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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Isaiah 40:31

Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.
New American Standard Version
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  1. Adam Clarke Commentary
  2. Bridgeway Bible Commentary
  3. Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible
  4. E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes
  5. Calvin's Commentary on the Bible
  6. Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible
  7. James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary
  8. Chuck Smith Bible Commentary
  9. John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
  10. Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
  11. Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
  12. Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
  13. Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
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Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Blessing;   Desire;   God Continued...;   Power;   Readings, Select;   Righteous;   Waiting;   Worship;   Thompson Chain Reference - Attitudes of the Christian;   Birds;   Eagles;   New;   Power;   Promises, Divine;   Renewal, Spiritual;   Seven;   Source of Spiritual Power;   Strength;   Wait upon God;   Weakness-Power;   The Topic Concordance - Fainting;   Waiting;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Eagle, the;   Saints, Compared to;   Waiting upon God;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Image;   Isaiah;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Restore, Renew;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Eagle;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Delilah;   Jacob;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Birds;   Future Hope;   God;   Isaiah;   Providence;   Wing;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Eagle;   Micah, Book of;   Righteousness;   Servant of the Lord;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Eagle ;   Walk (2);   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Eagle;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Eagle;   Faint;   God, Names of;   Renew;   Text of the Old Testament;   Wings;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Courage;   God;   Patience;   Usque;  
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for September 10;   Every Day Light - Devotion for November 15;   Today's Word from Skip Moen - Devotion for January 1;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

They shall mount zap with wings as eagles "They shall put forth fresh feathers like the moulting eagle" - It has been a common and popular opinion that the eagle lives and retains his vigor to a great age; and that, beyond the common lot of other birds, he moults in his old age, and renews his feathers, and with them his youth. "Thou shalt renew thy youth like the eagle, "says the psalmist, Psalm 103:5; on which place St. Ambrose notes, Aquila longam aetatem ducit, dum, vetustis plumis fatiscentibus, nova pennarum successione juvenescit: "The eagle lives to a very advanced age; and in moulting his youth is renewed with his new feathers." Phile, De Animalibus, treating of the eagle, and addressing himself to the emperor Michael Palaeologus junior, raises his compliment upon the same notion: -

Τουτου συ, βασιλευ, τον πολυν ζωοις βιον,��<-144 �Αει νεουργων, και κρατυνων την φυσινπ .

"Long may'st thou live, O king; still like the eagle

Renew thy youth, and still retain thy vigor."

To this many fabulous and absurd circumstances are added by several ancient writers and commentators on Scripture; see Bochart, Hieroz. 2 ii. 1. Rabbi Saadias says, Every tenth year the eagle flies near the sun; and when not able any longer to bear the burning heat, she falls down into the sea, and soon loses her feathers, and thus renews her vigor. This she does every tenth year till the hundredth, when, after she has ascended near the sun, and fallen into the sea, she rises no more. How much proof do such stories require! Whether the notion of the eagle's renewing his youth is in any degree well founded or not, I need not inquire; it is enough for a poet, whether profane or sacred, to have the authority of popular opinion to support an image introduced for illustration or ornament. - L

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Israel's incomparable God (40:12-31)

Should any doubt God's ability to re-establish Israel in its homeland, the psalm of praise that follows drives away those doubts. God is the great Creator; the universe appears insignificant compared with him. He does whatever he wants, without any help or advice from his creatures (12-14). Israel has no need to fear Babylon or any other ruling power, for nations also are insignificant and powerless before him (15-17). How absurd, therefore, for people to make lifeless idols and trust in them instead of in the living, almighty God. Yahweh's people need have no fear of Babylon's gods (18-20).

Since Yahweh created all and rules over all, the leaders of the nations are as powerless before him as ants or grasshoppers. They are as easily destroyed as dry grass (21-24). On the earth or in the heavens, God controls all (25-26).

In view of all this, the Jewish exiles need not become discouraged through thinking that God is either unwilling or unable to help them. He has not forgotten them, nor has he lost his power. Through him the weak can be made strong (27-29). Those who trust in their own strength will fail, no matter how capable they may appear to be. But those who trust in God will be constantly strengthened by his power, which will lead them on victoriously (30-31).

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

But they that wait upon the Lord - The word rendered ‹wait upon‘ here (from קוה qâvâh ), denotes properly to wait, in the sense of expecting. The phrase, ‹to wait on Yahweh,‘ means to wait for his help; that is, to trust in him, to put our hope or confidence in him. It is applicable to those who are in circumstances of danger or want, and who look to him for his merciful interposition. Here it properly refers to those who were suffering a long and grievous captivity in Babylon, and who had no prospect of deliverance but in him. The phrase is applicable also to all who feel that they are weak, feeble, guilty, and helpless, and who, in view of this, put their trust in Yahweh. The promise or assurance here is general in its nature, and is as applicable to his people now as it was in the times of the captivity in Babylon. Religion is often expressed in the Scriptures by ‹waiting on Yahweh,‘ that is, by looking to him for help, expecting deliverance through his aid, putting trust in him (see Psalm 25:3, Psalm 25:5, Psalm 25:21; Psalm 27:14; Psalm 37:7, Psalm 37:9, Psalm 37:34; Psalm 69:3; compare Isaiah 8:17, note; Isaiah 30:18, note).

It does not imply inactivity, or want of personal exertion; it implies merely that our hope of aid and salvation is in him - a feeling that is as consistent with the most strenuous endeavors to secure the object, as it is with a state of inactivity and indolence. Indeed, no man can wait on God in a proper manner who does not use the means which he has appointed for conveying to us his blessing. To wait on him without using any means to obtain his aid, is to tempt him; to expect miraculous interposition is unauthorized, and must meet with disappointment. And they only wait on him in a proper manner who expect his blessing in the common modes in which he imparts it to men - in the use of those means and efforts which he has appointed, and which he is accustomed to bless. The farmer who should wait for God to plow and sow his fields, would not only be disappointed, but would be guilty of provoking Him. And so the man who waits for God to do what he ought to do; to save him without using any of the means of grace, will not only be disappointed, but will provoke his displeasure.

Shall renew their strength - Margin, ‹Change.‘ The Hebrew word commonly means to change, to alter; and then to revive, to renew, to cause to flourish again, as, e. g., a tree that has decayed and fallen down (see the note at Isaiah 9:10; compare Job 14:7). Here it is evidently used in the sense of renewing, or causing to revive; to increase, and to restore that which is decayed. It means that the people of God who trust in him shall become strong in faith; able to contend with their spiritual foes, to gain the victory over their sins, and to discharge aright the duties, and to meet aright the trials of life. God gives them strength, if they seek him in the way of his appointment - a promise which has been verified in the experience of his people in every age.

They shall mount up with wings as eagles - Lowth translates this ‹They shall put forth fresh feathers like the moulting eagle;‘ and in his note on the passage remarks, that ‹it has been a common and popular opinion that the eagle lives and retains his vigor to a great age; and that, beyond the common lot of other birds, he moults in his old age, and renews his feathers, and with them his youth.‘ He supposes that the passage in Psalm 103:5, ‹So that thy youth is renewed like the eagles,‘ refers to this fact. That this was a common and popular opinion among the ancients, is clearly proved by Bochart (Hieroz. ii. 2. 1. pp. 165-169). The opinion was, that at stated times the eagle plunged itself in the sea and cast off its old feathers, and that new feathers started forth, and that thus it lived often to the hundredth year, and then threw itself in the sea and died. In accordance with this opinion, the Septuagint renders this passage, ‹They shall put forth fresh feathers ( πτεροφυήσουσιν pterophuēsousin ) like eagles.‘ Vulgate, Assument pennas sicut aquiloe.

The Chaldee renders it, ‹They who trust in the Lord shall be gathered from the captivity, and shall increase their strength, and renew their youth as a germ which grows up; upon wings of eagles shall they run and not be fatigued.‘ But whatever may be the truth in regard to the eagle, there is no reason to believe that Isaiah here had any reference to the fact that it moults in its old age. The translation of Lowth was derived from file Septuagint, and not from the Hebrew text. The meaning of the Hebrew is simply, ‹they shall ascend on wings as eagles,‘ or ‹they shall lift up the wings as eagles;‘ and the image is derived from the fact that the eagle rises on the most vigorous wing of any bird, and ascends apparently further toward the sun. The figure, therefore, denotes strength and vigor of purpose; strong and manly piety; an elevation above the world; communion with God, and a nearness to his throne - as the eagle ascends toward the sun.

They shall run and not be weary - This passage, also, is but another mode of expressing the same idea - that they who trust in God would be vigorous, elevated, unwearied; that he would sustain and uphold them; and that in his service they would never faint. This was at first designed to be applied to the Jews in captivity in Babylon to induce them to put their trust in God. But it is as true now as it was at that time. It has been found in the experience of thousands and tens of thousands, that by waiting on the Lord the heart has been invigorated; the faith has been confirmed; and the affections have been raised above the world. Strength has been given to bear trial without complaining, to engage in arduous duty without fainting, to pursue the perilous and toilsome journey of life without exhaustion, and to rise above the world in hope and peace on the bed of death.

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

renew = change. Hebrew. halaph, to change for the better. See note on Leviticus 27:10.

strength = strength (to endure). Same word as in Isaiah 40:9. Not the same as in verses: Isaiah 26:29.

mount up . . . run . . . walk. Note the Figure of speech Cata-basis, to call attention (by Application) to the progress of experience in grace. At first we fly (compare Paul, 2 Corinthians 11:5; 2 Corinthians 12:11); then we run (compare Paul, Ephesians 3:8); then we walk (compare Paul, 1 Timothy 1:15).

Copyright Statement
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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

31.But they that wait for Jehovah. Hebrew writers employ the phrase, “exchanging strength,” (131) to denote “gathering new strength,” and thus “being restored.” The Prophet therefore shews, that godly persons, who shall hope in God, will not be deficient in strength; and he confirms what he formerly said,

“In rest and silence shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15.)

We must not become agitated, or throw ourselves forward rashly, but “wait” patiently. In this passage, therefore, waiting means nothing else than patience. Violent men dash themselves to pieces by their own eagerness, but the vigor of godly men, though it has less display, and often appears to lie buried while they calmly “wait for” God’s assistance, is refreshed and renewed. We must therefore return to the saying of Paul, that

“the power of God is made perfect in our weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9.)

We must, therefore be fully convinced of our weakness, that we may yield to the power of God. The Jews, who were oppressed by that cruel captivity, had great need of this doctrine; but for us also, during this wretchedly ruinous condition of the Church, it is exceedingly needful.

They shall raise their wings as eagles. It is generally believed that the Prophet uses this phrase in the same sense that the Psalmist says,

“Thy youth shall be renewed like that of the eagle.”
Psalms 103:5.)

It is certain that the “eagle” is very long-lived as compared with other birds.

Aristotle and Pliny affirm that it never dies of old age, but of hunger; that is, that when the upper part of the beak becomes too large, it cannot take food into its mouth, and for a long time subsists entirely on what it drinks. One Zaadias, as all Jews are audacious in constructing fables, pretends that the eagle flies upward into the region that is near the sun, and approaches the sun so closely, that its old wings are burned, and other new ones grow in their place; but this is utterly absurd and fabulous. The Prophet means that they who trust in the Lord will be vigorous, like eagles, till the most advanced old age. But seeing that eagles fly higher than other birds, by which they shew remarkable swiftness, which has also given rise to the proverb, “An eagle among the clouds,” this passage may be understood to denote not only long life, but also strength and agility; so that Isaiah, after having shewn that their strength is recruited, adds that they are more vigorous, and ascend to a great height. Such is also the import of what follows, —

They shall run and shall not be weary. It is as if he had said, that the Lord will assist them, so that they shall pursue their course without any molestation. It is a figurative expression, by which he intimates that believers (132) will always be ready to perform their duty with cheerfulness. But it will be said, “There are so many troubles which we must endure in this life; how then does he say that we shall be exempt from weariness?” I reply, believers are indeed distressed and wearied, but they are at length delivered from their distresses, and feel that they have been restored by the power of God; for it happens to them according to the saying of Paul,

“While we are troubled on every side, we are not overwhelmed; we are perplexed, but are not in despair; we suffer persecution, but are not forsaken; we are cast down, but are not destroyed.”
2 Corinthians 4:8.)

Let us therefore learn to flee to the Lord, who, after we have encountered many storms, will at length conduct us to the harbor; for he who hath opened up a path, and hath commanded us to advance in that course in which he hath placed us, does not intend to assist us only for a single day, and to forsake us in the middle of our course, (Philippians 1:6,) but will conduct us to the goal.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible

  1. Intro:
    1. This week – The dominant theme is the awesome greatness of God. And, the complete inability of His people to understand who He really is. [Incomprehensible yet knowable!]
      1. See vs.21,28 {Have you not known/heard?}
        1. The prophet Isaiah is not afraid to use satire. It is a dangerous weapon, but of course he wields the sword well.
      2. In ch.’s 40-48(9 ch.’s) there are 216 verses, in which 115 speak of God’s greatness & power!
      3. Again, we learned last week that there is more to God’s character than judgment…He is full of Mercy, Grace, & He is eager to lavish
    2. His love on his people!
    3. Outline: [1] The God Who Created all Things [2] The God Who Reigns Over Us [3] The God Who Cares for Us.
      1. If we only had this ½ a chapter on the subject of God, let’s see all that we can learn about Him!
    1. He is Vast! (12)
    2. Time to regroup. Israel would be in Babylon & they would need this reminder of God’s greatness.
      1. Q: Do you need that reminder tonight for your thorny situation you find yourself in?
    3. He has Perfect Knowledge! (13,14)
      1. Lean not on your own understanding!
      2. God IS greater than the burden you bear & the challenge you face!
    4. He is Mighty over the Nations! (15-17)
      1. (Message Bible) “There aren’t enough trees in Lebanon nor enough animals in those vast forests to furnish adequate fuel and offerings for his worship.”
      2. To God, Babylon wasn’t but a drop in a bucket to God(a bug in a windshield) & neither are they today(pray for the healing of Iraq).
    5. He is Difficult to Contrast! (18-20)
      1. Be astonished at the bridging of the great gulf between God and not God.
      2. This picture is most ridiculous because it is framed by 2 paragraphs full of the Glory of the true God.
    6. (20) will not totter –
      1. Q: What was Gideon’s nickname, & where did he get it?
      2. Read Judges 6:25-23. (emphasize vs.26,31)
    1. ​​​​​​​He has Infinite Power! (21-24)
    2. (22) The great novelist Thomas Hardy thought, “if God existed he was a watchmaker who had wound the world up, but was letting it run down.”
      1. I would say, “if God was a watchmaker you would also find He was also the watch repairman. Who watches over us w/great watchfulness, from His Watch Tower. And He even has a Watch Pawn Shop in which he redeems watches!…so you better watch it!”
      2. Isaiah knew better, he sees God still on His throne, that is, in control! (see 23)
    3. He has Infinite Power! (25,26)
    4. (26) Lift up your eyes – i.e. from earthly things, & look upwards to God.
      1. Don’t be like the centipede who was doing fine until someone asked him which of his one hundred legs came after which. He'd never thought of that before. The more he thought about it, the more he couldn't remember, and then he found he couldn't walk at all. - - - Lift up your eyes!
      2. Sir Isaac Newton, “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God.”
      3. Q: Wow! And if the bottom side of heaven is this beautiful, just think how wonderful the other side must be!
    5. He calls them by name –Such a God can be trusted to know our deepest need.
      1. The Milky Way numbers 100,000 million stars, many of them brighter than the sun. Yet one quasar is 200 times as bright as the entire Milky Way galaxy!
        1. Yet Look at Gen.1:16 it’s almost lost in the creation account. And yet that was a huge feat!
    6. Not one is missing – From a poetic eye, it sounds like a vast flock following the Shepherd, who calls each by name! (Meyer)
      1. Will not Jehovah do so much for us? – He has a name for each, & He will guard & guide each!
      2. He loves us more than stars!
      3. Q: Can God miss even one of your problems?
  4. THE GOD WHO CARES FOR US!  (27-31)
    1. ​​​​​​​He Cares & Empowers! (27-31)
      1. Isaiah’s profound theology ends with a practical climax, as all theology should!
    2. (27) /“GOD has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me?” (Message)
    3. (29) Trust in the power of God!
    4. (Phillips Brooks) Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger people! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks.
      1. (John Knox) “Mark what has been the practice of the Devil from the beginning, most cruelly to rage against God's children, when God begins to show them his mercy. And therefore marvel not, dearly beloved, though this should happen to you. If Satan fume and roar against you, whether it be against your bodies by persecution, or inwardly in your consciences by a spiritual battle, do not be discouraged, as though you were less acceptable in God's presence, or that Satan might at any time prevail against you. No!... I have good hope, and my prayer will likewise be, that you may be so strengthened, that the world and Satan himself may understand and perceive, that God is fighting your battle.”
      2. He is not too great to care, he is, however, too great to fail.
    5. (30,31) Remember what God spoke to Israel in Ex.19:4 “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.”
      1. He does the same for us tonight Christian!
      2. There are two tiny towns in North Carolina, not very far apart. One is named Trust and the other Luck. In each case, the population is quite small. But, in fact, everybody lives in one or the other of these towns! We live by trust or we live by luck.
        1. Our response should be to put our hope & trust in the Lord!
    6. There are three stages of life.
      1. You can be like an eagle, a runner, or a pilgrim.
      2. Sometimes we mount up with wings as an eagle and fly. We're on top of the world.
      3. Q: How do Eagles mount up?…they soar!
        1. Stop flapping like a spastic duck! (flying bowling pins)
      4. Q: Where are you being asked to soar w/vision?
      5. Sometimes we run, and we don't grow weary.
        1. But is it just routine?
      6. Q: Where are you being asked to run w/consistency?
      7. Sometimes it's all we can do to walk and not faint.
        1. This can be the daily routine of life, that often times people seek to escape from!
        2. Often time it is more difficult to walk than mount!
        3. Every cyclist knows that it is hardest to keep your cycle at walking pace.
      8. Q: Where are you being asked to walk w/patience?
    7. He  will help you all 3,all 3 require His might power (29,30b)
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Brian Bell Commentary". 2017.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary


‘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.’

Isaiah 40:31

I. Consider, first, what it is to wait upon the Lord.—Three things make it: service, expectation, patience. ‘Wait on the Lord.’ We must be as those Eastern maidens who, as they ply their needle or their distaff, look to the eye and wait upon the hand of their mistress, as their guide which is to teach them, or their model which they are to copy. Our best lessons are always found in a Father’s eye. Therefore, if you would ‘wait upon the Lord, you must be always looking out for voices—those still small voices of the soul—and you must expect them, and you must command them. But service, however devoted, or expectation, however intense, will not be waiting without patience. Here is where so many fail. The waiting times are so long; the interval between the prayer and the answer, between the repentance and the peace, between the work and the result, between sowing-time and reaping-time, and we are such impatient, impetuous creatures. We could not ‘tarry the Lord’s leisure.’

II. Consider, next, the action: elevation, rapid progress, a steady course—soar, run, walk.—Is it not just what we want—to get higher, to go faster, and to be more calmly consistent? (1) Elevation. What are the wings? Beyond a doubt, faith, prayer; or, if you will, humility and confidence in a beautiful equipoise, balancing one another on either side, so that the soul sustains itself in mid-air and flies upward. (2) ‘They shall run.’ Have you ever noticed how the servants of God in the Bible—from Abraham and David to Philip in the Acts—whenever they were told to do anything always ran. It is the only way to do anything well. A thousand irksome duties become easy and pleasant if we do them runningly, that is with a ready mind, an affectionate zeal, and a happy alacrity. (3) But there is something beyond this. It is more difficult to walk than to run. To maintain a quiet, sustained walk, day by day, in the common things of life, in the house and out of the house, not impulsive, not capricious, not changeable—that is the hardest thing to do. Let me give four rules for this walk: (a) Start from Christ; (b) walk with Christ; (c) walk leaning on Christ; (d) walk to Christ.

Rev. James Vaughan.


‘In the ministry of Christian service the last is the best. It may be best with us long after the two pence are spent, when we are spending more and more, and yet spending far more consciously than before what is not ours by nature. The promise marks an ascent, though it may not seem to do so. “They shall mount up on wings as eagles.” There is a better thing, “They shall run, and not be weary,” and best of all there is this, “They shall walk, and not faint.” It is the climax of covenant grace.

So as of old I follow Him

Only another way;

When the lights of the world are growing dim,

And my heart already is singing the hymn

Of twilight grown to day.’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary


But he"s talking about a whole new message of God for the people as we get into the new covenant of God. And so it is appropriate that this new section of Isaiah begins with the word of the Lord declaring,

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak 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 of her sins ( Isaiah 40:1-2 ).

So the day of God"s forgiveness, reconciliation.

The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God ( Isaiah 40:3 ).

You remember when John the Baptist began his ministry that many people gathered out to him there at the Jordan River. And the Pharisees came unto John and they said, "Who are you? Are you Elijah?" He said, "Nope." "Are you Jeremiah?" "Nope." "Are you the Messiah?" "Nope." "Then who are you?" And he quoted this scripture, "I am the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord" ( John 1:23 ). So he quoted to them this prophecy of Isaiah. And so we are coming into the new age, into the New Testament era, as from this point on Isaiah really begins to zero in on the coming Messiah. "The voice of him that cried in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.""

Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill will be brought down: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain ( Isaiah 40:4 ):

The Lord"s going to smooth out things. Going to fill in the valleys and bring down the hills. He"s going to straighten the crooked paths and smooth things out.

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 ( Isaiah 40:5 ).

And so God declares the day when His glory will be revealed and all will see it. What a glorious day! How we anticipate that glorious day of the return of Jesus Christ when every eye shall see Him in His glory. That"s more or less an introduction to this new section. And now he cries out declaring the weakness and the frailty of man as it is contrasted with the glory and power of God.

The voice said ( Isaiah 40:6 ),

That is, the voice of the Lord to Isaiah.

Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? [Cry] All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withers, the flower fades: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withers, the flower fades: but the word of our God shall stand for ever ( Isaiah 40:6-8 ).

So men are as grass. Actually, "What is life?" James said, "It"s just like a vapor, it appears for a season and then it"s gone" ( James 4:14 ). It"s like, "the grass of the field, which today is, and is tomorrow cast into the oven" ( Luke 12:28 ). Speaking of the brevity of life and the frailty of life. Like a flower, it blossoms forth and then it fades away. That"s what it"s all about. I"m on the fading end. So is life. We"re here for a time and then we pass on. But there is something that endures-the Word of the Lord. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Word will never pass away" ( Matthew 24:35 ). Oh, the value and the power of the Word of God. It is forever. Man, one generation will come and another will go and you got the changing generations of humanity, but God"s Word lasting right on through from one generation to the next.

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 is before him ( Isaiah 40:9-10 ).

The coming of our Lord.

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd ( Isaiah 40:11 ):

Now this is obvious-a reference to Jesus Christ. "Behold, Jehovah God will come with a strong hand. His arm will rule. Behold, His reward is with Him and His work before Him." Jesus said, "Behold, I come and My reward is with Me" ( Revelation 22:12 ) in His messages to the churches. For 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 ( Isaiah 40:11 ).

Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd: I lay down My life for My sheep" ( John 10:11 ). "He shall feed His flock like a shepherd." And then it declares of the greatness of His power and of His glory.

Who measured the waters in the hollow of his hand ( Isaiah 40:12 ),

The great oceans of the earth-the Atlantic, Pacific, Antarctic, Arctic, Indian-measured them in the hollow of His hand. That"s a pretty big God. When you fly over the Atlantic, the Pacific, you see all that water that is there. There it is; He"s measured it out. Here, let"s create the oceans. How great! But even more,

he meted out heaven with the span ( Isaiah 40:12 ),

The measurement for the universe. Now someone came to me this morning and said that he read an article the other day that we have just discovered a galaxy that is fifty billion light years away. Now I have to question that figure. How do they know it"s fifty billion light years away? Could be forty-nine. I mean, when you get that far off, how can you really know? You see, there"s a lot of assumptions that have to be made to come up with a figure like that. One of the assumptions is that light always travels at a hundred and eighty-six thousand miles a second. That may not be a correct assumption. There may be variables that will cause a change in the speed of light that we don"t know. Aspects of physics that may be that the speed of light isn"t constant. So it"s a lot of guesswork.

But at any rate, when he told me that he read this article that they found this galaxy fifty billion light years away, I said, "Wow, God"s even bigger, isn"t He?" "cause He measured the thing with His span. I don"t care how big it is. "He meted out the heavens with the span."

How big is your God? It is so important that our theology be correct, because if our theology is not correct, then we"re going to have problems all the way along. Knowing God is the most important thing in the world. Knowing the truth of God. And God has revealed the truth concerning Himself in this book. And God is so great and so vast and so powerful, so awesome that He measured the waters in the palm of His hand and He meted out the heavens with the span.

he comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? ( Isaiah 40:12 )

God comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure. Have you ever wondered how many grains of sand there might be here upon the earth? You know that they"ve actually sort of come up with a figure? And do you know that the figure that they have come up with is approximately what they figure to be the number of stars in the heaven? Now it is interesting that when God said to Abraham, "Even as the stars of the heaven are innumerable and the sands of the sea, so will your descendants be innumerable" ( Hebrews 11:12 ). But God made a comparison between the stars of the heaven and the sands of the sea and they believe that it is something like1025 power is the number. By weighing the earth and the grains of sand and so forth, got a formula by which they came to that. But who knows? Who counteth? Once more, who cares?

Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD ( Isaiah 40:13 ),

I have. Man, I"ve directed God in so many things. I"ve sought so many times to take over the reins and tell God how He ought to do it. "Now Lord, got it all figured out. If You"ll just do this and this and this, just it will be smooth, Lord, and just really work like a clock." I"ve sought to direct God, Spirit of the Lord.

or being his counselor who hath taught him? ( Isaiah 40:13 )

In reality, we"ve all endeavored to do this a time or two. To teach God what"s best for us.

With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding? ( Isaiah 40:14 )

Now as we realize the greatness and the vastness of God, and surely the power and the wisdom of God, how foolish for me to attempt to instruct God in anything! And yet, so often our prayers are like little information times. "Now Lord, I want You to know what"s going on. And I don"t like it." And I start laying the trip on God. "This is what they did and this is what I said." Hey, He... What are you telling Him that He doesn"t already know? Who"s given God understanding? Who"s instructed Him?

Our very endeavor to do so only indicates our lack of a true comprehension of the omniscience of God. This is what makes these doctrines of prosperity and everybody ought to be healed and all of this so ridiculous, because the effect of these doctrines is to place man in the driver"s seat and God in the servant"s seat. And now I am directing God what to do and how to do it. And rather than me taking my orders from God, it"s reversed and God"s got to be taking orders from me. Rather than God"s will being done, there"s an insistence that my will be done. And that whole system just is utterly blasphemous! To think that I know better than does God. What should be done in a given situation. Or I know what"s best for me. I don"t. I do. What"s best for me is God to work out His will perfectly and completely in my life. That"s what best for me. Nothing finer could ever happen to me.

Behold, the nations are like a drop of a bucket ( Isaiah 40:15 ),

So that"s where that phrase "a drop in a bucket" has come from.

and are counted as the small dust of the balance ( Isaiah 40:15 ):

In those days, of course, they did all of their weighing in balanced scales. They had the little weights, and in Proverbs, you remember how God doesn"t like divers weights? Some of the crooked merchants would have one weight for buying stuff and another weight for selling stuff. And they were both marked one pound, but one of them was heavier than the other. And so if you"re buying you use one set of weights and in selling you use another set. And God said, "I hate those divers weights." And He really came down on them in the Proverbs. Now other merchants in endeavoring to show how totally honest they were, before they would put the merchandise in the scales, they would blow the dust off. So give me a pound of the almonds. And so he blows the dust off the scale and I think, "My, he"s such an honest man. I"m not having to buy the dust. He"s going to give me an honest weight. After all, he"s taking care even to blow the dust off." So it was a common practice of blowing the dust off the scales before you weighed it in order to show how honest you were. So it"s a figure of speech that Isaiah used that would be very vivid and picturesque to the people "cause they could see the merchants blowing the dust off the scale. And as that dust is blowing off the scales, Isaiah is saying, "That"s how the nations are before God. He can blow any of them out of existence in a moment."

Nations that become so powerful, so strong, the Assyrian, like dust in the balance. God can blow them right out into oblivion. And God did. You haven"t met an Assyrian lately, have you? God blew.

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

The tremendous forests that were in Lebanon at that time, should you cut the whole forest down,

It would not be sufficient to burn [for an altar of sacrifice unto God], or if you took all of the beasts they would not be sufficient for a burnt offering sacrifice. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and emptiness. To whom then will ye liken God? what kind of a likeness will ye compare unto him? ( Isaiah 40:16-18 )

And he"s talking now of the folly of the people making a little idol to represent God. What are you going to make Him like? So you take a piece of wood or you take gold or silver and you start to carve. What are you going to carve to make a likeness of God? What are you going to make Him like? Now you think of the Hindu religion and the gods that they have carved out. Ugly, gargoyle kind of things. Multi-legged and armed and weird. Is that what God looks like? If you"re going to make a likeness of God, what kind of a likeness you going to make, Isaiah says.

The workman melts a graven image, and the goldsmith spreads it over with gold, and he places silver chains on it. He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooses a tree ( Isaiah 40:19-20 );

Now you don"t have enough money to make a gold god, then you"d go out and get a tree and you start carving out a little wooden idol.

a tree that will not rot ( Isaiah 40:20 );

So you seek to get good strong wood.

and then he seeks a cunning workman to prepare a carved out image, that he can set it up and worship ( Isaiah 40:20 ).

And say, "That"s my god."

Have ye not known? have ye not heard? has it not been told you from the beginning? have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he that sits upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; he stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in ( Isaiah 40:21-22 ):

The greatness of God. Now what are you going to make Him like and what are you going to fashion to look like your god? Don"t you realize how vast and great and so over-awing that He is that there"s no representation that you can make in a likeness of Him.

Notice He sits upon the circle of the earth. The Bible did not and does not and has never taught a flat earth. That was the view of the scientists of those days, not the men of God. The Bible has never taught that the earth rested on the back of an elephant or a turtle, or was being held by Atlas. That was taught by the men of science in those days. But Job said, "He hanged the earth on nothing" ( Job 26:7 ). He was scoffed at. How ridiculous! And so here, the circle of the earth. The earth is round. God"s Word declared it. Scientists finally caught up with it.

He brings princes to nothing; he makes the judges of the earth empty. Yea, they shall not be planted ( Isaiah 40:23-24 );

I guess some of the judges are empty. Boy, I"ll tell you. Did you read in the L.A. Times this week? God help us! They"ve got new parlors in Los Angeles, Hollywood. Hollywood"s got everything. Where you can go in and get beat for a half hour. Go in and get flogged. And they said the majority of their customers are judges in Los Angeles. And they say that it relaxes you and stimulates you sexually so you go home and ravish with your wife. But they say it isn"t really a sexual experience. Though, of course, the masochist can have an orgasm by being beat and all. But you go in and pay these people to flog you for half an hour. Now if that isn"t sick, I don"t know what is. And they"re bragging about the fact that so many of their customers are judges in Los Angeles. That they go in before the court in the morning and they get flogged and then they come to court and decide the future of people"s lives. God keep me out of court in L.A., I"ll tell you. But what I know of some of the Orange County judges, I wouldn"t want to be in court here either.

I feel like Habakkuk sometimes. "God, please don"t show me anything else. I can"t take it. Lord, I don"t want to know it. Ignorance is bliss. God, I"d just rather not know these things. It just upsets me so much!" And Habakkuk, he said, "Lord, please, the whole thing is going down the tubes and You"re not doing anything, God. I"d just rather not know. God, please, just don"t show me anything else. I"m just tired of seeing it, Lord. I just can"t take it. I just... Don"t let me see it."

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 ( Isaiah 40:24 ).

The princes and the judges of the earth.

To whom then will ye liken God ( Isaiah 40:25 ),

What are you going to compare Him to? What kind of a standard would you use in trying to compare with God? Who is the equal? You see, how can you compare the finite with the infinite? There is no even basis for comparison. There"s no standards.

Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created all of these stars, that brings out the constellations and all by their number: and he calls them all by their names ( Isaiah 40:26 )

The Bible says that God calls all the stars by their names. And if there"s1025 power stars, that"s a good memory. And these names aren"t George or Joe, but they are Arcturus and a lot of really fancy names. God calls them all by their names. Who you going to liken Him like? Who you going to make Him equal to? Who"s created all of these things?

by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. Why do you say, O Jacob, and you speak, O Israel, [saying] My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God? ( Isaiah 40:26-27 )

What makes you think you can hide from God? What makes you think God isn"t going to judge you? The prophet is saying to the people, "You"re only fooling yourself if you think that you"ve hidden it from God. You"re only fooling yourself if you think that God isn"t going to bring judgment."

Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, Yahweh, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding ( Isaiah 40:28 ).

There is no way by which the understanding or wisdom or knowledge of God can be measured. He"s omniscient. And yet,

He gives power to those who are fainting; and to those who have no might he increases strength ( Isaiah 40:29 ).

How beautiful that is. That this great God who created the universe will strengthen me and help me in my weakness. Paul the apostle said that he had a weakness, but he said that that weakness was something that he actually gloried in in order that God"s power might be demonstrated through him. For he said, "His strength is made perfect in our weakness" ( 2 Corinthians 12:9 ). And so it"s a glorious thing that I recognized my weakness, because then I learn to rely on Him and trust in Him. As long as I think I"m strong, as long as I think I can manage it, as long as I think I"ve got it. I can handle it, I"ve got it, don"t worry. I"ll take care of it. Man, I"ll tell you, I"m heading for disaster. But when I say, "Hey, there"s no way. I can"t do it." Don"t panic. Feel secure, because in my weakness, His strength is perfected.

Now we"re so prone to feel secure when a guy says, "Well, don"t worry, I"ll handle that for you. I can do it." We think, "All right, this guy has really got it together." Hey, watch out, man. That"s the kind of guy that"s going to fold when the pressure really gets heavy. But the guy who is not certain of himself but certain of his God is the one you want to be around when the chips are down. Because that is the man through whom the power of the eternal God will be demonstrated. He gives power to the faint. And to them who have no might He increases 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 ( Isaiah 40:30-31 ).

For the strength of the Lord is their portion and shall sustain them. This is the beginning of this glorious new section of the book of Isaiah and it is exciting. These last twenty-seven chapters of Isaiah are just thrilling to read of what God has in store for the future.

May the Lord be with you, watch over and keep you through the week. And may His strength be perfected in your weakness as you learn to just wait upon the Lord for His work and His help in your lives. "

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Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

The Proclamation of Deliverance

1, 2. The theme of the prophecies following: the period of Zion's trouble and affliction is over.

3-26. Celestial voices give the message of restoration to God's people, who are encouraged by the thought of His infinite power.

27-31. Trust in Jehovah is, therefore, the source of true strength.

2. Warfare] RM 'time of service,' i.e. enforced service and hardship: cp. Job 7:1. Double] i.e. double (ample) penalty (Jeremiah 17:18), in the sufferings of the exile.

3-5. A first voice enjoins preparation for the progress of the great King, who will bring back His people from exile.

3. Crieth, etc.] RV 'crieth, Prepare ye in the wilderness.' The passage was understood by the Baptist as prophetic of his own mission (John 1:23), and is so taken by thé Evangelists (Matthew 3:3 and parallels).

4. This imagery is from the practice of Eastem monarchs, who thus made roads for the passage of their armies.

5. Shall see] shall see Jehovah's glorious deeds for His people, and acknowledge Him.

6-8. The message of the second voice. Human things must decay: Israel's oppressors are mortal, but Jehovah's promiseissure.

6. He said] i.e. the prophet himself; then in the words following, in reply to his question, a message is put into his mouth. 7. Spirit] RV 'breath,' or wind.

9-11. The third voice—the good tidings brought to Zion that Jehovah is approaching in triumph, bringing back His people.

9. Read, 'O thou that teilest good tidings to Zion.. O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem.' 'Thou that teilest'is fem. in Heb. The prophet in spirit sees a maiden, or a company of women (Psalms 68:11) bringing the news.

10. His reward, etc.] The figure is that of a conqueror bringing the spoils of war. His work] RV 'recompense,' his redeemed people regarded as the prize of war.

11. The v. indicates in a figure the tender care with which God will support His people on their journey home. Are with young] RV 'give suck.'

12-26. The prophet's object is to show the power of Jehovah to deliver the people from captivity. He emphasises two thoughts: (a) the wonderful order and proportion in the universe show His infinite power and wisdom (Isaiah 40:12-17), and (b) no representation can be made of Him. How futile are the idols that men make! (Isaiah 40:18-20).

