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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 40

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-2





1. No people on earth have endured such age-lasting experience of sorrow, suffering, affliction and grief as that endured by Israel -the people whom God called and established in a relationship of covenant-fellowship with Himself at Mt Sinai. Their sufferings have come as a direct fruit of their despicable rebellion and sin, (Leviticus 26:43-45; Isaiah 59:1-2).

2. This prophecy is designed to comfort, console, strengthen and set at peace the hearts of God’s people in the midst of their deepest grief, (Isaiah 66:13; Isaiah 35:4). It is a message of hope. The Lord will not forever deal with them in judgment because of the wretchedness of their sins. Provision will be made whereby He can righteously redeem (Isaiah 51:11), forgive, cleanse, appropriately clothe and restore them to the blessedness of fellowship with Himself. He so blesses them that they may BE A BLESSING! (2 Corinthians 1:4).

3. The heart of Zion is to be comforted by the proclamation of a two-fold blessing.

a. Her warfare is accomplished (her judgment taken away); it is finished, completed, OVER! (Zephaniah 3:14-17; Isaiah 41:11-13; Isaiah 49:25; Isaiah 54:15). The despicable attitude of high-mindedness and rebellion, which brought upon her the reproach of men and wrath of God, has finally been crushed! Now, she may live at peace - with herself, with God, and with her fellow-men!

b. Her iniquity is pardoned (Isaiah 33:24; Isaiah 53:5-6; Isaiah 53:11; Jeremiah 50:20) -forgiven, blotted out, cast behind God’s back, forgotten and cleansed from the divine record!

4. The statement that "she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins" is NOT an assertion that her punishment has already been twice what she deserved! Rather, it is a reiteration of the two-fold blessing that God has provided IN SPITE OF HER SIN! The idea is beautifully expressed in one of our grandest old hymns, written by Augustus Toplady, ("Rock of Ages"):

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee,

Let the water and the blood,

From thy wounded side which flowed, Be of sin THE DOUBLE CURE.

1) Save from wrath

2) And make me pure.

And this is exactly what the Lord has done for those who trust in Him!

In reality, Isaiah is summoning the people of Israel to renewed service; and the service of the King always involves suffering. Far more significant than its being a "penalty" for sin, suffering is the very instrument through which the servant-task will be accomplished. And Isaiah is calling his people to something greater than themselves. Through their very suffering they become, in the divine plan, instruments of redemption - a blessing to all nations, as God has purposed to work through Abraham.

Verses 3-5


1. "The voice" crying in the wilderness had a partial fulfillment in the person of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:3-6). By his call of Israel to repentance (Matthew 3:2), and by his unique baptism (being the first who ever called a Jew to be baptized), he not only prepared a people for the coming of Messiah (Malachi 3:1; Malachi 4:5-6), but also introduced (or made manifest) the Messiah to Israel, (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:4; John 1:29-34).

2. It is evident, to the careful student of the word, that much of this prophecy awaits the second coming of the Lord for its ultimate and complete fulfillment.

a. Our Lord’s first appearance was not in such manifest glory that "all flesh" saw it together (John 1:1-2; John 1:14; 2 Peter 1:16-18; Revelation 1:7); rather, he came in humiliation; not as a Lion, but as a Lamb. The glory awaits the future, (Isaiah 35:2; Isaiah 60:1-2; Isaiah 62:1-3; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 24:29-30; Matthew 25:31; Matthew 26:64; Mark 8:38).

b. Here is pictured the triumphant march of the mighty Conqueror whose power is irresistible - something that did not occur at the first advent of our Lord. He is here accompanied by resurrected and translated saints (kings of the East) who are to share His rule as king-priests, (Ezekiel 43:2; Zechariah 14:4-5; Revelation 1:6; Revelation 19:7-8; Revelation 19:13-14).

c. When He marches in triumph, all flesh being as grass, opposition will crumble before Him. Rather than the construction of a literal expressway, verse 4 seems to signify the subjection of all things under the omnipotence of the Son of Man.

d. Here is a "new Exodus" which culminates in the deliverance of His people and the establishment of His just and benevolent rule over all the earth.

