Isaiah 40: Comfort for the Lord’s People, Especially in the Form of John the Baptist

(31 verses, 5:02 to read)

READ & LISTEN

What I am about to READ

  • Isaiah 40 is a beautiful chapter full of comfort; one of the most quoted Old Testament chapters in the New Testament. It is full of promises, full of theology, and full of peace.

MARK

  • 40:1-5, A Preaching of Comfort and Promise of John the Baptist
  • 40:6-8, The Word of the Lord Stands
  • 40:9-26, God our Great Good Shepherd
  • 40:27-31, Wait on the Lord

LEARN

  • There is so much in this chapter. I’ll simply make a few notes here. I would suggest reading through the chapter, then these notes, then the chapter again.
  • 1-2: “Comfort my people.” The prophets could preach judgment, but it was always driving towards repentance and faith, that it, the end and goal was salvation and comfort. The comfort for Israel is two-fold, an end of her warfare and the forgiveness of her sins. The end of verse 2 is a riddle, “She has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.” The “double” is an indication of the imputed righteousness of Christ; not only has the Lord taken away our sins, He has added to us the perfection of Christ.
  • 3-5: “The Voice” is John the Baptist. This verse is quoted in Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:3, Luke 3:4-6, and John 1:23. Notice that John is not the “one crying”, but “the voice of one crying.” John, as a prophet, is the voice of God. His preaching is a preaching of repentance for preparation. The mountains are brought down by the preaching of the law, and the valleys are lifted up in the preaching of the Gospel. “The glory of the Lord” is Jesus, and specifically His cross.
  • 6-8, “All flesh is grass” This section tells us of the content of John’s preaching, but even more, of the content of the preaching of the prophets in general. The frailty of our humanity is contrasted with the sturdiness of God’s Word. This verse is quoted in 1 Peter 1:24 and alluded to in James 1:10. “The Word of the Lord endures forever” became the motto for the league of Lutheran states (the Smalcald League), and the first letters of the words (in Latin, “Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum”) became this familiar logo: 
  • 9-11, “Behold your God” The preaching of John the Baptist continues, and notice, as he directs the people toward Jesus they are not only beholding their “savior” but also their “God.” Jesus is God in the flesh. He “will feed His flock like a shepherd.” The image of the Lord as a Good Shepherd runs throughout the Scriptures, and is a profound image of comfort and peace. The preaching that God is our good shepherd finds its fullness in John 10, where the Good Shepherd Himself promises to lay down His life for the sheep.
  • 12-17, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand?” The six questions in verses 12-14 are intended to teach the greatness and majesty of God. This is a theme of Isaiah’s preaching. God is the Creator, the Almighty; He is God alone. The people of Israel were tempted to fear the nations around them (which seemed to them great and mighty), but Isaiah puts this all in perspective. “The nations are a drop in the bucket,” nothing to be afraid of. Passages like this remind us that all the things we are tempted to fear: sin, death, the devil, that these are also nothing to our Great God and Savior. Verse 13 is quoted by Paul in his beautiful doxology in Romans 11:34-35.
  • 18-31, a note on the structure… We see four sections in this last portion of the chapter, all developing a strong theme of the great goodness of the Lord. “To whom will you liken…” begins to sections, 18-20 and 25-26. “Have you not known?” begins two sections, 21-24 and 27-31.
  • 18-20, The idols are made by craftsmen. The Lord is the creator of all things. These cannot be compared to one another.
  • 21-24, The earth’s “inhabitants are like grasshoppers.” This, again, is a clear picture. The Lord is great. He is Almighty. This is bad news if God is against you, and good news if He is for you. It turns out, Isaiah is reminding the people, that God is for the repentant and against the enemies of His Word.
  • 25-26, “To whom then will you like Me?” God is asking the question this time (compare to verse 18). He is the Creator, and that sets Him completely apart from His creation. Again, this entire section is driving home the greatness of God for the people’s comfort, and this reaches a crescendo in the last section:
  • 27-31, The people are tempted, thinking that God has forgotten them, but this is impossible. This marvelous chapter ends with a flurry of promises:

The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

  • These promises, dear friends, are for us!

MEDITATE

  • We fear so many things. Isaiah puts before us the picture of God’s majesty, and says, “Fear God, and He will take care of you.” In this chapter we see the connection between the fear of God and faith in God. When we know that He sits on the circle of the earth, that He holds the oceans in the hollow of His hand, and that He shepherds His people, then we cast aside our fear of all earthly enemies, and trust in God to keep us in this life and to the life to come.

Thoughts? Questions? Join the conversation in our facebook group here.

Lord’s Blessings,
Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller
Hope Lutheran Church, Aurora, CO

 

 

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