20. RV 'He that is too impoverished for such an oblation,' etc.

24. Shall not] read the tenses as past (RV). The v. expresses the transitory character of earthly powers in the sight of Jehovah.

26. Faileth] is missing.

27. The foregoing argument is addressed to a people who had suffered so long, that they thought God had forgotten them, and were despondent.

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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The dependable Lord40:27-31

Isaiah now applied this knowledge of God to the discouraging prospect that the Judahites faced, namely: Babylonian captivity (cf. Isaiah 39:6). Even though Isaiah spoke to the nation from the perspective of the captivity being past, he still addressed his pre-exilic contemporaries. He encouraged them by pointing to the sufficiency of their God. Since the Creator knows the name of everything in His complex creation, how could Hebrews, the God of Israel, possibly forget His covenant people? Since He is as powerful as He Isaiah, how could He be incapable of helping them?

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Circumstances may overcome even the strongest young people in their prime, either through lack of inner resources or because of the hardness of life. Yet those who continually rest on, trust in, and wait for Yahweh will receive renewed and different-divine-strength. The Hebrew verb translated "gain" suggests an exchange of strength, our inadequate strength for His abundant strength.

"This expression ["those who wait for the Lord"] implies two things: complete dependence on God and a willingness to allow him to decide the terms." [Note: Oswalt, The Book . . . 40-66, p74]

". . . the Old Testament applies to faith a number of synonyms denoting trust, hope, and longing, and thus describes it according to its inmost nature, as fiducia and as hope, directed to the manifestation and completion of that which is hoped for." [Note: Delitzsch, 2:156.]

They who wait on the Lord will be able to overcome natural drawbacks, endure with energy to spare, and keep on living without becoming excessively tired.

"The threefold description forms a climax, not its opposite; for the exceptional flying and the occasional running do not require, as does the constant walking, an ever-flowing stream of grace." [Note: Grogan, p246.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(31) They that wait upon the Lord.—The waiting implies, of course, the expectant attitude of faith.

Shall mount up with wings.—Better, shall lift up their wings, or, shall put forth wings’ feathers, the last, like Psalms 103:5, implying the belief that the eagle renewed its plumage in extreme old age. For the faithful there is no failure, and faith knows no weariness.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Comfort Ye! Comfort Ye!

Isaiah 40:1

How lovable the God who speaks thus! He allures us irresistibly. He commands our hearts. And the quality of the consolation He enjoins is so rich. Comfort, in the Bible, means strengthening. The word has deteriorated of late. It now too often signifies soothing, lulling to rest. But when God says "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people," He calls His prophets to strengthen them, to arouse them, to nerve them. It is a great and enduring empowerment which God desires for the people of His choice.

I. Comfort is commanded of God. Sweet is this "saith your God ". There is a God-given charter of consolation. Is not this very characteristic of God? In this as in all things God is very consistent.

Every congregation, whatever else it wants, wants comfort God enjoins it because God knows the deep and enduring need of it. "I was greatly comforted at Church," says John Wesley in his Journals.

II. God"s people have special need of comfort.

III. Verbal comfort is to be administered. "Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem."

IV. Trouble survived is a comforting consideration.

V. The forgiveness of sins is a source of powerful comfort.

VI. The exaction of retribution is a ground of comfort.

VII. Relationship with God is the most solid comfort.

—Dinsdale T. Young, The Gospel of the Left Hand, p193.

References.—XL1.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Lessons for Daily Life, p85. John Watson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii1900, p145. T. Allen, ibid. vol. lxx1901, p72. C. Stanford, Outlines of Sermons on the Old Testament, p197. W. J. Knox-Little, The Light of Life, p159. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv. No221. B. J. Snell, The All-Enfolding Love, p81. XL1, 2.—J. E. Vernon, Plain Preaching to Poor People (8th Series), p75. J. K. Popham, Sermons, p232. XL1-10.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture— Isaiah, p244. XL2.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Prophets, vol. i. p167.

The Message of Palm Sunday

Isaiah 40:3

That humble pageant from which Palm Sunday derives its name—that procession, so poor yet so royal, so fatal yet so victorious, whereby the Prophet of Nazareth claimed the allegiance of His people and challenged the power of their rulers—finds a picturesque memorial in the rites of the Eastern Church. The morning service is heralded by a procession from the western door of the church to the altar. First marches one who bears a burning torch; next a deacon, holding aloft a copy of the Gospels; then the priests and the bishop, with sacred images; and last, so long as the Eastern Empire endured, followed the Emperor in his most royal robes. All alike bear palm branches in their hands and chant the ancient hymn: "Come forth ye nations, come forth also ye people; look upon the kingdom of Heaven. The Gospel comes as a figure of the Christ" Those venerable words have a message for us Today; for they recall an aspect of Palm Sunday which is too little remembered. Year by year, when the day comes round, we give it a personal colour. Each one remembers a day, perhaps long ago, when the Saviour first made entry into his own heart; when first he consciously welcomed the King of Love. We do well so to remember, so to give thanks, and to renew the fervour of our loyalty. But personal faith is not the whole of religion. A Christian is concerned not only with his own soul, but with all humanity. He is pledged by the words of his daily prayer to extend the kingdom of God. He is bound on such a day to commemorate those eras of grace, landmarks in the history of mankind, when Christ has made entry into new realms, or brought new generations into His kingdom. He is encouraged to watch, as he prays, for the signs of a new visitation. He is impelled, as he looks upon some spiritual wilderness, to prepare the way of the Lord.

I. Preparing the Way.—Prepare the way! Does that mean lay out the Christian system before men"s eyes? Surely not. For the Gospel is neither a code of laws to be obeyed nor a set of principles to be learned: it Isaiah, first of all, the presentation of a Person and a Life, both human and Divine, which wins love and commands adoration. For that reason it can never grow obsolete so long as there are living men; for that reason, too, it needs ever fresh interpretation in speech and action—for only life can be the herald of life. As St. Paul says, "How shall men call on Him Whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him Whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" True! And the preacher must speak their language; he must understand the modes of their thought. Then he can go before as a herald; he can gain their ear by his sympathy, he can draw such a picture of his Lord as will appeal to them; and so they will open their gates to the peaceful Conqueror, so they will strew their palm branches and cry Hosanna in the highest!

II. A Divine Discontent.—The Church of Christ is irrevocably committed to a Divine discontent with the social order so long as it involves grave evils. But many of us have been infected with that facile optimism, born of material progress, which taught the middle nineteenth century to regard social evils as mere regrettable incidents in a victorious campaign. To the sufferers at least we have seemed to be apologists for intolerable wrongs. We must purge ourselves of this, one and all. We must reiterate the Church"s ancient war-cry—Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Secondly, we must show that our discontent is practical. We must demonstrate that the brotherhood of Prayer of Manasseh, in the eyes of Christians, is no abstract belief, but a living truth which is to be realized in the concrete. We must prove our conviction that the kingdom of God includes the organization of social life. If the Socialist programme, fallacious as it Isaiah, inspired by a pathetic ignorance of history and of human nature, appeals to men"s hearts because it provides a simple cure for monstrous evils, how much greater and more permanent would be the power of a Christian ideal, towards which all were consciously working? Oh that we had such an ideal clearly before us Today! How it would shine in our eyes, how it would sound in the very tones of our voices, how it would lend grace to our daily deeds! There would be little need of argument or exposition; the Christian"s life would prepare the way of his Lord into men"s hearts, for they would recognize that in our age, as in the age of St. Francis and of Luther, He comes to preach good tidings unto the meek, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.

—Canon Glazebrook, The Guardian, 24March, 1910.

References.—XL3.—S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year (2Series), vol. i. p25. J. Service, Sermons, p1. W. J. Rutherford, The Key of Knowledge, p63. H. P. Liddon, Sermons Preached on Special Occasions, 1860-89, p117. XL3, 4.—W. L. Williams, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiv1904, p74.

The Way to Heaven

Isaiah 40:4-5

There is a great work, a most difficult journey set before us all. We are at one end, and heaven at the other. Now Isaiah tells us that there are five things which we have to do in this matter: and they are set down in the order in which we have to do them. I. "Every valley shall be exalted." What does that mean? When a man begins in earnest to serve God, he finds so many difficulties, such different kinds of hindrances, so many defeats, that he is tempted to give all up as impossible. What does that man want, then, in the first place? Certainly comfort And therefore the same Isaiah, beginning his prophecies of the great things that God was about to do for His Church, opens them thus: "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem." Therefore it was that our Lord, coming to His Disciples after His Resurrection, began by saying, "Peace" (and peace is the same thing as comfort) "be unto you!" Half this discouragement arises from our own idleness.

And this—"every valley shall be exalted"—is set first, not only because it must really come first, but because also it is the most difficult. "Comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak," can be said in six words, but what a world of difficulty there is in them! And so it is in earthly matters: the filling up the valley is generally speaking a more difficult work than the cutting down of hills.

II. "And every mountain and hill shall be made low." For when Satan sees that a man cannot be discouraged from serving God, then he turns round and persuades him that he is serving God very well indeed; that he may well be proud to think how often he has resisted temptation, how often he has overcome difficulties, how often he has done great things for the sake of Christ. And Song of Solomon, except for God"s grace, that man is puffed up in his own conceit, thinks that he need no longer take any care to himself, and so falls back again into some grievous sin, and it may be that his last state is worse than the first.

III. "The crooked shall be made straight" That Isaiah, when a man is really serving God, he will go straight on in his duty, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left, not caring what this or that person may think, or what the world may say; but what God will say, how God will approve, how at last God will reward.

IV. "And the rough places plain." That part of the promise can hardly be altogether fulfilled in this world. Rough places there always are and must be: sorrow and trouble we shall have up to the very end. But the text tells us that it will not always be so. As surely as we have them here, so surely they can none of them enter in there.

V. "And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed." So it shall indeed be to those that are counted worthy to enter into the kingdom of Heaven. But what that glory is—or how it shall be made manifest—who shall tell? St. John could not: "Beloved," says Hebrews, "now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be."

—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, p57.

References.—XL4.—T. C. Fry, Christian World Pulpit. vol. xlvi1894, p381; see also The Gospel of the Kingdom, p21. H. Scott Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi1894, p385; see also The Gospel of the Kingdom, p37. C. W. Stubbs, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii1895, p8; see also The Gospel of the Kingdom, p59; see also ibid. p78.

Vox Clamantis

Isaiah 40:6

I would like to see the Church, all the Churches of Christ, holding their tongues until they had been shut up with the Lord, asking Him, "What shall we cry?" What did the voice say? It said, "Cry!" But that would be startling. Certainly. That would be fatal to slumber. No doubt; I never knew the Lord approve much sleeping; He does assign a few hours to rest, but it is a cluster of hours in which perhaps little else could be done. He is covetous of the daylight, He is miserly of the opportunity; He says: "Buy it up, buy it, seize it, have it, work while it is called day, even if it be so called by a stretch of imagination; make the light go as long and as far as you can".

I. I wonder if Christ would have said, "I would take a draught of water from you, but I don"t like the vessel; I can only drink out of gold, or silver certainly, not out of that rude thing of yours; I will go back to the city and bring up a proper vessel; I would not mind refreshing My thirst and cooling this hot summer that burns Me". Did He talk so? What did He want? He wanted the water, not the vessel. When the Church wants the water, the substance, the gift of God, the Lord will not disregard the supplication of His people. "What shall I cry?" The Lord says, Do not ask that question first; I have told you to cry; now you can ask the question, second, What shall I cry? But we must have the cry, the shout, the prayer that is so terribly alive that it will take the kingdom of heaven by violence. We must have these fever cries, these hot pulses, these shoutings without prompting. We may not have lost the message, and yet we may have lost the right way of delivering it. It would be possible so to read or speak even a great or true doctrine that not a soul would believe a word you said. The first business is in the cry—poignant, piercing, thrilling cry.

II. This inquiry for authority is well known by those who read the Scripture. There was a time when the Lord said unto a shepherd Prayer of Manasseh, "Go to Egypt". Why? "I have heard the cry of My people, the cry of pain, the cry of outraged humanity, the cry of instinctive justice: come, I will send thee, go thou to Egypt." And Moses said what the Prophet said, "Who sends me? What shall I say or cry if the people ask for my authority, if they ask my name? Shall I say that I am sent anonymously, or shall I be qualified, quiet, and empowered in every sense and degree by the possession of a name?" And the Lord said, "Certainly, certainly I will be with thee; if they ask the name, say I AM THAT I AM"—a nameless name, an ocean pool, an Atlantic dewdrop. "If they say again, "Who sent thee?" say I AM sent thee"—the verb, the one verb, the only verb, the seed verb, irregularly conjugated, but coming out in all its moods and tenses with terrible and expressive emphasis. Still, the point is Moses had his authority.

III. Now what was this man told to cry? It was a curious message, and yet it contained everything. He was to proclaim evanescence and eternity, he was to proclaim a universal message and give a particular application. "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"—that is the evanescence. The clock strikes, eternity never strikes; time must chatter, eternity must be silent. He was then told to complete his message respecting evanescence by delivering a message respecting permanence—"but the word of our God shall stand for ever". The withering grass—the standing word; these two things abide Today; they represent time, space; the measurable, the immeasurable; the fading and the amaranthine. If all flesh is grass, we had better fall to praying, because the praying time is very limited, the grass does not take a long time to wither. "The grass withereth"—if it be so let us be up and doing, with a heart for everything, because the time is short, the opportunity lingers but for a moment, and every wise man says, "I am a stranger, I am a pilgrim, I can tarry but a night; wake me before the sun is waked".

—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. vi p62.

Isaiah 40:6

Ruskin says: "We find the grass and flowers are types, in their passing, of the passing of human life, and, in their excellence, of the excellence of human life; and this in twofold way; first, by their Beneficence, and then, by their Endurance; the grass of the earth, in giving the seed of corn, and in its beauty under tread of foot and stroke of scythe; and the grass of the waters, in giving its freshness to our rest, and in its bending before the wave."

References.—XL6.—A. Mursell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxix1891, p381. XL6-8.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii. No999. J. Thomas, Myrtle Street Pulpit, vol. ii. p197. XL7.—G. Matheson, Voices of the Spirit, p64. XL8.—W. H. Brookfield, Sermons, p1. H. P. Liddon, Christmastide in St. Paul"s, p224; see also Penny Pulpit, vol. xii. No706, p317. E. H. Bickersteth, Thoughts in Past Years, p201. XL9.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture— Isaiah, p251. Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxii1907, p182. XL10.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Prophets, vol. i. pp175, 186. XL11.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix. No540; vol. xi. No652; vol. xiv. No794; vol. xxiii. No1381. C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p340. F. B. Cowl, Straight Tracks, p94. XL12.—G. Tyrrell, Oil and Wine, p274. XL14.—E. A. French, God"s Message Through Modern Doubt, p103.

Not Sufficient

Isaiah 40:16

There are so many things in life upon which we have to write the legend, Not sufficient

I. We write this upon Time; we have told off its centuries and have said at the close, Not room enough, not breathing space enough, not sufficient. We have received satisfactions and have been pleased with them for the moment and have said, Now we have entered into rest, and lo! our satisfactions have perished in the using, satisfaction has become satiety, nausea, and utterest disappointment. Who will show us the sufficient? who will lead us to the land of Enough? We have written this same legend upon the parcel or estate which we call by the great and promising name of Life, and we have lived long enough to know that life is only a variety of death, if there be not something beyond it, something explanatory, comforting, and crowning.

II. "Lebanon is not sufficient to burn" if we are trying to make up to God for our wrongdoing and most unfilial and horrible wickedness alike of sin and of ingratitude and of everything that belongs to ingratitude and sin. Let us cut down the forest on the hill and burn it, and of what avail will be the white ashes? can they touch the mystery of sin? is there any equivalent in matter to the great claim of wounded law, righteousness, and truth? When we talk of Lebanon and sin we talk of terms that have no relation to one another; they belong to different spheres, we are speaking about two different worlds and categories of things. Sin has no material equivalent; it is not an account that has a debtor and creditor side, and that we can settle by giving so much in return; the sinner cannot touch his own sin, it is within him, he has hurt the universe, he has pained God. What will Lebanon do for him? he is no longer master of the situation, he has parted with his strength, with his individuality, with every faculty and power he had that lay in any moral and spiritual direction, and he is left with nothing but the crushing sense of his own responsibility. Truly, in the most spiritual sense, what he has done cannot be undone.

No forest can make up for a broken heart. If you have wounded some spirit, if you owned the bank of your nation you could not pay in gold for that wound. You could mock the wound, you could say, I have come to pay you, there is your gold, now be quiet. Gold can never touch such misery; the trees of the forest, the beasts of the mountains, the cattle on all the hills, do not touch the sore that is in the grieved, the bruised, and the broken heart.

III. "Lebanon is not sufficient to burn." This is true not only in reference to sin but in reference to gratitude. We never can pay for spiritual service; between the gold and the service there is no relation. What shall I render? is a bigger question than it seems. You never can repay a spiritual favour. You can repay gold with gold, you can take a receipt, but not for spiritual ministry.

Herein we come upon the innermost truths of the Gospel. We cannot repay Christ, we cannot give God an equivalent of our sin, we cannot give God an equivalent for His mercies; we can ask, What shall we render? what can we do? then we are upon the right ground and we have started the right line of inquiry. But you can only repay love with love; along that line lies a great possibility. God seeks not mine, but me, the man; He cannot be paid with what I have in my hand, but He is willing to accept as part payment as it were—yet He would discourage the use of that word in its mercantile sense—the love in my heart, the temple I would build Him if I could: ana who knows but that many a poor man may be credited with having built the Lord many a temple? Renounce Lebanon if you want to pay God even in the matter of sin or even in the matter of gratitude; rend your hearts, not your garments; bring your hearts, but not your Lebanons.

—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. vii. p99.

Reference.—XL21,28.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture— Isaiah, p263.

Upward and Onward

Isaiah 40:26

I. The upward look corrects the ever-present tendency to which all of us are more or less prone, to absorption in the things of this life. Only the light of the eternal falling upon the things of time can keep us in constant remembrance of their uncertain value and continuance. To become absorbed by them, being possessed where we should possess and being ruled where we should ourselves rule, is but a misusing of life and a misspending of strength for that which profits not. The upward look assures us that life is ordered both in general scope and in intimate detail by Him Whose love is not merely universal but individual in its concern for men. Whose care is not only for the vine but for "every branch that beareth fruit". Life"s facts are seen to be His purposes, and this alone explains and interprets those untoward experiences from which all men naturally shrink, and produces a calm trust and gladness amid all that tends to disconcert and dishearten.

II. The upward look ennobles our conception of duty—that stern necessity of which such a large part of life is made up. In its light alone we recognize that all work is worship, and that there is a glory in doing earthly things with heavenly aims which nothing equals. Duty no longer is regarded as irksome compulsion by the one who lives with uplifted eye—it is rather his opportunity for voicing the devotion of his heart.

III. The upward look enlarges our conception of service. For our Lord Himself bids us lift up our eyes and look upon fields that are already "white unto the harvest". The uplifted eye sees the world"s need as a dark background to the Saviour"s brightness, and with expanding consciousness of the gloom of sin comes a quickened impulse to service and sacrifice. The upward look has been in all ages the inspiration to onward effort, and those whose lives are to us as stimulating examples and supplementary inspirations laboured and died to save men just because they had first seen the Lord "high and lifted up". This is the secret of the lives of Carey and Martyn, of Chalmers and Keith-Falconer, of Mackay and Hudson Taylor, of Moody and Shaftesbury. They were one and all men whose eyes were lifted up on high, far beyond considerations of self-advantage and gain, so that they saw something of the need which compelled their Lord to the Cross.

IV. The upward look brings also into life a power for the bearing of the strain which Christian service inevitably imposes. The pathway of the disciple is the same as that trodden by the Master, Whose service meant suffering and anguish as well as the bitterness of ingratitude and hostility. And few, if any, of those who seek to follow in His steps escape similar experience. But he whose heart"s attention is directed on high "where Christ sitteth" learns to endure "as seeing Him who is invisible". To his gaze there does not only appear an open heaven, but he sees the angels of God also "ascending and descending upon the Son of Man"—present help in his need.

—J. Stuart Holden, The Pre-eminent Lord, p19.

References.—XL26.—R. Harley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv1893, p197. C. A. Berry, Vision and Duty, p61. XL26, 29.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture— Isaiah, p268. XL27, 29.—E. L. Hull, Sermons, p83. XL27, 31.—A. B. Davidson, Waiting Upon God, p3. XL28.—C. Silvester Home, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvi1904, p155. XL29.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlix. No2812.

The Secret of Immortal Youth

Isaiah 40:30-31

I. Look at the first fact here, that of the dreary certainty of weariness and decay.

1. Of course the words of my text point to the plain fact that all created and physical life, by the very law of its being, in the act of living tends to death; and by the very operation of its strength tends to exhaustion. There are three stages in every creature"s life—that of growth, that of equilibrium, that of decay.

2. And the text points also to another fact, that, long before your natural life shall have begun t;o tend towards decay, hard work and occasional sorrows and responsibilities and burdens of all sorts will very often make you wearied and ready to faint.

3. My text points to another fact, as certain us gravitation, that the faintness and weariness and decay of the bodily strength will be accompanied with a parallel change in your feelings. We are drawn onward by hopes, and when we get them fulfilled we find that they are disappointing.

II. Now turn to the blessed opposite possibility of inexhaustible and immortal strength. "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; they shall walk, and not faint."

The life of nature tends inevitably downward, but there may be another life within the life of nature which shall have the opposite motion, and tend as certainly upwards.

The condition of the inflow of this unwearied and immortal life into our poor, fainting, dying humanity is simply the trust in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of our souls.

Here is the promise. God will give Himself to you, and in the very heart of your decaying nature will plant the seed of an immortal being which shall, like His own, shake off fatigue from the limbs, and never tend to dissolution or an end. The life of nature dies by living; the life of grace, which may belong to us all, lives by living, and lives evermore thereby.

III. The manner in which this immortal strength is exercised. "They shall lift up their wings as the eagle," implying, of course, the steady, upward flight towards the light of heaven.

1. There is strength to soar. Strength to soar means the gracious power of bringing all heaven into our grasp, and setting our affections on things above.

2. Again, you may have strength to run—that is to say, there is power waiting for you for all the great crises of your lives which call for special, though it may be brief, exertion.

3. Strength to walk may be yours—that is to say, patient power for persistent pursuit of weary, monotonous duty. Only one thing will conquer the disgust at the wearisome round of mill-horse tasks which, sooner or later, seizes all godless men, and that is to bring the great principles of the Gospel into them, and to do them in the might and for the sake of the dear Lord.

—A. Maclaren, The Unchanging Christ, p12.

References.—XL30, 31.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture— Isaiah, p276. J. H. Blunt, Plain Preaching for a Year, vol. i. p288. H. Varley, Spiritual Light and Life, p81. J. Thomas, Myrtle Street Pulpit, vol. iii. p84.

Walking Without Fainting

Isaiah 40:31

God as the Source and Giver of strength is the Prophet"s theme in the text. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." Man by himself is weak and helpless and impotent, but succoured by God he is equal to any task. "With five shillings," said Teresa the mystic, when her friends laughed at her proposal to build an orphanage—"with five shillings Teresa can do nothing; but with five shillings and God there is nothing Teresa cannot do." And in that bold and daring claim the saint had Scripture for her warrant. "Ye shall remove mountains," said our Lord, "and nothing shall be impossible to you." And the Apostle Paul, as if writing a confirmatory comment on that promise of the Master, says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me".

To the supreme feat of enabling men to walk without fainting the grace of God is equal. "They that wait upon the Lord... shall walk, and not faint." Life"s disillusionments and disappointments cannot make them swerve from their purpose. When life has lost its zest, its glamour, its radiance, and has become dull and hard and grey, they still remain steadfast and unmovable—faithful unto death. God"s grace is sufficient even in face of the stern, bitter facts of experience. Some of the ardour and enthusiasm and eagerness may disappear, perhaps, but still it enables men to walk, and not faint.

I. Let me give two or three illustrations of this truth. I will take first the history of the Christian Church. If you will look up the book of the Acts of the Apostles when you go home, and read what is there said, I think you will find that there was about the primitive Church a spontaneity and enthusiasm, a buoyancy that are wanting in the Church Today.

But the belief and the hope were both doomed to disappointment Men did not receive the Gospel as they expected they would. Instead of having their message welcomed, Christians found themselves brought to the stake and the block and the arena. Instead of coming back within the lifetime of the early Christians, nineteen centuries have passed, and still the Lord delays His coming. The dreams and hopes of the early Christian Church have been disappointed.

With the loss of the early belief in the speedy and easy triumph of the Gospel the Church has lost her lightheartedness and gaiety. She no longer soars and runs.

And yet she "walks without fainting" and without any wavering, but with dogged resolution has set herself to the task of bringing the whole world into subjection to the rule of Jesus. And beautiful though the soaring enthusiasm of the early Church was, I will venture to say that the fact that the Church of Today—awake to the difficulties and dangers of her high enterprise—still walks without fainting towards her goal is a still more wondrous illustration of the sustaining and strengthening power of the grace of God.

II. What is illustrated in the history of the Christian Church on the large scale is illustrated within smaller compass in the experience of every Christian minister and Christian worker.

III. The truth is still further illustrated by the contrast between youth and age—Christian youth, I mean, and Christian age.

There is one thing more beautiful than an enthusiastic young Christian, and that is a faithful old Christian. It is a glad sight to see the young pilgrim entering with enthusiasm upon his course, stripping with eager hopefulness for the race. But it is a still more beautiful sight to see an old Prayer of Manasseh, who has borne the burden and heat of the day, still pressing toward the Mark, marching boldly and bravely, even though his step be slow—"walking without fainting". Paul the aged is a finer and more beautiful sight than young Timothy.

—J. D. Jones, Elims of Life, p140.

Isaiah 40:31

This was a favourite text with Père Gratry, but he preferred the Latin rendering: mutabunt fortitudinem—they shall change their strength or courage. He liked to think that the courage of the soldier on the battlefield is changed into a higher form by those who accept the vocation to the ministry and become the prophets of peace to men.

References.—XL31.—A. Murray, Waiting on God, p101; see also Eagle Wings, p58. T. Vincent Tymms, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix1896, p276. R. J. Campbell, ibid. vol. lvii1900, p129. E. A. Draper, The Gift of Strength, p12. J. Laidlaw, Studies in the Parables, p257 J. Pulsford, Our Deathless Hope, p126. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv. No876; vol. xxix. No1756. XLI:1.—J. Leckie, Sermons Preached at Ibrox, p81. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No1215. XLI:6.—W. H. Stephenson, A Book of Lay Sermons, p191. XLI:7.—C. Leach, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlii1892, p290. XLI:8.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx. No1962. XLI:8-20.—Ibid. vol. xliv. No2583.

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.

F.B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' Commentary


Isaiah 40:18-31

Day changes to night, and as the twilight deepens, the stars come out in their myriads, Isaiah 40:26. To the poetic eye of the watcher, they appear as a vast flock following the shepherd, who calls each by its name. Not one falls out of its place, or is lacking. Will Jehovah do so much for stars and nought for men? Will He not have a name for each? Will He not guard and guide each? If He has sustained the orbs of light in their mighty rounds, will He fail the poor soul that clings to His feet?

They that wait on God change their strength. In their earliest days they rely on the energy and vigor of youth, on their blameless, unstained character, in the consciousness of their glorious manhood; but as years pass, they come to count all these as refuse in comparison with Jesus Christ the Lord, Philippians 3:8. Notice the order in Isaiah 40:31! At first sight we should have expected that it would advance from walking to running, and so to flying. But that order is reversed. It is more difficult to walk than to mount! Every cyclist will tell you that the hardest task is to keep your cycle at walking pace.

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Meyer, Frederick Brotherton. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "F. B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' Commentary". 1914.

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible


Like the first part this second part of Isaiah has three sections. The three sections of the first part revealed the judgments to come upon the Jewish people, Jerusalem, the nations and the earth. The three sections of the second part reveal the great blessings in store for the people of Israel, Jerusalem, the nations and the earth, after the judgments are passed. These sections give the past, present, and the future history of the Jewish people.

In the first section (40-48) they are seen prophetically in Babylon, but about to be delivered and brought back to the land. Cyrus is predicted as the chosen instrument. However, this section looks also beyond the return of the remnant from Babylon. Their present dispersion and coming restoration is predicted as well.

In the second section (49-57) we find this period of their history more fully brought forward. In this section the servant of Jehovah is more fully revealed. He came to His own and they received Him not. They hid their faces from Him and esteemed Him not. In consequence of this rejection Israel is not gathered (Isaiah 49:5), while those who are afar Off, the Gentiles and the isles of the sea, hear of the salvation of God. It is the present age which can be traced in this section. Israel not gathered and the rejected One is given for a light to the nations. The great central figure in this section is the suffering servant of Jehovah (chapter 53).

In the third section we discover their future history. Here we see Him, who suffered, as the victorious King. A remnant is seen back in the land and the glories and blessings of the future burst forth in marvelous splendor.

1. In Babylon: Deliverance Promised Through Cyrus (40-48)


The Opening Message: Key and Introduction to this Section

1. Comfort for His people (Isaiah 40:1-2) 2. The voice in the wilderness (Isaiah 40:3-5) 3. The prophet’s message (Isaiah 40:6-8) 4. The message to Zion (Isaiah 40:9-11) 5. The supremacy of Jehovah (Isaiah 40:12-26) 6. Comfort for Jacob and Israel (Isaiah 40:27-31)The first verses of this chapter are the key and introduction to the entire section. The Lord now speaks in comfort to Jerusalem and announces the pardoning of her iniquity and that in blessing she will receive double for her sins. In verses 3-11 the first and second coming of Christ are again blended together. John the Baptist was that voice crying in the wilderness John 1:233). Not in Matthew, but in Luke,Isaiah 40:3-31 is quoted with the exception of verse 5. In its place the Holy Spirit saith, “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” The glory of the Lord will be revealed with the second Advent. When that glory appears Israel is saved, in the meantime the salvation of God is offered to the Gentiles. Jehovah speaks in this chapter of Himself and the evidences that He is God. This is the peculiar feature of the entire section. All is spoken to encourage the faith of His people. Blessed lessons we find here. Verses 27-31, however, will only be fully realized in the future kingdom.

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Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". 1913-1922.

G. Campbell Morgan's Exposition on the Whole Bible

We now commence the prophecies of peace, which also fall into three divisions, dealing in turn with the purpose of peace (40-48), the Prince of Peace (49-57), the program of peace (58-66).

The fist eleven verses of chapter forty constitute a prologue to the whole Book. This prologue opens with a declaration which indicates the burden of all that is to follow. "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people." It then describes the making of a highway for God along which He will move toward the ultimate accomplishment, and closes with a commission to announce the good tidings to Jerusalem that Jehovah will act as a mighty One, and yet with the tenderness of a Shepherd.

In the remainder of the chapter we have the prophet setting forth the majesty of Jehovah, which forms a fitting introduction to all that follows. This majesty is described essentially in its might, in its wisdom, and in the ease of its government of the nations. It is then described by comparison. The impossibility of making anything that will represent God is declared, and a graphic illustration is given in the case of the graven image or of the idol of wood. It is finally declared to be demonstrated in creation by actual government on earth, and in the heavens, and finally in its method of grace with Israel.

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Morgan, G. Campbell. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "G. Campbell Morgan Exposition on the Bible". 1857-84.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

But they that wait upon the Lord,.... As children on their parents, to do them honour, to obey their commands, and receive food and blessings from them; as servants on their masters, to know their pleasure, do their work, and have their wages; as clients on their patrons, to have advice of them, put their cause into their hands, and know how it goes; and as beggars at the door, who knock and wait, tell their case and wait, meet with repulses, yet keep their place, and continue waiting: such an act supposes a knowledge and reverence of God, confidence in him, attendance on him, not with the body only, in public and private, but with the soul also, and with some degree of constancy, and with patience and quietness: the Lord is to be waited upon for the manifestations of himself, who sometimes hides himself, but is to be waited for, since he has his set time to show himself again, and his presence is worth waiting for; also for the performance of his promises, which may be expected from his perfections, the nature of the promises, and their being in Christ; likewise for answers of prayer, and for the fresh discoveries of pardoning grace and mercy; and as Old Testament saints waited for the first coming of Christ, so New Testament saints for his second coming, and for eternal glory and happiness: and such "shall renew their strength"; which is to be understood of spiritual! strength in the heart, and of the graces of the Spirit there: it supposes strength received already, which natural men have not, but converted men have; and yet they want more, and more they shall have; to assist them in the performance of duty, to enable them to resist Satan and his temptations, and the corruptions of nature, and to cause them to endure afflictions and persecutions patiently, and to persevere unto the end:

they shall mount up with wings as eagles; swiftly and strongly; it is expressive of the motion of the affections heavenwards towards God and Christ, and things above; of the entrance of faith and hope within the veil, and of the exercise of these graces on Christ, who is now at the right hand of God; of the expectation of glory and happiness in heaven hereafter, and of present support under afflictions, the Lord bearing them as on eagles' wings; see Psalm 103:5 F7The Jews have a notion, that for ten years the eagle ascends very high in the firmament of heaven, and approaching near to the heat of the sun, it falls into the sea, through the vehemence of the heat; and then it casts its feathers, and is renewed again, and its feathers grow, and it returns to the days of its youth; and so every ten years to a hundred; and in the hundredth year it ascends according to its custom, and falls into the sea, and dies. So Ben Melech from Saadiab Gaon. :

they shall run, and not be weary; in the way of God's commandments; which shows great affection for them, haste to obey them, delight and pleasure, cheerfulness and alacrity, therein, so as to be without weariness:

and they shall, walk, and not faint: in the ways of God, in the name of the Lord, or in Christ, as they have received him; leaning on him, trusting in him, continuing to do so, till they receive the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls; and so shall not sink under their burdens, nor give out till they enjoy it; different persons, though all of them believers, may be here intended; particularly Christians under the Gospel dispensation, tried and exercised by many enemies; some shall soar aloft, and dwell on high; others, though they cannot rise and "fly" so swiftly and strongly, yet shall "run" without weariness; and others, though they can neither fly nor run, yet shall "walk" without fainting.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Isaiah 40:28 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.

Isaiah 40:28"there is no searching of His understanding" - Scripture References- Note:

Romans 11:33, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!"

Isaiah 40:29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.

Isaiah 40:30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:

Isaiah 40:30Comments- Youth have the most energy of any age group of people. Young men have the most strength of any age.

Isaiah 40:31 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.

Isaiah 40:31Word Study on "wait" - Strong says the Hebrew word "wait" "qavah" ( קָוָה) (H 6960) is a primitive root that literally means, "to bind (together) (perhaps by twisting), to collect," and figuratively, it means, "to expect, to gather (together), to look patiently, to tarry, to wait (for, on, upon)." The Enhanced Strong says it is used 49 times in the Old Testament, being translated in the KJV as, "wait 29, look 13, wait for 1, look for 1, gathered 1, misc 4."

Isaiah 40:31"they shall mount up with wings as eagles" - Scripture References- Note a similar verse:

Exodus 19:4, "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles" wings, and brought you unto myself."

Isaiah 40:31Comments- Unless we wait upon God, we will not have the stamina or strength to resist Satan's attacks. The amount of time we spend waiting upon God is a direct reflection of how much strength we will have. Note these insightful words from Frances J. Roberts:

"O My beloved, ye do not need to make your path (like a snow plow), for lo, I say unto thee, I go before you. Yea, I shall engineer circumstances on thy behalf. I am thy husband, and I will protect thee and care for thee, and make full provision for thee. I know thy need, and I am concerned for thee: for thy peace, for thy health, for thy strength. I cannot use a tired body, and ye need to take time to renew thine energies, both spiritual and physical. I am the God of Battle, but I am also the One who said: They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. And Jesus said, Come ye apart and rest a little while.

"I will teach you, even as I taught Moses on the back side of the desert, and as I taught Paul in Arabia. So will I teach you. Thus it shall be a constructive period, and not in any sense wasted time. But as the summer course to the school teacher, it is vital to thee in order that ye be fully qualified for your ministry.

There is no virtue in activity as such - neither in inactivity. I minister to thee in solitude that ye may minister of Me to others as a spontaneous overflow of our communion. Never labor to serve, nor force opportunities. Set thy heart to be at peace and to sit at My feet. Learn to be ready, but not to be anxious. Learn to say ‘no' to the demands of men and to say ‘yes' to the call of the Spirit." 57]

57] Frances J. Roberts, Come Away My Beloved (Ojai, California: King's Farspan, Inc, 1973), 145.

