David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
ISAIAH 40 - COMFORT AND STRENGTH FOR GOD’S PEOPLE
A. The Word of the LORD prepares the way of the LORD.
1. (Isaiah 40:1-2) Comfort for the afflicted people of God.
“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”
a. The previous 39 chapters of Isaiah certainly had passages of comfort and hope, but there was a strong tone of judgment and warning throughout the section. Now, beginning with Isaiah 40, the tone shifts to being predominately full of comfort and blessing, full of the glory of God.
i. Remember where Isaiah 39 just ended: announcing the coming Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem, and the exile of the nation. “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)
ii. Isaiah is a book in three sections. Chapters 1-35 are prophetic, with the theme of condemnation. Chapters 36-39 are historic, and the theme is confiscation. Chapters 40-66 are messianic, and the theme is consolation.
b. Comfort, yes, comfort My people! Isaiah knew what it was to warn and instruct God’s people; but the LORD also wanted His people to receive His comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3 speaks of our Lord as the God of all comfort; God wants His messengers to speak comfort to His people!
i. In any group waiting to hear God’s word, there are any number of hidden hurting hearts. It is important for those hurting hearts to hear a word of comfort from God’s messenger. As one preacher put it, “Preach to broken hearts and you will never lack an audience.”
c. Speak comfort to Jerusalem: This means that Jerusalem needed a word of comfort. This means that God had comfort to give them. God’s comfort is not a hollow, positive-thinking, “There’s-a-silver-lining-behind-every-cloud” kind of message. God always gives His people reasons for comfort.
i. The comfort comes with tender words, spoken to the heart. Speak comfort is literally, “‘speak to the heart’, like a young man wooing his girl (Genesis 34:3).” (Motyer) How God’s messengers today must speak to the heart!
d. That her warfare is ended: At the moment Isaiah spoke this, the battle may have still loomed. This may very well have been a prophetic word; even though there was still an army against them, as far as God was concerned, her warfare is ended. This was reason for comfort.
i. It is in this same sense that God speaks to us and tells us we can be more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37). The battle still looms, but as far as it concerns the believer in Jesus Christ, her warfare is ended, because You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
e. That her iniquity is pardoned: At the moment Isaiah spoke this, Jerusalem was well aware of her sin - Isaiah had made them aware of it! Yet, the prophet speaks of a day when comfort can be offered because her iniquity is pardoned. This is real comfort; to be recognized as a sinner - as one having iniquity - yet knowing just as much that our iniquity is pardoned. This was reason for comfort.
f. For she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins: This declares the basis for the pardon of iniquity - the sin as been completely paid for. Isaiah, speaking in Old Covenant terminology, speaks of Jerusalem bearing the curse for disobedience described in passages like Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. But the same principle applies to the believer under the New Covenant; our iniquity is pardoned because our sin has been paid for. This is reason for comfort.
i. Does it seem unfair that God would have a double payment for sin? “Double means ‘to fold over, fold in half’ (Exodus 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) A payment has been made, and it was exactly the payment that was needed!
ii. Our iniquity is never pardoned because God has simply decided to “let us off the hook.” That would make God and unrighteous, wicked judge, something He could never be. But under the New Covenant, it is not we who have received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins; it is our sin-bearing Savior Jesus Christ, who received the cup of wrath from the LORD’s hand double for all our sins.
2. (Isaiah 40:3-5) A voice in the wilderness prepares the way of the LORD.
