Isaiah 40 - Outline of Isaiah (Book Notes menu page)
III. Salvation (poetry), ch. 40-66
A. Peace assured through knowing the LORD God... (The God of Peace), ch. 40-48
1. Who Tends His Sheep and governs Creation, 40:1-31
1. Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her,
that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned:
for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins.
Comfort {console} ye... saith your God.- He is the God of all comfort. 2Cor 1:3,4; Joh 14:16
Yet, His Holiness demands that sinners must be discomfited (cp. Isa 1:24, where 'ease' is the same word as 'comfort' in v.1 above). The comfort of God's people, in the future Kingdom, is possible because sin has been judged and God's anger is turned away from His people. Isa 12:1
As shown in our outline of Isaiah, there are three major divisons to this book.
  • The first is: Judgment (ch. 1-35) for God must judge sin.
    In this section we saw the LORD as the great King, exalted far above earth's rulers.
    He is Holy, Holy, Holy. But the earth is full of iniquity.
    He intervenes to punish the nations, and eventually, to establish righteous government in the earth:
    "Behold, a King shall reign in righteousness..." (Isa 32:1)
  • The last section (to which we have just come) is: Salvation (ch. 40-66).
    In this section, the LORD, the Holy One and King, declares that He is the only Savior.
    He intervenes in the Person of His suffering Servant (the Messiah),
    to bear the iniquity and punishment of His people, that they may enter into everlasting joy (Isa 52:13; 53:5,6).
         Because these two sections are so different in emphasis, some scholars think they must have been written by different authors and at very different times. Yet, the testimony of scripture, and of our Lord Jesus is that Isaiah wrote both sections (see the Book Notes at Isaiah 1:1). Similarly, many readers imagine a conflict between the 'vengeful God' of the Old Testament and the 'gracious God' of the New Testament.
         Is it merely coincidental that Isaiah contains 66 chapters compared to the Bible's 66 books? The OT contains 39 books, corresponding to Isaiah's first two sections (39 chapters) which emphasize judgment according to God's Law, whereas the remaining 27 books (of the NT) or chapters (of Isaiah) emphasize salvation by Grace.
  • The middle section of the book is an Historical Interlude (ch. 36-39),
    which ties these two diverse sections together, in the King on David's throne.
         Hezekiah's experiences (ie., his deliverance from a deadly disease and from the overwhelming power of an enemy), foreshadow the Messiah's death and resurrection to put away sin, and His ultimate victory over Satan and the Antichrist. In Christ, at a moment in history, sin was judged and salvation was obtained for all who trust in Him (Gal 4:4,5; Heb 9:26). In the future, when He again enters into human history to reign in Jerusalem, "there will be peace and truth" all His days (cp. Isa 39:8; Rev 11:15).
speak comfortably to Jerusalem...(v.2)- cp. Isa 12:1;
...her warfare is accomplished...- cp. Isa 35:3,4; Jer 29:11; Rev 11:15-18
...her iniquity is pardoned...- cp. Isa 43:25; 44:22; 53:5,6,11
These specific things will be fulfilled at a specific time (Dan 9:2,24-27; cp. Psa 102:13).
she hath received... double for all her sins.- (Observe that the word 'Comfort' is doubled in v.1.)
What does this mean? Is this 'doubling' literal or figurative?
Several explanations have been suggested. All may be valid.
  • The satisfaction of debt.-
    In the culture of Isaiah's day, the debtor and the creditor each held a copy of the legal document of indebtedness.
    When the debt was satisfied, the creditor gave his copy to the former debtor, who then held two copies.
    The 'double' received from the hand of the creditor was evidence that the debt had been paid in full.
  • The sufficiency of the satisfaction.- (Every aspect of the debt is paid beyond what was due.)
    • Double length for the captivity.- Jerusalem's captivity to Babylon lasted 70 years,
      "until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths" (2Chr 36:21).
      But how were the 70 years determined? Consider these possible explanations...
      • To compensate for neglected Sabbatical years (Lev 25:1-8)? - This is the common assumption. Seventy sabbatical years should have been observed in the course of 490 years. This is the approximate length of the entire period of the kings, from Saul to the captivity of Jerusalem. However, we are not told when the neglect of the sabbatical years may have begun. (It could have been this full period, or half that long. But the number of neglected sabbatical years is unknown.)
