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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
Isaiah 40

 

 

Verses 1-17

Isaiah 40:1-2. Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath receiveth of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.

God would have his people happy. He knows that we are not in strong, vigorous state, neither do we honour his name while we are lacking in holy joy. Let the sinners be uncomfortable. Let them be “like the troubled sea that cannot rest”; but as for God’s people, it is his great joy that they should be happy. He bids his servants again and again to comfort them. Sometimes we are in a condition of warfare, and we are under the chastising rod but now the Lord appears graciously to his servants, and he says, “Your warfare is over: your chastisement is ended.” Now the Lord returns in mercy, and he grants a sense of forgiven sin.

Isaiah 40:3. 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.

You know this was John the Baptist coming to proclaim the Saviour. That was the best comfort God’s people could have — the coming of the Lord. So it is now. The joy of the Church is the coming of the Lord, and to each one of us the greatest source of joy is the drawing near to us of our Lord. If he appears to us, our winter is over, our summer’s sun has come. If Christ be with us, the time of the singing of birds has come, and our heart is glad.

Isaiah 40:4-5. 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: 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.

Wherever Christ comes, it is so. All things are right at his appearing, and if the Lord do but manifest himself to us tonight, each one, we shall find the crooked things made straight. We shall see the mountains of difficulty leveled, and the deep depressions will all be filled up and there will be a causeway along which the Lord triumphantly shall ride to display the greatness of his power. There is nothing that shall hinder the coming of the Lord to us, and when he comes, there is nothing that shall stand against him

Isaiah 40:6-8. 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: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

Now that is a cry that we all need to hear — the death-cry of all creature-confidence for man at his very best is only like grass in the flower. It will be mown down in due time, but if the scythe comes not near it, yet will it fade in its season, for it is a transient thing, and every hope and confidence which is based upon that which is seen must be temporal and must pass away. All the joy that you have tonight — all the hope and all the confidence you have which is based upon an earthly thing — must by degrees all disappear. Nothing is eternal but that which springs out of the eternal. Unless our hope be in the Lord alone, that hope will at some time or other fail us; and this is a cry we need to hear because, until we are sick of the creature, we shall not turn to the Creator. Till we have done with false confidences, we shall not make God our trust.

Isaiah 40:9. 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; say unto the cities of Juda, Behold your God!

Look away from these fading things and behold your God. Look away from the brightest joy you have, though it be, like the meadow, all besprent, with many coloured flowers, and look to your God, and to your God alone. “Behold your God” — your God in Christ; your God who has come through the wilderness, making a highway for himself, that he may come to you, Rejoice in Christ your Saviour, and you shall have a joy that never shall be taken from you.

Isaiah 40:10-11. 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. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd:

Do you belong to the flock tonight? Then let this comfort you. Never mind about the fading flowers. “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd.” He has brought you into the pasture tonight. Depend upon it, he has not led you by a wrong way. And now, though your soul be hungry and thirsty, you shall not lack, for “he shall feed his flock like a shepherd.”

Isaiah 40:11. He shall gather the lambs with his arm,

The feeblest, first. The most care, for those that want most care. “He shall gather the lambs with his arm.”

Isaiah 40:11. And carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

Your sorrow is to come, It is to yourself alone known. None can sympathize with you. He will gently lead you. There is no overdriving with Christ. Sometimes his ministers in order to get God’s people right one way, overdrive them another, and it is possible while rebuking the hypocrite, to cause grief to the sincere believer, but our Lord is a better shepherd than the under shepherds are at their very best. “He shall gather the lambs with his arm, carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” Oh! what a blessed helper we have! Let us rest in him.

Isaiah 40:12-17. Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him? 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? 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. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. All nations before him are as nothing, and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.

Who would not trust such a God as this — this only God? How well may we be content to turn away from the fading creatures to this eternal Lord and put our trust in him! Indeed, the wonder is that we do trust the creature, and the wonder still is that we do not trust the mighty Creator.

Faith, which seems so difficult, after all, is nothing better than sanctified common-sense. It is the most common-sense thing in all the world to trust in Omnipotence — in infinite, unchanging love — in infallible truth. To trust anywhere else needs a great deal of justification, but to trust in God needs no apology. He well deserves it. O my soul, trust thou in him.