The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
a. The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Here, Isaiah speaks for the LORD’s messenger, who cries out to the barren places.
b. Prepare the way of the LORD: The idea is that the LORD is coming to His people as a triumphant King, who has the road prepared before Him so He can travel in glory and ease. Every obstacle in the way must be removed: every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth.
i. Whatever was wrong in the road must be corrected. The problems were not the same everywhere. Sometimes, the road in the valley needed to be lifted up; other times a road had to be cut through a passage in the mountains.
ii. The idea of preparing the way of the LORD is a word picture, because the real preparation must take place in our hearts. Building a road is very much like the preparation God must do in our hearts. They are both expensive, they both must deal with many different problems and environments, and they both take an expert engineer.
c. When the way is prepared, then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed. His glory is revealed to the prepared hearts described in the previous verses. And it is revealed without regard to nationality; all flesh shall see it together. This glory of the LORD is not revealed only to Jerusalem or Judah, but to every prepared heart. The certainty of this word is assured, because the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
d. This passage of Isaiah 40:3-5 has a direct fulfillment in the New Testament, in the person and ministry of John the Baptist. Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, knew this at the birth of his son (Luke 1:76). And three gospels directly relate this passage to the ministry of John (Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:3, and Luke 3:3-6).
i. Jesus was the coming Messiah and King, and John the Baptist’s ministry was to be one crying in the wilderness, and through his message of repentance, to prepare the way of the LORD. We often fail to appreciate how important the preparing work of the LORD is. Any great work of God begins with great preparation. John wonderfully fulfilled this important ministry!
3. (Isaiah 40:6-8) The message of the voice in the wilderness.
The voice said, “Cry out!” And he said, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”
a. What shall I cry? The voice in the wilderness knew he had an important work, but wanted to know more exactly what his message should be.
b. The message is the frailty of man: All flesh is grass. Isaiah thinks of the beautiful green grass covering the hills of Judah after the winter rains, and how quickly the grass dies and the hills are left brown and barren. This is how frail and weak man is. Even the beauty of man is fleeting, and passes as quickly as spring wildflowers (all its loveliness is like the flower of the field).
i. Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it: Man is in this frail state at the pleasure of God. It is to God’s glory and according to His plan that man is this frail, and the glory of man is so fleeting.
c. The message is the permanence of God and His word: The word of our God stands forever. In contrast to the frailty and fleeting glory of man (The grass withers, the flower fades), the word of our God endures.
i. The word of our God certainly has endured. It has survived centuries of manual transcription, of persecution, of ever changing philosophies, of all kinds of critics, of neglect both in the pulpit and in the pew, of doubt and disbelief - and still, the word of our God stands forever!
ii. “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)
iii. In 303 A.D., the Roman Emperor Diocletian demanded that every copy of the Scriptures in the Roman Empire be burned. He failed, and 25 years later, the Roman Emperor Constantine commissioned a scholar named Eusebius to prepare 50 copies of the Bible at government expense.
iv. Voltaire, the French skeptic and infidel who died in 1778, said that 100 years from his time, Christianity would be swept from existence and passed into history, and that the Bible would be a forgotten book. Only 50 years after his death, the Geneva Bible Society used his press and his house to produce stacks of Bibles.
v. “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 love 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 book still lives.” (Hastings, cited in McDowell)
vi. “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)
d. This message, cried out by the voice in the wilderness, was meant to prepare hearts for the coming of the LORD by leading them into repentance. The understanding of our frailty and fleeting glory, contrasted with the eternal enduring of God and His word, should humble us in repentance before the LORD. It certainly worked in the ministry of John the Baptist (Luke 3:7-18).
e. Peter makes a wonderful reference and application to this passage in 1 Peter 1:22-25.
i. There, he gives a stirring call for love among believers (Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 1 Peter 1:22).
ii. Then, using the passage from Isaiah 40:8, he says why we should love one another this way: having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the LORD endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:23-25)
iii. Peter makes a beautiful connection, showing that the enduring word Isaiah spoke of is the same word of the gospel that is preached and believed, bringing salvation.
iv. Peter also makes a beautiful application. Since this eternal, always potentially fruit-bearing seed is in us, we have both the obligation and the ability to have a sincere love of the brethren. Perhaps we could say that if we need more love to others, it begins with having more of the incorruptible seed set in our hearts and allowed to grow.
B. “Behold Your God!”
1. (Isaiah 40:9) An invitation to behold your God.