Isaiah 40:31Scripture References- See a similar verse in Isaiah 30:15.

Isaiah 30:15, "For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not."

In contrast, an example of "fainting" is found in Isaiah 51:20.

Isaiah 51:20, "Thy sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, as a wild bull in a net: they are full of the fury of the LORD, the rebuke of thy God."

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These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.
Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Eagles, who grow young, when they get new feathers, Psalm cii. 5. (St. Jerome) --- In this and the following 26 chapters the prophet chiefly comforts his people, as he had rebuked them for their crimes in the first part. (Worthington)


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These files are public domain.
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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books




Harry A. Ironside, Litt.D.

Copyright @ 1952

edited for 3BSB by Baptist Bible Believer in the spirit of the Colportage ministry of a century ago



"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 received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that meth 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: 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 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" (verses 1-8).

THE latter part of Isaiah is actually in a sense, the third part, because, as we have already considered, the first part of the book was divided into two sections - one, the prophetic, and the other, historical and typical.

Beginning with chapter forty this part of Isaiah's great book is the portion which some attribute to "the great unknown," or, as they put it, "the second Isaiah," some unnamed prophet who wrote after the Babylonian captivity and whose work was supposedly incorporated into the book of Isaiah by a later editor. But the New Testament definitely negatives this and attributes this section to Isaiah himself (Matthew 8:17; Luke 4:17, 18); so we need not trouble ourselves about such unfounded critical theories. The matter is settled for us.

The chapter commences with the words, "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 received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins." GOD means to comfort His people, but in doing so He has to bring before them very definitely their true condition in His sight, and then shows His remedy.

The first part of this message may not sound very comforting and yet GOD must begin that way.

GOD wounds that He may heal; He kills that He may make alive. We never know Him in the fullness of His power to sustain and comfort until we have come to the end of our own resources.

In His gracious ministry of comfort GOD always begins by showing us our need and our dependence upon His omnipotent power. In this chapter forty he says to the prophet, "Comfort ye My people," and then proceeds to instruct the servant as to the character of his message. "The voice said, Cry." Isaiah asked, "What shall I cry?" The answer was, "All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field." This is ever the divine order. It is not until we realize our own utter nothingness and helplessness that we are in a position to avail ourselves of the comfort which the Lord waits to give.

In the New Testament we see each Person of the blessed Trinity engaged in this ministry of comfort. GOD the Father is called "the God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3). GOD the Holy Spirit is spoken of four times in our Lord's last discourse to His disciples as "the Comforter" (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). One character of our Lord's work and ministry is "to comfort all that mourn" (chapter 61:2). He is also called our "Advocate with the Father" (1 John 2:1).

The word for "Advocate" is exactly the same in the Greek as that for "Comforter" in John's Gospel.

How blessed to be in fellowship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, so that one can enter into and enjoy the comfort They delight to give!

What greater privilege can we have on earth than to enjoy the abiding presence of the GOD of all comfort as we face the perplexities and bitter disappointments that we are called upon to endure?

If we never knew grief or pain we would never be able to appreciate what GOD can be to His suffering people. When we cry to the Lord in hours of distress, He does not remove the cause of our trouble in every case, but always gives the needed grace to bear whatever we are called upon to endure. When in heaven we read the meaning of our tears and see just what GOD was working out in our lives, we shall praise Him for every trial and affliction, as we see in them all the evidences of a Father's love and His desire to conform us to Himself.

If GOD gives the comfort of the knowledge of forgiveness of sins, and of the salvation of the soul, He begins by stressing the utterly lost condition of men, their helplessness, their sinfulness, thus leading them to take their true place before Him in repentance, confession and acknowledgment of their iniquities.

He looks forward here to the time, however, when Israel's iniquities will all be put away. He says, Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and tell her that her warfare, her long conflict, is accomplished, her iniquity pardoned, and the Lord hath returned unto her double for all her sins. That does not mean that Israel will have been punished twice as much as her sins deserved. GOD will never do that.

When speaking to Job, Elihu very clearly says that GOD will not lay upon man more than is right. He will deal with each man according to his light and knowledge, and the actual sins that

he has committed (Job 34). But He will not punish anyone more than his sins deserve. But this expression, "She hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins," is a commercial one.

If a Jew were in financial difficulties and he turned his home or his farm over to a creditor in order to meet his debts, a paper would be made out giving this full information. One copy would be kept by the one who placed the mortgage on the property, and the other would be nailed up on the doorpost, so that anyone would understand that this property was transferred temporarily to another. When the account was settled and everything was paid, the notice on the doorpost would be doubled, tacked up double, covered over. That indicated it was all settled.

When it says, "She hath received of the Lord's hand the double for all her sins," it is as though it said the account has been fully paid. Nothing more now to suffer, because the Lord will have pardoned her iniquity.

That is declared in the very beginning of this section. That is the goal toward which the people are to look and then later we are told how they reached that goal. And so in the first place now, we have a prophecy that relates to the coming of John the Baptist, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight."

When certain of the Pharisees asked John the Baptist if he was Messiah or the one spoken of by Moses, "A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up like unto me, him shall ye hear in all things." John said, "I am not." His questioners asked, "If thou art not Messiah nor that prophet, who art thou, and why baptizest thou?" John said, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness; Prepare ye the way of the Lord."

Thus he applied to himself these words of Isaiah.

The voice said, "Cry." In sending His messenger GOD says, "Cry! Cry aloud. Give out My message." And then the question comes back, "What shall I cry?" The answer is, "All flesh is grass. . . and all the glory of man is the flower of grass. The grass withereth, the flower thereof fadeth away, but the word of our God shall stand forever."

What is significant about that to comfort the people of GOD? "Tell them that all flesh is grass, that they are just poor helpless sinners, there is nothing to glory in. All the glory of man is as the flower of the grass and the grass withereth and the flower thereof fadeth away."

Is there anything comforting in that? It is the first thing we need to know. If we do not learn the lesson of our utter helplessness, we shall never turn to GOD for salvation. If we think that we can save ourselves we shall not avail ourselves of the provision that GOD has made for our salvation. So He says, "Tell them that all flesh is grass." But tell them that the Word of the Lord endureth forever. Peter quotes this in the first chapter of his first epistle and gives this significant comment on it: "This is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." It is the gospel message which comes before us. The Word of the Lord that endureth forever is the good tidings of the gospel.

"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 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" (verses 9-11).

Immediately following the words, "The word of the Lord endureth for ever," comes, "O Zion, that bringest, good tidings. . . say. . . Behold your God!" Good tidings - that is the gospel.

Here are not only "the silent glances of Scripture," but they are intimately linked with the early chapters of all the four Gospels, which speak of the Lord's first advent, and Matthew says plainly the events given are the fulfillment of that which was spoken by Isaiah and other prophets. The coming One is Emmanuel, "God with us," "the Lord God will come," and then His character is given as the tender Shepherd.

When the Lord JESUS actually came, He took the very phrase spoken of here by Isaiah. He says, "I am the good shepherd . . . I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:11, 15). And so as the tender shepherd He is pictured here in the good news that GOD brings to Israel - the shepherd carrying the lambs in his bosom and gently leading the flock, gently leading those with young.

Yet this One who comes to us so tenderly as the Good Shepherd, a real Man, a Man in absolute holiness, kind, compassionate, loving, is the almighty omnipotent GOD, the omnipresent and omniscient One, the Creator of the ends of the earth.

GOD Himself speaks in power and majesty, putting Himself in contrast with the helpless man-made idols of the heathen, to whom many of the people of Israel had turned.

"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. To whom then will ye liken GOD? or what likeness will ye compare unto him? The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains. 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" (verses 12-20).

The Blessed One, Shepherd of Israel, who is speaking here as the Creator of the heavens, the One of omnipotent power and omniscient wisdom, has resources for faith to lay hold upon. So great is He that no suitable offering could be made to Him. "Lebanon is not sufficient to burn,

nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering" (vs. 16).

Sin is so terrible an affront to a holy GOD that no sacrifice, however great, which man could offer would ever avail to put it away. Although the mountains of Lebanon became as a great altar, and all the cedars thereon were hewn down and piled up for one enormous fire, on which were sacrificed the vast herds and flocks that grazed upon the pastures of these wooded hills, yet all together they would not be sufficient to atone for one sin. Only the precious blood of CHRIST avails to make propitiation for our guilt and to justify us before GOD.

"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? 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 princes 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, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their hosts by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. 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? 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 21-31).

Why, we may well ask, has GOD thus truly described Himself? It is because those over whom He has such a tender care are faint and weary, without strength, so He turns them to Him as the Source of power, simply to wait upon Him, for this divine GOD has an interest in everyone.

It is not because of lack of power that GOD does not give immediate release from trial and tribulation. His understanding is infinite and He is working out His own counsels for our blessing when He permits affliction to fall upon us and continue to oppress us.

We must learn the lesson put before Job, that man cannot fathom His plans, so should seek to submit without question to His providential dealings. It is easy, when distress or suffering becomes prolonged, to think that GOD has forgotten or is indifferent to what one is going through. But this is always wrong. He is ever concerned about His people, and in His own time will give deliverance; and until then His grace is available to sustain and strengthen the soul, that one may endure as seeing Him who is invisible.

"He giveth power to the faint." It was this that enabled Paul to glory in his infirmities, that the "power of Christ might rest upon" him (2 Corinthians 12:9).

He will supply the needed strength to meet every test He permits us to face.

"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." Mere natural and physical powers will not avail in the hour when one is called upon to face great mental and spiritual emergencies. But they who have learned to refer everything to GOD and to wait quietly upon Him will be given all needed strength to rise above depressing circumstances, thus enabling them to mount heavenward as eagles facing the sun, to run their race with patience, and to walk with GOD with renewed confidence and courage, knowing that they are ever the objects of His love and care.

It is one thing to wait on the Lord. It is quite another to wait for Him. As we wait on Him we are changed into His likeness. As we wait for Him in patience we are delivered from worry and fretfulness, knowing that GOD is never late, but that in His own time He will give the help we need.

Someone has suggested that we may apply Isaiah's words, verse 31, as representing Christians or children of GOD in different ages. The young believers mount up with wings of hope and expectancy as eagles flying into the height of heaven. The middle-aged ones are running with patience the race set before them, while those who have reached old age have come down to a quiet walk with GOD as they near the portals of the eternal Home of the saints.

~ end of chapter 40 ~





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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. 1914.

Commentary by J.C.Philpot on select texts of the Bible

"But those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." Isaiah 40:31

How different the religion of a living soul is from the religion of a dead professor! The religion of a dead professor begins in self, and ends in self; begins in his own Wisdom of Solomon, and ends in his own folly; begins in his own strength, and ends in his own weakness; begins in his own righteousness, and ends in his own damnation! There is in him never any going out of soul after God, no secret dealings with the Lord, no actings of faith upon the divine perfections.

But the child of God, though he is often faint, weary, and exhausted with many difficulties, burdens and sorrows; yet when the Lord does show himself, and renews his strength, he soars aloft, and never ceases to mount up on the wings of faith and love until he penetrates into the very sanctuary of the most High. A living soul never can be satisfied except in living union and communion with the Lord of life and glory. Everything short of that leaves it empty. All the things of time and sense leave a child of God unsatisfied. Nothing but vital union and communion with the Lord of life, to feel his presence, taste his love, enjoy his favor, see his glory—nothing but this will ever satisfy the desires of ransomed and regenerated souls. This the Lord indulges his people with.

"They shall renew their strength." They shall not be always lying groaning on the ground, not always swooning away through the wounds made by sin, not always chained down by the fetters of the world, not always hunted in their souls like a partridge upon the mountains. There shall be a renewal of their strength; and in their renewal, "they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

"They shall mount up with wings as eagles." Isaiah 40:31

It is said of the eagle, that he mounts up towards the sun; and that of all birds, he is the only one which can gaze upon the sun with unshrinking eye. So with faith in the soul. The Lord"s people alone can look by faith upon the "Sun of righteousness," gaze upon a glorious Immanuel at the right hand of the Father, and see a precious Jesus ever interceding for them, and drawing them near to his bosom. And when this blessed Jesus communicates a measure of his love and blood to their consciences, and raises up and draws forth faith in his name, then the soul begins to mount up with these wings like eagles, soaring higher and higher, until it comes into the presence of God; mounting up in higher and higher circles of spiritual flight, until it penetrates into the very sanctuary of Jehovah.

Now, has not your soul thus soared sometimes as upon eagle"s wings? Have there not been those communications of divine life and light, those mountains of faith, those anchorings of hope, those goings forth of love, whereby your soul was enabled to mount up and find delight in Jesus, and felt his name, love, and blood precious? Have you not mounted up too, not only in the exercise of living faith and hope, but also of heavenly affection?

Sometimes we are so fastened down to this earth, this valley of tears, this waste-howling wilderness; so chained down to it, that we are like a bird with a broken wing, and cannot mount. We are swallowed up in the world, forgetting God and godliness. But are there not times and seasons when the soul is delivered from these chains and fetters, when earthly cares drop off from the mind, when our wings are strong, and fresh pinions as it were given, when the world and its temptations, sin and its snares are left behind, and there is a sweet mounting up in the feelings of heavenly affection? This is to "mount up with wings as eagles," and the soaring soul never ceases to mount until it comes into the very presence of the Three-One God of Israel.

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Philpot, Joseph Charles. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". Commentary by J.C.Philpot on select texts of the Bible.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

mount up — (2 Samuel 1:23). Rather, “They shall put forth fresh feathers as eagles” are said to renovate themselves; the parallel clause, “renew their strength,” confirms this. The eagle was thought to molt and renew his feathers, and with them his strength, in old age (so the Septuagint, Vulgate, Psalm 103:5). However, English Version is favored by the descending climax, mount up - run - walk; in every attitude the praying, waiting child of God is “strong in the Lord” (Psalm 84:7; Micah 4:5; Hebrews 12:1).

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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 shall mount up (2 Samuel 1:23) - literally, they shall make their wing to ascend [ ya`

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 40:1. Comfort ye, comfort ye my people. What a sweet voice is this to the church, after all her long afflictions. The words are doubled, to designate the fulness of comfort in the pardon of sin, testified by remission of punishment.

Isaiah 40:2. She hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. The later rabbins say here, that the Babylonian captivity, and the Roman dispersion, were the double punishment of Zion’s sins. The words are variously expounded.

(1) Hyperbolically, she has been doubly punished for her sins.

(2) Of grace, she has received double, in the gifts and graces of Christ Jesus.

Isaiah 40:3. The voice that crieth in the wilderness. The ministry of John the baptist, preparing the way of the Lord, announcing the revelation of his glory, expostulating with the withering grass, and exhorting the people to hear his heralds on the tops of the mountains. Blessed are they that know the joyful sound.

Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Providence took care that this should be done by the translation of the holy scriptures into Greek, which was then the travelling language of the world; by the Roman conquests, and by the tolerant character of those conquests in adopting all gods, and honouring all temples, on which account Cicero calls the Romans the most religious of all nations; by a vast accession of gentile proselytes, and by synagogues in the great cities of the empire.

Isaiah 40:4. Every valley shall be exalted. The reference is to the pioneers, who go before great armies, and prepare the way. Semiramis levelled the road over the Zarcean mountain to Ecbatana; the Romans also made military roads in all the countries united to their empire. The existence of those roads can still be traced in different parts of England.

Isaiah 40:5. The glory of the Lord shall be revealed. Christ and his gospel. John 1:14. Eusebius says, the gospel was like the sun enlightening the world at once. The sound of the preachers’ voice went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. Romans 10:18. There was no nation where their voice was not heard. Psalms 19:3.

Isaiah 40:7. The Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it. Breath, wind, and spirit, very often are of the same import. Here it may mean the droughty season, when the grass was dried into hay.

Isaiah 40:9. Behold your God. The Messiah must not be degraded, else how should the world regard him with joy, as in the next words. Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him. St. Mark begins his history thus: The gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. St. John says, “In the beginning was the Word,” coëternal with the Father, whose Divinity is the fountain of the Son’s Divinity, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God. Similar is the language of the apostle to the Romans Romans 1:3-4; and to the Hebrews, Hebrews 1:1-8.

Isaiah 40:31. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. In the fable, when the eaglets asked their dam what they should do when exposed to danger, she replied, “my children, look right at the sun.” This is equally good advice for the christian. By looking to heaven, he leaves danger far behind. He renews his strength by conversing with unseen objects, and gets fresh supplies of grace. The eagle lives to a great age, and when she renews her plumage, she is said to renew her youth.


Isaiah having left his country under the portentous cloud of Babylonian captivity, hastens to bring the rich cup of comfort to cheer the heart of Zion amidst her tears. Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. The church he makes his first care and sole delight. For her the breezes blow, the sun shines, and the rains descend. He opens at once to her view the glory of Christ, the healer of all her woes. The glory of the Lord shall be revealed to eyes of flesh, and all the empire shall see the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings. He is the light of the gentiles, and the glory of Israel. He saw the Baptist open his commission in the wilderness, and preparing the way of the Lord by calling the nation to repentance, and reformation of manners.

John, clothed with the grandeur of God, and filled with his Master’s spirit, addresses the nations as withering grass, and as the fading flower: All flesh is grass; the grass withereth, the flower fadeth, because the wind of the Lord blows upon it.— What then is the best wisdom of a perishing world? It is to listen to the voice of his heralds, whose feet are beauteous upon the mountains. It is to behold their God, whose glory fadeth not away. He is the Lord and giver of life. His strong arm shall rule for him; he shall break the Assyrian power to pieces. Like David he is the shepherd of Israel; he shall take into his bosom the bleating lamb, and gently lead the weak. Eventually he shall gather the Jews and the Gentiles into one safe and secure fold.

Oh Israel, look alone at the grandeur of your God, sublime in all his works, profound in his counsel, and omnipotent in all his ways. Look solely to him, cast your idols into the fire, and fear your enemies no more. Why liken Jehovah to works of wood and stone? Why provoke him to destroy you? He is able, if you repent, to reverse the sentence of the Babylonian captivity, and prolong your lives as the life of Hezekiah. Jeremiah 36:3. But if otherwise, if the Chaldeans must come; if your young men must fall by the sword, and fill the streets in Jerusalem, then I will comfort the remnant. Jeremiah 14:16, 2Ch_36:17. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, and inherit all the glory of the future age.

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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Isaiah 40:31 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.

Ver. 31. Shall renew their strength.] Heb., Shall change, quotidie seipsis fortiores prodeuntes. By the new "supplies of the Spirit," [Philippians 1:19] they shall pass from strength to strength. [Psalms 84:7] "They shall mount as eagles." {see Psalms 103:5} R. Saadias saith, that every tenth year the eagle mounteth up to the orb of the sun, singeth her wings there, and so reneweth her age, till she be a hundred.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

Faith is all that is needed to ensure a participation in the strength ( עצמה after the form חכמה ), which He so richly bestows and so powerfully enhances. “And youths grow faint and weary, and young men suffer a fall. But they who wait for Jehovah gain fresh strength; lift up their wings like eagles; run, and are not weary; go forward, and do not faint.” Even youths, even young men in the early bloom of their morning of life ( bachūrı̄m , youths, from בּחר, related to בּכר, בּגר ), succumb to the effects of the loss of sustenance or over-exertion (both futures are defective, the first letter being dropped), and any outward obstacle is sufficient to cause them to fall ( נכשׁל with inf. abs. kal, which retains what has been stated for contemplation, according to Ges. §131, 3, Anm. 2). In Isaiah 40:30 the verb stands first, Isaiah 40:30 being like a concessive clause in relation to Isaiah 40:31. “Even though this may happen, it is different with those who wait for Jehovah,” i.e., those who believe in Him; for the Old Testament applies to faith a number of synonyms denoting trust, hope, and longing, and thus describes it according to its inmost nature, as fiducia and as hope, directed to the manifestation and completion of that which is hoped for. The Vav cop. introduces the antithesis, as in Isaiah 40:8. החליף, to cause one to pursue, or new to take the place of the old (Lat. recentare ). The expression וגו יעלוּ is supposed by early translators, after the Sept., Targ. Jer., and Saad., to refer to the moulting of the eagle and the growth of the new feathers, which we meet with in Psalms 103:5 (cf., Micah 1:16) as a figurative representation of the renewal of youth through grace. But Hitzig correctly observes that העלה is never met with as the causative of the kal used in Isaiah 5:6, and moreover that it would require נוצה instead of אבר . The proper rendering therefore is, “they cause their wings to rise, or lift their wings high, like the eagles” ( 'ēbher as in Psalms 55:7). Their course of life, which has Jehovah for its object, is as it were possessed of wings. They draw from Him strength upon strength (see Psalms 84:8); running does not tire them, nor do they become faint from going ever further and further.

The first address, consisting of three parts (Isaiah 40:1-11, Isaiah 40:12-26, Isaiah 40:27-31), is here brought to a close.

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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". 1854-1889.

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

The Eternal God Gives Strength to the Weary

If God is so mightily exalted above creation, His creation, could He not help those in need? Would we be worried about the plans of rulers on earth if He governs them? Therefore now comes a message of comfort for the remnant that prophetically tells their experiences that they are going through in the time of the great tribulation (Isa 40:27).

The believing remnant is addressed here first as Jacob and then as Israel. This is to remind them of their origins, of the meeting of their ancestor with the LORD in Pniel (Gen 32:24-31). That meeting changed Jacob's life. There he becomes of a 'heels holder' – the meaning of the name Jacob – a 'prince or warrior of God' – the meaning of the name Israel. And when will that happen? It happens when he begs for mercy (Hos 12:5).

It seemed that God had given them up to the enemy and no longer thought of them. They thought that their way through the great tribulation was hidden from Him or overlooked by Him. But wouldn't He, Who shows the planets their way, know their way? They thought that He had no regard for their right and that He had handed them over to enemies full of injustice. But would He, who blows away rulers and governors, withhold the right from His remnant who trusts in Him?

The considerations expressed in this verse may also be ours. We ask ourselves: 'Why does God allow it? Does He lack power? Is He not interested in us?'

The thought that He would leave them to their fate is unfounded. The double question of Isa 40:28, the same as in Isa 40:21, must also convince them of this. If we are overwhelmed by despair under the pressure of circumstances, we have to get back to the facts we accepted when we came to faith. We may also draw courage from our experiences of God's mercies on previous occasions. He, the Creator of all things, is "the same yesterday and today and forever" (Heb 13:8).

With the same power with which He created the worlds, He is at our disposal. He never gets tired, let alone overtired. His understanding, too, is inscrutable and that is why He knows us and our circumstances. He not only knows our greatest trials, whether they come from within or outside us, but they are under His absolute control. He determines in His wisdom the time and manner of His intervention and our liberation and that is different and higher than our wisdom.

Instead of getting tired He gives strength to the tired (Isa 40:29). What we must do is open our hearts to receive strength. He is always ready to give it to us as we undergo trials. Then He changes times of trial into times of blessing. His purpose is that we are aware of our own powerlessness, so that we appeal to His power instead of becoming desperate under oppression.

Even the strongest cannot be sure that he will always be free of weariness (Isa 40:30). That weariness can turn into despondency when the prospect of salvation and the view of the Savior are obstructed. An obstacle on his way can also make him stumble. A sudden event can lead to despondency. The only strength that is inexhaustible and keeps him from stumbling and falling is the anticipating looking up to the LORD (Isa 40:31).

Waiting for the Lord is not just a matter of patience or even desire, but above all that our hope for His outcome is characterized by trust. Then we go "from strength to strength" (Psa 84:6-8), constantly drawing from the source of His power. With wings we rise above the difficulties, to rise above the fog and darkness of the earth and to come into the bright sunlight of God's presence.

A characteristic of "eagles" is that their plumage is regularly renewed. This is a beautiful picture of the drawing of new strength by those who expect the LORD (cf. Psa 103:5). Other characteristics of an eagle are speed, sharp smell and a sharp eye. Going up is therefore not only that we rise above the difficulties, but also that we quickly gain insight into the will and the way of God with a sharp eye on Him Himself through faith. If that is our expectation, we will "run", which assumes effort, but "not get tired". We will also "walk", which presupposes fellowship and "not become weary" of it.

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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 40:31". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

Jehovah the Supreme Ruler.

The connection of thought between this section and the foregoing one is this, that the majesty and glory of God over against the idolatry of the heathen nations guarantees the security and the deliverance of the believers of all times.

v. 12. Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand? fixing the quantity of all the water in ocean, seas, and streams, and meted out heaven with the span, the measure between the thumb and middle finger, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, the third part of an ephah, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? Before the exalted Lord and Ruler of the universe the whole earth and all it contains are insignificant, amount to nothing or next to nothing, yet it was His good pleasure to weigh them out and to adjust them in their proper relation.

v. 13. Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord? Who can measure and understand Him, or, being His counselor, hath taught Him? advising Him on the basis of his understanding of the Lord's mind. Cf Rom_11:34. The fundamental principle of education is here stated: Understanding the pupil and giving him instruction, teaching him to discriminate and to perform the works of His government properly. It is preposterous that God should need or seek the counsel of any man.

v. 14. With whom took He counsel, and who instructed Him, so that He learned discrimination, and taught Him in the path of judgment, and taught Him knowledge, so that He could apply His wisdom in the right manner, and showed to Him the way of understanding? so that His knowing could be translated into the right kind of doing. This thought is even more outside of the pale of possibility, for the Lord is immensely exalted above all human beings even at the highest point of their enlightenment, as the text shows in the next section.

v. 15. Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, clinging to the bottom of the bucket when it is emptied, and are counted as the small dust of the balance, like a grain of sand in the pan. Behold, He taketh up the isles as a very little thing, like a mote that is carried upward. The prophet uses the very strongest comparisons to indicate the immeasurable distance by which even the imagination of man stays behind and fails to reach the exaltation of Jehovah.

v. 16. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, to supply fuel enough for worthy sacrifices to the glory of God, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering, the untold number of animals with which these forests abounded would not be enough fittingly to honor Him by their sacrifice.

v. 17. All nations before Him are as nothing, their entire sum and substance totaling only so much before Him; and they are counted to Him less than nothing and vanity. Therefore the prophet inserts the question which, at the same time, introduces the new section of this chapter,

v. 18. To whom, then, will ye liken God? Why try to make comparisons, which, at best, are so utterly inadequate and futile? Or what likeness will ye compare unto Him? How foolish to try to represent Him by one of the idols whom the prophet now proceeds to describe.

v. 19. The workman melteth a graven image, casting it in molds, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, in a plating of the more precious metal, and casteth silver chains, as ornaments on the figure.

v. 20. He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation, that is, the heathen priest who is supported by such gifts, chooseth a tree that will not rot, the most durable wood; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, to set it up in the proper manner, that shall not be moved, so that the idol would fall to the ground. Note the irony of the prophet which is in evidence throughout, followed by disgust, which shows itself in a number of questions expressing great displeasure.

v. 21. Have ye not known? Have ye not heard? The facts which the prophet has in mind could and should be well known to all whom the prophet's words might reach. Hath it not been told you from the beginning? Have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth? God alone has established the earth and laid its foundations and no idol ever even approached him, much less was worthy of being compared with Him. This God is now described by the prophet.

v. 22. It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, highly exalted above the globe of this puny world, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers, so insignificant and despicable in comparison with Him; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, the reference being to the awning which is drawn over the court of Oriental houses for shelter in rain or hot weather, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in;

v. 23. that bringeth the princes to nothing, their power being helpless before Him; He maketh the judges of the earth as vanity, nothingness, an empty show.

v. 24. Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown; yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth, that is, hardly have they, in their own opinion, gained a foothold, believing themselves to be safe without the Lord, and He shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble, as chaff in a tornado, absolutely helpless before Him who is the Ruler of the universe. Therefore the Lord now bids men consider His incomparable majesty and glory.

v. 25. To whom, then, will ye liken Me or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. It is a vain and fruitless task even to compare the wisdom and power of individuals and of nations with that of the Lord; for he is the Possessor of limitless power and wisdom.

v. 26. Lift up your eyes on high, namely, to the heights of heaven, to the starry firmament, and behold who hath created these things, all the heavenly bodies, that bringeth out their host by number, like a shepherd leading his sheep to the meadow. He calleth them all by names by the greatness of His might, for that He is strong in power; not one faileth, He takes care, by virtue of His might and of His goodness, that not one is left behind. How readily will He, therefore, will His love and goodness, surround His children everywhere with His protection! Cf Psa_147:4; Mat_10:30.

v. 27. Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, all the believers everywhere, when evil days come upon them, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? the complaint often being made by Christians that the Lord takes no interest in them, that He disregards their case, that He neglects them, passing by their distress without noticing it. The reproachful question is followed by an emphatic statement, also in the form of a question,

v. 28. Hast thou not known? It surely had been proclaimed often enough. Hast thou not heard that the everlasting God, who is unchangeable from eternity to eternity, the Lord, the covenant God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, that is, of the whole world with all that it contains, fainteth not, neither is weary? He never so much as begins to abandon His vigilant care for His children, much less will He fail in it. There is no searching of His understanding, it cannot be fathomed by the finite mind of any human being. This fact, then, should inspire His people with the strongest confidence.

v. 29. He giveth power to the faint, sustaining them when they are about to sink down; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength, that is, to those who are utterly helpless He imparts power.

v. 30. Even the youths, those in the prime of their young manhood, shall faint and be weary, namely, when depending on their own strength, and the young men, those excelling in youthful vigor and energy, shall utterly fall, for mere human might and power is, after all, subject to weariness and decay.

v. 31. But they that wait upon the Lord, putting all their trust in Him alone, shall renew their strength, gaining new spiritual power from day to day; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, the birds who have ever been types of almost limitless strength, Psa_103:5; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint, finishing their course with the strength imparted to them from on high, victorious to the last. 2Ti_4:7.

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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". 1921-23.

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical


The Prologue: the Objective and Subjective basis of Redemption

Isaiah 40


  Isaiah 40:1-11

1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,

Saith your God.

2 Speak ye [FN2]comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her,

That her [FN3]warfare is accomplished,

That [FN4]her iniquity is pardoned:

[FN5]For she hath received of the Lord’s hand

Double for all her sins.

3 The voice of him that crieth [FN6]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 [FN7]straight,

And [FN8]the rough places [FN9]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.

6 [FN10]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 [FN11]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 forever.

9 [FN12]O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain;

[FN13]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!

10 Behold, the Lord God will come [FN14] [FN15]with strong hand,

And his arm shall rule for him:

Behold his reward is with him,

And [FN16]his work before him.

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 [FN17]that are with young.


Isaiah 40:1. The rhetorical form of anadiplosis (epanalepsis, epizeuxis) occurs, indeed, principally in the second part ( Isaiah 40:1; Isaiah 41:27; Isaiah 43:11; Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 48:11; Isaiah 48:15; Isaiah 51:9; Isaiah 51:12; Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 52:1; Isaiah 52:11; Isaiah 57:6; Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 57:19; Isaiah 62:10; Isaiah 65:1). But it occurs also not unfrequently in passages of the first part that are the acknowledged productions of Isa. ( Isaiah 8:9; Isaiah 18:2; Isaiah 18:7; Isaiah 21:11; Isaiah 28:10; Isaiah 28:13; Isaiah 29:1. Comp, beside Isaiah 15:1; Isaiah 21:9; Isaiah 24:16; Isaiah 26:3; Isaiah 26:15; Isaiah 27:5; Isaiah 38:11; Isaiah 38:17; Isaiah 38:19. Agreeably to the character of this section, the Piel נִחַם occurs oftener in the second part: Isaiah 40:1; Isaiah 49:13; Isaiah 51:3; Isaiah 51:12; Isaiah 51:19; Isaiah 52:9; Isaiah 61:2; Isaiah 66:13 (Pual Isaiah 54:11; Isaiah 66:13). Piel occurs twice in the first part: Isaiah 12:1; Isaiah 22:4. The passages Isaiah 49:13; Isaiah 51:3; Isaiah 51:12; Isaiah 52:9; Isaiah 66:13, are manifest echoes of the present passage—עם with the suffix referring to Jehovah, as it suits the contents of the second part, is found there oftener than in the first: comp. Isaiah 3:12; Isaiah 10:2; Isaiah 10:24; Isaiah 32:13; Isaiah 32:18, with Isaiah 40:1; Isaiah 43:20; Isaiah 47:6; Isaiah 51:4; Isaiah 51:16; Isaiah 52:5 sq.; Isaiah 28:5; Isaiah 30:26; Isaiah 58:1; Isaiah 65:10; Isaiah 65:19, etc.

The expression יאמַר א׳, as an introductory formula, is peculiar to Isaiah; for it is found only in Isaiah, and that in both parts: Isaiah 1:11; Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 33:10; Isaiah 40:1; Isaiah 40:25; Isaiah 41:21; Isaiah 66:9 (comp. Kleinert, Echtheit der jesajan, Weissag, I. p239 sqq.). The Imperfect יאמר corresponds to the aim of chapters40–66. Comp, the formula with which the Prophet introduces the prophecies he addresses to the present church (שִׁמְעוּדְבַר י׳ Isaiah 1:10; נְאֻם י׳ Isaiah 1:24; הַרָּבָר אֲשֶׁר חָזָה ונו׳ Isaiah 2:1, etc., comp. Isaiah 7:3; Isaiah 7:7; Isaiah 7:10; Isaiah 8:1; Isaiah 8:5; Isaiah 8:11; Isaiah 14:28; Isaiah 20:2, etc.). יאמר, taken exactly, is for us an untranslatable verbal form, that, according to its original sense, designates the thought neither as present nor future, nor in any way as one to be estimated by time measure, but one to be estimated by the measure of its mode of existence. That Isaiah, the Imperfect designates, not that which has objectively come into actual existence, but what is only present some way subjectively. In other words, יאמר, standing at the beginning of the second part, characterizes it as addressed to an ideal church. In itself, indeed, יאמר can mean, “he will speak.” Thus it is taken by Stier, v. Hofmann (Schriftbew. II:1. p91, Ausg. v. J. 1853), and Klostermann (Zeitschrift f. Luth. Th. u. K. 1876, I. p 24 sqq.); the last named of whom, however, errs in thinking that the following discourse Isaiah 40:3-11 gives the Imperfect the direction toward the future. For what follows, and is separated by intermediate members can never determine the specific sense of a Hebrew verbal form. יאמר can, also in itself mean frequent repetition (Delitzsch). But all these significations are too special. The subjective force of the Imperfect is capable of various signification according to the context. Here at the beginning we are much too little au fait, to assign to the word a construction as definite as those expositors would do. Here we know from the יאמר only this much, that what follows is to be regarded, not as something that has just gone forth, something to be executed at once for the present church, but as an ideal word of God according to its point of departure and aim.—We have said above that עם with a suffix referring to Jehovah occurs much oftener in the second part than in the first. The same is to be said of אלהים with the suffix referring to Israel. אֱלֹהַי occurs twice in the first part ( Isaiah 7:13; Isaiah 25:1), five times in the second ( Isaiah 40:27; Isaiah 49:4-5; Isaiah 57:21; Isaiah 61:10); אלהינו six times in the first part ( Isaiah 50:10; Isaiah 25:9; Isaiah 26:13; Isaiah 35:2; Isaiah 36:7; Isaiah 37:20), eight times in the second ( Isaiah 40:3; Isaiah 40:8; Isaiah 42:17; Isaiah 52:10; Isaiah 55:7; Isaiah 59:13; Isaiah 61:2; Isaiah 61:6); אֱלֹהֶיךָ in the first part properly only once in the sense here under review ( Isaiah 7:11; beside this Isaiah 37:4; Isaiah 37:10), six times in the second ( Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 41:13; Isaiah 43:3; Isaiah 48:17; Isaiah 51:15; Isaiah 55:5); אֱלֹהַיִךְ occurs not at all in the first part, on the other hand nine times in the second ( Isaiah 51:20; Isaiah 51:22; Isaiah 52:7; Isaiah 54:6; Isaiah 60:9; Isaiah 60:19; Isaiah 62:3; Isaiah 62:5; Isaiah 66:9); אלהיכם in the first part only Isaiah 35:4, in the second Isaiah 40:1; Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 59:2; אלהיו in the sense meant here only Isaiah 50:10; Isaiah 58:2; אלהיה and אלהיהם occur in this sense in neither part. It is quite natural that the affectionate words of endearment should occur oftener in the book of comfort than in the book of threatening.

Isaiah 40:2. The question might be raised whether כִּי is to be construed as a causal particle. But in that case קראו must be referred to what precedes, and that, say, in the sense of קִרְאוּ מַלְאוּ ( Jeremiah 4:5) in order that it may not stand as flat and superfluous. This construction is not allowable here because קראו must be closely connected with the preceding דברו על־לב.