3. Thus, it appears that the glorious appearing of the coming Messiah may yet be heralded by another fore-runner - after the order of John the Baptist - just prior to the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord, (Malachi 4:5).

Verses 6-8


1. This passage powerfully illustrates the folly of trusting in one’s self - that is, in the flesh.

a. Death is inevitable - a divine appointment for sinners, (Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23; Hebrews 9:27).

b. As a result of sin "all flesh" (of beast, fish, fowl, reptile and man) is under condemnation; it must perish. Its goodliness is like the flower of the field: it withers, fades and returns to dust, (Job 14:2; Psalms 102:11; Psalms 90:10).

c. For some, the inevitability of death destroys all hope; if the desired blessing cannot be obtained in this life they consider all to be LOST!

2. Yet, what beautiful assurance springs forth from verse 8: "but the word of God shall stand forever": (Isaiah 55:11; Isaiah 59:21; Matthew 5:18). Death, which now appears to be triumphant, cannot annul or defeat the purpose of God; the dead SHALL RISE! (1 Peter 1:24-25; Psalms 103:15-19; Psalms 9:13-14). And life (eternal life) goes on triumphantly!

Verses 9-11


1. He who heralds to Zion the good tidings of the coming King is to proclaim it from the high mountains of Israel, (Isaiah 61:1; Isaiah 52:7). Without fear, he is to lift up a strong voice to the cities of Judah.

2. His message: "Behold, your God!" (Isaiah 25:9; Isaiah 35:2; comp. John 1:29).

a. The Lord Jehovah comes as a Mighty Conqueror, (comp. Revelation 19:11-16).

b. Possessing universal authority, He will rule with a strong arm, (Isaiah 59:16-18; comp. Psalms 2:8-9).

c. His reward is with Him; His work before Him, (Isaiah 62:11; Matthew 16:27; Revelation 11:15-18; Revelation 22:12).

3. His conduct toward His beloved people is likened to that of a shepherd who deeply cares for His sheep, (Jeremiah 31:10; Ezekiel 34:12-31; Ezekiel 34:31; Micah 5:4; John 10:11; John 10:14-16).

a. He tends the flock, (Psalms 23).

b. He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them in His bosom.

c. He gently leads the ewes that are with young.

4. Loving, compassionate, tender and kind is the Shepherd of Israel. What an exemplary lesson for those who have been appointed as under-shepherds of His flock! (Psalms 80:1; comp. Hebrews 13:20-22; 1 Peter 2:25; 1 Peter 5:4).

Verses 12-17


1. The rhetorical questions raised in verses 12-14 (like those in Job 38) are designed to awaken the human heart to the majesty, power and awe of God.

a. Divine omnipotence. is the only adequate answer to the question raised in verse 12, (comp. Isaiah 48:13; Job 38:8-10; Psalms 102:25-26; Hebrews 1:10-12).

b. Verses 13-14 lay special stress on the omniscience of God -whom no one is qualified to enlighten, instruct, counsel or advise -for the fullness of understanding, wisdom and knowledge dwells in Him, (Romans 11:34; 1 Corinthians 2:16; Isaiah 41:28; Job 21:22; Colossians 2:3).

2. The infinite greatness of God is especially illustrated in verses 15-17. Beside Him:

a. The nations are as "a drop in a bucket" (Jeremiah 10:10), or a few insignificant specks of dust on a scale, (Isaiah 17:13; Isaiah 29:5).

b. Lebanon and all the beasts thereof are not sufficient for a burnt offering before Him, (Isaiah 37:24; Psalms 50:9-11; Micah 6:6-7; Hebrews 10:5-9).

c. The plurality of isles and nations are as nothing - even less than nothing, and emptiness - before Him, (Isaiah 29:7; Isaiah 30:28).

d. If you stand perplexed before the seeming immensity of this infinitesimal planet, is it, perhaps, an evidence that your concept of God is TOO SMALL?

