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Isaiah 40:111, 2731comment (0)

April 20, 2006

By Cecil Taylor

Related Scripture: Isaiah 40:111, 2731

Explore the Bible
Dean, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

Isaiah 40:1–11, 27–31

At this point, Isaiah’s prophecy turned a corner. Chapters 1–39 focused on the judgment about to fall on Judah; Chapters 40–66 emphasized comfort and hope. Although the nation had not yet gone into exile, Isaiah predicted a new day after the judgment.

Encourage One Another (1–5)
“Speak kindly to Jerusalem” literally means “speak to the heart of Jerusalem” — encourage her citizens with the message that the day would come when her “warfare” (i.e. the period of punishment for her sin) will be over and her “punishment” completed. When her punishment was over, the way would be cleared for those returning. Nothing would prevent the Lord from bringing His people home from Babylon. The people of Judah faced a dismal future but could encourage each other with the knowledge that God’s judgment would have an end and that He would restore them to the land of promise. When trouble looms, these same truths should bring comfort to God’s people in this age also. God does not hold His anger forever. He will restore those who turn to Him in their hardships.

Acknowledge Your Weakness (6–9)
In stark contrast to God who is eternal and faithful, people are frail and unreliable. They are like grass and their “loyalty,” i.e. faithfulness, like field flowers. Both grass and flower dry up and die when the hot desert wind blows on them. But “the word of our God,” i.e. His promise that suffering will end and return to the land is sure, stands forever. Isaiah’s hearers could take comfort in the fact that the promises of a glorious future did not depend on man but on the word of God. Indeed these promises were so sure of realization that God told the prophet to announce the approach of the Lord and His people from the exile — even though the exile had not yet begun. In order to find comfort in God’s strength, men must acknowledge their utter weakness.

Rely on God’s Protection (10–11)
Such assurance was based on the nature of God. He is not just one god among millions: He is “the sovereign Lord” who “comes as mighty warrior.” The second phrase in 40:10 is literally “his arm rules for him.” Here raised in victory, God’s “arm” stands for His power. The divine “arm” also is lowered in compassionate protection and tender care, like a shepherd who carries little lambs home to the fold when they grow exhausted. 

In case anyone doubted God’s ability to carry out His promise, the prophet described the Lord’s power (40:12–26). God created all that man can see and know (40:12). He did not need nor did He receive any directions or counsel but created this whole cosmos independently (40:13–14). To the Lord, the nations are but a “drop in a bucket” or the unnoticed dust on a balance (40:15–17). If Lebanon were an altar and its trees wood for the fire, then all her animals would not be enough to make a worthy offering to the Lord (40:16). Nothing in creation compares to the Creator (40:18–21). He is not at all like the handmade gods of the heathen; He is the sovereign who controls nature, man and history (40:22–26). In times of great suffering and trouble, comfort comes from relying on the Almighty for protection.

Depend on God’s Strength (27–31)
There is a note of reproach in 40:27. In exile, the Israelites would fall prey to self-pity, imagining that the Lord God does not know their suffering or care about their pain. Despite their doubts, God has strength for the haul. He never gets tired or weary. Human strength declines; His is eternally new.

His strength God gives to those who “wait” on Him. There is in the word “wait” the underlying idea of the tension of a rope, giving the sense of “hanging” on God. Those who “hang” on the Lord “exchange” their strength for His. Like a novice mountain climber linked by a rope to a tried and trusted guide, so a believer who hangs on God can in effect exchange his own feeble strength and skill for that of his Guide. And he will find God’s power adequate for crises when he must mount up as an eagle for unusual demands that require him to run and for the long monotonous stretches where he needs only endure.

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