O Zion, you who bring good tidings, get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, you who bring good tidings, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”
a. You who bring good tidings, get up into the high mountain: Isaiah speaks of a message so great - tidings so good - that they must be spread as widely as possible. From on top of the high mountain, the messenger can proclaim this great message to as many people as possible. It is a message that should be shouted out, so the messenger is told, Lift up your voice with strength.
b. Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” What is the great message, that should be shouted so loud? It is an invitation to behold your God. There is nothing greater for a believer to do than to study and to know their God.
i. The message isn’t to give God a passing glance. No; we are invited to behold your God. It speaks of a study, of a long-term mission to know the greatness and the character of our God. It also shows how important it is for the message of God’s preacher to focus on God. After every sermon, a preacher should ask, “Did I help the people to behold your God?”
ii. A great philosopher named Alexander Pope once wrote, “Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; the proper study of mankind is man.” In one sermon, Spurgeon replied to that famous statement: “It has been said by someone that ‘the proper study of mankind is man.’ I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.”
2. (Isaiah 40:10) Behold the returning LORD.
Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him.
a. Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand: One aspect of our God we should behold is the fact of His return. Our God will return to this earth, and He will come with power (a strong hand . . . His arm shall rule).
b. When the LORD comes back, He comes to reward His people (His reward is with Him). He comes to inspect His work (and His work before Him). This is something important for us to know about our God!
3. (Isaiah 40:11) Behold the loving Shepherd.
He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.
a. He will feed His flock like a shepherd: Another aspect of our God to behold is His loving care as a shepherd. The first thing a shepherd must do for his sheep is feed them, and the LORD feeds us like a shepherd feeds his flock.
i. Sheep must be directed to the good pasture, and must be moved on to new pasture when they have stripped the grass bare. We need as much carefully directed feeding as sheep! “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)
ii. God loves to identify Himself with a shepherd. Many of the greatest men of the Bible were shepherds, and their character as shepherds points to Jesus Christ. Abel is a picture of Jesus, the sacrificed shepherd. Jacob is a picture of Jesus, the working shepherd. Joseph is a picture of Jesus, the persecuted and exalted shepherd. Moses is a picture of Jesus, the calling-out-from-Egypt shepherd. David is a picture of Jesus, the shepherd king.
b. He will gather the lambs with His arm: Our LORD shows special care for the lambs. The youngest, the weakest, are not despised - they are given special care by the LORD who first actively gathers them, then who will carry them in His bosom. He doesn’t cast the weak lambs over his shoulder, as a shepherd might carry a sheep. Instead, He lovingly cradles them in His bosom, close to His heart. That is both a safe place and a tender place.
i. “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.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “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)
c. And gently lead those who are with young: The shepherd carries a rod and a staff, and knows how to use them; but He also knows how to gently lead those who are with young. He knows exactly when to be gentle, and when more severe guidance should be used.
d. Jesus is given three great titles regarding His work as a shepherd.
i. Jesus the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-15). He is good in His care and sacrifice for the flock.
ii. Jesus the Great Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20). He is great in His glorious triumph over every enemy.
iii. Jesus the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). He is the Chief over all His people in His return. At His return, Jesus also exercises another aspect of His role as Shepherd: He divides 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)
4. (Isaiah 40:12) Behold the God over all creation.
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, measured heaven with a span and calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?
a. Another aspect of our God to behold is His authority over all creation. Our God is so great, and so dominant over all creation, that He has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and has measured heaven with a span.
i. This is another example of what we call an anthropomorphism - speaking of God in human terms so we can partially understand who He is and what He does. God is not a being with the body of a giant, so large that all the waters of the earth could be cupped in His hand, or so large that the universe could be measured by the span of His hand. The Bible tells us that God the Father is spirit, so He does not have a body as we know it (John 4:24). But we understand exactly what the LORD tells us through the prophet Isaiah - God is so great, so dominant over all creation that we should stand in awe of His power and glory.
ii. Once my youngest son and I had a discussion about who in our family was bigger. We observed that his big brother was bigger than he was, and his big sister was bigger than the big brother, and mom was bigger than big sister, and I was bigger than mom was. Then my son looked at me and said, “But you’re not bigger than God.” That’s something for everyone to remember!