Verses 18-26


1. An inquiry is made as to whom Judah will liken God (vs. 18, Isaiah 25; Isaiah 46:5), though Moses assured Pharaoh "that there is none like unto the LORD our God" (Exodus 8:10; comp. 1 Samuel 2:2). Where, indeed, could one look for another to compare with Him?

a. The God of Israel is "glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders", (Exodus 15:11).

b. He is One Who "pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgressions of the remnant of his heritage", and Who "retaineth not his anger forever, because he delighteth in mercy", (Micah 7:18).

2. The prophet pictures the folly of those who attempt to fashion an effective substitute for the God of Israel, (vs. 19-20).

a. Though a graven image be one that is made for the rich, or the poor; be it of precious metal, or "of wood that will not rot" (Isaiah 44:14-17); it must have a broad foundation to keep it from falling (1 Samuel 5:3-4), and chains (or nails) to prevent thieves from stealing it, (Jeremiah 10:3-7; Isaiah 41:7).

b. No such home-made god ever possessed life, or strength to defend itself - much less the ability to help its maker or devotees! (Isaiah 44:10; Psalms 115:4-8; Habakkuk 2:18-20; Isaiah 2:20-21).

3. Are the people of God completely ignorant of what the very creation has revealed of their Maker from the beginning? (vs. 21-15; Psalms 19:1; Acts 14:17; Romans 1:19-21).

a. He sits above "the circle of the earth" - a statement that may refer either to the spherical shape of the earth, or to the horizon, (vs. 22a; Job 22:14; Proverbs 8:27).

b. In the presence of His glorious majesty, the inhabitants of the earth are like grasshoppers, (vs. 22b; comp. Numbers 13:28; Deuteronomy 1:28; Deuteronomy 9:2).

c. He has stretched out the heavens like curtains, or like a tent to dwell in, (Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 44:24; Psalms 104:2; Psalms 19:4-5; Job 36:29).

d. He rules over all - shaping the destinies of men and nations, (vs. 23-24; Psalms 103:19).

e. Will the people of Israel never realize that their God has no equal? There is no need for them to be afraid! His care is forever adequate!

4. If the people of God would know something of His true majesty and strength, they need only lift their eyes to the starry heavens and consider the greatness, wisdom and power of their divine Creator-God - who sees and knows all things, (vs. 26; Isaiah 49:12-13; Isaiah 51:6 Psalms 89:11-13; Psalms 147:4-5).

5. But, rejection of the evidence of God, as manifested in His creative work, leads to such darkening of one’s understanding as will hinder his discerning "the knowledge of His will" as set forth in the preaching and teaching of His word, (Colossians 1:9).

Verses 27-31


1. How utterly foolish it is for Israel to moan that her way is hidden from the Lord! (vs. 37; Isaiah 49:14; Isaiah 54:8; Isaiah 59:1-2).

a. How brazenly insulting to complain that God has been unjust toward her! (Job 27:2; Job 34:5-6; Luke 18:7-8).

b. The prophet insists that God adequately supplies the needs of everything He has created, (Isaiah 34:16; Psalms 145:16).

2. Both the wisdom and strength of Israel’s God are inexhaustible, (vs. 28-29).

a. He is, in every way, superior to idols - the works of men’s hands; He is the Everlasting, Creator-God, (Psalms 90:2).

b. He never grows weary or faint; and His understanding is beyond human comprehension, (Romans 11:33; Isaiah 41:10).

3. Such as learn to "wait on the Lord" will find their provision adequate, (vs. 30-31).

a. Their strength will be renewed daily, so that they may mount up as with the wings of an eagle, (Psalms 103:5; 2 Corinthians 4:8-10; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Exodus 19:4; Deuteronomy 32:11).

b. Their appointed race may be run without weariness or fainting, (Galatians 6:9).

4. But, those who cannot draw upon the vast resources of divine grace (because they will not trust in God) will faint and fall by the wayside.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Isaiah 40". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/isaiah-40.html. 1985.
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