113-140 Isaiah Chapter 40
The Greatness of God
In the previous chapters of Isaiah, there were some words of comfort for the people but there was a large amount of Scripture on the Judgment of God for the people. Beginning with chapter 40 the tone of Isaiah’s message shift to comfort and blessing and the glory of God. Chapter 39 ended with the announcement that the Babylonians would come to Jerusalem and exile the Israelite people. “The announcement that the Babylonians would someday capture Jerusalem and take the people into exile was a bitter blow. How could Judah celebrate the downfall of Assyria when everyone knew that a more powerful invader was on the way?” (Wolf)
There are three sections to the book of Isaiah. Chapters 1-35 are the prophetic books and speak of condemnation. Then chapters 36-39 are historic and they speak of confiscation. Then chapters 40-66 are the messianic chapters and speak of the consolation.
Isaiah had been warning God’s people with His instructions but God also wanted the people to receive His comfort. In 2 Corinthians 1:3 Paul speaks of the Lord as the God of comfort. God wants His messengers to speak His word but to also deliver comfort to His people. In any group of people hearing God’s word, there is always those who have hurting hearts and also need to hear words of comfort from God.
Isaiah is told by the Lord to speak words of comfort to Jerusalem as this was a need of the people. This means that God wants to comfort His people. The Lord’s comfort is not a hollow positive message but is a comforting message that gives reason to their hope. God’s comfort is delivered with tender words that are spoken to the heart. “Speak to the heart’, like a young man wooing his girl (Gen_34:3).” (Motyer)
As Isaiah spoke these words to the people there was still an army standing against them but as far as God was concerned the warfare had ended. This truth was a good reason for the people to find comfort. It is the same as when the Lord speaks to us and tells us that we can be more than conquerors through Christ who loved us. (Romans 8:37) We still have the enemy against us but those of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ our warfare has ended. “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
Jerusalem was aware of her sins but Isaiah gives the people comfort that the day when her iniquity can be pardoned. This is the essence of comfort knowing that we are sinners and yet the day is coming when that iniquity can be pardoned. Isaiah speaks of the bases for their pardon that their sins can be completely paid for. In Old Testament words Jerusalem bears the curse for their disobedience described in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. Now in the New Testament, our sins are pardoned for the same reason, they have been paid for. This is a great comfort. “Double means ‘to fold over, fold in half’ (Exo_26:9) . . . When something is folded over, each half corresponds exactly with the other half, and this would yield the thought of exact correspondence between sin and payment.” (Motyer)
God does not overlook our sinful behavior, as this would make Him unrighteous, something that God cannot be. For us, it is not we who have received double for all our sins but our Savior Jesus Christ who received the cup of wrath double for our sins.
Isaiah now speaks of the Lord’s messenger who cries out from the barren places. Isaiah is saying that we are to prepare the way for our triumphant King that is coming for His people. The King must have the way prepared and made straight that He can travel with ease and glory. All obstacles must be removed from His path. Isaiah is giving us a word picture as the real preparation must take place in our hearts. We must clear the road to our hearts of all sinful obstacles.
When the heart is prepared to receive the Lord then His glory will be revealed to us. It will be revealed to all mankind, all flesh and not only to Jerusalem and Judah but to every prepared heart. Verses 3-5 are fulfilled in the New Testament in the person and ministry of John the Baptist. Zacharias his father knew this at the time of John the Baptist’s birth. (Luke 1:76) Jesus was the Messiah and the King and John the Baptist was the one crying in the wilderness. His message was one of repentance to prepare the way of the Lord.
The voice crying from the wilderness knew that he had important work to do but wanted to know what exactly his message was to be. The message is the frailty of man. Isaiah sees the beauty of the grass on the hills of Judah and how quickly it dries and becomes brown. So it is with a man who is frail and weak as his beauty is fleeting.
Man is fleeting but the message of God is permanence. God’s Word stands forever. God’s Word has endured through the ages. It has survived manual transcription, persecution, changing philosophies, critics, neglect in the pulpits and the pews, and doubt and disbelief. Still, the Word of God stands forever.
