:20). At His first coming, He comes as the good Shepherd, but is rejected by Israel. Then He gives His life for His sheep, who are scattered (Jn 11:52). At His return He will be the great Shepherd, risen from the dead, and will gather the little ones, the remnant, to Himself (Zec 13:7).

When the LORD comes and the call “behold your God” sounds, we see
1. how Israel has received double from the hand of the LORD for all their sins (Isa 40:2);
2. how the mouth of the LORD gives the assurance that His glory will be visible (Isa 40:4);
3. how the breath of the LORD will destroy all enemies and all unbelief (Isa 40:6);
4. how the arm of the LORD grants salvation and at the same time tenderly cares for His sheep (Isa 40:8).

“Like a shepherd” He will gather all His scattered sheep together and surround them with particular care (Isa 40:11; Jn 10:11-16). He will “tend” His flock, so that the sheep may be given rest and food. He will “gather” the little ones and the vulnerable in His loving and all-powerful arms to protect them.

He will lead the “nursing”, those who are to feed the young, with all gentleness, without rushing them (cf. Gen 33:13-14). Thus, for each member of the God-fearing remnant, He has the attention that fits the stage of spiritual growth.

We find here an example for those entrusted today with the care of God’s flock (1Pet 5:2-3). It takes a lot of dedication and discernment to follow this example of the Lord Jesus in dealing with the various categories that make up the flock. The Lord teaches us the need to deal with those entrusted to our care with tender compassion and grace (cf. Jn 21:15-17).

God Can’t Be Compared to Anyone

Isa 40:1-11 form the prologue of this second main part of the book of Isaiah. In it we see Who He is Who intervenes for the redemption and comfort of His people. From Isa 40:12 onward the prophet testifies of the incomparable features of their Creator-God Who cares for them. They need to become aware of His infinite greatness, attributes and power.

Thus Isaiah presents Him in contrast to the idols of the peoples around them that they have served (Isa 40:15-17) and to the nature of the idols and their makers (Isa 40:18-20). This leads to a renewal of comforting certainties (Isa 40:29-31). In the light of the majesty of God it becomes clear how insignificant the idols are. So it goes with the gospel. When the Lord Jesus is presented, everything else pales because nothing gives the satisfaction He gives.

In Isa 40:12-14 Isaiah asks two series of questions. The first series is about God’s omnipotence (Isa 40:12) and the second series about God’s omniscience (Isa 40:13-14). First he gives some examples of God’s omnipotence (Isa 40:12) opposite to the smallness of man:

1. What can the hollowness of a human hand contain of water? A few milliliters? God measures in the hollow of His hand all oceans and other areas of water.

2. What can a man measure with a span, that is the distance between thumb and little finger? About twenty centimeters? God marked off the whole expanse of heaven.

3. What is the content of a human measure? A few liters? In the measure of God goes all the dust of the earth.

4. What can a human being weigh on a scale? A few kilograms? God determines the weight of mountains and hills and thus regulates the balance of the earth.

God’s omnipotence is immeasurably great and impressively far exalted above man, whose possibilities and power, compared to this, are totally insignificant and disappear into nothingness. This is further emphasized by the fact that in Hebrew the verb for ‘measuring’ (Isa 40:12) and ‘directed’ (Isa 40:13) is the same. The question is therefore: Man, who is not even able to measure creation (the waters), does he want to try to measure the Creator, the Spirit of the LORD?

God’s omniscience is just as far exalted above man’s knowing (Isa 40:13-14):

1. Is there outside the Spirit of the LORD a standard by which He can act, someone who tells Him what to do and how to do it?

2. Does He need education from someone else in order to walk in the right way toward His goal?

What is said here of the Spirit of the LORD shows that He possesses a combination of the abilities of knowledge, wisdom and understanding. In other words: He does not need a ‘think tank’, a heavenly workgroup or daily board with whom He must consult and who advises Him. He Who is called “Wonderful” and “Counselor” (Isa 9:6) really does not need instruction from a counselor.

The questions are similar to some questions God asks Job (Job 40:6-9; Job 41:1-7). In the indicated sections God points out to Job the differences between man and (parts of) His creation. Here in Isaiah God compares Himself to man.