b. And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure: It isn’t just about size; it’s also about smarts. God is so great in His wisdom and intelligence that He calculated the dust of the earth in a measure. God knows exactly how many grains of dust there are on the earth. Even if a person knew the number of hairs on their head (as God knows, according to Luke 12:7), they could never calculate the dust in their own house - much less the dust of the earth!
i. To take it further, God knows how heavy the mountains are (He weighed the mountains in scales), and the hills also for that matter! (And the hills in a balance)
5. (Isaiah 40:13-14) Behold the God of all wisdom.
Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as His counselor has taught Him? With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding?
a. Another aspect of God to behold is His great wisdom. He has the raw intelligence to know how much dust there is in the earth, and how heavy the mountains and the hills are. But more than that, God has the wisdom to use that knowledge. God is so wise, that no one has directed the Spirit of the LORD; no one as His counselor has taught Him.
i. Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD? In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament used in the days of Jesus and the disciples), this is translated Who has known the mind of the Lord? This is the place where the apostle Paul quotes from in Romans 11:34.
b. God needs no counsel, no instruction, no teacher, and no one to show Him the way of understanding.
C. God’s greatness is measured in comparison to others.
1. (Isaiah 40:15-17) God’s greatness surpasses all nations.
Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales; look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering. All nations before Him are as nothing, and they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless.
a. Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket: The glory of a powerful nation is something to behold. We think of a huge military parade, with all the strength of the nation on display. But compared to God, it is nothing. The greatest glory of the greatest nation is as a drop in a bucket compared to the greatness and glory of the Lord GOD.
b. Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering: If man were to take all the wood in the mighty forests of Lebanon, and use it to make a burnt offering of all the animals of the land, it would not be enough to satisfy God. Man’s best efforts can not satisfy the honor and glory of God.
c. They are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless: In this chapter, God declares His greatness over all creation, but He never says of creation that it is less than nothing and worthless. But the nations have an arrogance, a pride against God that puts them lower than creation itself - He accounts them less than nothing and worthless.
2. (Isaiah 40:18-20) God’s greatness surpasses all idols.
To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him? The workman molds an image, the goldsmith overspreads it with gold, and the silversmith casts silver chains. Whoever is too impoverished for such a contribution chooses a tree that will not rot; he seeks for himself a skillful workman to prepare a carved image that will not totter.
a. What likeness will you compare to Him? There are many likenesses that represent the gods of the nations. How do they compare to God? They don’t compare at all, because they are only the work of men’s hands (the workman molds an image).
i. “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)
b. To prepare a carved image that will not totter: The empty images that are the idols of the nations are so insignificant that they must be made so that they will not totter. They can’t even stand up on their own! God has no rivals.
i. 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)
3. (Isaiah 40:21-26) God’s greatness is evident, as He is the Creator of all.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless. Scarcely shall they be planted, scarcely shall they be sown, scarcely shall their stock take root in the earth, when He will also blow on them, and they will wither, and the whirlwind will take them away like stubble. “To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing.
a. Have you not known? Have you not heard? Isaiah can’t believe that anyone could doubt the greatness of God when they see the glory of God’s creation. First, He sits above all creation (It is He who sits above the circle of the earth). Second, He created it all (Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain).
i. Isaiah’s amazement is well placed. How can anyone look at the glory and design evident in creation, and fail to understand that there must be a glorious designer behind such a glorious design?
ii. “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)
iii. Isaiah uses an interesting phrase when he describes God as the one who sits above the circle of the earth. How could Isaiah possibly know that the earth’s shape was a circle? He probably didn’t know; but the LORD who spoke through Isaiah did know!