“Written on material that perishes, having to be copied and recopied for hundreds of years before the invention of the printing press, did not diminish its style, correctness, nor existence. The Bible, compared with other ancient writings, has more manuscript evidence than any ten pieces of classical literature combined.” (Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict)
“Infidels for eighteen hundred years have been refuting and overthrowing this book, and yet it stands today solid as a rock. Its circulation increases and it is more loved and cherished and read today than ever before. Infidels, with all their assaults, make about as much impression on this book as a man with a tack hammer would on the Pyramids of Egypt. When the French monarch proposed a persecution of the Christians in his dominion, an old statesman and warrior said to him, ‘Sire, the Church of God is an anvil that has worn out many hammers.’ So the hammers of the infidels have been pecking away at this book for ages, but the hammers are worn out, and the anvil still endures. If this book had not been the book of God, men would have destroyed it long ago. Emperors and popes, kings and priests, princes and rulers have all tried their hand at it; they die and the book still lives.” (Hastings, cited in McDowell)
“A thousand times over, the death knell of the Bible has been sounded, the funeral procession formed, the inscription cut on the tombstone, and committal read. But somehow the corpse never stays put.” (Bernard Ramm, Protestant Christian Evidences)
The voice crying out from the wilderness was a voice that was to prepare the hearts of men for the coming of the Lord. The purpose was that they would see their weakness and fleeting glory in the contrast of God’s enduring Word. When we see the truth of God and His holiness we should be humbled and drawn to repentance that we could become more as He is our Creator. This approach certainly worked for John the Baptist. (Luke 3:7-18) The Apostle Peter made reference to this passage in his first letter. “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Peter 1:22-23) Peter makes the connection that the enduring word that Isaiah spoke of is the same word of the gospel that is preached and believed bringing salvation.
The application is that we have this eternal fruit bearing seed within us. Therefore we have the ability to have a sincere love towards our fellowmen. If we need more of this love towards others then we need to have more of the enduring word of God in our hearts.
The words that Isaiah spoke was so great, tidings that were so good, that it must be spoken from the mountaintop when as many people as possible could hear the message. The news of the Lord God is so great that the people should lift up their voices and shout it out for all to hear. This is the message that is so great an invitation to “Behold your God!” There is nothing for a believer than to study and know his God.
Knowing God is not just a passing glance of Him or just to acknowledge He exist but to behold Him our God. As we do when we desire anything of the world we are to study Him, it is a desire to know Him and His character and to love Him and become as He is. As witnesses for His sake it is important that we know His message that others may hear from us. When we speak to people of God we must help them to behold our God.
We should behold God and the truth that one day He shall return to the earth. When He comes He shall come with great power. When the Lord comes He will compensate us for our deeds here. He will inspect the work we have done before Him. “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12)
Our God to behold is like a shepherd. The Good Shepherd will feed His flock. He will do this by leading His sheep to the good pasture. In spite of man thinks he must be directed to proper feeding. “No creature has less power to take care of itself than the sheep; even the tiny ant with its foresight can provide for the evil day, but this poor creature must be tended by man or else perish.” (Spurgeon) It is easy to identify God as a shepherd of His people. Many of the greatest men in the Bible were shepherds. These men as shepherds point to the Lord Jesus Christ. Some of these men are Abel as the sacrificed shepherd, Jacob as the working shepherd, Joseph as the persecuted and exalted shepherd, Moses as the shepherd that led his people out of Egypt, and David as the shepherd king.
The Lord shows the lamb’s special care, as they are the youngest and the weakest, they are given special care from the shepherd. He will gather them together and then carry them in His bosom. “To carry is kindness, but to carry in the bosom is loving-kindness. The shoulders are for power, and the back for force, but the bosom is the seat of love.” “I see the Lord of angels condescending to personal labor. Jesus Christ himself gathers with his own arm and carries in his own bosom the lambs of his flock. He doth not commit this work to an angel, nor does he even leave it to his ministers; but he himself, by his Spirit, still undertakes it.” (Spurgeon)
The shepherd leads his flock with the rod and staff but he also leads the young gently and knows when to use sever guidance. Jesus is given three great titles as a shepherd. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and gives His flock good guidance and will sacrifice Himself for them. (John 10:11-15) Jesus is the Great Shepherd who is glorious in His triumph over every enemy. (Hebrews 13:20) Jesus is the Chief Shepherd of all His people. (1 Peter 5:4) At His return, He will divide His flock, the sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:31-33) “Did you ever notice that the same Shepherd who saves the lost, will curse the finally impenitent? He shall separate them one from another as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats, and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall he say unto them on the left hand, ‘Depart ye cursed.’ What lips are those which pronounce those dreadful words? The Shepherd’s lips.” (Spurgeon)
Our God to behold is the authority over all His creation. He is so great that He has measured the water in the hollow of His hand and measure heaven with a span. His dominance over creation should cause all to stand in awe of His power and glory. Greatness is not just about size but also smartness. God calculated the dust of the earth in a measure through His wisdom and intelligence. He knows how many grains of dust there is on the earth. Even if a person knew the number of hairs on their head, as God does, (Luke 12:7) they could never calculate the grains of dust in their home. God knows how heavy the mountains are, as He has weighed them on a scale.