      • To double a set period of judgment.- Such a judgment, in the form of national dispersion from the land, to allow the land to "enjoy her sabbaths" is prescribed in Lev 26:33,34. However, rather than counting neglected sabbatical years, this chapter delineates five periods of seven years ('seven times', Lev 26:18,21,24,28), which are added to other distresses (eg., the "seven times 'more' {ie., in addition}" in Lev 26:18, are in addition to a period of trouble, of unspecified length, described in Lev 26:14-17). Assuming this explanation is valid, Leviticus ch. 26 prescribed 35 years of added judgment, but the Babylonian captivity would be double that number.
    • Double (Sufficient) punishment for past sin...- Jer 16:18; 17:18; cp. Rev 18:6
    • Double (Abundant) grace in consolation for past troubles... (cp. Rom 5:20,21)
      Isa 61:7; Zech 9:12; cp. Job 42:10-12 (When the Lord 'turned the captivity' of Job, He gave him twice as much as he had lost.)
Outline of vs.1-11 [adapted from GWms]
  1. Sin: Gone, vs.1-2
  2. The Redeemer: His work glorious, vs.3-5
  3. The Redeemer: His Word eternal, vs.7-8
  4. Messiah: Come, vs.9-11
3. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,
Prepare ye the way of the LORD,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low:
and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see [it] together:
for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken [it].
The voice... in the wilderness...-
Each of the Gospel writers apply this passage to John the Baptist, who announced the first coming of Jesus Christ (Mat 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luk 3:4-6; Joh 1:23).
the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together...-
6 The voice said, Cry.
And he said, What shall I cry?
All flesh [is] grass, and all the goodliness thereof [is] as the flower of the field:
7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth:
because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it:
surely the people [is] grass.
8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
the voice said, Cry...- This is the voice of the Holy Spirit,
who puts His message in the mouth of His prophets (cp. Jer 1:6-9; 2Pet 1:21).
What shall I cry? - The message is the same for the heathen ('all flesh') and for Israel ('the people').
All men, regardless of their status in this life are under the sentence of death (Jam 1:10,11). Salvation from this condition is available only through faith in God's unfailing Word (1Pet 1:24,25; Rom 3:19-24).
9. O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain;
O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength;
lift [it] up, be not afraid;
{ie., proclaim the good news boldly}
say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
10 Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong [hand], and his arm shall rule for him:
behold, his reward [is] with him, and his work before him.
{cp. Rev 22:12; Isa 49:4}
11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd:
he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry [them] in his bosom,
[and] shall gently lead those that are with young.
behold, your God... the Lord GOD {Adonai-Jehovah} will come...-
Israel will recognize their Messiah, at His second coming, as Immanuel {God with us}. Isa 25:9; 35:4
...with strong hand... his arm shall rule...-
As God, the Messiah will accomplish His purposes entirely in His own strength, without the aid of others. His arm is powerful to recompense His enemies (Heb 10:30), yet, tender to care for His own. cp. Joh 10:11,14-16; Heb 13:20,21; 1Pet 2:25; 5:4
     How poorly the sheep, secured in the Shepherd's hand, comprehend the power of that hand (cp. Joh 10:27-31 with the verses below).
12. Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
and meted out heaven with the span
{ie., the width of one's extended hand},
and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure,
and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?
13 Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD,
or [being] his counsellor hath taught him?
{cp. Rom 11:34; 1Cor 2:16}
14 With whom took he counsel,
and [who] instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment,
and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?
15 Behold, the nations [are] as a drop of a bucket,
and are counted as the small dust of the balance:
behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.
16 And Lebanon
{a region famous for its forests and fruitfulness} [is] not sufficient to burn,
nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.
17 All nations before him [are] as nothing;
and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.
all nations before him are as nothing...- Men, in their pride, fail to comprehend their insignificance.
The nations are not like a drop 'in' a bucket, but like the drip falling off the bucket as it is drawn from the well. The lost drop has no value, and represents no loss of the bucket's content. Likewise, fine dust on a merchant's scales has no effect on the value of his goods. Psa 62:9
Who...? - Who is this great God? He is our Savior. Titus 2:13
18. To whom then will ye liken God?
or what likeness will ye compare unto him?