We must therefore refer קראו to what follows, and כִּי, in the sense of “that,” introduces the objective clause.—צָבָא only here and Daniel 8:12 is used as feminine. The reason seems to me to lie in this, that in both passages the word is conceived as collective, i. e., as designation, not of a single conflict, but of a multitude of conflicts, of a long continued period of conflict.—מלא of time (comp. Genesis 25:24; Genesis 29:21; Jeremiah 25:12) occurs again in Isaiah only Isaiah 65:20 in the Piel.—The expression בִּפְלַיִם occurs elsewhere only Job 11:6; the singular, also, כֶּפֶל, duplicatio, only Job 41:4.

Isaiah 40:3. Piel יִשַׁר, “make straight,” occurs again only Isaiah 45:2; Isaiah 45:13.—(ערבה, regio arida, apart from Isaiah 35:1; Isaiah 35:6, occurs in part first only Isaiah 33:9; whereas in part second, beside the present it occurs Isaiah 41:19; Isaiah 51:3.—מסלה occurs in the same sense as here Isaiah 11:16; Isaiah 19:23; Isaiah 62:10; comp. Isaiah 33:8; Isaiah 49:11; Isaiah 59:7. It occurs beside Isaiah 7:3; Isaiah 36:2. It is “the highway, embankment road, chaussee.”

Isaiah 40:4. שָׁפֵל a word of frequent recurrence, especially in the second introduction: Isaiah 2:9; Isaiah 2:11-12; Isaiah 2:17; Isaiah 5:15; then Isaiah 10:33; Isaiah 29:4; Isaiah 32:18; also the antithesis of הַר andנִבְעָה in parallelism occurs very often in part first: Isaiah 2:14; Isaiah 10:32; Isaiah 30:17; Isaiah 30:25; Isaiah 31:4, and somewhat oftener still in part second: Isaiah 40:4; Isaiah 40:12; Isaiah 41:15; Isaiah 42:15; Isaiah 54:10; Isaiah 55:12; Isaiah 65:7.—עָקֹב in the present sense only here; comp. Jeremiah 17:9—מִישׁוֹר Isaiah 11:4 in the ethical sense; Isaiah 42:16.—רֶכֶם ἅπ. λεγ., from רָכַם alligavit Exodus 28:28; Exodus 39:21, like jugum from jungere. “the joining,” particularly the union between two mountains, “the yoke.”

Isaiah 40:5. בִּקְעָה again in Isaiah only Isaiah 41:18; Isaiah 63:14.—The expression כְּבוֹד י׳ is found in Isaiah again only Isaiah 35:2; Isaiah 58:8; Isaiah 60:1. נִנְלָה כבוד י׳ does not occur again in Isaiah. The expression seems to connect with נִרְאָה כבוד י׳ in the Pentateuch: Exodus 16:10; Leviticus 9:6; Numbers 14:10, etc.—כל־בשׂר found again only Isaiah 49:26; Isaiah 66:16; Isaiah 66:23-24; with following יחַד again only in Job 34:15.—The clause וראו to יחדו is to be referred to what precedes, and not to what follows. For if ראו were to be taken in the sense of spiritual seeing, of knowing, still it would be a secondary thought that all flesh shall know that revelation as one that was announced beforehand. The chief thing will be that they will verify with their own eyes that revelation. And this seeing shall win them to the Lord. Moreover ראו evidently corresponds to the preceding נִנְלָה. Therefore the pronominal object must be supplied to ראו as is often the case. The causal clause כיפי י׳ ד׳ relates to all that precedes.

Isaiah 40:6. Notice the verbal form אמר with a simple Vav copulativum. It does not say וַיֹּאמַר. That would be to present this saying as a new chief member of the consecutio rerum, of the succession of facts that naturally unfold themselves. That might and perhaps would have happened were it a merely earthly transaction that is treated. To represent such in the completeness of its successive points, it must have read: וָאֶשְׁמַע קוֹל ֹאמֵר וַיֹּאמַר מָה אֶקְרָא וַיַּעַן ונו׳. But the Prophet translates us into the spirit world where time and space cease. There what with us develops one after another is side by side. For this reason the Prophet here makes use of a form of speech which otherwise serves only to fill out some trait or to mention accompanying circumstances: comp. Isaiah 6:3; Isaiah 21:7; Isaiah 29:11 sq.; Isaiah 65:8.—בשׂר ְכָּל־הַבָּשָׂר is meant collectively or as designation of the genus: whereas in כל־בשׂר Isaiah 40:5 (each flesh) it has individual signification.

Isaiah 40:7. The perfects יָבֵשׁ and נָבֵל must not be compared with the aoristus gnomicus of the Greeks (nor even Isaiah 26:9; comp. my remarks in loc). For only that Hebrew verbal form that has, too, the notion of succession, therefore includes that of time, viz.: the imperf, with Vav cons., can be compared with the Greek aorist. Here, as in Isaiah 26:9, the perf, designates timeless objectivity and reality. כי is not “for,” but “when.” Were it taken in the sense of “for,” then the nature of the wind would be designated as the constant cause of the withering of vegetation. But it withers also when its time comes, without wind. But when a hot desert wind ( Isaiah 18:4; Jeremiah 4:11) blows, then it withers especially quick. נָשַׁב flavit, inflavit, occurs in Kal only here. Hiph. Genesis 15:11; Psalm 147:18.—There is much uncertainty about the origin of the particle אָבֵן. Gesen. (Thes. p668 under לָכֵן), Fuerst. (Lex. under אכן and כן) and Ewald § 205 d seem to me to be right in maintaining that אכן, on account of its derivation from כֵּן, has resident in it an argumentative meaning. Thus Fuerst. regards it primarily as “a strengthened = כֵּן therefore in a resumptive apodosis.” He refers in proof to Exodus 2:14 and to our passage. And in fact Exodus 2:14 seems to involve the drawing of a conclusion. For after Moses perceived the defiant answer of the Hebrew Prayer of Manasseh, he cries out: אָכֵז נוֹרַע חַדָּבָר. Would not this be most correctly rendered: “is the matter therefore really known?”—It is clear that the omission of Isaiah 40:7 in the Alexand. and Vatic, text of the LXX. is owing to arbitrariness, if not to oversight. Koppe, Gesenius, Hitzig, who regard the whole verse, or at least7 b as a gloss, as “a very diluted, sense-disturbing thought,” as “an ejaculation of a reader,” only prove thereby how little they have understood the sense and connection of the prophetic discourse.

Isaiah 40:8. The words יבשׁ חציר are taken verbatim from Isaiah 15:6, like נבל ציץ from Isaiah 28:1, where we find צִיץ נֹבֵל. The expression דבר יקום occurs in Isaiah 8:10, comp. Isaiah 7:7.

Isaiah 40:9. Piel בשׂר is exclusively peculiar to part second: Isaiah 41:27; Isaiah 52:7; Isaiah 60:6; Isaiah 61:1, a fact that need occasion no surprise. For it is natural, that the word, which means εὐαγγελίζειν, should be found chiefly in the εὐαγγέλιον of the Old Testament.—הָרִים קוֹל Isaiah 13:2, Isaiah 58:1.—בַּכֹּחַ comp. בְּכֹחַ יָדַי Isaiah 10:13. With that exception כֹּחַ occurs only in the second part: ( Isaiah 37:3); Isaiah 40:26; Isaiah 40:29; Isaiah 40:31; Isaiah 41:1; Isaiah 44:12; Isaiah 49:4; Isaiah 50:2; Isaiah 63:1.—The expression אַל תִּירָא is very frequent not only in Isaiah but also in the whole Old Testament; Isaiah 7:4; Isaiah 8:12; Isaiah 10:24; Isaiah 35:4; Isaiah 37:6; Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 41:13-14; Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 43:5; Isaiah 44:2; Isaiah 51:7; Isaiah 54:4; Isaiah 54:14.—הנה אלהיכם strongly reminds one, and just by reason of what follows, of Isaiah 35:4. Comp. beside Isaiah 25:9. The expression is found in no other Prophet.

Isaiah 40:10. בְּ,בְּחָזָק essentiae. חזק occurs again Isaiah 27:1; Isaiah 28:2.—אדני יהוה occurs ten times in the first part: Isaiah 3:15; Isaiah 7:7; Isaiah 10:24, etc., and thirteen times in the second part: Isaiah 48:16; Isaiah 49:22; Isaiah 50:4-5; Isaiah 50:9, etc.—The clause וזרע משׁלה לו is not co-ordinate with the foregoing chief clause, but subordinate to it. It is a clause expressive of situation (comp. Ewald, § 306, c; 341 a, sqq.), that more precisely explains the notion קזחב—לוֹis properly Dat. commodi, not mere Dat. ethicus as in עֲלִיּ לָךְ Isaiah 40:9, which Isaiah, moreover, to be seen from the masculine לֹו. For were it Dat. ethicus, then, corresponding to the gender of זרע, it must read לָהּ.

Isaiah 40:11. It is remarkable that the verb רָעָה is never used in part first in the sense of “to pasture,” the action of the shepherd, although רֹעִימ “shepherds” occurs Isaiah 31:4 ( Isaiah 38:12), (comp. Isaiah 5:17; Isaiah 11:7; Isaiah 14:30; Isaiah 27:10; Isaiah 30:23). In part second, also, the word means “pasture” in the active sense only once: Isaiah 61:5, three times “pasture” of beasts: Isaiah 44:20; Isaiah 49:9; Isaiah 65:25.—רֹעֶה “shepherd” in part second: Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 56:11; Isaiah 63:11.—עדר “the flock” found again Isaiah 17:2; Isaiah 32:14.—טְלָאִים=טְלָיִים, from טְלִי occurs in Isaiah only here (comp. 1 Samuel 15:4). Beside this טָלֶה Isaiah 65:25.—חֵיק occurs again only Isaiah 65:6-7.—The word עָלוֹת is joined Genesis 33:13 with צאן and בקר; is used therefore of sucking beeves and sheep, 1 Samuel 6:7; 1 Samuel 6:10 of sucking beeves alone, Psalm 78:71 as here used of both without addition. The word occurs only here in Isaiah. But comp עוּל, “the suckling” Isaiah 49:15; Isaiah 65:20.—נִוִזִל, which has in Genesis 47:17 the meaning “to bring through,” sustentare, 2 Chronicles 32:22, the meaning “to protect, hedge about,” and also Isaiah 51:18 the meaning “careful guiding,” occurs in Isaiah beside here and the passage just named, only Isaiah 49:10.


1. We have here before us the Prologue both of the first discourse and of the entire prophetic cycle of Isaiah 40:12 to Isaiah 66:24. For the representation of Jehovah as the comforter after protracted suffering ( Isaiah 40:1-2), as the true One, whose word abides when all that is earthly is destroyed ( Isaiah 40:6-8), and as the true shepherd that leads His people with paternal care ( Isaiah 40:11) corresponds to what follows ( Isaiah 40:12 and onwards), wherein Jehovah is portrayed as the infinite, incomparable, almighty God, and the restorer of His people, so that we find in our passage the keynote of the whole of part second of Isaiah’s prophecies. Their contents are predominantly consolatory; but our passage is like the outline of the thoughts of peace therein unfolded. The outward form of the discourse, moreover, bears the imprint of this inward correspondence. The entire second part is dominated by the fundamental number three. For it is composed of three subdivisions, of which each consists of three times three, therefore nine discourses. But our Prologue consists first of an introduction that contains twice three clauses. By three imperatives, namely (“comfort ye,” “speak ye,” “cry”) it is announced that the Lord has a comforting message for His people, and by three clauses, each of which begins with כִּי (“that,” “that,” “for”) is stated what is the contents of this joyful message ( Isaiah 40:1-2). Hahn was the first to maintain (what Delitzsch, too, finds “not without truth,” p408) that these three clauses beginning with כִּי correspond to the three calls that follow ( Isaiah 40:3-11) and to the three parts of the book, not only in respect to number but also their contents. . That there is a correspondence in respect to number can hardly be doubted. But that the contents corresponds to the three times three corresponding degrees can only be made out by great ingenuity.

After the prologue of the prologue, there follow, as remarked, three calls, each of which comprises three Masoretic verses. But by the similar beginnings of the three calls, and by their internal arrangement, it appears certain that the Masoretic division into verses corresponds in general here to that division into periods intended also by the author. Only in regard to the first הנה (behold) at the close of Isaiah 40:9 (comp. below) there may be a divergence. Each of the three calls begins with a vivid dramatic announcement. And here, in fact, occurs a remarkable gradation. The first call is introduced by the simple קול קורא (“Hark! a call”). The second call begins with the extended formula, containing a summons to call קול אמר קרא ואמר מה אקרא. The third call, finally, begins with a still more comprehensive formula of summons. It contains three members: 1) go up on a high mountain evangelist Zion; 2) raise with might thy voice evangelist Jerusalem; 3) raise it, fear not, say to the cities of Judah. Herewith it is worthy of notice that the third member itself has again three verbs (“raise, “be not afraid,” “say”). There follows then on this threefold formula of summons a threefold הנה (behold) Isaiah 40:9-10. Here, perhaps, the Masoretic division into verses may not quite correspond to the meaning of the Prophet. For if the first הנה corresponds to the two that follow, then the clause introduced by it ought rather to be referred to what follows. Verse9, accordingly, ought to end with the word Judah. The concluding verse (11) also contains three members: 1) he shall feed his flock like a shepherd; 2) he shall gather——bosom; 3) shall gently lead——with young. According to this the division into threes is not absolutely carried out in the prologue, but only just so far as it could be done without spiritless, outward mechanism, and tiresome monotony, and with such delicacy that it reveals itself only to close observation and not at all in a disagreeable way. Thereby the Prophet has proved himself to be a real artist. Moreover this tripartite division has its complete analogy in Isaiah’s style in that twofold division that we noticed in the second introduction and in chaps24–27.

In regard to the order of thought, the three calls contain a threefold specification of that general announcement of salvation contained in Isaiah 40:1-2. The first call ( Isaiah 40:3-5) expresses the thought that now is the time to get out of the way every outward and inward obstacle that may obstruct the promised revelation of glory. The second call ( Isaiah 40:6-8) declares that all earthly glory—even of the elect people—must be destroyed before and in order that Jehovah’s promise of glory may be fulfilled in its complete sense. The third call, finally, ( Isaiah 40:9-11) summons Israel, which is in exile, to rally to its Lord, who comes as Redeemer, and to commit itself to His faithful, parental guidance.

2. Comfort——all her sins.

Isaiah 40:1-2. With three emphatically comforting words the Prophet begins. For the twice-repeated נחמו, that stands significantly at the head, as the stamp, so to speak, of the entire second part, is not alone comforting. The object “my people,” that depends on it, is quite as much so. Although judged and exiled, Israel had not ceased to be Jehovah’s people, the elect peculiar people. It is usual to understand the prophets to be the ones addressed. But it was not possible for every Israelite to hear the voice of a prophet directly. Hence there lies also in the words a summons to carry the prophetic word further. Every one shall help to comfort. Each one shall contribute his part, so that the comforting word of God may come to all the members of the people. Not once only will the Lord assure Israel of His consolation. With emphasis in Isaiah 40:2 He summons the same ones whom He had already commanded in Isaiah 40:1 to comfort His people, to speak to the heart of Jerusalem (personification and metonymy at the same time, comp. Isaiah 4:4; Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 41:27). The phrase דבר על־לב (to speak out over the heart, to charm the heart, to cover with words, to sooth, to quiet) occurs elsewhere eight times in the Old Test.: Genesis 34:3; Genesis 50:21; Judges 19:3; Ruth 2:13; 2 Samuel 19:8; 2 Chronicles 30:22; 2 Chronicles 32:6; Hosea 2:16. Whereas “speak ye to the heart” implies affecting address, קארו (call ye) involves rather the notion of loud, strong and clear speaking. By every means the conviction must be brought to the people that now the time of grace is at hand.—צָבָא, militia, “warfare” is used here figuratively as in Job 7:1; Job 10:17; Job 14:14. As in general the trials and troubles of this life can be set forth as conflicts (comp. Ephesians 6:11 sqq.; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 2:3 sqq.; 2 Timothy 4:7), so here the whole time of Israel’s affliction and suffering and especially the exile is designated as a time of conflict.

The second clause כי נרצה עונה (“for her guilt is thoroughly tasted”), is difficult. First of all it must be noted that the Prophet has here in mind the passages Leviticus 26:34; Leviticus 26:41; Leviticus 26:43. It is said there that when the judgment of exile shall come upon the people Israel the land will be desert, and by that means shall enjoy the rest which it could not enjoy so long as the land was inhabited by a disobedient people that would not observe the prescribed Sabbath seasons (אֵת אֲשֶׁר לֹא־שָׁ‍ֽבְתָה בְּשַׁבְּתֹתֵיכֶם בְּשִׁבְתְּכֶם עָלֶיה, Leviticus 26:35). The land will then enjoy its time of rest (תִּרְצֵה אֶת־שַׁבְּתֹתֶיהָ, Isaiah 40:34). רָצָה with the accusative is “to have pleasure in something, enjoy something, delectari aliquare.” The Hiph. הִרְצָת that stands parallel with תִּרְצֶה is nothing else than a direct causative Hiphil which means “delectationem agere, to pursue pleasure,” thus signifies continued, undisturbed enjoyment; as e. g. הִשְׁקִיט is not merely quietum facere but quietum agere ( Isaiah 7:4), and like expressions, such as הִלְבִּין הִשְׁמִין, etc., signify not merely “make fat, make white,” but a continued activity whose product is “to be fat, to be white.” In contrast with this thought that the land shall enjoy its period of rest stands now the other ( Leviticus 26:41; Leviticus 26:43) that the people in exile shall enjoy their guilt: “the land also shall be left of them, and shall enjoy her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them; and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity (וְהֵם יִרְצוּ אֶת־עֲוֹנָם “they shall enjoy their fault,” Isaiah 40:43). This expression “enjoy their guilt,” is manifestly ironical. Whereas the absence of the wicked people is for the land a benefit, an enjoyment, the people in exile must enjoy the fruit of their disobedience. They must at last taste how bitter and bad it is to forsake the Lord ( Jeremiah 2:19), after having been unwilling to believe that apostacy from the Lord was ruinous. If now רָצָה עָוֹן is frui culpa, delectari culpa, then נִרְצָה עָון is the passive of it, and means “the fault is enjoyed, thoroughly tasted.” Niph. נִרְצָה, it is true, occurs in many places where it is used of the favorable acceptance of sacrifices. But there it means “enjoyed,” “accepted as lovely enjoyment,” “to be pronounced welcome.” Moreover this use is found only in Leviticus 1:4; Leviticus 7:18; Leviticus 19:7; Leviticus 22:23; Leviticus 22:25; Leviticus 22:27.

If עָוֹן ever had the meaning “guilt offering,” then the matter would be quite simple. For then עונה נרצה would mean “their guilt offering is favorably accepted.” But it never has this meaning. We can only say therefore that the Prophet construes נרצה in the sense of “is enjoyed,” so that it forms the antithesis of ירצר עונם, Leviticus 26:41; Leviticus 26:43.

That mournful time when Israel must enjoy the bitter fruits of its sin is now gone. The peculiar ironical antithesis of “the land shall enjoy her sabbaths,” and “they shall enjoy their fault,” has the effect that we are necessitated to hear now of an enjoyed, thoroughly tasted guilt-broth into which they have broken crumbs for themselves and have now eaten it up. The third clause beginning with כִּי is best construed as an objective clause parallel with the two preceding objective clauses. For if it were a causal clause, as Hahn would have it, it must be so indicated by an unmistakable causal particle opposed to the two objective particles preceding. But that the Perfect לקחה is not to be taken in a future sense (“in time to come receives,” Hahn) is plain from the parallelism with the foregoing Perfects. Nor can בִּפְלַיִם mean the double amount of salvation (Hahn, comp. Isaiah 61:7), for neither לקחה, nor בכל־הטאתיה suits that. The former does not for the reasons already given; the latter does not because it must in that case read תַּחַת. For how Hahn can say that the sins are the means by which Jerusalem comes into possession of a double amount of salvation is incomprehensible. If Jerusalem had not committed these sins, would it then have been the worse off for it? The Prophet can therefore only mean to say that Jerusalem has received double punishment, has been chastised with double rods. Then בְּ is the preposition of recompense, as the recompense may be regarded as the means in order to acquiring the thing [“comp. Genesis 29:18, בְּרָחֵל, properly by means of Rachel, as the price is the means by which one acquires the work or the wares,” From Dr. N.’s Gramm.—Tr.].

But how can it be said that Jehovah has laid on double the punishment deserved? How does this agree with His justice? One must remember first that the executors of the judgments against Israel did not merely restrict themselves to the measure of chastisement determined by Jehovah, but ex propriis intensified it, and thus brought on Israel a measure of punishment pressed down and shaken together ( Isaiah 10:7; Jeremiah 50:7; Jeremiah 50:11; Jeremiah 50:17, etc.). Yet if Jehovah permitted this, He is still accountable for it, seeing He could hinder it. And Jeremiah 16:18 : “And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double” shows that this severe measure was intended by God. But was it really too severe? Delitzsch is right in saying that the expression is not to be taken in a juristic sense. It is rather to be taken rhetorically. It is an hyperbola, meant to set forth the compassionating love of God in the clearest light. For this love is at once so high and so humble that it accuses and excuses itself as if it had done too much in the way of punishment. Thereby, too, it betrays the motive for that overflowing salvation it proposes to display. For if one has given others so much pain, he will gladly make it up by so much the greater benefaction.

It is to be noticed that in Isaiah 40:1-2, first the Prophet speaks. For by means of “saith your God” he takes up the word himself in order to introduce the Lord as speaking the remaining words to עונה. In the latter half of Isaiah 40:2 the Prophet himself again speaks, as appears from “the hand of the Lord.” The Prophet therefore partly cites the verba ipsissima of Jehovah, partly states what the Lord has done. This is the usual manner of prophetic announcements. It is necessary to note this here, because in what follows there is joined in climax fashion an unusual form of announcement.

2. The voice——hath spoken it.

Isaiah 40:3-5. The Prophet hears a voice. He does not say whence or from whom the voice came. This is unusual. For if now and then in other cases the prophets hear terrestrial or super-terrestrial voices, still in every case the source of it is explained. The context makes known whence and why the voice sounds (comp. Isaiah 21:11; Ezekiel 1:28; Daniel 10:9). Here one learns only that a voice sounded. This is manifestly a rhetorical embellishment. The Prophet would make prominent thereby the importance of what follows by saying that it was important to him in an especially solemn way by a special superterrestrial voice. קול קורא can in itself mean: “a voice cries” (comp. e. g. Micah 6:9). But it is more drastic and consonant with other analogies to take the words as an exclamatory phrase and as a genitive relation (comp. Isaiah 6:4; Isaiah 13:4; Isaiah 52:8; Isaiah 66:6). A heavenly messenger, then, brings the command to prepare for the Lord the way through the desert ( Isaiah 40:3-4). This command has evidently a double sense. For in the first place the people shall in fact be redeemed out of exile and be brought back home. And Jehovah Himself will conduct this return, as appears beyond doubt from Isaiah 40:9-11. But the Lord will lead them in order that the journey of the people may be made easy and prosperous without obstacle or attack (comp. Isaiah 41:17 sqq.; Isaiah 43:1 sqq, 14sqq.; Isaiah 48:20 sq.; Isaiah 49:9 sqq.; Isaiah 55:12 sq.; Isaiah 57:14). Such is certainly the immediate sense of our passage. In fact, the whole context, especially In its immediate connection with the comforting prologue, proves that it contains a promise and not an exhortation to repentance. With this agrees Isaiah 40:5, which plainly declares that Isaiah 40:3-4 announce the fulfilment, evident to all the world, of a promise given long before by the Lord. But of course it cannot be doubted that the old figurative meaning given already by John the Baptist is also justified. For in the first place it comports with the universal and everywhere to be assumed principles of the divine pedagogy, that that physical desolation of the way homewards were not possible without an ethical desolation of the ways of the heart. And in the second place, since the language is such that it can mean both, this possibility of doublemeaning makes it a natural conjecture that such was actually intended. In the third place it is to be noticed that this first voice announces the chief matter, redemption and return home, in a general way. The second ( Isaiah 40:6-8) gives explanation respecting the when of its accomplishment. The third ( Isaiah 40:9-11) defines the manner of fulfilment, and contains only in this respect those two points, one after the other, which in Isaiah 40:3-5 we observe in one another. For what is that “behold your God,” Isaiah 40:9, but the announcement that the Lord by repentance and faith will come to His people? And what are Isaiah 40:10-11 but the statement that the Lord Himself as a parental guide will come home with His people?

במדבר Isaiah 40:3 is referred by the LXX, the Vulg. and the Evangelists ( Matthew 3:3 : Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4) to what precedes. This is not only contrary to the accents, but to the very sound of the words, since במדכר evidently corresponds to the following בערבה, and must be construed like the latter. John the Baptist, in the application of these words, calling himself a φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ( John 1:23), followed the LXX. He found in that sound of words familiar to his hearers, which our passage has in that translation, a fitting expression for what he would say, without meaning to give thereby an authentic interpretation of the original text (comp. Tholuck, The Old Testament in the New, 1868, p5). For when Delitzsch says: “One may, indeed ought, as it appears, to represent to himself that the caller, going out into the desert, summons men to make a road in it,” I can find no point of support for this statement in the Hebrew text. The command to make a road in the desert does not of necessity sound out of the desert itself. If the matter itself presents no necessity for this view, I see nothing else in the Hebrew text to indicate that the voice which the Prophet heard sounded out from the desert. Therefore the meaning which the Baptist, following the LXX, gives to the words קול קורא במדבר seems to me to belong to the category of those free citations that occur so often in the New Testament in reference to Old Testament passages, and which constitute one of those departments of biblical hermeneutics that still remain the most obscure. Of course from our point of view no objection arises against the meaning and application given by the Evangelists (especially Luke 4:3-6) to the words that follow במדבר.

The Piel פִנָּה, used elsewhere also of clearing out a house ( Genesis 24:31; Leviticus 14:36) occurs again in reference to ways, in the sense of “making clear, light, opening a road;” Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10; Malachi 3:1, the last of which passages is likely a reference to the present. The subject of Isaiah 57:14 and Isaiah 62:10 is also that road on which the people shall return out of exile to their home. If the customary route from Babylon to Canaan did not pass through the desert, yet the properly nearest one did. And from יַשְׂרוּ and Isaiah 40:4 it is seen that Israel was to go along, not only the most convenient, but also the directest way home. From Egypt, also, the people had to traverse the desert in order to reach Canaan. The notion “desert” plays an important part in all the pictures of the future that relate to the deliverance out of exile. How consonant to Isaiah’s style it is to represent, that on their return home also from the second exile Israel will wander through the desert, may be seen from Isaiah 11:15-16. The meaning of יִשַׁר is evidently that the way of the people shall go out straight, and thus be as short as possible. To be such, it must make no deviations either in horizontal or vertical directions. The former appears to be the meaning of Isaiah 40:3 b; the latter is made prominent Isaiah 40:4. The valleys (the form נֶּיא only here) shall raise themselves (נִשָׂא used antithetically with שָׁפֵל11, 12; comp. Isaiah 2:2; Isaiah 2:13-14; Isaiah 6:1; Isaiah 30:25; Isaiah 33:10; Isaiah 52:13; Isaiah 57:7; Isaiah 57:15), and all mountains and hills shall lower themselves [שׁפל, see Text. and Gr.] the rugged places shall become even and the connection of mountains [רכםBergjoch see Text. and Gram.] shall become valley depths. The Prophet would say, therefore, that the obstacles that would prevent the coming of the Lord into the heart of His people, and thereby hinder the coming of the people into their land, shall be rid away. And should not thereby the glory of Jehovah become manifest to the world? When the nations see how gloriously the people Israel serve their God and how gloriously He serves His people, will they not make efforts to attain the righteousness and salvation of this people and seek the Lord who is the author of both (comp. Isaiah 2:2 sq.)? The great, glorious promise, which the Prophet has just announced, must be fulfilled, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it, and the mouth of the Lord does not lie. The expression occurs in Isaiah again Isaiah 1:20; Isaiah 58:14. Comp. on Isaiah 1:2.

4. The voice——stand forever.

Isaiah 40:6-8. The rhetorical dress of this second call, contains in relation to the first a climax. For there it is simply said: “voice of one crying.” But here: “voice of one saying, cry! And answer: what shall I cry?” Thus a second voice here precedes the voice of the one calling, and summons him to cry. This is indeed primarily rhetorical embellishment. Yet this embellishment has its material reason. In the first place, not only is the importance of the call set in the clearest light, but also its divine source, as we have already seen was also the aim of קול קרא Isaiah 40:3. In the second place we have this additional, that the caller must be summoned to call. The reason for this seems to me to be, that the second call expresses properly as its immediate thought something unpleasant. It is like a shadow that not only suddenly, but also almost incomprehensibly breaks in on the full light of the foregoing announcement of consolation. For is it not an oppressive thought, that not only all glory of the kingdoms of this world (that alone were indeed consolation for Israel), but also that all merely earthly glory of the elect people is subject to change? Is it not a deep humiliation that comes also on the people of God, that it is said to them, they must be divested of all their own human strength and adornment, and thus first share the fate of the totality of profane flesh, before the divine promise can be fulfilled to them? Behind the caller, therefore, there appears another that commands him to call out what, of himself, he would not have called. The first call is quite spontaneous: the second is by special command. The LXX. and Vulg. take the view, that the summons to call is directed to the Prophet, whence they translate וְאָמַר by καὶ εἶπαet dixi. But this is plainly caprice. The Prophet describes a visionary transaction: he relates only what he has seen and heard. וְאָמַר [see Text. and Gram.] must therefore signify that all that is related here took place simultaneously, and together, and not one after another. This suits capitally the pregnant brevity which the Prophet studiously observes here generally. He marks out the chief features with only a few strong touches of the brush. Hence he leaves unnoted whether we are to regard כל־הבשׂר ונו׳ as the language of the one calling or of the questioner. It could be both. The questioner could have noticed the answer without the Prophet hearing it. Or the caller could answer audibly to the Prophet. It was then unnecessary to make the questioner say again what was heard. In short, the Prophet tells us only once what from the nature of the case must have been spoken twice.

As Isaiah 40:3-4 are no exhortation to repentance, so too Isaiah 40:6-8 are not meant to be a sermon on the perishableness of all that is earthly. For what fitness were there in such a sermon here? Israel is to be comforted; the downfall of the world-power at present so flourishing, the end of their period of conflict, and a corresponding period of glory and triumph is to be held up to view. But at the same time Israel is to be warned, in reference to its entrance upon these, not to surrender itself to rash, fleshly hopes. For the promises of that time of glory will not be so quickly fulfilled. Israel thinks, perhaps, that the present generation, that the nation as at present constituted, that the present reigning Davidic dynasty, that the present Jerusalem as now existing is to behold that glory. Just that is false hope. For all these are flesh, and therefore grass and flower of the field, and as such will and must perish. Thereupon, naturally, the fleshly Israel asks: how can then the promises of the Lord be fulfilled? If Jerusalem with the temple is destroyed, and the posterity of David extinct, the nation dissolved as a state and scattered in all lands, where then does there remain room and possibility for the realization of that which God has promised? The word of the Lord standeth forever, replies the Prophet. The perishing of all that is flesh in the people of God is no obstacle to the realization of what God has promised. On the contrary! The Prophet makes us read between the lines, that the word of the Lord, precisely because of its own imperishable nature, finds in what perishes rather a hinderance than a condition of its own fulfilment. Such is in general the sense of our passage. If we have correctly apprehended it, then the Prophet means thereby to prevent erroneous representations in regard to the time and manner of fulfilling what he has before, and especially in Isaiah 40:5, held in prospect.

Grass as an image of the perishable, Psalm 37:2; Psalm 90:5 sq.; Psalm 103:15; Psalm 129:6; Job 8:12. Also flowers: Job 14:2; Psalm 103:15. The word חֶסֶד occurs only here in the sense of physical loveliness, agreeableness. Elsewhere it is always used of the ethical friendliness, favor, complacency of persons (men and God). But has not the poet a right to personify things, and to represent lovely, gracious appearance as the favor and friendliness that they show us? Whence the rendering δόξα (LXX.), gloria (Vulg). is inexact (more suitable εὐπρἐπεια, James 1:11), but to retain the meaning “piety” would be pedantry. If the loveliness of human things is like the grass and the flower of the field, then it must resemble these not only in blossoming, but also in casting its blossoms. The continuance of bloom here as well as there is short. Indeed grass and flower do not even complete the brief period of bloom appointed them by nature. They wither before their time when the Lord breathes on them with the scorching wind as with a hot breath. The wind is called רוח י׳—not only because it is Jehovah that charges it with its mission, but because, as breath, as life respiration of nature, it has a likeness to the Spirit of God. Thus in other places not only is the Spirit of God that operates like the wind ( 1 Kings 18:12; 2 Kings 2:16) designated רוח י׳, but also the wind that operates like the Spirit of God ( Hosea 13:15; Isaiah 59:19).

From the antithesis to the concluding words, the word of the Lord shall stand forever, we may infer that the Prophet in Isaiah 40:6-8 has in mind primarily the people Israel. For would the Prophet thus here in the prologue to his great consolatory discourse comfort the heathen? Does he not begin with the words: “comfort, comfort ye my people?” Thus we must understand by “the word that stands” primarily that word of promise given to Israel. The continuance of this is made prominent in contrast with the perishing of all flesh; thus, also, of the outward, fleshly Israel. From the general statement, “all flesh is grass,” Isaiah 40:6, the Prophet draws the conclusion, Isaiah 40:7 : therefore, verily, the people is grass, and to this is joined the further consequence that therefore the people as grass and flower must wither and fade ( Isaiah 40:8). Hence the literal repetition of “the grass withereth, the flower fadeth.” From what has been said already, it results of course that we must understand by העם, Isaiah 40:7, Israel and not human kind ( Isaiah 42:5). At the same time it is made clear that there is nothing superfluous in the text, but rather that the Prophet employs only what is needful to express his thought. He would say that, even if in the remote future all that is earthly, and even what is earthly in the holy people, will have perished, still the word of the Lord will remain and demonstrate its truth by the fulfilment of its contents.

5. O Zion——that are with young.

Isaiah 40:9-11. The third call begins also with a solemn summons to let the call sound forth, and this third formula of summons is the most copious of all, so that in this respect a gradation occurs. The Prophet so far had heard the summons to call and the contents of the call from above, so that he only cited to his readers things heard; but here it is himself that emits the summons to call, and defines the contents of what is to be called. As a man he turns to, an ideal person, it is true, yet one conceived as human, to Zion or Jerusalem personified, and commissions it to assemble all its children, that they may rally about the newly appearing, strong Saviour, and commit themselves to His faithful guidance into their home. The relation of this call therefore to the two that precede, is that it points to the gathering for the journey and the guidance and providence during the journey, after that the first call had treated of the inward and outward preparation of the way, and the second had dealt with the period of the journey. The first announcement of a call, Isaiah 40:3, contained one member; the second, which at the same time is a summons to call, Isaiah 40:6, contained two members; the last, Isaiah 40:9, that contains two summons, has three members. Thus we see the inward emotion of the Prophet grows more intense and seeks its expression in a climax. For this purpose the personification of the central point of the nation is distributed, that is to say, the function is assigned to a twofold personification, Zion and Jerusalem, although each of these two and both together represent only one subject, viz., the ideal centre of the nation that must now again become active and head the cities of Judah. This distribution of the role of representation among the two notions Zion and Jerusalem is frequent in both parts of our book: Isaiah 2:3; Isaiah 4:3-4; Isaiah 10:12; Isaiah 10:32; Isaiah 24:23; Isaiah 31:9; Isaiah 33:20; Isaiah 37:22; Isaiah 37:32; Isaiah 41:27; Isaiah 46:13; Isaiah 52:1-2; Isaiah 62:1; Isaiah 64:10. It is worthy of notice, that this form of expression is by no means found in all the prophets. First we find it in Joel 3:5; 4:16, 17; next in Amos 1:2; then in Micah, the contemporary of Isaiah: Micah 3:10; Micah 3:12; Micah 4:2. It is remarkable that Jeremiah uses the expression only in two places: Jeremiah 26:18, as a citation from Micah 3:12, and Jeremiah 51:35. In Lamentations the expression occurs three times: Lamentations 1:17; Lamentations 2:10; Lamentations 2:13. It is found beside Zephaniah 3:14; Zephaniah 3:16 and Zechariah 1:14; Zechariah 1:17; Zechariah 8:3; Zechariah 9:9.