But He is exalted in still more things. He, as the Ruler of the nations, has absolute control over everything. This control never gives Him any problem and never gives Him any difficulty. It is with His control over the nations as with a drop on a bucket of water: that extra drop does not give the bearer any extra burden (Isa 40:15). It’s like with a dust that floats down on a pair of scales: the scales don’t move. With islands He acts as a speck of dust that is lifted by a gust of wind and thus blown away.

As the One Who is worthy of all worship, what is truly due to Him can never be brought to Him. Never can a human being make a sacrifice that fully expresses Who He is. All the wood of the forests on the Lebanon is simply not enough to serve as firewood and there are not enough beasts to be offered on it (Isa 40:16). The only wood that satisfies God is the wood of the cross of Calvary. No other offering than that of the body of Jesus Christ is of value to God. Whatever the privileged Jew might sacrifice Him, it always falls short of the glory of His Being. The nations do not count at all because of their depravity (Isa 40:17).

Is there anything to compare God with (Isa 40:18)? To ask the question is to answer it. The Creator can be compared with nothing of His creation. In simple and therefore powerful terms the majesty of the most high God is painted in this section.

The Nullity of an Idol

After Isaiah demonstrated the nullity of all human knowledge and ability in the light of God’s omnipotence and omniscience, he bitingly mocks the idols (Isa 40:19-20). He pours out his sarcasm on the idolaters and the idol worshipers. He shows how foolish it is to worship something from creation as a god.

He describes two idols. One idol is cast by a craftsman out of metal and covered with gold and decorated with silver. The other idol is of a poor man who goes with a piece of wood to a craftsman to turn it into an idol that doesn’t totter. Both idolaters use material that God has created and both idols are made by people with abilities that God has given them. God is the Creator of all things and all people and therefore can’t be compared to anyone! Surely it is foolishness at the top when tiny creatures think they can form the eternal God, isn’t it?

God’s Majesty

In Isa 40:21 Isaiah asks four questions. This is not about seeing, but about hearing. Hearing is connected with the Word of God (Isa 40:8), spoken through the mouth of the LORD (Isa 40:6). It is a contrast with Isa 40:19-20 where it is about seeing the idols. Isaiah asks his questions in a so-called ‘chiastic’ order, in which the first and the last belong together as do the middle two. This order is represented as follows: a, b, b, a. In Isa 40:21 the order is

a. know,
---b. heard,
---b. declared,
a. understood.

This way of presenting is a powerful way of teaching. Because of this, the questions penetrate deep into the conscience and force the person addressed to think carefully about them.

Those who do not know (a) from creation and acknowledge that God has laid the foundations of the earth, that He created everything – this is further demonstrated in Isa 40:22-26

will be deprived of the knowledge of His will through preaching (b) and

through declaration (b),

because his understanding is obscured (a).

The wonders of nature should work in us admiration for the Maker.

In Isa 40:22-24 Isaiah speaks alternately about God’s position, might and authority in the observable universe and the inhabitants of the earth. To Him heaven is like a curtain that He stretches out and like a tent that He spreads out so that one can dwell in it.

Those who dwell therein on earth are to Him like “grasshoppers” (cf. Num 13:33). Also the most powerful among them, the “rulers” and “judges”, are like nothing and become “meaningless”. They have predestined themselves or have been predestined by others to experience glorious growth and rise to great heights. Power, major influence and many governmental powers lie ahead. But a sudden intervention of His mighty hand puts an abrupt end to that coveted future (cf. Isa 11:4; 2Thes 2:8).

As in Isa 40:18, where the challenge sounds after showing the insignificance of the nations, in Isa 40:25 the challenge sounds after showing the finiteness of the inhabitants and the disappearance of the rulers. In Isa 40:18 Isaiah asks who can be compared to God. The answer is that He can be compared with nothing. In Isa 40:25 God Himself is speaking as “the Holy One” and asks the same question.

He Himself gives the answer and says that He can’t be compared to anyone, “to whom I would be [his] equal?” It is as if He says: It is a testimony of wisdom if you do not dare to make any comparison. It is not about His limitlessness and their nullity, but about His essential and absolute holiness and the self-destruction of His depraved and idolatrous people.