We behold the God of wisdom. He is the foundation of all knowledge and has the wisdom to use that knowledge. Unlike man who needs constant counseling none direst the Spirit of the Lord and no counselor who has taught Him. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?” (Romans 11:34)
The glory of the powerful nations of the earth is something to behold in their glory. We think of parades with magnificent military might on display to show the power of the nation. But it all is nothing in comparison to the Almighty God. The superpowers of the earth are but a drop of dust in a bucket compared to the greatness of the Lord God and His glory.
All the wood from the forest of Lebanon and the animals of its land would not be enough to satisfy the Lord as an offering. All the best that man has to offer is not enough to satisfy the honor and glory of God.
God states His greatness over all of His creation but never says His creation is worthless. The arrogance of the nations sets them against God and that makes them lower than God’s creation. He counts them as less than nothing and worthless.
All the gods that man has made for him to worship how do they compare to the Creator God? How can they compare to God as they are all made from the hands of men? “Maybe we are not as crude as the ancient Israelites, though some nations are. However, some people worship a crucifix, others will worship the church, or idolize the preacher. Some people will bow before the gods of materialism, ambition, sex, even home and loved ones, and will substitute anything if only they can escape having to get down to the basic need of facing why it is that God does not guide or deliver.” (Redpath)
The gods that man has made and the idols that he worships need support that they will not totter. Man’s gods cannot even stand on their own. But the Lord God has no rivals. “Look at the care you have to give to your idols. First, you have to choose good wood, because who wants to worship a rotting god? Then you must choose a skilled workman, because who wants to worship a poorly made god? Then it has to be well designed, because who wants to worship a god that keeps falling over? “Whenever Isaiah speaks about idolatry, he cannot keep from using the most cutting mockery.” (Bultema)
When one sees the glory of God’s creation how can they not know the greatness of God? God created the heavens and the earth, (Genesis 1:1) and He sits above all His creation. How can a man in his own intelligence not see that in all creation the design of a divine Creator? “This is one of the central Old Testament passages on the doctrine of creation. It teaches that the physical fabric of creation is a direct artifact of the Creator.” (Motyer)
It is an interesting statement of Isaiah that God sits above the circle of the earth. How could Isaiah have known the shape of the earth in that it is a circle? Isaiah did not know but the Lord who spoke through Isaiah did know.
The power of God is not only above the inanimate creation but also over the power of men on the earth. Men who have political power and men who have legal power often think of themselves as gods. Through Isaiah, the Lord sets them straight that He can just blow on them and they will wither.
The mastery of God is that in all creation is that He knows the number of the stars and He knows the names of each one, as He has named them. Man does not know the number of stars in the universe, as he does not even know the length and breadth of the universe but God knows the number and the name. “The astronomers are still busily engaged in counting and classifying the stars, but Christ has described, counted and ordered them already.” (Bultema)
Isaiah has spoken of the greatness and glory of God. Isaiah now shows us that our understanding of God makes a difference in our life. To behold God is an honor to worship Him. When we realize the greatness of God we know that there is nothing that we can hide from Him. Also, we can know that nothing is neglected by God.
Beholding the God of all creation should make a difference in the way we live our lives. “How easy it is to believe in the infinite power of God and at the same time to feel that He is unable to meet our personal needs!” (Wolf) There are people who believe in a divine power of creation and yet deny the God who is that divine power.
These practical atheists need to hear that the Lord God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. Then they need to hear about the Creator of the earth that He does not faint and He does not become weary. He has complete understanding and it is unsearchable for man. Then they would know that God is the Creator and He is really here.
When we behold God we can receive the great power He gives us. He gives His power to the weak. All men are weak in comparison to God Almighty. To those who have no strength, He increases their might. To those who are confident in their own power and strength will receive nothing from the Lord God. Even the young and strong will falter, those who thought themselves strong will find themselves weak. The strength of God is reserved for those who know they have no might and are weak.
We receive His power and might when we wait upon Him. Waiting upon the Lord is not a passive sitting around and doing nothing until the Lord does something. God gives us power when we seek Him and rely on Him to provide. If we are weak, then it is because we are not waiting for Him to give us the power to accomplish His will in our lives. For the Lord to renew our strength is “from a basic meaning ‘to change’ . . . [it] comes to mean ‘to put on afresh’: here, ‘keep putting on fresh strength.” (Motyer)
The measure of the Lord’s strength is to soar above everything else. The purpose of the Lord’s strength that He gives us so we can move forward and progress for Him. It is not the strength for us to show off before men but strength to move forward.
The order of Isaiah’s teaching is correct. We first soar to the heavenly places in Christ. “And raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6) Then we run the course of the race. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) It is then we find our self in a good place to walk the walk. “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” (Colossians 2:6)