Zion must ascend a high mountain in order to be heard afar (comp. Isaiah 42:11; the expression הר נבה again Isaiah 30:25; Isaiah 57:7). Zion and Jerusalem are addressed as מְבַשֶׂרֶת. This word therefore has not the genitive relation to Zion and Jerusalem=“Zion’s herald of joy.” Such it is taken to be by the LXX, Vulg, Targ, and after these by Gesenius, Hitzig, Knobel, Hahn, etc. It is the attribute of Zion and Jerusalem, as the following reasons show: 1) According to the view of those that assume the genitive relation, מבשׂרת is to be construed collectively, and designate the messengers of salvation as a totality, so that it stands for מְבַשְׂרִים and means the “embassy of salvation” (Heilsbotenschaft, Knobel). But even if grammatically this is allowable, still such a collective designation of messengers or of prophets is quite contrary to the usus loquendi. In this sense the sing. masc. מְבַשֵׂר is used Isaiah 52:7; Nahum 2:1. Moreover one would expect, in order to obviate indistinctness, that the verbs would be in the plural (הָרִימוּ,עֲלוּ, etc.). קֹהֶלֶת, which is quoted as analogous, means, according to Ecclesiastes 1:1, not a plurality, but a single person2) Hahn says it were “inadmissible to use Jerusalem antithetically to the cities of Judah, seeing it belongs itself to them.” But it is just the constant usus loquendi with Isaiah to distinguish Jerusalem and Judah (meaning the cities of Judah): Isaiah 1:1; Isaiah 2:1; Isaiah 3:1; Isaiah 3:8; Isaiah 5:23; Isaiah 22:21; Isaiah 36:7; Isaiah 44:26. This finds, too, its echo in later books: Jeremiah 4:5; Jeremiah 9:10; Jeremiah 11:12; Jeremiah 25:18; Zechariah 1:12; Psalm 69:36. Precisely this prominent part, which we thus see Jerusalem play, justifies us in maintaining that the Prophet means not to rank Jerusalem with the cities of Judah, but would summon it to exercise its primacy over them. It is even a very important point in salvation, that at once, still in the exile, the old domestic constitutional organism should have effect. Jerusalem must at once exercise her maternal right over her daughters (comp. e. g. Ezekiel 16:48; Ezekiel 16:55). She must gather them like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and require them to receive well their Lord and rally under His leadership for the return home. Involuntarily we are reminded here of the fact, that a great part of the Israelites, when they received the permission or rather summons to return home to Palestine, preferred to remain in the land of exile. These did not recognize the visitation of their God in that altered sentiment of the world-power toward the kingdom of God, in that wonderful summons to return home, as also later, when the Lord came in person to His own, His own did not receive Him ( John 1:11). [See Lange on John 1:11, which he refers to the theocratic advent in the Old Testament, and thus exactly to the present subject as included.—Tr.] By Behold your God, the Lord Isaiah, as it were, presented to His people. What the Lord, who has thus appeared in the midst of His people, would now further reveal, how especially He would show Himself toward the people, this is now described by a series of imperfects only, because these were still purely latent facts. First, it is said the Lord comes as a strong one. Not only will the Lordbe strong, but He will also show Himself strong. His arm will so rule that it shall benefit Him, not others, as is the case under a weak regent. As there lies in the for him the idea that He undertakes for Himself, so the following clause expresses that, opposed to others, He knows also how to preserve the suum cuique. He has for friend and foe the reward prepared that becomes each. One will not err in taking שָׂכָר, which is never used in malam partem, in a good sense. On the other hand, פְעֻלָּה which occurs also of retributive punishment ( Psalm 109:20; Isaiah 65:7), may be understood in a bad sense. פעלה is primarily labore partum, that which is wrought out, then, generally, what is acquired, effected, retribution ( Leviticus 19:13; Isaiah 49:4; comp. Job 7:2; Jeremiah 22:13). The words הנה שׂכרו ונו occur literally again Isaiah 62:11. זְרֹעַ occurs in the symbolical sense also Isaiah 33:2, yet much oftener in part second: Isaiah 40:10; Isaiah 48:14; Isaiah 51:5; Isaiah 51:9; Isaiah 52:10; Isaiah 53:1; Isaiah 59:16; Isaiah 63:5; Isaiah 63:12. The passages Isaiah 59:16; Isaiah 63:5 are especially worthy of notice, because the form of expression וַתּוֹשַׁע לוֹ זְרֹעוֹ occurs there reminding us of משׁלה לו. Verse 11 makes the impression as if thereby the prophet would obviate the dread of the hardships of the return journey, especially in reference to the delicate women and children. Hence it is said that the Lord will lead His people as a good shepherd leads his flock. The tender lambs that cannot walk, the good shepherd gathers in his strong arm and carries them in his bosom—that Isaiah, in the bosom of his garment.


FN#2 - Heb. to the heart.

FN#3 - Or, appointed time.

FN#4 - her guilt has been enjoyed.

FN#5 - that.

FN#6 - prepare in the wilderness.

FN#7 - Or, a straight place.

FN#8 - the connecting ridges become valley bottoms.

FN#9 - Or, a plain place.

FN#10 - Hark! there speaks, “cry! And there replies: “what” etc.

FN#11 - the breath of Jehovah blew on it.

FN#12 - Or, O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion.

FN#13 - Or, O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem.

FN#14 - Or, against the strong.

FN#15 - as a strong one.

FN#16 - Or, recompense for his work.

FN#17 - Or, that give suck.


  Isaiah 40:12-26

12 Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,

And [FN18]meted out heaven with the span,

And [FN19]comprehended the dust of the earth in a [FN20]measure,

And weighed the mountains in scales,

And the hills in a balance?

13 Who hath adirected the Spirit of the Lord,

Or being [FN21]his counsellor hath taught him?

14 With whom took he counsel, and who [FN22]instructed him,

And taught him in the path of judgment,

And taught him knowledge,

And showed to him the way of [FN23] [FN24]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 [FN25]a very little thing.

16 And Lebanon 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.

18 To whom then will ye liken God?

Or what likeness will ye compare unto him?

19 The workman [FN26]melteth a graven image,

And the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold,

And casteth silver chains.

20 He that [FN27]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 [FN28]be moved.

21 [FN29]Have ye not known? have ye not heard?

Hath it not been told you from the beginning?

Have ye not understood [FN30]from the foundations of the earth?

22 [FN31] [FN32]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:

23 That bringeth the princes to nothing;

He maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.

24 Yea, they [FN33]shall not be planted;

Yea, they jshall not be sown:

Yea, their stock [FN34]shall not take root in the earth:

And [FN35]he shall also blow upon them, and they [FN36]shall wither,

And the whirlwind [FN37]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,[FN38]

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.


See the List for the recurrence of the words: Isaiah 40:12. מֹאזֲניִם–פֶּלֶס–שָׁלִישׁ–תִּכֵּן–זֶרֶת–שֹׁעַל–מָדַד. Isaiah 40:13. הוֹדִיעַ–עֵצָה. Isaiah 40:14. הֵבִין–נוֹעַץ. Isaiah 40:15. –הֵן נָטַל–דַּק–שַׁחַק–דְּלִי–מַדאִיִּיס–גוֹים. Isaiah 40:16. דֵּי. Isaiah 40:17. תּהֹוּ–אֶפֶס–נֶגֶד–אַיִן. Isaiah 40:18. דְּמוּת–עָרַךְ. Isaiah 40:19. רְתוּקָה–רָקַע–צרֵֹף–חָרָש–נָסַךְ–פֶּסֶל. Isaiah 40:20. לֹא–יִמּוֹט–רָקַב–תִּרוּמָה. Isaiah 40:21. מוֹסָדוֹת–מֵרֹאשׁ. Isaiah 40:22. מָתַח–דּק–נָטָה–חוּג. Isaiah 40:23. שׁוֹפֵט–רוֹזֵן. Isaiah 40:24. קַשׁ–סְעָרָה–נָשַׁף–בַּל–אַף. Isaiah 40:26. אוֹנִים–מֵרֹב–בָּרָא–מָרוֹם.

[Gesenius construed כָּל as “the whole” in his Lehrgebäude. But having afterwards observed that the Hebrew text has כּ‍ָ‍ֽל with a conjunctive accent, he corrected the error in his Lexicon and Commentary, and referred the word to the root כּוּל, which does not occur elsewhere in Kal, but the essential idea of which, as appears from the Chaldee and Arabic analogy, as well as from its own derivations in Hebrew, is that of measuring, or rather that of holding and containing, which agrees with the common English Version (comprehended).”—J. A. A. See Fuerst, Lex. s. v.—TR.].

Isaiah 40:13. The clause ואישׁ עצתו יודיענו is dependent on the interrogation מי תכן ו׳. The imperf. is to be construed as jussive, and the paratactic Vav. copul. is to be translated in our syntactical way with “that,” as also afterwards in the last clause of Isaiah 40:14.

Isaiah 40:14. I think that משׁפט is to be taken in the wide sense meaning the norm that governs the life of every thing, thus in a certain sense, the natural law and right of everything (comp. e. g. מִשְׁפַּט אַרְמוֹן Jeremiah 30:18; comp. Exodus 26:30 : 2 Kings 1:7; Judges 13:12).—לִמַּד stands with בְּ only here; more frequently הוֹרָה is so construed: 1 Samuel 12:23; Psalm 25:8; Psalm 25:12; Psalm 32:8, etc.—דַּעַת and תְּבוּנָה conjoined also Isaiah 44:19 (comp. Exodus 31:3; Exodus 35:31; Proverbs 2:6).

Isaiah 40:15. יִטּוֹל is imperf. Kal from נָטַל= “tellere, to lift up.”

Isaiah 40:18. דּמָּה Piel occurs in Isaiah, meaning “to think, combine, meditariIsaiah 10:7; Isaiah 14:24 : meaning “to make like,” it occurs reflexively Isaiah 14:14 in Hithpael; in part second Isaiah 40:25; Isaiah 46:5. דמה is joined here with אֵל as is נִמְשַׁל Isaiah 14:10; elsewhere it is used with לְ: Isaiah 46:5; Lamentations 2:13; Song of Solomon 1:9.

Isaiah 40:19. הפסל (used Exodus 20:4; Deuteronomy 5:8; in Isa. see List) stands first emphatically as the chief notion.—רָקַע “to pound, beat” ( Ezekiel 6:11; 2 Samuel 22:43) then “to beat flat,” with the hammer, to extend ( Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 44:24, also Piel has this meaning Exodus 39:3; Numbers 17:4), acquires in our text the meaning “to cover with something beaten out flat,” so that רִקַּע means “to plate over.”—צֹרֵף stands last epanaleptically.—On the frequent omission of the pronominal subject by Isaiah comp. Isaiah 2:6; Isaiah 24:2; Isaiah 29:8; Isaiah 32:12, etc.

[“לו may either be reflexive (for himself), as some consider it in Isaiah 40:11, and as all admit לָךְ to be in Isaiah 40:9, or it may be referred to עֵץ. Having secured the stuff, he seeks for it a skilful workman. As עֵץ is an obvious antecedent, and as the reflexive use of the pronouns is comparatively rare, this last construction seems entitled to preference.”—J. A. A.].

Isaiah 40:22-23 are without predicate. הנותן,הנטה,הישב are exclamations whose predicate must be supplied. The contents of the verses and what precedes ( Isaiah 40:19-21) show that this must be “has made the earth.”—According to Hebrew usage, the secondary forms (inf. and partic.) return to the principal forms (וימתחם verse 22 and עשׂה Isaiah 40:23). Comp. Isaiah 5:8; Isaiah 5:23; Isaiah 31:1; Isaiah 32:6.

Isaiah 40:26. מרב אונים is nearer definition; אמיץ ( Isaiah 28:2) is in apposition with המוציא and with the subject of יקרא.


1. The exceeding comforting introduction Isaiah 40:1-11 does not at once cheer up Israel. Doubts arise. Is the Lord in earnest when He promises? And can He do it too? Shall He that did not uphold us when we stood, lift us up again when we have fallen down? To these doubts, which he utters in express words Isaiah 40:27, the Prophet replies in the present section. He amplifies here the incomparableness, the aloneness and infinite sublimity of God. This idea underlies the whole passage.

2. Who hath measured——understanding.

Isaiah 40:12-14. First a standard is given by which one may estimate God’s elevation above all human ability to comprehend Him. The hollow hand, the span, the measure, the scales are human measures. Who does not instantly see the impossibility of measuring the divine works of creation with those measures? It is not meant that God has done this, as many expositors would explain. For even if appeal is made to the suffix in שׁעלו as referring to the divine hand, and though the suffix may be supplied to זרת and thus the divine span be understood, still this cannot be done in reference to the measures that follow, which are of human devising and make. Does the Prophet mean to say that there is a divine “measure, scales, balance” of which God made use at the creation? Certainly not. But he would say: what man is able to measure the divine works with his human measures, i. e., to submit them to supplementary inspection and test their correctness? This is confirmed by Isaiah 40:13-14 where it is expressly said that no man before the creation influenced the divine creative thoughts in the way of counseling and guiding (so Gesenius, Hahn, etc.). The immeasurableness of God is expressed by Jeremiah 10:6-7 in this way, which passage especially in Isaiah 40:8 sq, unmistakably looks back to our text (see below). שָׁלִישׁ is probably the third part of an Epha, and thus like the סְאָהseah, measure” (σάτον), of which the Epha contained three, according to the Rabbis, whence the LXX. often translated אֵיפָה “ephah” by τρία μέτρα ( Exodus 16:36; Isaiah 5:10). Comp. Herz. R-Encycl. 9 p149. Dust of the earth is an expression of the Pentateuch, Genesis 13:16; Genesis 28:14; Exodus 8:12-13. Beside these comp. Job 14:19; 2 Samuel 22:43. פֶּלֶס distinguished from מאזנים, and certainly the Schnellwage [an apparatus like the steelyard], occurs Proverbs 16:11. On הרים and גבעות occurring together, see on Isaiah 40:4.

As there underlies Isaiah 40:12 the thought that no one is in a position to inspect and test the Creator’s work after its completion, so Isaiah 40:13-14 would declare that no one could inspire and direct the Creator before He worked. Thus the Prophet asks: Who comprehended the Spirit of Jehovah? The context shows that the Spirit as the Spirit of Creation ( Genesis 1:2) is meant. To comprehend the Spirit of God, according to Isaiah 40:12, means nothing else than to grasp it, so that he that grasps is greater than the Spirit of God; he spans and from all sides influences it. This passage is cited Romans 11:34; 1 Corinthians 2:16. At first sight Isaiah 40:14 appears to be only an amplification of Isaiah 40:13 b. But from with whom took he counsel it appears that the Prophet makes a distinction. There are counsellors who are consulted as authority and experts, whose word is law to be followed. In this sense, which corresponds also to תכן, Isaiah 40:12 seems intended. But there are also counsellors with whom one consults on an equality, but who, still, though equals, in one or other respect, by instruction, correction, defining, influence the determination that is to be made. This seems intended by Isaiah 40:14. The Prophet would say that neither in the one nor in the other sense did the Lord have counsellors. The last clause of Isaiah 40:14. and shewed to him the way of understanding signifies the consequence of the three preceding verbs of teaching: so that He taught him to know the way of judicious conduct.

3. Behold—and vanity.

Isaiah 40:15-17. The absolute sublimity of God that has been revealed in the creation, is revealed also in history. In the former the Spirit of God showed itself to be conditioned by no one. In the latter the absolute dependence of men on God appears. Not merely single men, but whole nations count for no more before the almighty God than the small drop of a bucket that the bearer does not notice, or than the little crumb in the scale that does not influence the weight. Isaiah 40:16 must be regarded as a parenthesis. For it stands between Isaiah 40:14-15 on the one hand, and Isaiah 40:17 on the other, all which compare the greatness of God with earthly greatness, without itself presenting any comparison. Rather Isaiah 40:16 draws a conclusion from that incomparable sublimity of God: because He is so great, all the forests of Lebanon do not suffice for a worthy sacrificial fire, nor all the beasts of those forests for a worthy burnt-offering. Of course this very conclusion serves for a measure of the greatness of God, and it seems to me that the Prophet, along with “the nations” and “the isles,” the most widely extended and the furthest, (comp. Isaiah 66:19; Jeremiah 31:10), would apply as a measure also the earthly highest. But would He also make prominent again the weighty mass of the mountain? He would then for the fourth time have made use of the same figure. Hence, not the ponderous mass of the mountain itself, but as much of its riches in vegetation and animal life as is suitable for the service of the Lord, must serve Him for a figure. דַּי is “sufficientia, copia;” thus דֵּי עוֹלָח,דַּי בָעֵר=sufficientia, copia sufficiens, i. e, satis incendii, sacrificii. The construction is like Leviticus 5:7 “if his hand cannot reach the sufficiency of a lamb,” i. e., if he cannot bring enough to buy a lamb. Comp. Leviticus 12:8; Deuteronomy 25:8. Isaiah 40:17 with all the nations joins close with “nations” Isaiah 40:15, and recapitulates and intensifies the contents of it. Modern expositors for the most part construe מאפם ו׳ in a partitive sense, because it is nonsense to say: less than nothing, and because מאפם would properly mean “more than no thing.” But those are strange scruples. אפם is “the ceasing to be, where there is nothing more, the not being:” תֹּהוּ is “inanitas, emptiness, void.” Now one may say that absolute nihilism, the horror of an absolute emptiness, void is still more impressive than a being that by its miserable nothingness makes not even an impression. And of course מאפם ו׳=more than, viz.: in a negative sense. The Prophet, who indeed is governed here wholly by the idea of comparison, compares the nations and the nothing, and finds that the nations in respect to insignificance weigh down more than אֶפֶם and תֹּהוּ.

4. To whom then——not one faileth.

Isaiah 40:18-26. Having shown that no finite spirit may compare with God ( Isaiah 40:12-18), the Prophet shows in these verses that it is also impossible to make any image or likeness of God. Because God has not His like, therefore there is no creature form that is like Him, and under whose image one may represent Him visibly. If this thought, coming in the middle between the promise Isaiah 40:1-11, and the inquiry Isaiah 40:27, would serve, on the one hand, to assure Israel that Jehovah has the power to keep what He has promised, Song of Solomon, on the other, this painting up the manufacture of idols appears intended to represent to Israel in glaring light, the folly and wrong of such a degradation of divinity to the sphere of common creatures. It is to be noted moreover that this warning in the first Ennead of our book appears in the form of an ascending and descending climax; the Prophet beginning with the more refined form of image worship, ascends to the coarser Isaiah 44:8 sqq, and Isaiah 45:16, and closes again with the more refined Isaiah 46:5-7. Let it be noted, too, that the Exile any way brought about the great crisis that had for its result an entire breaking with idolatry on Israel’s part. Before the Exile they were Jews, and yet at the same time served idols. After the Exile, all that was called Jew renounced idolatry. Whoever still worshipped idols ceased also to be a Jew and disappeared among the heathen. Our passage, as all others of like contents in the second part of Isaiah, attacks still with vigor the coarse idolatry, such as it was in the time of Isaiah. At the close of the Exile such a polemic was no more in place. For then Israel was beyond this sin of its youth. To the overcoming of it the word of the redoubtable Prophet no doubt mightily contributed.

That in general no one is like the Lord either in heaven or in earth, either among the gods or among the rest of creatures, is the constant teaching of the Old Testament, on the ground of Exodus 15:11; Deuteronomy 3:24 (comp. Psalm 35:10; Psalm 71:19; Psalm 86:8; Psalm 89:9; Micah 7:18 and Caspari, Micha der Morastite, p16). But from this doctrine must be distinguished the other, of course closely connected with it, that one can and must make no visible image or likeness of God, because with that is given the more refined form of idolatry, that worships Jehovah Himself under an image (comp. on Isaiah 46:5). This is emphatically enjoined in the Decalogue ( Exodus 20:4; Deuteronomy 5:8), and in Deuteronomy 4:12 sqq, the reason is given, that on Mount Sinai, Israel observed nothing corporeal of God except the voice. The Prophet here joins on to these propositions of the Law. He shows, by describing the genesis of such idols, how senseless it is to regard images of men’s make as adequate representations of the divinity. He shows how all their parts are brought together in succession, by human labor, just as any other product of industry. How disgraceful is the origin of such an idol! Men are its creators. The exterior is gold, but the interior vulgar metal. To keep it from, falling, it must be fastened to the wall with chains. When the idol is of wood, especial care must be taken against the wood rotting. And still how often it does rot! To keep the idol from falling it must be rightly proportioned and well fastened. Thus a god concerning which extreme care must be taken to keep it (inwardly) from rotting, and (outworldly) from falling down! מְסֻכָּן is “the reduced, impoverished.” For סָכַן, related to שָׁכַן, is “sedere, desidere,” מסכן, therefore, is “desidere factus,” i. e., one that from standing is made to sit, thus brought down. Also the Arabic meskin=one brought to sit still, i. e., to inactivity, powerlessness (comp. Fleischer in Delitzsch, in loc). This meaning appears in מִסְכֵּן “poor” ( Proverbs 4:13; Proverbs 9:15 sq.), and מִסְכֵנוֹת “poverty” ( Deuteronomy 8:9). תְּרוּמָה is the consecrated gift, the voluntary offering presented for the service of the sanctuary; frequent in the Pentateuch after Genesis, it occurs only here in Isaiah, הָכִין is erigere, statuere, stabilire; see List. It is incomprehensible how there can be people among the Israelites to give to idols the honor that becomes divinity. Rightly the Prophet turns to such with the inquiry; are you not in a position to know better? This question he propounds in four clauses. When a man acquires a knowledge of anything, there must first be made to him the suitable communication, and he must corporeally hear it, and spiritually understand it. Hence the Prophet asks if all this has not occurred, only he asks in a reversed order. The spiritual understanding is the decisive and chief concern; hence he puts this first, making the two conditions of hearing and communicating follow. Notice that the Imperfect is used for the subjective transaction of hearing and understanding, while for the objective transaction of communicating the Perfect is used. In these three members the Prophet has, as yet, named no object. This follows in the fourth with the foundations of the earth. Here, too, he uses the Perfect, because he no longer distinguishes the subjective and objective transactions, but would only learn whether the knowledge in question is an actual fact or not. With Gesenius, Stier, Hahn, I prefer to translate מוסדותfundatio rather than by fundamentum, for which there is adequate justification grammatically. For the word, like מַלְאָךְ,מִשְׁלוֹחַ,מוֹדַעַת,מִשְׁמַעַת, etc., can have primarily an abstract meaning (comp. Ewald § 160 b). This abstract meaning better suits the context, for it concerns, not the make up of the foundations themselves, but the way in which they originated. The Prophet manifestly refers back to Isaiah 40:12-13. How the foundations of the earth were laid, and who laid them, respecting this we have, of course, received intelligence (מֵרֹאשׁ) from the beginning. It is that which has been transmitted from Adam on down, and which we have in its purest form in the Mosaic account of the creation. The Prophet certainly means this latter information, because for him it was the authentic one, divinely attested.

[Respecting the different tenses of the verbs in the first clause of Isaiah 40:21; J. A. A, says: “The most satisfactory, because the safest and most regular construction, is the strict one given in the LXX. (οὐ λνώσεσθἐ; οὐκ ἀκούσεσθε;) revived by Lowth (will you not know? will you not hear) and approved by Ewald. The clause is then an expression of concern or indignation at their being unwilling to know. There is no inconsistency between this explanation of the first two questions and the obvious meaning of the third, because the proof of their unwillingness to hear and know was the fact of their having been informed from the beginning.” The argument, he adds, is to show that they were without excuse, like that of Paul in Romans 1:20; comp. Acts 14:17; Acts 17:24.—Tr.].

In Isaiah 40:22-23 (which are without a predicate, see Text. and Gram.), the Prophet would say: not the idols ( Isaiah 40:19-20) are the originators of the earth, but He that sits above the circle of the earth, spreads out the heavens and abandons the rulers to nothing. חָגָב “locust,” is chosen here on account of likeness in sound to חוּג; it occurs again only Leviticus 11:12; Numbers 13:33; 2 Chronicles 7:13; Ecclesiastes 12:5. דּק according to the context “a thin fabric, cloth” (comp. דַק Isaiah 40:15, “thin dust”) see List. Isaiah 40:24. In order to make still more impressive the nothingness of men of might as compared with the Almighty, a series of drastic images is used to paint the completeness and thoroughness of that bringing them to nought of which Isaiah 40:23 speaks. אַף בַּל occurs only here; but אַף אֵין occurs Isaiah 41:26. Both, in the repetition, are the negative אַף–אַף ( Isaiah 46:11). As the latter=et-et, so the former=neque-neque, or more correctly=et non—et non. For the sense is: both their planting and the scattering of their seed, and their taking root is not yet completed, when He has already blown on them, etc. Or more plainly: they are hardly planted, hardly sown, hardly rooted, but, etc. שֹׁרֵשׁ, “radices agree,” only here and Jeremiah 12:2; the passage in Jer. seems to rest on our text. Like the Simoon of the desert (comp. Isaiah 40:7) causes the young green herb to wither suddenly, so the Almighty suddenly withers the mighty ones and the wind-storm carries them off.

To the first inquiry “to whom will ye liken me” ( Isaiah 40:18) the Prophet has replied by referring to the power of God over the earth and its inhabitants ( Isaiah 40:21-24). Now he asks the question again, Isaiah 40:25, and replies by a reference to God’s power over the heavenly constellations Isaiah 40:26. The Prophet uses the verb שָׁוָה in a precisely similar connection Isaiah 46:5. He has used this word before in various significations (see List). In the sense of “like, adequate, fitting” it occurs chiefly in Job ( Job 33:27) and in Prov. ( Proverbs 3:15; Proverbs 8:11; Proverbs 26:4). קדושׁ, poetically without article, occurs only here as abbreviation of the Isaianic קדושׁ ישׂראל, which on its part rests on Isaiah 6:3, which see. It appears to me suitable to the context to take that bringeth out their host, etc., as the answer to the question “who hath created,” etc. For it is verily a very fitting demonstratio ad occulos to say: the same who day by day calls them all by name and without one of them failing, even He made them. He that can do the one, can do the other. He that leads out “their host” (צבאם comp. Isaiah 24:21; Isaiah 34:4) according to their number by name, that is just the Lord of hosts, Jehovah Sabaoth. The expression אַמִּיץ כֹּחַ occurs Job 9:4. אישׁ לא נעדר comp. Isaiah 34:16.


FN#18 - comprehended.

FN#19 - all

FN#20 - Heb. a tierce.

FN#21 - Heb. man of his counsel.

FN#22 - Heb. made him understand.

FN#23 - Heb. understandings?

FN#24 - judicious conduct.

FN#25 - fine dust.

FN#26 - has moulded.

FN#27 - Heb. is poor of oblations.

FN#28 - totter.

FN#29 - know ye not t hear ye not?

FN#30 - omit from.

FN#31 - Or, Him that sitteth, etc.

FN#32 - he that sitteth.

FN#33 - were not.

FN#34 - did not.

FN#35 - he just blew.

FN#36 - withered.

FN#37 - took.

FN#38 - ?


  Isaiah 40:27-31

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,

[FN39]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.

29 He giveth power to the faint;

And to them that have no might he increaseth strength.

30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary,

And the young men shall utterly fall:

31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall [FN40]renew their strength

They [FN41]shall mount up with wings as eagles;

They [FN42]shall run, and [FN43]not be weary;

And they shall walk, and not faint.


See the List for the recurrence of the words: Isaiah 40:28. תבונה–חֵקֶר–יגע–יעף–קצות הארצ. Isaiah 40:29. יָעֵף הִרְבָּה–עָצְמָה–אוֹנִים–. Isaiah 40:30. כָּשַׁל–בַּחוּרִים Isaiah 40:31.חָלַף–קוה.

Isaiah 40:27. אָמַר and דִּבֵּר in parallelism as here does not again occur; but Isaiah 29:4 affords an analogy. עָבַר with מִן in the sense of “to depart unobserved, escape,” occurs only here. Yet comp. in a physical sense עָבַר with מֵעַל Genesis 18:3.

Isaiah 40:28, On the partic. pro verbo fin. compare on verse19 (צֹרֵף).

Isaiah 40:30. The verb in the first clause put first shows, as Delitzsch well remarks, that the clause is to be construed as a sort of adversative clause, that Isaiah, as concessive: and though young men grow weary. The second clause returns from this potential construction to the simple, conformably to Hebrew usage, that demands the prompt return from all intensive discourse and verbal forms to the simple chief form.

Isaiah 40:31. The expression קוי י׳ occurs again only Psalm 37:9. In our text it Isaiah, according to the punctuation, to be spoken Koje, whereas in the Psalm it is to be spoken Kove (comp. Delitzsch on our text). חָלַף (comp. חֵלֶף, ἀντί, Numbers 18:21; חֲלִיפוֹת “the change of clothing”) is “to change,” and is used partly of changing place (transire, Isaiah 8:8; Isaiah 21:1; Isaiah 24:5), partly of change of condition in pejus (perire, pass away, Isaiah 2:18) or in melius (hence revirescere, Isaiah 9:9; Isaiah 41:1).


Why sayest——not faint.

Isaiah 40:27-31. One sees here plainly the purpose intended by the preceding discussion concerning the incomparableness of God. The Prophet sees that the long chastisement of the Exile would call up doubts in the spirits of the Israelites. Carried off into a heathen land, they will suppose that God’s eyes do not penetrate to them, and that the wrong they suffer escapes His notice ( Isaiah 40:27). On the parallelism of Jacob and Israel see Isaiah 9:7, and the List. This parallelism is a characteristic of Isaianic language, for it occurs in no other prophet so often. It is manifest that it is the people in exile that speak. Just because of their remoteness from the Holy land, the territory of Jehovah (comp. the prophet Jonah) they think their way, i. e., the course of their life is hidden from the Lord, and their right, i. e., the wrong done them by their oppressors, passes unnoticed by their God. This doubt of little faith the Prophet reproves by referring to the infinitude and incomparableness of God set forth in Isaiah 40:12-26. The words, Isaiah 40:28, hast thou not known, etc., are an echo of Isaiah 40:21. Jehovah is an eternal God, therefore He had no beginning as the idols had, which before the workmen made them ( Isaiah 40:19-20) were not. Jehovah also made the ends of the earth; therefore they must be known to Him, and wherever Israel may dwell in exile, it cannot say that its way is hidden from God ( Isaiah 40:27). Just as little may one say of God, who created all things, that it is too great a labor for Him, or that His power is not adequate to help banished Israel. For He does not get tired. Nor can it be said that He wants the necessary penetration, the necessary knowledge of the measures to be adopted; for His discernment is infinite, unsearchable. תבונה occurs Deuteronomy 32:28, and often in Prov. ( Proverbs 2:2-3; Proverbs 2:6; Proverbs 3:13, etc.) and in Job ( Job 12:12-13; Job 26:12; Job 32:11).

Isaiah 40:29 : Jehovah is so far from exposure to inability to do more, that He is rather the one who out of His inexhaustible treasure gives strength to all that are weary. Isaiah 40:30 : Merely natural force does not hold out in the long run. Of this the youth are examples. But those that hope in the Lord receive new strength, etc. Therefore Jehovah is the dispenser of power, but only on the condition that one by trust makes it possible for Him to bestow His treasures of grace. They feather themselves afresh as eagles, Isaiah 40:31. Since the LXX. and Jerome, etc., very many expositors, influenced by “they renew their strength,” understand these words of the annual moulting of eagles; on which seems to be based the opinions of the ancients that this bird periodically renewed its youth. Comp. Psalm 103:5 and Bochart, Hieroz. II, p745 sqq, ed. Lips., who enumerates the fabulous representations of the ancients on this point. Hitzig objects to this exposition that הֶֽעֱלָה as causative of עָלָה as used Isaiah 5:6, does not occur elsewhere, and that it must read נוֹצָה instead of אֵבֶר. But הֶֽעֱלָה, though not in that sense, occurs often in another much more nearly related to our passage. For not to mention where it is used of putting on sackcloth ( Amos 8:10) and of coating over with gold ( 1 Kings 10:17), it also stands for covering the bones with flesh and skin ( Ezekiel 37:6). And this may the more be taken as analogous to covering the naked bird-body with feathers, seeing that the foliage of trees is called עָלֶה “the mounting up, growing up over” (comp. redeunt jam gramina campis, arboribusque comae). Regarding the second remark of Hitzig’s, it is true that one might rather expect נוֹצָה, since it appears undoubted from Ezekiel 17:3; Ezekiel 17:7 that אבר is the pinion, נוצה the feathers in general. But our passage does not deal in zoological exactness. Moreover the context has more especially to do with pinions as the chief organ for flying. The second clause describes the intended effect: rapid, untiring forward effort. The first clause says what makes this effect possible: ever new power, ever new, eagle-like rejuvenescence. That the rejuvenescence of the eagle extended to the entire body Bochart, l. c, expressly shows to have been a view of the Hebrews in distinction from the Greeks. For he says in reference to Micah 1:16 : “Tam Graeci, quam Hebraei calvitium avibus tribuunt. Ita, ut hoc solo differant, quod, cum avium calvitium juxta Graccos pertineat ad solum caput, id Hebraei calvitium extendunt ad totum corpus.” Thus we may assume (that the Prophet, whether correct or not according to natural history is immaterial, referred the renewal to the pinions. Now as “they feather themselves afresh” says figuratively the same that “they shall renew their strength” says literally, we need not wonder that the second half of the verse does not carry out the figure and say: they shall run, etc., they shall fly, etc. The Prophet emphasizes the promise of unwearied power to run and walk, doubtless, because he has in mind primarily the people returning from the Exile and the toilsome journey through the desert. Thus the conclusion of the discourse corresponds quite exactly to the conclusion of the Prologue Isaiah 40:11.


FN#39 - eternal divinity is Jehovah that created. He does not tire, etc.

FN#40 - Heb. change.

FN#41 - feather themselves anew.

FN#42 - omit shall.

FN#43 - do not weary.


1. “Quia haec posterior pars (prophetiarum Jesajae) prophetia est de Christo et evangelio, pertinet ad nostra quoque tempora, immo est proprie nostra. Quare nobis commendatior esse debet.” Luther.

2. On Isaiah 40:1. “Est mandatum ad apostolos, quibus novum praedicationis genus mandatur. Quasi dicat: lex praedicavit hactenus terrores, vos consolamini, mutate doctrinam, praedicate gratiam, misericordiam et remissionem peccatorum.” Luther.

3. On Isaiah 40:2. “Non auribus tantum, sed cordi potius concionandum Esther, hoc nempe sibi vult Jehova, dum ait: Dicite ad cor Hierosolymae. Et huc quoque pertinet illud tritum,: nisi intus sit, qui praedicat, frustra docentis lingua laborat.” Foerster.

4. On Isaiah 40:3 sqq. “John the Baptist was the first of those messengers and heralds of our redemption of whom the redemption from Babylon was only a type. But the latter comprehends all other ministers of the word that God has sent and will send to the end of the world to conduct wretched souls out of this miserable desert, and out of the prison of the law to the heavenly city of God. The way is prepared for the Lord when we cast away the great stones and immoveable idols, viz, pride and trust in works, and acknowledge our sin. For they utterly bar the entrance of grace.” Heim and Hoffmann.

5. On Isaiah 40:3 sqq. “When we attentively observe the quiet, yet mighty movement of the Lord through the world’s history, we see how before His going the vallies elevate themselves and the mountains sink down, how steep declivities become a plane, and cliffs become flats. Let us not fear to pass through the deserts of life if God be with us! It is a walk along lovely, level paths.” Umbreit.

6. On [“Applied to the Messiah, it means that God was about to come to His people to redeem them. This language naturally and obviously implies, that He whose way was thus to be prepared was Jehovah, the true God. That John the Baptist had such a view of Him is apparent from what is said of him. John 1:34,:comp. John 1:15; John 1:18; John 3:31; John 10:30; John 10:33; John 10:36. Thought his is not one of the most direct and certain proof-texts of the divinity of the Messiah, yet it is one which may be applied to Him when that divinity is demonstrated from other places.” Barnes.]

7. On Isaiah 40:8 b. By the word of the Lord was he world made ( Genesis 1; John 1:3; Psalm 33:6), and He upholds all things by the word of His power ( Hebrews 1:3). By His word, too, heaven and earth are kept for the day of judgment ( 2 Peter 3:7). For heaven and earth shall pass away, but His word will not with that also pass away ( Isaiah 51:6; Psalm 102:27; Matthew 5:18; Luke 21:33). Rather the word of the Lord will not return empty to Him, but it shall accomplish that which He pleases, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto He sent it ( Isaiah 55:11). And when all earthly forms, in which the word of the Lord invests itself, grow old and pass away like a garment, still the eternal truth concealed in these forms will issue forth only the more glorious from their demolished shapes, and all that have lived themselves into the word of God and have trusted in Him shall rise with Him to new life.