This exposition consisted of readings from Isaiah 40:1-17; Isaiah 25-31. John 1:29-42.


Verses 1-31

Isaiah 40:1. Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.

“They need it, and they shall have it. Mind, O my servants, that you give it to them: Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.”

Isaiah 40:2. 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.

The first meaning of these words was that, as Jerusalem had passed through a time of great tribulation, she should have a season of rest, but the grand gospel meaning to you and to me is, that our Lord Jesus has fought our battle, and won the victory for us, that he has paid our debt and given to divine justice the double for all our sins, and therefore, our iniquity is pardoned. This is enough to make anyone happy, one would think. It is the best thing that even Isaiah could say, or that God himself could say by the mouth of Isaiah, when his object was to comfort the Lord’s tried people.

Isaiah 40:3-4. 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. 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:

When God means to come to men, nothing can stop him or block up his road. He will level mountains, and fill up valleys, but he will come to his people, somehow or other. And when he comes to them, if he finds many crooked things about them, he will make the crooked straight, and the rough places he will make plain.

Isaiah 40:5. 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.

And, since he has spoken it, it must come to pass. “Hath he said, and shall he not do it? “With him, to say anything is to will its accomplishment.

Isaiah 40:6-8. 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: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. Yes, the dearest ones that we have are but flesh, so they wither, and pass away like the green herb. Have you been bereaved, my believing friend?

Well, you may still say to your Lord, in the words of our hymn, “How can I bereaved be, Since I cannot part from thee?” The mower with the sharp scythe cuts down the grass, but he cannot touch the secret source of our hope, and joy, and confidence in God, and, above all, he cannot touch the God in whom we confide.

Isaiah 40:9. 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; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

If the chief, the best, the holiest city has found her God, if Jerusalem has been thus favored, let her sing the gladsome tidings, over the hilltops, to the most distant cities of the land, and say to them, “Behold your God “If you have seen your Lord, beloved, proclaim the good news to those who have well nigh forgotten that there is a God, say to them, “Behold your God. He is still to be seen, by the eye of faith, working graciously in the midst of the earth.”

Isaiah 40:10-11. 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. 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.

He knows their weakness, their weariness, their pain, and how incapable they are of speedy and long traveling; he is very tender and pitiful, and he will gently lead them.

Isaiah 40:12-14. Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance. Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him? 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?

And yet, beloved, we sometimes act as if we were God’s teachers, as if we had to instruct him what he should do, and because we cannot see our way, we almost dream that he cannot, and because we are puzzled, we conceive that infinite wisdom must be at a nonplus; but it is not so. He was full of wisdom when there was no one with whom he could take counsel, and he is still wise in the highest degree.

Isaiah 40:15. Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket,

Not a bucketful, but just a drop that remains in the bucket after you thought it had been completely emptied.

Isaiah 40:15. And are counted as the small dust of the balance:

Remember that this is said of “the nations.” China, India, Europe, Africa, with all their teeming multitudes, are only like the small dust of the balance that is blown away by the slightest puff of wind.

Isaiah 40:15-16. Behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon

With all its forests of cedar: “Lebanon” —

Isaiah 40:16. Is not sufficient to burn,

Think of all the cedars of Lebanon as being on a blaze, like some great forest fire, yet not being sufficient to supply the wood for God’s altars.

Isaiah 40:16. Nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.

Whether it be the wild or the tame beasts that are on that mountain range, they are not sufficient for a burnt offering unto the Most High.

Isaiah 40:17. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.

As if they were the mere shadow of something, and had no more influence over him than as if they did not exist.

Isaiah 40:18. To whom then will ye liken God?

This is a strong argument against idolatry, against the worship of God under any visible form whatsoever: “To whom then will ye liken God?”

Isaiah 40:18. Or what likeness will ye compare unto him?

The heathen did make these supposed likenesses of God. Here is a description of the process by which they manufactured their idol gods.

Isaiah 40:19.The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold,

The rough metal is cast in a certain fashion, and then the goldsmith puts on it his thin plates of gold,

Isaiah 40:19. And casteth silver chains.

To adorn it.

Isaiah 40:20. He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation —

The poor man, who cannot manage to make a god of gold,

Isaiah 40:20. Chooseth a tree that will not rot;

A good piece of heart of oak or enduring elm.

Isaiah 40:20. He seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved.