19 The workman melteth a graven image,
and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains.
20 He that [is] so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree [that] will not rot;
he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, [that] shall not be moved.
21 Have ye not known? have ye not heard?
hath it not been told you from the beginning?
have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?
to whom then will ye liken God?...- Here (as in several other passages),
Isaiah highlights the contrast between the true God and idols. Whether the rich man worships an ornate image of gold, or the pauper worships a piece of wood, any 'god' made by man is the fabrication (lie) of the self-deceived. Isa 2:8; Rev 9:20
have ye not known?...- Everyone should understand the truth about God, even without Isaiah's words,
because God has revealed Himself to all men, in that He has created all things. Rom 1:19-21; Rev 4:11
22 [It is] he that sitteth upon {ie., above} the circle of the earth,
and the inhabitants thereof [are] as grasshoppers;
that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain,
and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:
The Creator lives apart from His creation. He observes mankind from outside the 'circle' or 'vault' of the earth.
Thus, long before scientific man would understand, the Creator's words revealed that the earth is a spherical body hanging in space.
23 That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.
24 Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown:
yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth:
and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither,
and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.
25 To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these [things],
that bringeth out their host by number:
he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might,
for that [he is] strong in power; not one faileth.
that bringeth the princes to nothing...-
The rulers of this world consider themselves important, even indispensable.
But the Lord brings each of them to nothing. Their time in the sun is brief.
yea, they shall not be planted {or, they shall barely be planted}... - In the NASB, v.24 reads:
"Scarcely have they been planted, scarcely have they been sown, scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth, but He merely blows on them, and they wither, and the storm carries them away like stubble."
...he is strong in power; not one faileth.- In contrast to the temporary earthly constructs of man,
the LORD has ordered the heavenly bodies, understands their intricacies, and maintains them in their orbits.
It is this great God who is the Shepherd of Israel. The greatness of His realm has not distracted Him from the case of His people.
27. Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD,
and my judgment is passed over from my God?
28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard,
[that] the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth,
fainteth not, neither is weary? [there is] no searching of his understanding.
As the heathen are without excuse for ignoring the God who reveals Himself in creation (v.21), so, Israel is without excuse for their ignorance of the LORD who committed His Word to them (Jer 4:22; Mark 8:17,18; Rom 3:1-3). He knows them intimately, though they try to hide themselves from Him (Isa 28:15; 29:15).
29 He giveth power to the faint;
and to [them that have] no might he increaseth strength.
{Psa 29:11; Col 1:9-11}
30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
This was Israel's experience in going their own way, in relying upon the arm of flesh. Isa 9:16,17; 13:18
31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew [their] strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary;
[and] they shall walk, and not faint.
they that wait upon the LORD...- are those who trust in Him (Isa 8:17; 25:9; Psa 123:2).
Those who look to the LORD are given strength beyond their own. However, these lines do not merely describe levels of strength.
Those who wait upon the LORD...
  • shall mount up {ie., ascend} with wings as eagles...-
    This is Salvation and Deliverance, accomplished by the LORD who came down to lift us out of bondage.
    cp. Ex 19:4; Deu 32:11,12; Rev 12:14; Rom 7:24,25; Heb 2:14,15
  • shall run, and not be weary {ie., not grow weary in toil}...-
    This is enabling power, given by the LORD, that His servant may fulfill the task committed to him.
    Psa 18:29; Hab 2:2 (cf. Jer 23:21)
  • shall walk, and not faint {ie., not be fatigued; not be drained of life as by hunger and thirst}...-
    This is newness of life, by which the child of God walks with Him and lives for Him.
    (Deu 10:12; Mic 6:8; Gal 2:20; 2Cor 4:16; Heb 12:1-3)
    Observe the way the word 'faint' is used in the closing verses of this chapter. The LORD does not faint (v.28), because He has life in Himself. The young men of the rebellious nation faint (v.30), because the LORD draws back from them in judgment (cp. Isa 1:9). But weak men, who know, trust and depend upon the LORD are endued with His strength which enables the faint to endure (v.29,31).
How the LORD yearns to comfort Israel! (v.1) ...if only they would return and rest in Him. Isa 30:15

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