8. On Isaiah 40:8 b. “Verbum Dei nostri manet in aeternum. Insignis sententia, quam omnibus parietibus inscribi oportuit … Hic institue catalogum omnium operum, quae sine verbo Dei in papatu, fiunt: ordo monachorum, missa, cucullus, satisfactio, peregrenationes, indulgentiae, etc. Non sunt verbum Dei, ergo peribunt, verbum autem Domini et omnes, qui verbo credunt, manebunt in aeternum.” Luther.

9. On Isaiah 40:10-11. What a huge contrast between these two verses! In Isaiah 40:10 we see the Lord coming as the almighty Ruler and stern Judge; but Isaiah 40:11 He appears as the true Shepherd that carries the lambs in His bosom, and leads softly the sheep giving suck. Sinai and Golgotha! The tempest that rends the mountains and cleaves the rock, the earthquake and the fire, and then afterwards the quiet, gentle murmuring ( 1 Kings 19:11 sqq.)! For His deepest being is—love ( Luke 9:55 sq.; 1 John 4:8).

10. On Isaiah 40:11. “Christus oves suas redimit pretiose, pascit laute, ducit sollicite, collocat secure.” Bernhard of Clairvaux.

11. On Isaiah 40:16. “Fancy never invented a mightier sacrifice. Magnificent Lebanon the altar in the boundless temple of nature—all its glorious cedars the wood for the fire—and the beasts of its forest the sacrifice.” Umbreit.

12. On Isaiah 40:16. The reading of this place in Church, Christmas A. D 814 moved the Emperor Leo v. the Armenian to take severe measures against the friends of images. The passage moves Foerster to propose the question whether it is permitted to make pictures of God and to possess paintings representing divinity. He distinguishes in respect to this between οὐσια and ἐπιφάνεια or revelatio, and says, no one can picture God κατ̓ οὐσίαν, but κατ̓ ἐπιφάνειαν, i. e. iis in rebus, quibus se revelavit one can and may picture Him. This reply is manifestly unsatisfactory. For it is not about res, quibus Deus se revelavit that one inquires. That one may picture things by which, or in which God has revealed Himself, thus certainly created things, cannot be contested from the standpoint of Christian consciousness. But the question is: is it allowable to picture the person of God, or more exactly, the person of God the Father? For it has long been settled that it is allowable to picture Christ the man. But though there are many paintings of God the Father, still it is no wonder that not only strict Reformed, but that earnest Christians of fine feeling generally take offence at them. It seems to me to depend on whether this offence is absolute or relative. Is it not allowable to represent in colors what the prophet Daniel represented in words in that vision of the four beasts, Isaiah 7:9 sqq.? May one not paint the “Ancient of days”? And if it be God the Father that appears here under this name, which is certainly most probable, may one not paint Him in this form that He gives Himself as allowably as one may paint the baptism of Christ in the Jordan, and with that paint the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove? But who is able to do that? Who is able to worthily represent the Ancient of days? I regard that as the most difficult task of art. To him that can do it, it is allowable also. He that attempts it and cannot do it need not wonder if men take offence at his picture. So far no one has been able to do it, and hardly will any one ever be able. Hence the best thing is to let it alone.

13. On [“It is proof of man’s elevated nature that he can thus look upward and trace the evidences of the power and wisdom of God in the heavens, that he can fix his attention on the works of God in distant worlds. This thought was most beautifully expressed by one of the ancient poets:

Pronaque cum spectent animalia caetera terram;

Os homini sublime dedit; coelumque tueri,

Jussit et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus.

Ovid Met. Lib. I:84–86.

In the Scriptures, God not unfrequently appeals to the starry heavens in proof of His existence and perfections, and as the most sublime exhibition of His greatness and power, Psalm 19:1-6. And it may be remarked that this argument is one that increases in strength, in the view of men, from age to age, just in proportion to the advances which are made in the science of astronomy. It is now far more striking than it was in the times of Isaiah.” Barnes.]


1. On Isaiah 40:1-5. “Why is the advent of Jesus on earth to-day still a ground of comfort and joy? 1) By Him the season of bondage ends ( Isaiah 40:2); 2) the curse of sin is removed ( Isaiah 40:2-3): 3) the promised new creation is introduced ( Isaiah 40:4); 4) the mouth of the Lord has revealed the glory.” Advent sermon by E. Bauer, in Manch. G. u. Ein G. Jahrg. III. p35.

2. On Isaiah 40:1-5. “The precious commission of God to the ministers of the word: Comfort ye, comfort ye My people! We inquire: 1) To whom, according to God’s word, shall the comfort be brought? 2) What sort of comfort is it that according to God’s word should be brought?” Luger. Christus unser Leben. Götting, 1870.

3. On Isaiah 40:1-9. “What preparation does God demand of us that we may become partakers of the comfort in Christ? 1) Prepare the way of the Lord2) Learn to know your nothingness.” Haenchen. Manch. G. u. Ein G. 1868 p39. [“It is a good sign that mercy is preparing for us if we find God’s grace preparing us for it. Psalm 10:17. To prepare the way of the Lord we must be convinced1) Of the vanity of the creature2) Of the validity of the promise of God.” M. Henry.]

4. On Isaiah 40:6-8. “What shall I preach? 1) So I asked with the Prophet, and looked into the face of this motley, multi-formed time. 2) So again I asked, and looked into the depths of my own poor, weak soul. 3) So I asked once more, and looked to thee, my charge that the Lord of the Church has given me to lead.” Kliefoth. Installation sermon at Ludwigslust, printed in Zeugniss der Seele, Parchim und Ludwigslust, 1845.

5. On [“God is the Shepherd of Israel ( Psalm 80:1); Christ is the good Shepherd, John 10:11. 1) He takes care of all His flock2) He takes particular care of those that most need it: of lambs, those that cannot help themselves, young children, young converts, weak believers, sorrowful spirits. 1] He will gather them in the arms of His power. 2] He will carry them in the bosom of His love and cherish them there. 3] He will gently lead them. After M. Henry.]

6. On Isaiah 40:12-17. To what the contemplation of the sublimity of God admonishes us1) The consideration of His infinite greatness admonishes us to be humble2) The consideration of His infinite power admonishes us to trust Him3) The consideration of His infinite wisdom admonishes us to be obedient.

7. On Isaiah 40:22-24. When might takes precedence of right and the unrighteousness of the powerful gets the upper hand, then we ought1) To consider that our cause is no other than that of God; 2) that even the mightiest are before Him only like locusts, or like the trees that the wind sweeps away; 3) wait patiently till the hour comes for the Lord to show His power.

8. On Isaiah 40:25-31. “Jubilate! 1) Holy is the Lord our God in His ways ( Isaiah 40:25). 2) Almighty is the Lord our God in His works ( Isaiah 40:26-28). 3) Rich is the Lord our God in His gifts of grace ( Isaiah 40:29-31).” Scheerer. Manch. G. u. Ein G., 1868.

9. On [Reproof of dejection and despondency under afflictions. I. The ill words of despair under present calamity ( Isaiah 40:27). II. The titles God gives His people are enough to shame them out of their distrusts. O JacobO Israel. Let them consider whence they took these names, and why they bore them. III. He reminds them of that which, if duly considered, was sufficient to silence all their fears and distrusts ( Isaiah 40:28). He communicates what He is Himself to others, choosing especially the weak for the display of this heaven-imparted strength ( Isaiah 40:29). Comp. 1 Corinthians 1:27-29. V. The glorious effect: strength perfected in weakness, comp. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; and enhanced by the failures of those naturally strong ( Isaiah 40:29-31). After M. Henry.]

10. On [I. “Religion is often expressed in the Scriptures by “waiting on Jehovah,” i. e., by looking to Him for help, expecting deliverance through His aid, putting trust in Him. See Psalm 25:3; Psalm 25:5; Psalm 25:21; Psalm 27:14; Psalm 37:7; Psalm 37:9; Psalm 37:34; Psalm 69:3; Isaiah 8:17; Isaiah 30:18.” II. “It does not imply inactivity or want of personal exertion.” III. “They only wait on Him in a proper manner who expect His blessing in the common modes in which He imparts it to men—in the use of those means and efforts which He has appointed, and which He is accustomed to bless.” The farmer does not wait for God to plow and sow his field; but having plowed and sown he waits for the blessing. After Barnes, in loc.]

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at Public Domain.
Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Jehovah's Grandeur and Compassion. B. C. 708.

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. 29 He giveth power to the faint and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 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.

Here, I. The prophet reproves the people of God, who are now supposed to be captives in Babylon for their unbelief and distrust of God, and the dejections and despondencies of their spirit under their affliction (Isaiah 40:27): "Why sayest thou, O Jacob! to thyself and to those about thee, My way is hidden from the Lord? Why dost thou make hard and melancholy conclusions concerning thyself and thy present case as if the latter were desperate?" 1. The titles he here gives them were enough to shame them out of their distrusts: O Jacob! O Israel! Let them remember whence they took these names--from one who had found God faithful to him and kind in all his straits and why they bore these names--as God's professing people, a people in covenant with him. 2. The way of reproving them is by reasoning with them: "Why? Consider whether thou hast any ground to say so." Many of our foolish frets and foolish fears would vanish before a strict enquiry into the causes of them. 3. That which they are reproved for is an ill-natured, ill-favoured, word they spoke of God, as if he had cast them off. There seems to be an emphasis laid upon their saying it: Why sayest thou and speakest thou? It is bad to have evil thoughts rise in our mind, but it is worse to put an imprimatur--a sanction to them, and turn them into evil words. David reflects with regret upon what he said in his haste, when he was in distress. 4. The ill word they said was a word of despair concerning their present calamitous condition. They were ready to conclude, (1.) That God would not heed them: "My way is hidden from the Lord he takes no notice of our straits, nor concerns himself any more in our concernments. There are such difficulties in our case that even divine wisdom and power will be nonplussed." A man whose way is hidden is one whom God has hedged in, Job 3:23. (2.) That God could not help them: "My judgment is passed over from my God my case is past relief, so far past it that God himself cannot redress the grievances of it. Our bones are dried." Ezekiel 37:11.

II. He reminds them of that which, if duly considered, was sufficient to silence all those fears and distrust. For their conviction, as before for the conviction of idolaters (Isaiah 40:21), he appeals to what they had known and what they had heard. Jacob and Israel were a knowing people, or might have been, and their knowledge came by hearing for Wisdom cried in their chief places of concourse. Now, among other things, they had heard that God had spoken once, twice, yea, many a time they had heard it, That power belongs unto God (Psalm 62:11), That is,

1. He is himself an almighty God. He must needs be so, for he is the everlasting God, even Jehovah. He was from eternity he will be to eternity and therefore with him there is no deficiency, no decay. He has his being of himself, and therefore all his perfections must needs be boundless. He is without beginning of days or end of life, and therefore with him there is no change. He is also the Creator of the ends of the earth, that is, of the whole earth and all that is in it from end to end. He therefore is the rightful owner and ruler of all, and must be concluded to have an absolute power over all and an all-sufficiency to help his people in their greatest straits. Doubtless he is still as able to save his church as he was at first to make the world. (1.) He has wisdom to contrive the salvation, and that wisdom is never at a loss: There is no searching of his understanding, so as to countermine the counsels of it and defeat its intentions no, nor so as to determine what he will do, for he has ways by himself, ways in the sea. None can say, "Thus far God's wisdom can go, and no further " for, when we know not what to do, he knows. (2.) He has power to bring about the salvation, and that power is never exhausted: He faints not, nor is weary he upholds the whole creation, and governs all the creatures, and is neither tired nor toiled and therefore, no doubt, he has power to relieve his church, when it is brought ever so low, without weakness or weariness.

2. He gives strength and power to his people, and helps them by enabling them to help themselves. He that is the strong God is the strength of Israel. (1.) He can help the weak, Isaiah 40:29. Many a time he gives power to the faint, to those that are ready to faint away and to those that have no might he not only gives, but increases strength, as there is more and more occasion for it. Many out of bodily weakness are wonderfully recovered, and made strong, by the providence of God: and many that are feeble in spirit, timorous and faint-hearted, unfit for services and sufferings, are yet strengthened by the grace of God with all might in the inward man. To those who are sensible of their weakness, and ready to acknowledge they have no might, God does in a special manner increase strength for, when we are weak in ourselves, then are we strong in the Lord. (2.) He will help the willing, will help those who, in a humble dependence upon him, help themselves, and will do well for those who do their best, Isaiah 40:30,31. Those who trust to their own sufficiency, and are so confident of it that they neither exert themselves to the utmost nor seek unto God for his grace, are the youth and the young men, who are strong, but are apt to think themselves stronger than they are. And they shall faint and be weary, yea, they shall utterly fail in their services, in their conflicts, and under their burdens they shall soon be made to see the folly of trusting to themselves. But those that wait on the Lord, who make conscience of their duty to him, and by faith rely upon him and commit themselves to his guidance, shall find that God will not fail them. [1.] They shall have grace sufficient for them: They shall renew their strength as their work is renewed, as there is new occasion they shall be anointed, and their lamps supplied, with fresh oil. God will be their arm every morning, Isaiah 33:2. If at any time they have been foiled and weakened they shall recover themselves, and so renew their strength. Heb. They shall change their strength, as their work is changed--doing work, suffering work they shall have strength to labour, strength to wrestle, strength to resist, strength to bear. As the day so shall the strength be. [2.] They shall use this grace for the best purposes. Being strengthened, First, They shall soar upward, upward towards God: They shall mount up with wings like eagles, so strongly, so swiftly, so high and heaven-ward. In the strength of divine grace, their souls shall ascend above the world, and even enter into the holiest. Pious and devout affections are the eagles' wings on which gracious souls mount up, Psalm 25:1. Secondly, They shall press forward, forward towards heaven. They shall walk, they shall run, the way of God's commandments, cheerfully and with alacrity (they shall not be weary), constantly and with perseverance (they shall not faint) and therefore in due season they shall reap. Let Jacob and Israel therefore, in their greatest distresses, continue waiting upon God, and not despair of timely and effectual relief and succour from him.

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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

The people of God are reproved for their unbelief and distrust of God. Let them remember they took the names Jacob and Israel, from one who found God faithful to him in all his straits. And they bore these names as a people in covenant with Him. Many foolish frets, and foolish fears, would vanish before inquiry into the causes. It is bad to have evil thoughts rise in our minds, but worse to turn them into evil words. What they had known, and had heard, was sufficient to silence all these fears and distrusts. Where God had begun the work of grace, he will perfect it. He will help those who, in humble dependence on him, help themselves. As the day, so shall the strength be. In the strength of Divine grace their souls shall ascend above the world. They shall run the way of God's commandments cheerfully. Let us watch against unbelief, pride, and self-confidence. If we go forth in our own strength, we shall faint, and utterly fall; but having our hearts and our hopes in heaven, we shall be carried above all difficulties, and be enabled to lay hold of the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary

on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

That wait upon the Lord; that rely upon him for strength to bear their burdens, and for deliverance from them in due time.

Shall renew their strength; shall grow stronger and stronger in faith, and patience, and fortitude, whereby they shall be more than conquerors over all their enemies and adversities.

They shall mount up with wings as eagles; which fly most strongly, and swiftly, and high, out of the reach of all danger.

They shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint; they shall be enabled to run or walk in their way as they please, without any weariness.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

The Greatness Of God Proclaimed (Isaiah 40:12-31).

And He will be able to do it because of His greatness. In this vital passage the greatness of God to do What He declares He will do is now revealed in all its fullness.

He Is Over Creation.

Isaiah 40:12

‘Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand?

And measured the heavens with a span?

And enveloped the dust of the earth in a measure?

And weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?’

The first concentration is on the vastness of God as Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. He is the One Who takes the oceans in the palm of His hand to examine their size, He measures the heavens with the span of His fingers. He takes the dust of the whole earth into His measuring jug (literally ‘his third’), picks up the mountains and puts them in His scales, and weighs the hills in His balances.

Water, sky and earth were the three basic constituents of creation in Genesis 1. So all the basic things in creation are seen as coming under His survey, and He is seen to be vaster than them all.

He Is Omniscient.

Isaiah 40:13-14

‘Who has directed the Spirit of Yahweh?

Or being his counsellor, has taught him?

With whom did he take counsel and who instructed him?

And who taught him in the path of judgment?

And taught him knowledge?

And showed him the way of understanding?’

The next thing about God is His omniscience. No one can teach Him anything. He is all wise, all knowing, all comprehending. No one has given directions to His Spirit, or has been appointed as His adviser and guided Him. He has never sought counsel from anyone, or needed to be taught how to make right judgments, or been given knowledge, or needed to be shown what is sensible and right. It is He alone Who directs the Spirit of Yahweh, and gives counsel and teaches men knowledge and understanding, and shows them what is right.

This is in contrast with the myths of the nations where the gods regularly make mistakes, consult and seek counsel, and have to learn and grow in knowledge and understanding. When the Babylonian god Marduk is depicted as wanting to ‘create’ he did not just act of himself, he sought the guidance of Ea, the all-wise. But they are to recognise that in reality all advice and counsel comes from Yahweh.

He Is Greater Than All.

Isaiah 40:15-17

Behold the nations are as a drop in a bucket,

And are counted as the small dust of the balance.

Behold he takes up the isles as a very small thing,

And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn,

Nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering.

All the nations are as nothing before him,

They are counted to him less than nothing, and emptiness.

Look! They should be aware that even the greatest nation is like a drop of water at the bottom of a bucket as God peers in to see whether it is dry, they are like the fine dust which a man flicks off his balances before using them, hardly noticeable and irrelevant. The furthest isles and coastlands are minute in His sight.

If a burnt offering is to be found worthy of God even all the forests of Lebanon are insufficient for fire, nor are all its cattle and small cattle sufficient for a burnt offering. Before Him all nations are but a thing of nought, they are less than a nothing, in comparison with Him they are totally empty of meaning. (The thought is one of comparison and contrast, not an indication that God does not care about them).

He Is Divinely Incomparable.

Isaiah 40:18-20

‘To whom then will you liken God?

Or what likeness will you compare to him?

The graven image? A workman casts it,

And the goldsmith covers it with gold,

And casts for it silver chains.

He who is too poor for such an offering,

Chooses a tree that will not rot.

He seeks for himself a skilful craftsman,

To set up a graven image that will not be moved.’

There is nothing that can compare with God. The gods of the nations certainly cannot be compared with God, for they are man-made. Such an idea is to be dismissed with contempt. They may be splendid, or they may be sturdy, but they will not be moved, either by themselves or by others. There they stay, lifeless and imprisoned on their bases. What care men take over them, and yet they are nothings. And their quality depends totally on whether their maker is rich or poor. (And besides, ‘the tree that will not rot’ will rot in the end). How then can they be compared with Him?

As often when idols are mentioned the description is pragmatic. The idea is that the worshippers may sense something beyond the idols, but that really there is nothing. Both Old and New Testament however go further and say that what lies behind them is devils (1 Corinthians 10:19-20; Deuteronomy 32:17).

He Is Supremely Great Beyond All Things and All Men, King Over All.

Isaiah 40:21-24

‘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 as grasshoppers,

Who stretches out the heavens as a curtain,

And spreads them out as a tent to dwell in.

Who brings princes to nothing,

He makes the judges of the earth as nought.

Yes, they have not been planted, yes, they have not been sown,

Yes, their stock has not taken root in the earth,

What is more he blows on them and they wither,

And the whirlwind takes them away as stubble.’

The questions are put to mankind as a whole going back to the beginning of time. They have known, and heard and been told right from the beginning, even from the foundations of the earth, that He is the One Who sits on high, the One Who is ‘out of this world’, on His throne. And to them there was only one way of getting out of this world, and that was upwards. God was above and beyond all that they knew. What a contrast to the idols fixed to their bases.

The circle of the earth probably has in mind the course of the sun, rising from the east and setting in the west, and then going below the earth to arise again on the east. Or it could refer to the circle of the horizon. We should not read into this scientific ideas, even ancient scientific ideas. Few asked those kinds of questions. They described what they saw. Such questions were for Babylonian priests who did engage in such speculation, not for small country savants. No one in Judah would have a theory about the world, other than that they knew that God had made the world. They knew that He had made it as it was and they simply described it as they saw it without speculating.

‘Its inhabitants are as grasshoppers.’ This description may have arisen because they knew what the men below looked like from a mountain top, like a bunch of grasshoppers, and knew that God looked down from even higher. Or it may simply be a way of describing man as tiny compared with God.

‘Who stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in. Who brings princes to nothing, He makes the judges of the earth as nought.’ That is, God uses the whole known universe as His tent, a temporary accommodation whenever He needs it. What is more, compared with Him great princes and judges are nothings. They count for nothing in the presence of the Judge of all the earth Who always does what is right and needs no assistance in judging (Genesis 18:25).

‘Yes, they have not been planted, yes, they have not been sown, yes, their stock has not taken root in the earth. What is more He blows on them and they wither, and the whirlwind takes them away as stubble.’ Such prince and judges are transitory, here today and gone tomorrow. They are hardly planted, or sown, or take root when God blows so that they wither, and then as stubble the whirlwind takes them away. He is permanent, they are temporary. It is His wind and breath that controls all things.

The main purpose behind all this is to describe the greatness of the Creator and the minuteness of those whom He has created, specially those whom men fear, and to put them into the context of the magnificence of God.

Isaiah 40:25

“To whom then will you liken me, that I should be equal to him?” says the Holy One.’

God challenges them to produce an equal to Him, someone whom they can remotely compare with Him. Someone who is as unique and set apart as He. There is no one that they can even begin to think of, for He istheHoly One.

Isaiah 40:26

‘Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these,

Who brings out their host by number.

He calls them all by name.

By the greatness of his might,

And because he is strong in power, not one is lacking.’

He calls on them to survey the stars, the host of heaven. They are all His creation. He simply calls them ‘these’. We can compare how the creation story dismissed them in a phrase, ‘He made the stars also’ (Genesis 1:16). But when the sky is full of stars it is He Who has brought them out. And He has a name for every one of them (Psalms 147:4). The naming of a thing indicated ownership by the One Who named. Thus God is claiming that every one of the stars is His. And they are all there, with none missing, because of His mighty power. Whatever men may think and say, they are all His and He has named each one.

‘‘Lift up your eyes on high.’ Compare here Deuteronomy 4:19 where the verb is used of those who lift up their eyes to heaven to worship the star-gods. What folly! Here they are to lift up their eyes above the heavens to see the Creator of the stars, to Whom all the stars belong.

‘Who brings out their host.’ The word for ‘bring out’ is a military term, as is clear from Isaiah 43:17 and 2 Samuel 5:2. It is similarly applied the host of heaven in Job 38:32. The sense is that the stars are like an army which its leader ‘brings out’ and enumerates.

Israel Cannot Hide Their Ways from God.

Isaiah 40:27

‘Why do you say, O Jacob,

And speak, O Israel, saying

“My way is hid from Yahweh,

And my case is being disregarded by my God.” ’

We note the first use of Jacob/Israel in this chapter, which continues its use from earlier, and is characteristic of the next few chapters. Isaiah does not see God as addressing the refugees of Judah only, He is addressing all Israel wherever they may be. His people are declaring that God does not know their situation, that He has ceased to make judgments concerning them. That their case is continually disregarded by Him. That many of them are scattered in different parts of the world (Isaiah 11:11), and that God neither knows nor cares. The cities of Judah may have had declared to them what God is going to do, but, they ask, what about the remainder?

‘O Jacob -- O Israel.’ The combination of names is a reminder of how Jacob met God as he was returning to the land, and how he became Israel, of how Jacob the supplanter became Israel the prince with God. But now the people, whether Jacob or Israel are discouraged and discontented. They have lost their vision.

‘Why do you say?’ God is upset at their attitude, and He asks them why they say this in the light of the facts. It is in fact not He Who is at fault, but they. He points out that if they had waited on Him, had trusted in Him, it would be different.

Isaiah 40:28

‘Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The everlasting God, Yahweh, the Creator of the ends of the earth,

Does not faint, nor is weary.

There is no searching of his understanding.’

His first challenge concerns Himself. Do they not recognise Whom He is? They should have known. They should have heard. But the implication is that they have not. Then He explains. He is the everlasting God, He is Yahweh the Creator of the ends of the earth. Thus He knows all that goes on in the world. And as the Everlasting One and the Creator of life itself He neither faints nor grows weary. He is always on the alert, always aware of what is going on. And He knows and understands everything. Nor can anyone even begin to search out His understanding. He is the all alive One, the living God.

Isaiah 40:29

‘He gives power to the faint,

And to him who has no might he increases strength.’

If they had only trusted in Him and waited on Him (Isaiah 40:31) they would have discovered that He did know their circumstances, and that He was there to act. For to those who are faint, and who trust in Him, He gives power. To those who have no might, but trust in Him, He gives strength. And they should have known it. And if they would only trust in Him now they would enjoy what He has promised, and He would be able to bring about His purposes through them.

Isaiah 40:30-31

‘Even the youths will be faint and be weary,

And the young men will utterly fail.

But those who wait on Yahweh will renew their strength,

They will mount up with wings as eagles,

They will run and not be weary,

They will walk and not faint.’

What they must do is recognise the power of their God, and turn from sin, and seek Him. Let them wait on Him. And then, even when the youths are fainting and are weary, and the young men at the peak of their powers are failing under the pressure, those who are trusting God will discover that by waiting on God they will fly like eagles, they will run without losing strength, they will walk without fainting. The eagle was famous for the height to which it flew, mounting into the skies until it was only a dark speck. So would rise those who waited on Yahweh, above the world and all its problems, to share their lives with God (compare Isaiah 60:8; Psalms 55:6). The runner was the messenger, enduring, keeping on running because he had an important message to take. The runner who ran in Yahweh’s name would never grow weary. And the walker was the one who went about the ordinary affairs of life. ‘Walk’ is regularly used to describe the path of the righteous. The one who waited on God would walk and not faint.

So the offer of God is available. They have been faced with God, ‘Behold your God’ (Isaiah 40:9). He is there ready to reveal Himself, to come among men in His glory (Isaiah 40:1-11). He has revealed the greatness of What He is (Isaiah 40:12-26). Let them but respond and His final purposes will come about, and He will give them the strength needed to participate. And the offer is to all both near and far. The whole chapter is a call to Judah and Israel, both near and far, to repent and respond. It is also a vision of what one day will be. First when men behold God in Jesus Christ (John 1:14), and respond to Him. And then in the final day when they will truly mount up on wings as eagles, meeting the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), ever to be with Him.

We may rightly see in this chapter an expansion of Isaiah 6. But here we have, not the Lord seated on His throne, but the Lord enthroned over all things,

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

. An Expansion of the Text Suggested in Isaiah 40:6-8.

. The Majesty of God, in Whose Eyes the World is Insignificant.—God is the Creator, disposing of earth and heaven as very small things. No adviser instructed Him. The nations in His sight are like the drop hanging from the bucket, or the dust on the scale, too small to count in the bulk. The forests of Lebanon and the many wild beasts that range them would not provide fuel and victims for a worthy sacrifice.

Isaiah 40:14. path of judgement: rather, "the correct way."—way of understanding: "how to do it."

Isaiah 40:15. isles: properly "coastlands," but used as a synonym for "(distant) lands."

. What Material Image Can Represent so Mighty a God?

Isaiah 41:6 f. should be inserted to fill the obvious gap between Isaiah 40:19 and Isaiah 40:20. In their present context they are a disturbing element. Addressing mankind the prophet asks, "If God is so exalted, what can represent Him? A molten image? Why the founder makes a core, which the goldsmith plates with gold, the workmen heartening each other as they work! A wooden idol? Carved from a tree and propped securely lest it fall! How absurdly inadequate!"

Isaiah 40:19. graven image: the original sense of the word; here simply "image"; a molten image is in question. In Isaiah 40:20 it is used of a carven image.—and casteth . . . chains: LXX omits; delete as a guess at unintelligible and corrupt Heb.—Isaiah 41:6. Render, "Each helps the other, and says to his comrade, Be strong."

Isaiah 40:7. carpenter: render, "artificer."—that smiteth the anvil: what has the blacksmith to do here? The last delicate modelling?—fastened it: "it" may be the gold plating: the next clause is a gloss from Isaiah 40:20.

Isaiah 40:20. He . . . oblation: improbable translation of unintelligible text. Possibly emend, "He who cuts out an image (of wood)."

. God's Absolute Power over the Universe and its Inhabitants.—The appeal is again to mankind. The universe from the beginning has shown its Maker's might. Enthroned high above the disc-like earth, He spreads the heavens over it, easily as if they were but a tent (cf. mg.). History shows that no earthly power, however august, can for a moment survive His attack. What image can represent such an one? Even the stars (regarded here as in some sense personalities; Genesis 2:1*, Job 38:7*) are His handiwork, and He summons them forth each night to take their appointed stations; so great is His might that none of them dare play truant.

Isaiah 40:24. Their reign seems to end before it has begun (mg.).

Isaiah 40:26. Read, "For fear of him who is great in might and strong in power not one fails."

. Yahweh, the Eternal God. shall Strengthen All who Trust in Him.—Israel complains that God has forgotten her just claims. Does she not see that God takes long views beyond her absorption in the moment? Let her not fear that He has become decrepit. On the contrary, His overflowing strength shall fill those who trust in Him so that they, when even strong men despair, shall rise above all feebleness.

Isaiah 40:27. way: render, "fate."—Judgement: render "right."—passed away from: i.e., is forgotten by.

Isaiah 40:31. mount . . . eagles: read, "Put forth wings like (those of) eagles." The following words are an addition and an anticlimax.

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Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary


Isa . Lift up your eyes on high, &c.

These encouraging assurances must have been of the highest value to the captive and disconsolate Jews in Babylon. Banished for so long a period from the land of their fathers, they were ready to fear that they were outcasts from God. And they are of the utmost value now, for even now the people of God are in times of trouble often tempted to take a dark and depressing view of God's dealings and dispensation. Then let them consider the facts here brought before us.

I. In His providential government, God exerts on behalf of His children the same almighty power which at first created and still sustains all worlds (Isa ). When by the aid of astronomy we attempt to conceive of the vastness of the universe, we are not only astonished, but confounded. Two thousand stars are said to be visible to the naked eye; but astronomers declare that there are 250,000,000 of them. What an evidence of the affluence of God's creative energy! The same power that at first called them into being must be perpetually put forth in regulating their movements, sustaining their harmony, and controlling their mutual influences (H. E. I. 362-365). Surely, He whose eye can discern, whose arm upholds millions of worlds, can distinctly survey and effectually preserve and bless every individual of His redeemed family, without overlooking or disregarding the minutest of their concerns (cf. Isa 40:10-11; Luk 12:6-7; Php 4:6-7; Rom 8:28. H. E. I. 4015-4022).

II. In ordering the concerns of His people, God exercises the same wisdom which He displays in regulating the constitution and course of Nature (Isa ). His wisdom is equal to His power. To Him causes and effects, tendencies and results, are alike known. The events both of the past and the future lie distinctly before Him (H. E. I. 2264, 2268). How great, then, is the encouragement to refer all our interests to Him with whom an error in judgment is a thing unknown, and a mistake impossible! (H. E. I. 4049-4057.)

III. God is pleased to impart ample and diversified communications of grace to those who wait upon Him. Of those who receive from Him renewal of strength it is said, "They shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." These words seem to imply that there are those of whom all this elevation of spirit, buoyancy of heart, and untiring alertness in their prescribed course may be asserted. But there are many more to whom some one of these capabilities is imparted without the others.

1. The first part of the description presents to us a favoured class of devout worshippers, distinguished by fervour of spirit in their approaches to the throne of grace, so that they are enabled to soar far above this lower region of cares, fears, and turmoils into a higher and serener atmosphere, where they attain to more realising views of God in Christ, and more intimate, joy-inspiring, and transforming communion with Him. Such were Baxter, John Howe, Leighton, Watts, Doddridge, and other poets of the sanctuary who have aided the upward flight of redeemed spirits. There are such men still among those who here wait upon God.

2. There are other Christians, whose minds are less buoyant, whose affections are less fervid, and whose imagination is less vivid; but, by the grace of God, they run with persevering energy the race set before them, and are not weary.

3. There are others of whom it can only be said—yet, blessed be God, it can be said—"They walk and do not faint." Their movement is less rapid than that of the former classes, but still they are making constant progress in the path of duty and safety. Some of them are aged, infirm, afflicted, or tried, harassed, and tempted; but still they look unto Jesus, and "He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no power He increaseth strength" (Psa ; H. E. I. 952-961, P. D. 474).

IV. Divine aid is necessary to support even the strongest. Without it, "even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall." There may be an allusion here to young men selected for military service, singled out as the most vigorous, active, and athletic. As even these cannot secure for themselves the continuance of their health and strength for a single day, so for vigour of faith, fervour in love, energy in obedience, we depend on the grace which renders us "strong in the Lord and in the power of His might" (H. E I. 2351-2358).

V. Divine aid is sufficient to strengthen even the weakest. From God comes the strength of the strongest, and in Him they trusted. David (Psa ; Psa 71:16). Paul (2Co 12:5-10). In all times of need and depression, let us look to the same Helper; we shall not look in vain (H. E. I. 4789-4981).—H. F. Burder, D.D.: Sermons, pp. 262-278.

The Christian's life is a continual warfare. Nor has he any strength but in God. He is prone to reflect more on his own weakness than on God's power.


1. Temporal afflictions.

(1.) Pain and sickness.

(2.) Losses and poverty,—sometimes rendered heavier by the unkindness of friends and calumny. Job sank for a time under their weight (Job ; Job 27:2).

2. Spiritual troubles.

(1.) Corruptions of the heart

(2.) Unsuccessful conflicts.

(3.) Temptations of Satan.

(4.) Desolations of Zion (H. E. I. 1059-1062, 2457, 3398, 3949-3951).


God is never at a loss for means to succour His people (Isa ).

1. He is not lacking in tenderness and compassion.

(1.) He has given them a sympathising High Priest (Heb ).

(2.) Accepts their weak endeavours (Isa ).

(3.) Infirmities are no bar to His favours (Mat ; H. E. I. 2313-2315).

2. He expects, however, that they "wait upon" Him.

(1.) Prayer is necessary (Eze ).

(2.) Effectual aid obtained by waiting (Deu ). The drooping shall "mount up," &c.; they that had utterly fallen shall "run;" they shall march onward in spite of all opposition; they shall never faint through want of strength or courage.

(3.) None shall be disappointed in his hope (Psa ).


1. To those who bless themselves that they have never felt such discouragements. Such ignorance argues an utter ignorance of true religion (Gal ).

2. To those who are now discouraged. Though the sources are many from whence difficulties arise, God is an all-sufficient Helper to those who trust in Him (2Co ; Php 4:13). They shall soon be able to attest the truth of the prophet's assertion (Isa 30:18).—Charles Simeon, M.A.: Skeletons, pp. 202-204.

This is the language of Isaiah's despondency and consolation.

Sorrow may be said to be the heritage of us all. God never intended man's life to be a perpetual song. He made the roses and the thorns, the sunlight and the shadows. But to all who either feel or utter the prophet's lament God sends the prophet's consolation.


The problems of our life have no solution if we turn away from God. Life, when we turn to God, is never cruel and hard, however full of trial it may be. God has surrounded us on every side with reminders of what He is.

1. His power is painted on the sky.

2. His power is seen on earth.


This is seen rightly only in conjunction with His greatness. We see the tender in contrast with the mighty. "The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth," stoops to give power to the faint. Tenderness is strength in gentle action. Gentleness is not weakness, but calm, quiet, loving strength. The Great Father has also a mother's tenderness (P. D. 1499). He giveth power to the faint. Not He gave; not He shall give; but He giveth (H. E. I. 2304). HE GIVETH!—that is God's name. He who fainteth not is drawn to those who do faint; and to the faint He giveth power. There is nothing so mighty as the faintness and weakness which takes hold of the Divine strength. It has omnipotence behind it (2Co ).

In Christ how is this character given Him by the prophet confirmed? Strong to exorcise devils, yet how tender with His disciples' faults; strong to still the storm, yet so touched by His disciples' trouble; strong to raise the dead, yet so tender to weep tears of natural sorrow (H. E. I. 951-961).


"There is no searching of His understanding." This is not to say much if it only means that we cannot search it; but there is no searching of it. God's infinite wisdom is to us the needful complement of His infinite power.

CONCLUSION.—We cannot understand, but God knows all. Some plan there is in our changeful life. We can only rest in the thought of His wisdom, His tenderness, His power.

And Christ! He is the wisdom of God, the love, the tenderness of God. Away from Christ, there is no certainty, no rest; and hope is quenched in darkness.—Henry Wonnacott: Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi. pp. 180-182.


Isa . Why sayest thou, O Jacob? &c.

Here is no mere utterance of the complaints of the people; for although the more earnest Jews of the day doubtless did feel that God had forsaken them, the prophet had felt it with the keenest agony. Consider the circumstances in which Isaiah was placed when the text was written.