Fix it firmly, drive the post down far into the earth, so that it may be an immovable god.

Isaiah 40:21-26. Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations or the earth? It is he that sitteth upon 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: That bringeth the princess to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. 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. To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high,

Suppose it to be night time: “Lift up your eyes on high,” —

Isaiah 40:26. And behold who hath created these things,

These wondrous worlds, these stars that bespangle the firmament.

Isaiah 40:26. That bringeth out their host by number:

For God knows the number of them all, and the name of every separate world that moves in the vast expanse of space.

Isaiah 40:26. He calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.

They are not propped up with pillars, nor hung upon some mighty ropes, yet they continue to occupy the spheres appointed to them by God. He hangeth the world upon nothing, and keeps it in its place by the perpetual out-going of his power.

Isaiah 40:27. 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?

What! when he has not forgotten one of all those mighty hosts of stars, and when not a sparrow falleth to the ground without his notice, how can you dream that he has forgotten you, or that your way is hidden from him?

Isaiah 40:28-31. 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. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 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.


Verses 9-11

40:9-11. 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; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord God will come with a strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. 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.

This office of Christ makes glad the hearts of those who have to preach it. To lift up our voice and to proclaim to others the good tidings is grateful service. It is the joy of the church that Jesus, the Lord God Almighty, is strong for the defense of his people, and at the same time tender towards their infirmities. Let us rejoice and be glad in him. Now let us hear what our Shepherd saith by the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel. After he has been complaining of the hireling shepherds — the false ones who sought the fleece and not the flock, who did not feed the sheep nor care for them, nor had any tenderness toward them; he goes on to show what he will do for his own.

This exposition consisted of readings from Psalms 23, Isaiah 40:9-11, Ezekiel 34:11-25.


Verses 25-31

Isaiah 40:25-26. To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. 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.

There is no other power that hangs yon lamps of heaven in their places, and keeps them ever burning, except the power of his Word. This whole round earth of ours hangs on nothing but the bidding of the Most High. I remember how Luther used to console himself in troublous times by saying, “Look at yonder arch of blue. There is not a pillar to hold it up, and yet whoever saw the skies fall?” Nothing but the power of God keeps them up. My soul, if all the worlds were made by his word, canst not thou hang on that word? If all things do exist but by the will and word of thy Father, can he not support thee, and canst thou not trust him? Oh! this confidence in the invisible and eternal ought to be natural to us as God’s children. But alas! here is our great sin — that we frequently trust in an arm of flesh and forget our God.

Isaiah 40:27. 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?

He forgets no star amongst the myriads, no creature amongst the multitudes. He has marked in his book the track of every single atom of air, and every particle of dust, and every drop of spray, and how canst thou be forgotten?

Isaiah 40:28-29. 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. He giveth power to the faint:

He loves to pour out into empty vessels. He does not give his power to the strong, but “he giveth power to the faint,” and the more faint thou art, the more room for his strength. Trust thou in him. If thou art burdened that thou canst not stand, lean on him. The more thou dost lean, the better will he love thee. He delights to help his people. “He giveth power to the faint.”

Isaiah 40:29-30. And to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:

We sometimes wish that we were as young as some, and that we had all their overflowing spirit — all the effervescence of their juvenile ardor. Ah, well! we need not wish for it, for mere mortal power shall droop and die, and earthly vigor cease, while such as trust the Lord shall find their strength increased. “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall.”

Isaiah 40:31. But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles;

That is very much when they begin. They are all for flying; and God gives them a glorious flight, land they are so happy and so delighted. But they will do better than that.

Isaiah 40:31. They shall run, and not be weary;

Is that better than flying? Yes it is — a better pace to keep up, but God enables his servants at length to keep along the road of duty and to run in it. But there is a better pace than that.

Isaiah 40:31. And they shall walk, and not faint.

It is a good, steady pace. It is the pace that Enoch kept when he walked with God. Sometimes it is easier to take a running spurt than it is to keep on day by day walk, walk, walk, in the sobriety of Christian conversation.

Many under excitement can run a race, but it is the best of all to be able steadily to walk on, walking with God the Lord. The lord bring us to that pace. “They shall walk and not faint.”

This exposition consisted of readings from Isaiah 40:1-17; Isaiah 25-31. John 1:29-42.

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/isaiah-40.html. 2011.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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