iv. Every once in a while, unlearned critics talk as if Bible believing people are members of the “Flat Earth Society” - people so out of touch with real science that they still insist the earth is flat. In response, we should be reminded that Augustine, perhaps the greatest of the church fathers, who lived about a thousand years before Columbus, professed that the earth was round, not flat. As well, in the thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas, the most profound and prolific of medieval theologians, observed that the spherical shape of the earth could be empirically demonstrated. All they did was agree with Isaiah: It is He who sits above the circle of the earth.
b. He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless: God’s power and glory is not only exalted above the inanimate creation, but also over men of power on the earth. When people have political power (princes) or legal power (judges) it is easy for them to think of themselves as gods! Through the message of Isaiah, the LORD sets this straight. All God needs to do is to blow on them, and they will wither.
c. Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name: God’s mastery over all creation is shown by the fact that He can bring out all the stars by number, and then He calls them all by name. With the billions and billions of stars in the universe, it is staggering to know that God can number and name them all!
i. “The astronomers are still busily engaged in counting and classifying the stars, but Christ has described, counted and ordered them already.” (Bultema)
D. Applying the knowledge of God’s greatness.
1. (Isaiah 40:27-28) Having confidence in God’s power and wisdom.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my just claim is passed over by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.
a. Having spent all of Isaiah 40 showing us the greatness and the glory of God, now Isaiah shows us how understanding this makes a difference in our lives - beyond the obvious compulsion we should feel to honor and worship this great God!
b. Why do you say, O Jacob . . . “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my just claim is passed over by my God”? Understanding the greatness and glory of God persuades us that there is nothing in our life hidden from God, and there is nothing neglected by God.
c. Have you not known? Have you not heard? The people asked this question in Isaiah 40:21 doubted there was a God who created all. The ones asked the same question in this verse seem to know there is a creator, but live as practical atheists. They don’t seem to understand that the fact there is a God of all creation makes a difference in everyday life.
i. “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)
d. These practical atheists need to hear what they already know: that the Lord GOD is the Creator of the ends of the earth. Then they need to hear about the Creator: that He neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. Those who really believe these truths about God should live as if God is really there.
2. (Isaiah 40:29-31) Receiving the strength of the LORD.
He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on 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.
a. He gives power to the weak: After explaining all the greatness and glory of God, now Isaiah explains another benefit we can receive from our God - He gives us His great power!
i. Notice who God gives power to: the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Those who are proud and confident in their own wisdom and strength will receive no strength from God.
b. Even the youths shall faint and be weary: Those who thought themselves strong find themselves weak. God’s strength is reserved for those who know they are weak, and know they have no might.
c. But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength: How do we receive this strength from the LORD? We receive it as we wait on the LORD. The idea behind wait on the LORD is not a passive sitting around until the LORD does something. Yes, God gives us strength; but we don’t expect it to come as if He were pouring it into as you sit passively. He brings it to us as we seek Him, and rely on Him, instead of our own strength. If we are weak, it is because we do not wait on the LORD!
i. We are also told that we renew our strength. It is strength that was once received when we first came to the LORD in weakness and no might. Then, that strength is renewed as we wait on the LORD. Renew is “from a basic meaning ‘to change’ . . . [it] comes to mean ‘to put on afresh’: here, ‘keep putting on fresh strength.’ (Motyer)
d. They shall mount up with wings like eagles: This is the measure of strength the LORD gives us - strength to soar above everything else.
e. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint: This is the purpose of the strength the LORD gives us - strength to move forward and progress for Him. It isn’t strength to show off, but strength to go forward in.
i. Weak in Isaiah 40:29 and faint in Isaiah 40:30 are the same Hebrew word, which means “failure through loss of inherent strength.” Weary in Isaiah 40:30 is a different word, which means “exhaustion because of the hardness of life” (Motyer). If we are worn out for either reason, God is here to give us strength - if we will wait on Him!
f. Notice the order, because it seems strange. First we mount up with wings like eagles. Then we run. Finally we walk. Does it seem out of order? Not at all. First, we recognize that we soar up into heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6). Then we set ourselves on the course to run the race (Hebrews 12:1). Then we are in the good place to walk the walk (Colossians 2:6).
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