1. He had been prophesying for fifty years with but few glimpses into the splendour of the future, and without any indications in the people of the beneficial results of his mission.

2. Imagine now his position. Summoned to prophesy with the strange warning that his words would harden the people (chap. Isa ), he had found for half a century the truth of that mysterious commission. He had seen words both of the most awful woe and of the tenderest love alike fail to rouse the people from their dreams. Invasion after invasion swept over the land; he had just seen the people panic-stricken at the approach of the dread Assyrian army; had beheld their hosts wither in a night before the breath of the Destroyer. Another and darker invasion, which would carry them captive to Babylon, had shaped itself before his prophetic eye. Must not the grey old man have been more than human if he had not been tempted, in some moments, to cry in utter gloom, "The Lord has forgotten me?"

3. In the midst of that deep depression, the new revelation, which begins with a shout of joy in this chapter, opened before him in its glory. The old question came back, with its grand reply, "Why sayest thou?" &c. We have three points before us—


It arose from a twofold source.

1. The sense of a Divine desertion: "My way is hidden from the Lord." Just because the most earnest of the people felt the absence of God from the nation, he felt it far more intensely. Many men have had the same experience. If we are Christians, we shall know it sooner or later.

2. The absence of Divine recompense: "My judgment is passed over from my God." A cry from the prophet himself. Remember how little result of his long labour the man of eighty years had seen.

The people were buried in God-forgetting repose; the priests were dead in formalism; the spiritual life of the land was decaying, and thunders of woe were muttering in the nation's future. All great men think that they die in failure. The same terrible absence of Divine recompense has been felt by lesser minds, if only earnest.


In Isa, we perceive that the double manifestation of God's greatness in Nature and the tenderness of His revealed will dispelled the gloom.

1. The greatness of God in Nature (Isa ; Isa 40:26).

(1.) Would not He who guided unweariedly the stars guide the life of immortal man unforgettingly and righteously? And thus the eternal chorus swept down on the prophet's soul from the heaven of heavens (Isa ). Before the majestic care of the Creator in God's visible Bible of creation man's doubting heart should grow calm.

(2.) He speaks not only of the unsearchable Creator, but of the Everlasting God. The Everlasting implies the thought of One to whom past, present, and future are one now (Isa ).

2. The tenderness of the revealed will (Isa ; Isa 40:29). The revelation of God's tenderness fuller for the Christian man. We know how the Great Shepherd gave His life for the sheep.


They are twofold.

1. Strength in weakness (Isa ). Feebleness is transformed into power when God has taught His great lesson of glorying in infirmity.

2. Immortal youth. "They shall mount up with wings as eagles." There is an old Jewish fable that the eagle in dying recovered its youthful power. This is what Isaiah meant. The trustful heart never grows old. The dying Christian starts into new vigour at the name of Christ. "The oldest angels are the youngest."—E. L. Hull: Sermons, First Series, pp. 81-90.

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary


Isa . They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.

I. Two conditions are necessary to physical life, viz., repose and activity. So, also, in the spiritual life, there are two conditions of health, viz., passivity and exercise. The former is expressed by waiting, which implies—

1. Passivity—a state in which we are the recipients, in which we do nothing, but quietly expect something to be done. As men "wait for the morning," they wait for the salvation of God; for the fulfilment of His promises; for the coming of the Lord.

2. Confidence in God, an assurance that He will reveal Himself, that He will accomplish His Word.

3. Desire and expectation. Men who wait for the morning both expect it and long for it; so those who wait for God—for His salvation, for His coming—expect it and long for it (Psa ).

4. Patience and submission—patience, because we know that the good waited for will not be granted before God's time; submission, because we know that it is in God's power to grant or to withhold, and that our only hope is in Him.

Waiting, therefore, is the opposite

(1) Of indifference;

(2) of despair;

(3) of rebellious discontent. (See vol. i. pp. 178, 179, 332.)

II. Those who wait on the Lord renew their strength.

1. Because God flows in upon the soul, imparts larger measures of life; as occurs in sleep. As touching the ground, according to the fable.

2. Because God approves and blesses those who thus confide in Him and long for Him.

III. Times in which we should wait.

1. In seasons of devotion, private and public.

2. In times of sickness and sorrow.

3. In times of spiritual dearth.

4. All the time of our continuance in this world is a time of waiting for the salvation of God.—C. Hodge, D.D.

We have here some of the benefits of waiting upon God as they appeared to the fervid soul of the prophet Isaiah. True messenger of the old covenant, he continues to speak under the new. Let us listen to this old message, which is also new. What does the prophet say? He says:—

I. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." This sounds as if this godly life of theirs involved a considerable tax upon their spiritual strength; as if they were in danger of becoming "weary and faint in their minds." Is this really so, Christian tradesman, householder, citizen, preacher, worker in the Lord's vineyard? What do you say, you who suffer and you who are tempted? To all such this promise of Scripture will be very welcome. The least it can mean is—

(1.) That they shall stand their ground. But it must mean something more than that they shall not retreat, though in such a warfare as ours not to have yielded is itself a victory. It must mean, they shall advance, they shall make sure and steady progress against the foe. But the margin speaks of this renewal as a change of strength, as if it would remind us—

(2.) Of the many-sidedness of the grace of God, and its perfect adaptability to our ever-changing needs. Whatever we need for the journey or the conflict, for prosperity or for adversity, prayer will obtain it for us (H. E. I. 2363-2374).

II. "They shall mount up with wings as eagles." This seems to say that the life of communion with God is not a long series of vapid and unemotional hours, a dead level of mechanical and spiritless employments, but a life that has rare and glorious experiences, holy aspirations, ennobling thoughts, ecstatic emotions, spirit-stirring hopes. "Wings as eagles." What does this mean? Climb where the eagle makes her nest and look. It means—

1. Purer air. Very pure is the atmosphere in which the eagle soars; she leaves all the fogs and mists of earth beneath her.

2. Clearer vision. The eagle sees things in their real relation to each other. What a mighty difference this often makes in our estimate of their nature! Premeditated insults below become mere forgetfulness above; irreparable injuries, mere scratches upon the skin; formidable duties, precious privileges.

3. Untroubled quiet. No one knows but he who has the secret of this Divine communion how deep a quiet God breathes about the heart that loves to speak with Him. In a peace that passeth understanding the praying spirit listens to the still small voice of God.

4. Rare landscapes greet his eye who mounts up with wings as eagles. We know what it is to look on Nature from the level. Can you fancy what it must be to look from eagle's wings? Can you fancy what it is to have beneath you the beauty of the earth from horizon to horizon? So is it with those that wait upon the Lord. Lifted up on faith's strong eagle pinions, over the great world of God's written revelation, what prospects they rejoice in! What order, beauty, harmony, and sublimity they descry! Or if these pinions raise him above the world of human life, it is still the same with him; he sees what none other sees—God overruling all things, causing all things to work together for good to them that love Him.

5. Unclouded sunshine. It is possible to get above the clouds (Joh ; 1Jn 4:18; Eph 3:19).

III. "They shall run and not be weary." Theirs shall be capacity for the most strenuous exertion.

IV. "They shall walk and not faint." Is not this the same as saying that we shall have the power of steady perseverance, of patient endurance under protracted trials? Did the prophet put this last because patience is one of those Christian graces that has its perfect work the latest—because the bearing of the Lord's burden is often a much more difficult thing than the doing of the Lord's work? And was it because he would encourage us by the assurance that that power, difficult as it is, shall yet be ours through prayer?

All this has but one lesson: BE MEN OF PRAYER.—John H. Anderson: Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii. pp. 84-87.


Isa . But they that wait upon the Lord, &c.

Divine promises are made to character. The character here described is one who waits on his patron for a benefit, on his master for direction. It is the believer's expectant, obedient look. It probably here describes the attitude of the believing Jews in Babylon in expectation of deliverance.

For all action strength is required. It is more easy to describe than define. There is the strength of a fortress, of an army, of a labourer. There is intellectual strength and moral strength. This last is required in the Christian life. There is an immense power of evil adverse to it, resistance to which requires moral strength. The text suggests the source whence it is derived, the constancy with which it is supplied, and the achievements by which it is distinguished.


From the Lord on whom we wait. This is the point of connection between the text and what precedes. The prophet has contrasted the Divine power with the helplessness of heathen gods. He speaks of the power displayed in creation. When we contemplate its ample details, we conclude that power equal to their production is Omnipotence. The question is not affected by the fact that, while operating on matter, He is Himself immaterial. We do not understand the connection between mind and matter. But we know that mind operates on matter directly or indirectly. All science, all mechanical and engineering skill, is the indirect command of matter by mind. It can also command it directly. When the centurion came to Jesus pleading for the cure of his sick servant, it was not necessary for the Saviour to go to him (Mat ). Who can explain the contact of the will of Jesus with this sick man at a distance from Him? Yet it was real and effectual. Thus with a word, the expression of mind and will, God at the creation "spake and it was done." It is illimitable, inexhaustible power (Isa 40:28).

Nor is it only the power that controls matter. Equally immeasurable is He in the region of intellect. Hence the prophet advances to this as the completion of his statement. "There is no searching of His understanding." We cannot understand the manner of the Divine thought. It is beyond us, as the thought of the mathematician is beyond the babe. But we know that it comprehends everything that exists, or will exist, or can.

And moral strength is His. He is holy; He is essential holiness. His will is the extremest removal from moral evil and accordance with righteousness. When He made man, He made him in His image; when He formulated laws for man's government, though fallen, they expressed His essential righteousness; and this is His demand, "Ye shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy."

And this is the source of human strength. Will any man say that his physical strength is self-created and independent? Or that his intellectual strength is independent of God? He who gave it sometimes takes it away. Our moral strength comes from Him. For what is it? Is it not the inclination of the will to the good, the righteous, the holy? Is this the natural disposition of man's will? Was it not lost in the Fall? Is not human nature proverbially weak in resistance of evil? How can it be made strong? "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength." He not only pardons the past by the power of the atoning sacrifice; He provides by His Spirit a change of heart for the sinner. This regenerating power is the beginning and centre of the soul's strength.


The body becomes weary by exertion. The over-wrought brain becomes incapable of effort. Both must be recruited by rest and suitable aliment. And the soul's strength gives way under the pressure of evil unless it is constantly replenished from the Eternal source. The difference between such as are permanently strong and such as are weak is the difference between such as rely on their own sufficiency and such as wait on the Lord. Youth is the time when self-confidence is greatest. But if the young Christian becomes confident in the self-perpetuating power of that determination of his will that has been given by the grace of God, he will be in danger of spiritual exhaustion and consequent powerlessness. "Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall." Strength is maintained by constant inflowing from God. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." There may be an allusion to the supposed renewal of the eagle's strength. Very impressive is the contrast between Nature when exhausted and weary in winter, and the springtime, when reinvigorated from secret sources and her strength put forth anew. Pleasant to the toiler, weary in mind and body with his work, is the quiet evening with his family, the night's sleep, the Sabbath change and rest. Sweet is returning strength when the crisis of disease has passed, and the power which illness has exhausted is felt again. Thus spiritual forces are liable to waste. They need repair. Bring them to the source of strength. Use the means of grace. Seek the Spirit's help. "Be renewed in the spirit of your mind." How blessed the experience of Paul (2Co ).


"They shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint." Weakness seeks ease; strength seeks action. It is described—

1. As elevation. Like the eagle, whose flight is upward toward the sun. Nearer in thought and feeling to God.

2. As progression. In the path of Christian experience, character, service. It becomes easier from habit, as the daily task. And new strength is supplied.

The practical lesson of the whole is, that to fallen men God is this true source of moral strength. "My strength is made perfect in weakness."—J. Rawlinson.


Isa . They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength &c.

Human strength is of many kinds—physical, mental, spiritual; but every form of human strength must of necessity spend itself; for the world of which it forms a part decays, and by and by, like a worn-out vesture, the heavens and the earth shall be rolled up and put away. All strength apart from God is derived strength, and is consequently measurable, and must come to an end. The river runs on and the brook fails not, because they come from fountains that are not affected by drought; but cisterns are dried and reservoirs fail, because they have no springing well at the bottom of them; and if the pipes which supply them cease to flow, they are soon left dry as a threshing-floor. Let every man know, therefore, that whatever his strength may be, of body, mind, or spirit, if it be his own, it will fail him one day. Mingled with all things human there are portions of that all-dissolving acid which fell upon man's nature when Infinite Justice said, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."

On the other hand, Divine strength never fails. It seems almost a superfluity to say as much as that: it abides in joyous fulness, never in the least diminished. The Lord was God when as yet this sun, and moon, and all these stars slept in His thought like unborn forests in an acorn cup; and He will be God when all this brief creation shall melt back to nothing, as a moment's foam dissolves into the wave that bore it and is lost for aye. God changes not; the fountain of His almightiness still overflows. You may bring your boundless wants and have them all supplied, but you shall no more diminish His all-sufficiency than when an infant dips his cup into the sea and leaves the sea brimming over upon ten thousand leagues of shore.

What then? These two things seem very far away—man with his faintness, his strength gradually drying up: God with His eternity and inexhaustible omnipotence. If we can bring these two together, if by an act of faith you that are human can be linked with the Divine, what a wondrous thing will happen! Then the sacred words of the text will be fulfilled.

"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." When the heart drinks life from the heart of God, and man is at one with his Maker, then all is well.

"From God, the overflowing spring,

Our souls shall drink a fresh supply;

While those who trust their native strength

Shall melt away and droop and die."

I. WE SEE HOW A TRUE CHURCH MAY BE DESCRIBED. "They that wait upon the Lord."

1. A Church such as a Church ought to be consists of men who depend upon the Lord alone; for waiting signifies dependence. Their hope is in God. They rest in God's righteousness as their righteousness, and they receive the great sacrifice provided by God to be their atonement and their acceptance. No man is really a Christian who finds his hope and confidence within himself; he must be looking out of himself to God in Christ Jesus. If Christians are what they ought to be, they depend upon God alone in their Church capacity.

(1.) God's Word is their only creed: they do not add to it anything whatever—no, not a sentence, a gloss, or a thought. A true Church of God will say, "We wait upon the Lord for teaching: this Word of the Lord is to us our infallible source of doctrine, and that alone." Those who wait upon the Lord for their creed shall never need to give up their faith for something better, but they shall renew their strength.

(2.) A true Church waits upon the Lord for grace, and has faith in the doctrines of grace as the testimony with which it is to work. It says to the pastor, "Teach you what God has taught. Preach Christ crucified. Preach not your own thoughts, nor notions of your own inventing, but what is revealed of God—preach you that, for it shall be the power of God unto salvation." If the bare unaltered truth of God will not break a man's heart, then it certainly will not break it when it is rounded and toned down and made to look pretty so as to suit the prevailing taste. A Church that waits upon the Lord uses only the doctrine of Scripture as its battle-axe and weapons of war.

(3.) A Church that is waiting upon the Lord always knows where its strength lies, namely, in its God. What is the power with which men are to be converted? Eloquence, say some. The Church of God says, "Not so. Not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord." I solemnly believe that so much of human oratory as there is in a sermon, so much there is of the weakness of the flesh; for all the power must be of God working with the truth through the Holy Ghost. Therefore we should use great plainness of speech, and never speak for the sake of the language, but always for the sake of the truth we have to say, that God may bless it to the hearts of men. No man in this world was ever converted except by the Holy Spirit, and never will any man be truly converted by any other power. The Gospel has salvation in it when the Holy Spirit works by it, but no other doctrine can save. Many in these days think that we want a great deal besides the Spirit of God, but they are in error. They think that the world is not to be converted and men saved in the old-fashioned way of preaching the Word of God with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; but it is to be converted in that way and no other. You cannot touch a dead heart to make it alive either by excitement or by philosophy. Spiritual life can only come in God's way, and it is God's way by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. God's Word will not return unto Him void; but man's word is void when it goes forth, and void it remains to the end of the chapter. The magicians and their enchantments cannot compare with the rod of Moses. We mean, whatever others do, to keep to "waiting upon the Lord," going to work in the Lord's way, and depending upon the Lord's power, and upon that alone.

2. If we depend upon God, our expectation is from Him. We wait upon God as the birds in the nest wait upon the parent bird, expecting from her their food. Before she comes you hear their cries, and when she comes, if you look into the nest, you will see nothing but so many gaping mouths, all waiting, expecting to be filled by the mother-bird. That is just what a Church of God ought to be—a company of wide-opened mouths waiting to be filled by the Lord alone "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it," says the Lord. Do you not think that some Churches, and some Christians, have scarcely learned to open their mouths at all? Let us expect more of God, and we shall receive more. Is He not able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or even think? Expecting people, a flourishing Church. They are believers in the power of the Gospel, and they act accordingly. When I fire the gun, they are on the alert to pick up the birds, for they believe in the killing power of the Word. If a Church would but wait upon God in this sense of expecting great things from Him, it should have them; for He will never allow His people to complain that He has been a wilderness to them.

3. To make up waiting there is a third thing, and that is patience—to hold out and wait the Lord's time and will. This patience is to the uttermost desirable, that we may endure affliction, persevere in holiness, continue in hope, and abide in our integrity. Patience is the long life of virtue, and sets on its head the crown of experience. It is no child's play to continue to suffer affliction with joyfulness, and to remain for years perfectly acquiescent in the will of the Lord, let that will be what it may. That little word WAIT is a word fit for a father in Christ, and cometh not out of the mouth of a babe in grace. Some are ardent followers of Christ, but they do not seem to have learned the meaning of that word "patience." They are working for Christ, and they are depending upon the Lord, and they are looking for results; but when they do not see them immediately, they are offended and depressed. You were much the same when you were children: you wanted everything there and then, and waiting was dismal work to you. It is the mark of the child that he is in a violent hurry where men are steady. The Lord sometimes sends us speedy results to our labours; but at other times it is not so—the truth works slowly and surely, and effects all the more precious results. We must wait for seed to grow and for fruit to ripen. If we really wait upon the Lord, we shall just keep on, resolved to abide in duty, determined to remain in prayer, undaunted in confidence, unmoved in expectation. We shall not fly into a passion with the Lord and refuse to believe Him any more, neither shall we run off to novelties and fall into the fads and crazes of the day. The Lord will not fail the soul that waits upon Him; all will be well; the blessing will come. What a sweet thing is the calm leisure of faith! "He that believeth shall not make haste." Fret and worry, hurry and haste, are all slain by the hand of faith.

II. WE SEE WHAT THE LORD'S WAITING PEOPLE NEED. They need to renew their strength.

2. Because they are imperfect. Our natural corruption and the imperfection and infirmity of our flesh are about us still, and these bring us down at times till we say with David, "I am this day weak, though anointed king." Because we are human and imperfect, we cannot always be at our best: the sky is not always clear; the sea is not always at flood; the year is not always at summer; the summer is not always in the zenith; the moon is not always at her full; the tree is not always adorned with fruit; the vineyard does not always flow with wine; roses do not always blush, nor lilies always bloom. Creatures have their rises and their falls, and to us also there must be times when we need to renew our strength. It must be renewed, for otherwise it will decline still further, and this would be painful, dangerous, and dishonouring. The Lord would not have us utterly fail, nor fall prone upon the ground in the heavenly race; therefore to those who have no might He increaseth strength.

3. We must renew our strength, for it is for our honour, comfort, and safety.

4. It is for God's glory and for own own usefulness that we should be strong; and if we fall into decline and weakness, pray do not let us stop there. A pining sickness is an awful disease for a Church to die of. Do not linger in such a state. Up with you, and cry mightily unto the Lord, and you shall yet be restored.

Sometimes a man may renew his strength by taking a little rest. He has grown weak through stern labour and long fatigue, and he must be quiet and repose till he recovers. Oh, ye weary, heavy-laden, where is there rest for you except in the Christ of God?

We have known men's strength renewed by breathing their native air. They have risen out of a hot and fœtid atmosphere into the cool breeze of the mountain-side, and the bracing breeze has made them strong again. Oh, to have the breath of the Spirit blowing upon us once again!—Spurgeon.

If a Church wants reviving, if saints individually want reviving, they must wait upon God—

1. In prayer. Oh, what a blessing a day's prayer might be! If you cannot get as much as that, how much renewing may be gained in an hour's prayer!

2. Add to that a re-dedication of ourselves to the Lord who bought us. This often helps us to renew our strength.

3. Then afresh realise your entire dependence upon God. Put yourself into the Lord's hands absolutely. Be like the sere leaf that is carried by the breath of the tempest.

4. Then go forward to renewed action. In renewing your strength, ask the Lord that you may undertake fresh work, and that this work may be done to a nobler tune—that you may have more expectancy, more confidence, more faith, more God-reliance. What things are done by men in common life with self-reliance! But with God-reliance we work impossibilities, and miracles fly from us like sparks from the anvil of a smith. When a man learns to work with God's strength, and with that alone, he can do all things.—C. H. Spurgeon: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 1756.

Isa . They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, &c.

As it is the same God who works in nature and in grace, a most interesting analogy may be traced between His operations in both. When the earth is parched with the heat of summer, and its productions begin to languish from excessive drought, it is watered and refreshed by the showers of heaven, and its various plants and fruits not only resume their former health and vigour, but spring up and flourish with greater luxuriance and vigour. The flower, too, that had drooped and withered at the close of day, is revived by the cool and the dews of night, and in the morning puts forth its buds and expands its leaves anew, delighting the eye with the beauty of its colours, or perfuming the air with the sweets of its fragrance. For every degree of exhaustion in nature, the wisest and most adequate provision is made by its all—pervading and beneficent Author. In like manner, when the spiritual strength of the Christian is impaired, from whatever cause, if only he wait upon God, his decays of strength are recruited from above; new fountains are opened for his comfort; he rises up from the ground, on which he was sitting in feebleness and sorrow, and no longer with faltering, but with firm and steady steps, pursues the course of active duty or of patient suffering in which he is appointed to move. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." Observe—

I. TO WHOM THIS COMPREHENSIVE AND ANIMATING DECLARATION IS MADE. "They that wait upon the Lord," i.e., those who

(1) earnestly desire the enjoyment of His favour; and

(2) diligently attend to, and take peculiar delight in, all His service and will.


1. That the principles of the spiritual life within them shall be gradually strengthened and increased. These principles are faith and love—faith in the Son of God, through whom, as the propitiation for sin and the beloved of the Father, they are justified and accepted and saved; and love to Him as having redeemed them unto God by His precious blood, and given them the first-fruits of His Spirit, that they may live to His praise and be heirs of His glory. These principles are strengthened by the very act of waiting upon God, for thus our knowledge of Him is increased. And the more we know of Him, the more our faith in Him and love towards Him will strengthen.

2. That increased communications of Divine grace shall be made to them.


Such elevated enjoyment is not indeed vouchsafed to every believer. Nay, there are many who perhaps never reach it on this side the grave. But their devotions do in every case become more exalted and habitual as they go on in their course in the strength of the Lord. Perhaps their mental constitution is incapable of such intenseness of meditation and of feeling; or it is not necessary for the particular duties and service assigned them; or their natural temperament is so melancholy and desponding, that were they to be indulged with such high manifestations, their depression might become deeper after these manifestations were over, and the fearful suspicion that they were altogether delusive might sink them in greater distress than before. But one thing is certain, that by all who truly wait upon the Lord progress will be and is made, both in the strength and the countenance of devotional habits, of spiritual affection, and of heavenly-mindedness; and that the grace which they ask in prayer and receive by faith gradually raises them to a far higher state of Christian attainment than that by which the beginning of their spiritual life was marked. Of the degree of this advancement they may not, indeed, be always conscious, for their humility will increase in exact proportion to their other real attainments.—Dickson.

2. They acquire greater alacrity and perseverance in doing His will. "They shall run," or march on, "and not be weary." Here the metaphor is varied, and changed into one that is more common in the sacred writings, as expressive of Christian duty, which is frequently compared to running or marching (Psa, &c.) To those whose spiritual strength is renewed by waiting on the Lord, duty is not a task, but a delight. They are never so happy as when labouring in the sphere of service allotted them; and under the burdens which sometimes press upon them they are supported and cheered by the promises and grace of Him whom they serve.

3. They are enabled to manifest fortitude and patience under affliction. "They shall walk and not faint." Here the metaphor is again beautifully varied, or rather another shade of the same image is presented for the encouragement of every traveller to the Heavenly Zion. Even when incapable, as it were, of increasing their strength or of being active in the service of God, grace is both promised and imparted for enabling them to move forward without fainting in the path of submission and suffering (Psa ; H. E. I. 198-202).—David Dickson, D.D.: Discourses, pp. 198-222.


Isa . But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, &c.

Men develop under a universal law of variableness. We do nothing continuously except breathe and pulsate. It is insanity to think upon one subject continuously. Health demands intermission, even retrocession. This truth may be seen in a larger way in our pursuits and actions. We pursue pleasure, engage in business, seek sociality intermittently (H. E. I. 2064-2066, 2073-2074).

Deep moral and religious thought and feeling are produced by a thousand concurrent influences. All endeavours to hold Christians, Churches, or individuals to a high emotive condition of religious feeling are vain. Virtue, morality, duties are perpetuated; but, in regard to these, we are changing. When reactions and backslidings take place, how shall men renew? How shall the words of the prophet be fulfilled? The method by which spiritual strength may be renewed and augmented must be learned from a study of the providence of God. We ought to take the Bible as men take charts. Human life is the interpreter of the Word of God (H. E. I. 549, 550, 560).

1. We must not be biassed by any theory of Church or ordinances, nor by any preaching, to suppose that we are shut up to the dealings of God with us through these channels. The Church occupies a foremost place here; but the schools, books, newspapers, business, social influences work upon the human soul.

2. It pleases God to make the spiritual development of men depend on time-growth. The body is the first to develop, then the social affections, with the elementary forms of the intellect, then the moral elements, and last the spiritual nature. Many persons develop high religious emotions prematurely. Many may lose by neglect or by delay; but there is an element of time which must be taken into consideration.

3. Spiritual strength is renewed through the removal of false or imperfect views of truth. There is a relation between a man's reason and things that are reasonable. The preaching of the Divine nature is, sometimes, not made drawing to men. It is not altogether human depravity that is at fault. Spiritual growth ought to be more to us than any orthodoxy or regularity of outward forms. Change of circumstances may give the needful impetus to soul-growth.

4. Many persons fail to come to the inspiration of the higher views of religion by reason of worldly prosperity, which tends to satisfy their lower nature (H. E. I. 3998-4014). In these circumstances, distresses, infirmities, and even great sorrows, are blessed of God to the opening of their nature and to the renewing of their spiritual strength. Troubles are well-diggers. We are rich and strong, not by the things which we possess, but by the amount of true manhood developed in us (H. E. I. 129, 130, 204-212).

5. It pleases God also to employ the companionship of friends and neighbours in developing their higher manhood. There is nothing so helpful to a soul as the contact of another soul. How much was there in Christ's personal touch! Go about as a man among men (H. E. I. 1049, 1050).

6. When, by the use of these various instrumentalities, our souls have grown and come into the possibility of a higher spiritual disclosure, then there is a further soul-growth in us. We come to a state in which there is a direct influence of the soul of God exerted upon us—as direct as sight and voice to the bodily senses. Men may come, at last, into that state in which the Spirit of God shines with a steadfast lustre upon them (H. E. I. 974, 2840, 2900). Then there is the triumph of grace in the soul. Then intuitions become truths. What wonder that the dying saint should catch the sound of heavenly music!

CONCLUSION.—It is the privilege of all Christians to live this life, not today nor to-morrow, but as the result of patient continuance in well-doing, growing in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.—Henry Ward Beecher: Christian Age, vol. vii. pp. 102-106.


Isa . They shall mount up with wings as eagles.

Scripture is full of parables, in which spiritual things are represented by natural. Here the believer's progress is compared to the eagle's flight.


There are especially these two, the wing of faith and the wing of love.

1. The wing of faith. None can mount up to heaven without it, for it is a grace that looks not at the things seen in this world, but at the things that are not seen; and it mounts the soul to heaven and heavenly things (H. E. I. 1902-1907; P. D. 1164).

2. The wing of love. This grace, like faith, unites the soul to Christ. This is such a strong wing that fire cannot burn it; marytrs have found that the fire did not burn their love; no, it mounted up to heaven with the flame (H. E. I. 3337, 3338).


1. Not in airy speculations. Some have a great deal of head-knowledge, but no heart love of the truth (2Th ). There may be much speculative knowledge where there is no saving grace (H. E. I. 3091).

2. Not in sinful curiosity, to pry into the secrets of God (Deu ). Many fall into this error in regard to the decrees of election and reprobation, the day of judgment (Mat 25:13), heaven (H. E. I. 1508-1518, 1793-1802, 2718).

3. Not in self-conceit and self-estimation, as some do who mount up in the pride of their hearts (Jas ).

4. Not in fits and starts of devotion. Many who hear the Word seem to be mounted up in joy; but it is but a flash, and like a land-flood (Luk ; Luk 8:13).

They mount up—

1. In holy meditation (Psa ; Rom 8:5). They do not allow their thoughts to wander on the mountains of vanity (H. E. I. 3499-3504).

2. In holy desires (Isa ).

3. In heavenly affections (Col ).

4. In lofty designs. Their ultimate design is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.

5. In righteous practices. This is seen in all their actions. The world's standard is not theirs (1Co ).


Like the eagle—

1. Naturally. The eagle mounts not at man's command, but by the instinct God has given it (Job ). To the believer a new heart has been given, and it is natural to him to be mounting towards God. When the hypocrite mounts up, he is forced up contrary to his natural tendency, like a stone cast up into the air (H. E. I. 3008).

2. Highly. The eagle flies higher than other birds, and makes her nest on high; unlike the ostrich, that leaves her eggs in the sand.

3. Gradually. Though the eagle's flight is strong and swift, it is gradual. So the believer mounts up, by degrees (Psa ). He rises to more and more knowledge of God and more and more communion with Him, until faith and hope land in vision and fruition.

4. Frequently. The carnal professor mounts up only about the time of a communion, or when in some sore affliction, or during a revival, and whenever these seasons are over, he goes down as fast as he went up; but the believer mounts on week-days as well as on Sabbath-days, on ordinary Sabbaths as well as on communion Sabbaths.


1. Because it is as natural for him to do so as it is for an eagle. He hath a new nature, which ascends to heaven whence it descended (2Co ; H. E. I. 1103).

2. Because he hath his nest on high; like an eagle, his all is above. Christ is all in all to him, and therefore rise he must.


1. A word of terror to you that never mounted up towards Christ. What shall we say to you? You are not like eagles, but like ravens, that do not mount heavenwards, but wander to and fro upon the earth, as Noah's raven did, and feed upon sordid things. You cannot fly to heaven, but flutter upon earth; and while you continue what you are, heaven you will never reach.

2. A word of comfort to the mounting soul. As the mounting soul is blessed, so is he safe as long as he is mounting; he is out of the reach of this world's misery; safe against death itself. The eagle is never in danger but when she is on earth; we are never in danger when we are in Christ till we fly down to the earth. Therefore, seeing God hath renewed your strength to mount up as on eagle's wings, O soar aloft; look down with a generous disdain upon the world and the vanities thereof, and keep your heart up in heaven. Mount, mount, mount; be always mounting, till you come to the throne of God and the Lamb.—Ralph Erskine, M.A.: Sermons, vol. ii. pp. 495-519.

He makes a very great mistake who supposes that the word "wait" implies an indolent passivity. The Hebrew word has brawn and bone in it; its signification is primarily to be strong—strong enough to hold out under pressure. Thence the word came to signify patience, as the opposite of discouragement and peevishness. When a soul is ready to do God's will, and to submit cheerfully to God's discipline, and to receive such fulness of supply as God is willing to bestow, that soul may be truly said to "wait on the Lord." It is a great grace, and it leads to a great glory.

The man who thus waits on God renews his strength. He does more; he receives a wonderful inspiration. He "shall mount up with wings as an eagle." Naturalists tell us that the special power of the eagle is in his wings. He can fly in the teeth of a gale, and go out on long voyagings towards the clouds, and play the aeronaut for hours without weariness. The sparrow twitters from the housetop; the dove is content to abide in the forest; but eagles are children of the skies and playmates of the storm. Even their nests are on the mountain crags.

So God means that every soul which waits on Him shall sometimes soar. Not creep or grovel in worldliness, or crouch in bondage to man or devils, but rise above all these baser things into the atmosphere of heaven. When a soul binds itself to God, it finds wings. Such an one has a citizenship in the skies. He catches inspiration from the indwelling Spirit. He rises above the chilling fogs of doubt, gains a wide outlook, is filled with ennobling thoughts, and actually feels that he is an heir to a celestial inheritance. He outflies the petty vexations that worry the worldling, and the grovelling lusts that drag the selfish and sensual soul down into the mire. His soul-life is hid with Christ in God. What cares the eagle, as he bathes his wing in the translucent gold of the sunbeam, for all the turmoil, the smoke, the clouds, or even the lightnings that play far beneath him? He flies in company with the unclouded sun. So a heaven-bound soul, filled with the joys of the Holy Spirit, flies in company with God.

You may realise these happy experiences if you will but wait on Him. You will be surprised to find what an uplift there is in your religion. You will discover how it can carry you above base and sensual desires; how it can give birth to pure and holy meditations; how it can kindle joy in seasons of dark adversities and bereavements; how it can keep your hope as serene and shining as the morning star. Strive after this, by living less on self and more on Jesus. Live more like a son of God or a daughter of God, with the full feeling of adoption. Set your affections on things above. Don't count these perishable things to be your treasures. Seek better ones in heaven. So shall prayer and Bible study, and the daily victory over sin, and the doing of God's will, renew your strength. You will mount up with wings as eagles, until you grow heavenly-minded—"which is life and peace." This is the "higher life" to which Christ calls every believer. And when you and I are inclined to nestle down in indolence and self-indulgence, God "stirs up our nests" and bids us fly towards Him.—Theodore L. Cuyler, D.D.


(A Sermon to Young Men.)

Isa . But they that wait upon the Lord … shall run and not be weary.

Running is the young man's pace. With overflowing strength and buoyant spirits, the danger is not that young men should not run, but that they should run amiss, or that they should attempt to run in the right road in their own strength. The text describes a character as well as gives a promise.


There are different paces among the Lord's servants. Ahimaaz is swifter than Cushi; John outruns Peter.

1. Running is the pace of energy. The puff-ball is the emblem of many a forceless life. Others work with both hands. If the Lord's work is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Be it ours to outstrip the energy of this world.

2. Running indicates fulness of alacrity (Gen ; Gen 24:46; 1Sa 3:4-5). Note how often Mark uses about Christ the words "straightway" and "immediately." Every man should be as David with Goliath, eager for the fray; as Elisha, who left the oxen and ran after Elijah; as Philip, who ran to meet the chariot of the Ethiopian.

3. To run is to be diligent. That is hardly running in which a man starts and stops, and starts and stops again. Much of Sunday-school teaching is a very slovenly make-believe. Patient continuance in well-doing is crowned.

4. Running indicates thorough-going hearty zeal. E.g., Aaron running for his censer, and running in between the living and the dead, that the plague might be stayed (Num ). Christ is dishonoured by our heartlessness, the Gospel is derided through our indifference, and souls are lost by our sloth. From all this it is clear that the runner is one whose spiritual life is intense. Young men should be runners.


1. Because it is a warming pace. Running is better than standing before a fire for warming one; active exertions are better for the Christian life than listening to sermons. Let spiritual dyspeptics turn their hands to work.

2. A ground-clearing pace. Creepers meet with more obstacles than runners.

3. A cheering pace. Runners have no time to become dispirited. David ran to fight Goliath. One can understand the Balaclava charge.

4. The winning pace (1Co ). All our God-given strength must be put out to win.

5. A fitting pace for a believer. Jesus Christ declares that we should run for Him. Christians who fall in love with "life in earnest" become far happier men. This is to live in the light of God's countenance, like Milton's angel in the midst of the sun.


"They that wait upon the Lord shall run and not be weary." Waiting upon the Lord is essential to the running. They shall not be weary. Much running is short-lived. Many converts are converted back again. Not every bloom becomes a fruit. To wait upon the Lord is—

1. To yield yourselves, by God's grace, to be His servant. Every hair of our head belongs to our Saviour. Consecration is needed to keep up the running so as to win the crown.

2. To go to Him for all your strength. Man's natural strength is perfect weakness as to spiritual things; strong points left undefended lead to ruin. Dare to do great work for God, and you will be enabled to dare ever greater things.

3. To cultivate the expectancy of hope. Wait at the foot of Jacob's ladder for the angels to bring down answers to prayer. (See Outlines, WAITING FOR THE LORD, vol. i. pp. 178, 179, 332, 333.)