For the third time the people are reminded of the incomparable power of God as Creator (Isa 40:26). Earlier, God as Creator has been pointed out to them in order to impress upon them their own nullity (Isa 40:12) and to remind them of what they should have learned from creation (Isa 40:21-22). Now that reference to the Creator sounds like an order. They must look upward, into the universe. Then they see those countless celestial bodies, which in many religions are worshiped as gods. They are all placed and kept in their orbit by Him.

He also knows them all by name and commands them, they are all under His command. The celestial bodies do not exist and do not move exclusively through natural laws set by the Creator. The Son of God is also the maintaining Center, its Carrier and Ruler (Col 1:16-17). It is He Who “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb 1:3). Only an omnipotent God is able to do this.

The Eternal God Gives Strength to the Weary

If God is so mightily exalted above creation, His creation, could He not help those in need? Would we be worried about the plans of rulers on earth if He governs them? Therefore now comes a message of comfort for the remnant that prophetically tells their experiences that they are going through in the time of the great tribulation (Isa 40:27).

The believing remnant is addressed here first as Jacob and then as Israel. This is to remind them of their origins, of the meeting of their ancestor with the LORD in Pniel (Gen 32:24-31). That meeting changed Jacob’s life. There he becomes of a ‘heels holder’ – the meaning of the name Jacob – a ‘prince or warrior of God’ – the meaning of the name Israel. And when does that happen? It happens when he begs for mercy (Hos 12:5).

It seemed that God had given them up to the enemy and no longer thought of them. They thought that their way through the great tribulation was hidden from Him or overlooked by Him. But wouldn’t He, Who shows the planets their way, know their way? They thought that He had no regard for their justice and that He had handed them over to enemies full of injustice. But would He, who blows away rulers and governors, withhold the justice from His remnant who trusts in Him?

The considerations expressed in this verse may also be ours. We ask ourselves: ‘Why does God allow it? Does He lack power? Is He not interested in us?’

The thought that He would leave them to their fate is unfounded. The double question of Isa 40:28, the same as in Isa 40:21, must also convince them of this. If we are overwhelmed by despair under the pressure of circumstances, we have to get back to the facts we accepted when we came to faith. We may also draw courage from our experiences of God’s mercies on previous occasions. He, the Creator of all things, is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8).

With the same power with which He created the worlds, He is at our disposal. He never gets tired, let alone overtired. His understanding, too, is inscrutable and that is why He knows us and our circumstances. He not only knows our greatest trials, whether they come from within or outside us, but they are under His absolute control. He determines in His wisdom the time and manner of His intervention and our deliverance and that is different and higher than our wisdom.

Instead of getting tired He gives strength to the tired (Isa 40:29). What we must do is open our hearts to receive strength. He is always ready to give it to us when we undergo trials. Then He changes times of trial into times of blessing. His purpose is that we are aware of our own powerlessness, so that we appeal to His power instead of becoming desperate under oppression.

Even the strongest cannot be sure that he will always be free of weariness (Isa 40:30). That weariness can turn into despondency when the prospect of salvation and the view on the Savior are obstructed. An obstacle on his way can also make him stumble. A sudden event can lead to despondency. The only strength that is inexhaustible and keeps him from stumbling and falling is the awaiting looking up to the LORD (Isa 40:31).

Waiting for the Lord is not just a matter of patience or even desire, but above all that our hope for His outcome is characterized by trust. Then we go “from strength to strength” (Psa 84:6-8), constantly drawing from the source of His power. With wings we rise above the difficulties, to rise above the fog and darkness of the earth and to come into the bright sunlight of God’s presence.

A characteristic of “eagles” is that their plumage is regularly renewed. This is a beautiful picture of the drawing of new strength by those who wait for the LORD (cf. Psa 103:5). Other characteristics of an eagle are speed, sharp smell and a sharp eye. Going up is therefore not only that we rise above the difficulties, but also that we quickly gain insight into the will and the way of God with a sharp eye on Him Himself through faith. If that is our expectation, we will “run”, which assumes effort, but “not get tired”. We will also “walk”, which presupposes fellowship and “not become weary” of it.

© 2023 Author G. de Koning

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Isaiah 39
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