"He shall not be weary." Some are not weary of God's work, though they often grow weary in it. To stand, and having done all, to stand, is impossible to flesh and blood; it is only possible to the God-sustained. How run, then? Running Christians have daily strength for daily needs; they find fresh matter of interest (if you want a novel, read your Bible); they look to the end, to the recompense of the reward (1Co ).

CONCLUSION.—Let runners beware of slackening their pace.—C. H. Spurgeon: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (1869), pp. 337-348.

I. WHAT IS MEANT BY RUNNING. To run, in a spiritual acceptation, is to engage with great liveliness and zeal in the duties which God has appointed, and to persist in them with all our powers. Running includes—

1. Forwardness, in opposition to culpable delays. When a good work is proposed to some, they catch at any excuse for neglecting it; or, if they do set about it, it is with so much reluctance and indolence, that what little is done is of little worth. But the lively Christian, let God call him when He will, is eager to discharge whatever appears to be his duty (Psa ). The angels are represented as standing round about the throne of God, hearkening to the voice of His word; as it were, watching every motion of His lips: and the instant they perceive the least intimation of His pleasure, they fly to execute it. Those who are truly God's people do His will on earth as it is done in heaven: they do it promptly. Examples (1Ki 19:20; Mat 4:22; Mat 2:9; H. E. I. 3633-3638).

2. Perseverance and diligence. It is not every progressive motion that can be called running. The motion used in it is quick and animated, and that not for a step or two, but for a considerable way, even to the end of the course. It implies, therefore, not merely a forwardness in the setting about a good design, but diligence in prosecuting it, and perseverance to finish it. Our endeavours to please God and win the glorious prize must be strenuous, ardent, continuous. When a person is running for a considerable wager, he doth not loiter, nor enter into trifling conversation with every one he meets. No; he looks at nothing but the prize set before him; he will not suffer himself to be hindered by any one; he pushes on with unremitted ardour to the end of the race (1Co ; Php 3:13).


1. They shall never be so weary as to lose their inward delight in religion. Though the flesh sometimes flags and tires, and the present lively feeling of joy and comfort diminishes, the willingness of the spirit still continues; the principle of delighting in God doth not expire; their love to Christ and their eagerness to serve Him are as strong as ever. They are quite vexed and impatient when they find that nature cannot keep up with grace.

2. They shall not be so weary as to throw off the practice of religion. They may forget themselves, as Peter did in the high priest's hall, and speak and act very inconsistently with their professed devotion to Christ; but yet, if they be really born again, grace will recover them from this temporary fainting; a look from Christ will set all right again.


1. They have the power and promise of God to depend upon (chap. Isa, Isa 40:27-29; Psa 63:8).

2. There is a boundless excellency in religion, calculated to afford continual refreshment. Whatever else men apply their minds and hearts to, they are soon tired of; they find an emptiness in it which makes them throw it aside with disgust (Ecc ; 1Jn 2:16; H. E. I. 4969-4974). But ask one who lives in communion with God, and runs the way of God's commands with an enlarged heart, whether he is weary of it and would rather be excused from it, and you know what his vehement and indignant answer will be (Joh 4:34; Psa 84:10). The toils and labours of religion have one advantage above all other pursuits—there is no climbing to the top; there is no sounding the bottom; there is no finding out the breadth or length of its excellency and sweetness.

APPLICATION.—Let those who are running the race set before them be encouraged. You are in the way of mercy, and may expect not only to be kept from falling, but to have a continual increase of grace. Let the way be never so long, the ascent never so difficult, the opposition never so great, and your strength never so small; what are all these to the power and promise of God? Only—

1. Take care that you begin well. Be sure that your first step in religion is right. Remember that Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life," and that "no man cometh unto the Father but by Him."

3. Keep heaven and your Forerunner in your eye. The soul that looks unto Jesus can never lose its way (P. D. 2312-2314).—Samuel Lavington: Sermons, vol. ii 379-396.

"There, to fulfil His sweet commands,

Our speedy feet shall move;

No Sin shall clog our wingd zeal,

Or cool our burning love."

O Christians! with such prospects before us, is it not strange that we run no faster now? that when heaven, in respect to some of us, can be at no great distance, it should be possible for the comparatively trifling concerns of the world to engage our attention? that we do not spurn it from us with indignation, like the Pilgrim, who ran through Vanity Fair shutting his eyes and stopping his ears?—Lavington.

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

As the Prophet's commission opened, so the chapter is closed, in giving a special comfort to the Lord's people. It is impossible to conceive in the whole compass of language, anything more gracious, more affectionate, or kind, than what is here said, in the Lord's love, to Israel. Every glorious perfection of Jehovah, and all his covenant relations, seem here to be brought forward, to give confidence to his people, in the security of his promises. It would be to injure the blessed passage, to attempt any comment upon it. Every word is so plain, so sweet, and so gracious, that he who is taught of God, cannot possibly mistake the meaning; and the soul that is under the influences of the Holy Ghost, must receive the comfort of it. And how very tender is the Lord's manner of expostulating with his people, on the unreasonableness of their timidity! why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel? Reader! may the Lord give you and me grace to enjoy the full blessedness of what is here said. Thousands, who are gone to glory, have been, while on earth, refreshed by it; and thousands there are still to be supported by the same, during their pilgrimage state below. Oh! for the Lord, who gives the scripture, to give to you and to me, by his Holy Spirit, the enjoyment of the Lord in his scripture, and then shall we rest in the supports of a God all-sufficient and all-gracious in Christ, to rise above all the changeable circumstances of creatures in us, and about us, until we come to lie down in the everlasting arms of our Lord, in the kingdom which is above.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary


MY soul! hear what thy Lord saith in this blessed chapter, and behold how he hath both commanded his people to be comforted, and provided every means for their comfort. Precious Lord Jesus! in thee and thy great salvation, I do indeed see a most blessed and suitable provision for pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin; yea, Lord, in thy full and finished redemption, I do behold how Jehovah hath received more than an equivalent, yea double for all the sins of thy people. And shall not my soul rejoice and be comforted in the consolation? Shall not my very heart leap for joy, and my poor tongue, that was dumb by nature, be ready to sing plainly? Yea, Lord, I will sing, and not be afraid, for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song, and thou art become my salvation. I will call upon all within me, and all without me, to join in the joyful service. I will say, with the Prophet, Sing, O ye heavens, for the Lord hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.

But chiefly shall my note of praise be directed to thee, O Lord. While I enjoy the gift, I will bless the Giver; and in the moment when I feel the blessedness of salvation, I will feel yet more the blessedness that Jesus himself is my salvation. Oh! thou gracious Shepherd of thy people! here I behold thee, in all the tenderness of that office; and how truly delightful is it to my soul, that while I read of thee as revealing thyself under such graciousness of characters, I know thee in the full realization of everyone of them in my heart, as the great Shepherd of my soul. Never suffer me to lose sight of thy love, O Lord, nor of the power and wisdom which thou possessest, and by which all the necessities of my soul must be answered. No, Lord, suffer me not to suppose, even for a moment only, that my way is hidden from the Lord, or my judgment, passed over from my God. I know, Lord, that thou seest me, and knowest me, with every minute circumstance belonging to me; yea, Lord, it is thou who orderest, and appointest, and regulatest, and will finally bless all. Help me then to wait always upon thee, that, like the eagle, I may renew my strength. For, sure I am, my Lord never faints himself, nor is he weary of helping his poor ones. And, while I am waiting upon Jesus, and looking after him, Jesus, I know, hath been before hand with me, and is looking after me. Precious Lord! comfort me with thyself, and I shall be strong indeed, and never weary: I shall walk and not faint!

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 40:29-31. He giveth power to the faint — He hath strength enough, not only for himself, but for all, even the weakest of his creatures, whom he can easily strengthen to bear all their burdens, and to vanquish all their oppressors. The prophet seems to speak with an especial reference to those among God’s people whose faith and hope were very low, which he would support, even until the time of their promised deliverance. Even the youths shall faint — Those that make the greatest boast of their strength, as young men are apt to do, shall find it fail them whenever God withdraws his support. But they that wait upon the Lord — That rely on him for strength to bear their burdens, and for deliverance from them in due time; shall renew their strength — Shall grow stronger and stronger in faith, patience, and fortitude, whereby they shall be more than conquerors over all their enemies and adversities. They shall mount up on wings as eagles Which, of all fowls, fly most strongly and swiftly, and rise highest in their flight, and out of the reach of all danger. Instead of, They shall mount up, &c., Bishop Lowth reads, They shall put forth fresh feathers, like the moulting eagle; observing, “It has been a common and popular opinion, that the eagle lives and retains his vigour to a great age; and that, beyond the common lot of other birds, he moults in his old age, and renews his feathers, and with them his youth. Thou shalt renew my youth like the eagle, says the psalmist, on which place St. Ambrose notes, ‘Aquila longam ætatem ducit, dum, vetustis plumis fatiscentibus, nova pennarum successione juvenescit.’” The eagle extends his age to a great length, while the old feathers failing, he grows young by a new succession of feathers. See note on Psalms 103:5.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Isaiah 40:28-31

I. We have, first, the prophet's appeal to the familiar thought of an unchangeable God as the antidote to all despondency and the foundation of all hope. The life of men and of creatures is like a river, with its source and its course and its end. The life of God is like the ocean, with joyous movement of tides and currents of life and energy and purpose, but ever the same and ever returning upon itself. Jehovah, the unchanged, unchangeable, inexhaustible Being, spends and is unspent; gives and is none the poorer; works and is never wearied; lives and with no tendency to death in His life; flames—with no tendency to extinction in the blaze.

II. Notice, next, the unwearied God giving strength to wearied men. The more sad and pathetic the condition of feeble humanity by contrast with the strength, the immortal strength, of God, the more wondrous is that grace and power of His which are not contented with hanging there in the heavens above us, but bend right down to bless us and to turn us into their own likeness. It is much to preserve the stars from wrong; it is more to restore and to bring power to feeble men. It is much to uphold all those that are falling so that they may not fall; but it is more to raise up all those that have fallen and are bowed down.

III. The last thing in these words is, the wearied man lifted to the level of the unwearied God and to His likeness. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." That phrase means, of course, the continuous bestowment in unintermitting sequence of fresh gifts of power; as each former gift is exhausted, more is required. Grace abhors a vacuum, as nature does; and just as the endless procession of the waves rises on the beach, or as the restless network of the moonlight irradiation of the billows stretches all across the darkness of the sea, so that unbroken continuity of strength after strength gives grace for grace according to our need, and as each former supply is expended and used up God pours Himself into our hearts anew. That continuous communication leads to the perpetual youth of the Christian soul.

A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 2nd series, p. 293.

References: Isaiah 40:28-31.—H. F. Burder, Sermons, p. 263. Isaiah 40:29.—Preacher's Lantern, vol. i., p. 444. Isaiah 40:30, Isaiah 40:31.—J. B. Heard, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 308.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

Sermon Bible Commentary

Isaiah 40:31

I. Consider, first, what it is to wait upon the Lord. Three things make it: service, expectation, patience. "Wait on the Lord." We must be as those Eastern maidens who, as they ply their needle or their distaff, look to the eye and wait upon the hand of their mistress, as their guide which is to teach them, or their model which they are to copy. Our best lessons are always found in a Father's eye. Therefore, if you would "wait upon the Lord," you must be always looking out for voices— those still small voices of the soul,—and you must expect them, and you must command them. But service, however devoted, or expectation, however intense, will not be waiting without patience. Here is where so many fail. The waiting times are so long: the interval between the prayer and the answer, between the repentance and the peace, between the work and the result, between sowing-time and reaping-time, and we are such impatient, impetuous creatures. We could not "tarry the Lord's leisure."

II. Consider, next, the action: elevation, rapid progress, a steady course—soar, run, walk. Is it not just what we want—to get higher, to go faster, and to be more calmly consistent? (1) Elevation. What are the wings? Beyond a doubt, faith, prayer; or, if you will, humility and confidence in a beautiful equipoise, balancing one another on either side, so that the soul sustains itself in mid-air and flies upward. (2) "They shall run." Have you ever noticed how the servants of God in the Bible—from Abraham and David to Philip in the Acts—whenever they were told to do anything, always ran. It is the only way to do anything well. A thousand irksome duties become easy and pleasant if we do them runningly, that is, with a ready mind, an affectionate zeal, and a happy alacrity. (3) But there is something beyond this. It is more difficult to walk than to run. To maintain a quiet sustained walk, day by day, in the common things of life, in the house and out of the house, not impulsive, not capricious, not changeable,—that is the hardest thing to do. Let me give four rules for this walk: (a) Start from Christ; (b) walk with Christ; (c) walk leaning on Christ; (d) walk to Christ.

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 10th series, p. 279.

I. This is the gospel of the exile, the "gospel before the gospel," the good news of the swift accession of power and deliverance to the Jewish people, humiliated, dispirited, and tired out by monotonously waiting in their Babylonian captivity for a long-expected, long-delayed good.

II. Like all gospels, this gospel of the exile is God's. God, in His loving care for a constant education of souls, is the Alpha and Omega of this whole gospel for captive Israel.

III. Like all Divine evangels, this good news for the captives of Babylon is addressed immediately to a special need, and adapted by its form to effect a particular result, viz., that of patient endurance of acute affliction, steadfast resistance to cowardly fears and weakening apprehension, brave battling with anxiety and carewornness, a resolute and determined climb towards the sunny heights and clear expanses of cheerfulness and joy. "Wait for God" is the ever-recurring and all-luminous word of the exile-gospel.

IV. Like all gospels from the heavens, this one for the Hebrew exiles obtained its full and complete verification from the uncontradicted facts of human experience. The sevenfold blessing of the exile stands written in the chronicles of Israel and of the world. (1) First, and most distinctive of the gains of the Jews from their captivity, stands their advanced and perfected knowledge of God. (2) Next comes up out of the exile the more definitely shaped and clearly conceived image of the Anointed of the Lord, the Daysman or Mediator, the Lord our Righteousness, the Herald of a new covenant, the suffering and conquering servant of God, who is to realise the ideal Jerusalem, and bring a new heaven and a new earth. (3) Fired by this hope of a personal Redeemer, and controlled by a spiritual conception of Jehovah, the worship of God entered on that final spiritual phase which has never been wholly eclipsed, though it has suffered, and still suffers, many painful obscurations. (4) Bound up with this we see the generation of a higher ethic, the birth of a nobler conception of life, as the sphere for rightness of aim and righteousness of character. (5) The temporary limitations and restrictions of Israel being removed, it is forthwith lifted into the stream of universal history, never to be taken out again as long as sun and moon endure. (6) The missionary spirit, as well as the missionary idea, glows and throbs in the oracles and songs which represent the highest thought and the purest emotion of this time. (7) This was completed by the enlargement and recension of that unique and marvellous missionary agent, the Old Testament literature.

V. This gospel, like all its fellows, never dies. It endures for ever and ever as a living message, not effete though old, not wasted though abundantly used, but partaking of the unwearied energy and eternal reproductiveness of its Infinite Source.

J. Clifford, Daily Strength for Daily Living, p. 241.

I. Physical weariness is the least part of the weariness of our world. The extent and the depth of heart-weariness is greater than complaint ever utters. There is a hidden, dull, weary, aching weariness in souls everywhere, which never reveals itself.

II. Hope in God is a quenchless hope for our essential, enduring nature, if we can come home to it—a hope that is capable of being re-born and newborn after every disappointment and death. It is a childlike confidence that we are heirs of our Father's estate, and as a matter of birthright entitled to His friendship.

III. Those who wait upon God, and daily lay open their souls to His Spirit and working, know that a new nature is forming in them, and to that nature, in the proper sphere of God's kingdom, all our hopes will be fulfilled. They that wait on God do mount up, they do leave earth's weariness and despair far beneath them.

IV. A new will against all base earthborn inclinations, and a piercing intelligence beyond anything that the natural mind knows, are direct results of intercourse with God. They are virtues of the Divine Breath in man. "They shall mount up with wings as eagles." They are practising little daily ascensions before the day of the great ascension comes. They will come to life's full cup, for they taste it already. God means Human Blessedness; and as often as they mount up into the fine air of His presence, the blessedness meets them and creates new assurance in their breast.

J. Pulsford, Our Deathless Hope, p. 126.

References: Isaiah 40:31.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 270; F. Tucker, Penny Pulpit, No. 439; Short Sermons for Family Reading, p. 425; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., No. 876, vol. xxix., No. 1756; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 219; J. H. Anderson, Ibid., vol. iii., p. 84; J. Vaughan, Children's Sermons, 6th series, p. 49.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae



Isaiah 40:27-31. 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? 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.

THE human mind is prone to extremes. Before a man comes to the knowledge of himself, he is filled with presumption, and accounts himself as safe as if there were no judgments denounced against him: but, when he begins to feel his guilt and helplessness, he is ready to run into the opposite extreme of despondency, and to account his state as irremediable, as if there were not a promise in the Bible suited to his condition. Such were the feelings of the Jews before their captivity in Babylon, and under the pressure of the troubles which they experienced in their bondage. The prophet, by anticipation, views them us already in Babylon, and reproves the desponding apprehensions which there depressed their souls.

The words I have read, will afford me a fit occasion to set before you,

I. The discouragements which the Lord’s people suffer—

It is really no uncommon thing for even pious souls to utter the complaint mentioned in my text. They do this on a variety of occasions:

1. Under a sense of unpardoned guilt—

[Sin, which in an unenlightened state appears so small an evil, to an awakened soul appears “exceeding sinful,” insomuch that he is ready to imagine it can never be forgiven. Hear David under these distressing apprehensions: “O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure! for thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh, because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones, because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head; as an heavy burthen, they are too heavy for me [Note: Psalms 38:1-4.].” Even good men will, at times, adopt the language of Cain: “Mine iniquity is greater than can be forgiven [Note: Genesis 4:13. See the marginal version.].” Nor is this to be wondered at: for when we view sin with all its aggravations, and especially as committed against the love of Christ and the strivings of his good Spirit, it does assume a character most odious, and justly deserving of God’s heaviest indignation.]

2. Under the assaults of indwelling corruption—

[These continue long after a man is turned to the Lord. They have indeed received a check; but often, like water obstructed by a dam, they rise and swell the more for the opposition that is made to them. St. Paul’s experience in this respect has kept thousands from utter despondency. How bitterly he complains of “the law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin that was in his members!’” From hence, like a man bound with chains to a lothesome carcase, from which he cannot get loose, he cries, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death [Note: Romans 7:23-24.]?” He indeed saw that deliverance was laid up for him in and through Christ. But many are driven almost to despair: their conflicts with sin and Satan are so frequent and so violent, and sometimes, in appearance at least, so ineffectual, that they are ready to imagine that God has given them up, and that it is in vain for them to contend any more. In this state they are strongly tempted to say, “There is no hope: I have loved strangers; and after them will I go [Note: Jeremiah 2:25.].”]

3. Under the pressure of long-continued afflictions—

[These will oppress and overwhelm the strongest man, if he be not succoured from above with strength according to his day. Under these, David frequently complains, as if God had left him and forsaken him: “Lord, why castest thou off my soul? Why hidest thou thy face from me? I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted: thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off [Note: Psalms 88:14-16.].” The patient Job [Note: Job 3:1; Job 27:2.], the pious Jeremiah [Note: Jeremiah 20:1-18.], the intrepid Elijah, all fainted through their troubles: the two former cursed the day of their birth; and the latter, scarcely less excusable, prayed impatiently to God to “take away his life,” in order to liberate him from his troubles [Note: 1 Kings 19:4.]. Even the Saviour himself, in his afflictions, adopted the language of the Psalmist, “My God, my God! why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring [Note: Psalms 22:1.]?” And no doubt the hands of the strongest will hang down, and the heart of the stoutest faint, if God strengthen them not to drink the cup which men and devils concur to put into their hands.]

But it would not be thus with them, if they used aright,

II. The antidote provided for them in the Scriptures—

In the Scriptures, Jehovah is represented as ordering and overruling all things; and as being a God,

1. Of almighty power—

[There is nothing in the whole universe which did not derive its existence from his all-creating hand; nor is any thing left to its own operations without his sovereign control. Be it either good or evil, it subsists only through his permission; as God himself has told us: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil. I the Lord do all these things [Note: Isaiah 45:7.].” Even the murderers of our blessed Lord, though perfectly free agents in all that they did, “effected only what the hand und counsel of Jehovah himself had determined before to be done [Note: Acts 4:28.].” Be it so then: our guilt lies heavy on our souls; our corruptions work with almost irresistible force; our troubles of divers kinds threaten utterly to destroy us: but is there no power able to deliver? Cannot He who created all things by a word, and spake them into existence, accomplish for us whatever our necessities require? “Is his ear heavy, that he cannot hear; or his arm shortened, that he cannot save [Note: Isaiah 59:1.]?” Were we left to the uncontrolled power of our spiritual enemies, we might well despair: but whilst God is seated on his throne, we need never fear but that he will interpose for our relief, if only we cast our care on him. “If we cast our burthen upon him, he will sustain us.”]

2. Of unerring wisdom—

[Because God does not exert his Almighty power for us at the first moment that we implore his aid, we suppose “that our way is hid from him, and our judgment is passed over from him,” or, in other words, that he has utterly cast us off. But we forget that he has gracious designs to accomplish; and that he accomplishes them in ways of which we have no conception, and which appear calculated only to defeat his ends. We measure his wisdom by the scanty line of our own reason; forgetting that “his ways are in the great deep,” and “past finding out” by any finite intelligence: that “there is no searching of his understanding.” Now let this be considered: let the afflicted saint contemplate Jehovah as ordering and overruling every thing for the good of his people and for the glory of his own name; let him say, ‘I have cried long, and not been heard: but perhaps the purposes of Jehovah are not yet ripe for accomplishment: there is more of humiliation to be produced in my soul; more of a preparation of mind for discerning; of his mighty hand; more depression to be caused in order to a more glorious exaltation.’ Let him recollect the ways in which Joseph’s dreams were realized; and bear in mind, that the same God sitteth at the helm, and directs the vessel amidst all the storms, “the very storms and winds all fulfilling his sovereign will and pleasure.” This were abundantly sufficient to compose the mind under the most afflictive circumstances that can be imagined: for where there is unerring wisdom to direct, and Almighty power to execute, no difficulty can exist, which shall not be overruled for good [Note: Romans 8:28.].]

But let the text declare,

III. The happy state of those who duly improve this antidote—

To wait on God in prayer is necessary, in order to the obtaining of help from him—

[He has said that “he will be inquired of, in order that he may do for us the things that he has promised [Note: Ezekiel 36:37.].” This is indispensable in every view: for without it there would be no acknowledgment of him on our part, nor any readiness to give him glory, when he had interposed for our relief. Nor is it only in a way of importunity that we are to wait upon him, but in a way of humble dependence also, and of meek submission to his will. We must leave every thing to his all-wise disposal; “tarrying his leisure,” and “waiting his time, however long the vision may be delayed [Note: Habakkuk 2:3.].” “He that believeth must not make haste [Note: Isaiah 28:16.].”]

To all who comply with this requisite, the most effectual relief is secured—

[It is God’s delight to succour his people in the time of need: “He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.” This, I say, is his habit and delight: and one great end of his delaying the communication! of his aid is, to make men more sensible of their dependence on him, and more thankful for his gracious interpositions. Till he vouchsafe his answers to prayer, all human efforts are vain; “even the youths will faint and be weary; and the young men, how strong soever they imagine themselves to be, will utterly fall:” but “they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.” Like the eagle, when moulting, they may be greatly reduced; but in due season, like him, with his renovated plumage, they shall soar on high, above all the trials and temptations with which they have been oppressed. Their course may be yet long and difficult; the opposition which they may have to encounter may be exceeding violent; but, through the Divine aid, “they shall run and not be weary; they shall march onward [Note: Bishop Lowth’s translation.], and not faint.”]


1. In a way of tender expostulation—

[Such a state of mind as God’s people of old indulged, is approved by many, as characteristic of humility. But it is a mark of pride rather, and of unbelief; and it is calculated only to excite God’s heavy displeasure. This appears from the manner in which it is here reproved. In fact, it argues a forgetfulness of all our principles as men acknowledging a Supreme Being. Have we not known, that there is a God who ordereth all things both in heaven and in earth? Have we not heard, that “without him not so much as a sparrow falleth to the ground?” How then can we imagine that he is inattentive to his suffering or conflicting people, or that he is at a loss for means whereby to effect their deliverance? Have we not heard that “he has given us his only dear Son to die for us? What, then, will he withhold from those who seek him?” Still further; Have we not heard that “he has made with us an everlasting covenant, a covenant ordered in all things and sure?” And is not a supply of all our wants there provided for? Be ashamed, then, my Brethren, that, with such principles, you can give way to any disquietude. You have only to “commit yourselves, and all your concerns, into his hands; and be sure that he will bring to pass” whatever shall eventually advance your best interests.]

2. In a way of affectionate encouragement—

[See to what all your fears are really owing. The pious Asaph was harassed with them, like you: but, on reflection, he said, “This is mine infirmity [Note: Psalms 77:7-10.]” — — — Be assured, that not all the powers of earth or hell can prevail against you, if only, in the exercise of faith and patience, you wait on God. Take courage, then, and call yourselves to an account, as David did, for such unworthy fears and such unhallowed depression: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul! and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance and my God [Note: Psalms 42:5; Psalms 42:11; Psalms 43:5.].” If you need some specific promise for your support, take that which God has given to such as are in your very state: “Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness [Note: Isaiah 41:10.].” Rest on this, and you shall soon add your testimony to that of David: “I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and ordered my goings: and he hath put a new song into my mouth, even praise and thanksgiving to my God [Note: Psalms 40:1-3.].”]

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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

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.

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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". 2011.

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

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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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". 2011.

The Biblical Illustrator

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 40:31". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

The Biblical Illustrator

Isaiah 40:27-31

Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord?

The attributes of God: a reply to unbelief

I. THE UNIVERSAL DISPOSITION TO UNBELIEF. “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel?” etc.

II. THE ACCOUNT WHICH GOD HIMSELF GIVES OF THE GREATNESS OF HIS ATTRIBUTES. Well to Israel might the Almighty put the inquiry, “Hast thou not known?” He spake to His peculiar people. In Jewry is God known; His praise is great in Israel. How could they but know His attributes, to whom He had Himself manifested His glory? And to us the same upbraiding queries might well be put.


1. Consider the case of those who are convinced of their own natural sin and helplessness, but who have not as yet sought their Saviour.

2. The consolations of the text belong also to those who, after they have found their Saviour, are mourning under peculiar sin, or walking in peculiar darkness.

3. By temporal sorrows, too, He may sorely grieve thee, but much more mayest thou trust Him in them. (T. Scott, B. A.)

When the way seems hidden

I. THE WAY WHICH SEEMS HIDDEN. “My way is hid from the Lord”--what a common cry! Samuel Taylor Coleridge said he was sure the Bible was the Word of God because it found him at deeper depths than any other book. How surely and how deeply does this cry, “My way is hid from the Lord,” “find” each of us in many a mood!

1. It is into the future that the prophet is looking. Plainly, by the vision-giving Spirit, he discerns the great catastrophe which is to afflict the Jewish nation. The Babylonian captivity is to drag them into exile. By the severe chastisement of the captivity the Jews are to be cured of an almost uncheckable tendency towards idolatry. A human waywardness needs sometimes a bitter medicine to compel it back to paths of loyalty to God. But the prophet not only foresees the captivity, but also the way in which the exiled Hebrews are enduring it. It is as though he heard them talking together there in distant Babylon.

2. But that the way seems hidden from the Lord is not anything peculiar to those ancient captives. How surely and how deeply does that ancient cry” find” every one of us.


II. A GREAT AND ENDURING TRUTH ABOUT OUR WAY WHICH SOMETIMES SEEMS TO US HIDDEN FROM THE LORD. This is that our way is not and cannot be hidden from Him. And there are reasons firm and towering as the mountain peaks for this.

1. Our way cannot be hidden from the Lord because He is everlasting--His purpose cannot fail.

2. Because He is powerful--“the Creator of the ends of the earth.”

3. Because He is actively Lord “He fainteth not, neither is weary.”

4. Because He is actively wise--“there is no searching of His understanding.”

5. Because He is beneficent--“He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.”

III. SEIZE THE PRECIOUS PROMISE FOR YOUR HELP, even though your way may seem hidden from the Lord. “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew,” etc. God is coming to your help. Even while the captive Jews were crying, “My way is hidden,” etc., God was preparing Cyrus to be their deliverer. (Homiletic Review.)

Spiritual despondency

I. ISAIAH’S DESPONDENCY. It arose from a two-fold source.

1. The sense of a Divine desertion. “My way is hidden from the Lord.” It was the necessary result of the prophet’s office that all the nation’s sorrows must press home on his spirit, and must wound with their keenest anguish his sensitive soul. Now, remembering this union of deep sympathy with the people, observe the tremendous power with which, for fifty years, the wickedness of the land, and God’s great judgment upon it, must have pressed on his large and tender heart. It made his very office often seem a vanity. Many men have had the same experience; perhaps all earnest men must undergo it.

2. The absence of Divine recompense. “My judgment is passed over from my God.” The prophet unquestionably spoke these words as a cry uttered only by himself. The people were buried in God-forgetting repose. The priests were dead in formalism. The spiritual life of the land was decaying; and thunders of woe were muttering in the nation’s future. What had his life been worth? Apparently nothing! All great men think that they die in failure. Is it not hard for a man who has given to God his all, and worn out his life in His service, to go out into the eternal silence and see no reward?

II. THE TRUTH THAT REMOVED ISAIAH’S DESPONDENCY. In the verses following our text we perceive that the double manifestation of God’s greatness in Nature, and the tenderness of His revealed will, dispelled the gloom.

1. The greatness of God in Nature. He speaks not only of the unsearchable Creator, but of the everlasting God. Thy recompense is sure--thy work, and conflict, and toil are for eternity; then “why sayest thou, O Jacob, that thy way is hidden from the Lord?”

2. The tenderness of the revealed will. “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might, He increaseth strength.” The revelation of God’s tenderness is far more full for the Christian man, and has, therefore, far greater power to remove our despondency. We know how the Great Shepherd gave His life for the sheep.


1. Strength in weakness. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” Feebleness is transformed into power when God has taught His great lesson of “glorying in infirmity.”

2. Immortal youth. “They shall mount up on wings as eagles.” You have heard the old Jewish fable, that the eagle in dying recovered its youthful power. (E. L. Hull, B. A.)

Faith in the living God

I. Isaiah here reaches and rests upon THE VERY FOUNDATIONS OF THE FAITH, TRUST, AND HOPE OF MANKIND--the living God. Creation rests on His hand; man, the child of the higher creation, rests on His heart. What His power is to the material universe His moral nature and character are to the spiritual universe. “Have faith in God.” Creation lives by faith unconsciously, and all her voices to our intelligent ear iterate and reiterate “Have faith in God.”

II. WHAT DO WE KNOW OF GOD THAT WE SHOULD TRUST HIM? What aspects does He present to us? We have two sources of knowledge--what He has said to, and what He has done for, man.

1. There is something unspeakably sublime in the appeal in verse 26. It is heaven’s protest against man’s despair. Nor is Isaiah the only sacred writer who utters it. There is something very strikingly parallel in Job (Job 38:1-41.). In both cases God’s appeal is to the grand and steadfast order of the vast universe, which He sustains and assures. God tells us that all the hosts of heaven are attendant on the fortunes of mankind. They all live that God’s deep purpose concerning man may be accomplished.

2. God declares here that we are not only involved inextricably in the fulfilment of His deepest and most cherished counsels, but that we are needed to satisfy the yearnings of His Father’s heart.

III. WE MAY APPLY THESE PRINCIPLES to the seasons of our experience when faith in the living God is the one thing which stands between us and the most blank despair.

1. The deep waters of personal affliction.

2. The weary search of the intellect for truth, the struggle to comprehend the incomprehensible, to know the inscrutable, to see the invisible, which is part, and not the least heavy part, of the discipline of a man and of mankind.

3. Dark crises of human history, when truth, virtue, and manhood seem perishing from the world. (J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)

The unbelief of the Jews reproved


1. Whence they took those names--from one who had found God faithful to him, and kind in all his straits.

2. Why they bore those names--as God’s professing people, a people in covenant with Him.

II. THE WAY OF REPROVING THEM IS BY REASONING WITH THEM. “Why?” Consider whether thou hast any ground to say so. Many of our foolish frets and fears would vanish before a strict inquiry into the cause of them.

III. THAT WHICH THEY ARE REPROVED FOR IS AN ILL-NATURED, ILL-FAVOURED WORD THEY SPOKE OF GOD, as if He had cast them off. There seems to he an emphasis laid upon their saying it. It is bad to have evil thoughts rise in our mind, but it is worse to put an imprimatur to them, and turn them into evil words. David reflects with regret upon what he had said in his haste when he was in distress.


1. That God would not heed them. “My way is hid from the Lord.”

2. That God could not help them. “My judgment is passed over from my God, i.e., my case is so far past relief that God Himself cannot redress the grievances of it. (M. Henry.)

A challenge to despondent unbelief

“Why sayest thou,” etc., that all the dispensations of providence and grace with which you are connected appear so intricate and inexplicable that you cannot attain any comfortable acquaintance with them; that God doth not seem to regard your condition, and to manifest this tender care of you, but acts toward you as if your forlorn circumstances were unknown to Him? This mournful complaint is adopted by them that fear the Lord, on one or other of the three following accounts--

I. When they do not perceive THE PROCURING CAUSES from whence their troubles proceed. This perplexing circumstance greatly increases their uneasiness, and induces them to request with Job that God would show them wherefore He contendeth with them.

II. When they do not discover THE IMPORTANT PURPOSES to which they are especially directed. Uncertainty as to the particular ends which afflictions are sent to accomplish augments not a little the pressure of distress, and disposes good people to bemoan themselves in the language of the dejected Church, “He hath hedged me about that I cannot get out.” I can neither see the reason nor the end of my affliction; my way seems to be hid from the Lord.

III. When they do not discern WHAT IS PRESENT DUTY. Notwithstanding the blessed God hath clearly taught in His word what He requires, yet there are particular situations wherein the best of men have been perplexed as to what course they ought to follow. In such cases they have said with the good King of Judah, we know not what to do; and have lamented that their way was hid from the Lord. (R. Macculloch.)

Doubt and encouragement

Israel had suffered inexile so long that there were many who thought that their case had escaped God’s eye, and that their “judgment” (i.e their cause)
had passed beyond His notice: the prophet replies, Jehovah is no local, limited God, as you imagine; His power embraces Babylon not less than Palestine; His strength is not exhausted; “there is no searching of His understanding”--some inscrutable purpose must guide Him in delaying, if He do delay, the redemption of His people; only continue to trust! (
Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)

God the comfort of His people

Sorrow ever brings God nearer to us, if it do not bring us nearer to God; and whilst Isaiah was pondering the greatness of his apparent failure, God was preparing to chase away his darkness and to rekindle his hopes. Above him in the silent vault of night God was bringing out His solemn stars. And from that heaven where God numbered and named and watched over His stars, the eternal chorus swept down into the prophet’s soul--“Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel?” etc. Now, from a like despondency of heart, not one of us is entirely free. But some there are who dwell always in the region of gloom.

The language of their whole life is, “My way is hid from the Lord and my judgment is passed over from my God.” Or, perhaps, it is that the shadow of a long-past grief is upon their life. Or, maybe, it is that they walk in a labyrinth of difficulty. Or, like Isaiah, they mourn apparent failure; they see life’s highest purpose ingloriously defeated.

I. GOD’S POWER THE COMFORT OF HIS PEOPLE. Certain it is that our only true comfort is found in God. Life, when we can turn to God, is never cruel and hard; however full of trial it may be it never seems unkind; for we know that a hand of love appoints what a heart of love designs, and that all things must work together for good. And God has surrounded us on every side with reminders of what He is. When the heart is sad and low go out and be a witness of God’s power; go out in the quiet evening when the gold and fire and purple of the sunset have paled away, and see God bringing out His stars. And as you remember that the infinite mind, your Father, knows their number, calls them all by names, as the Eastern shepherd used to call his sheep, and so follows each with His love, surrounds each by His care, so bathes each in His smile that “not one faileth”--do they not with a loud shout of song pour down upon your soul the same consolation? Not only God’s power as manifested in the sky, but His power as seen on earth may be our hope. God is about you on every side. No star, no bird, no flower is hid from Him. Never, then, can we say, “My way is hid from the Lord,” etc.

II. But a further source of consolation is GOD’S TENDERNESS. “He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.” God’s tenderness is only rightly seen when viewed in conjunction with His greatness. We see the tender in contrast with the mighty. And this is real tenderness. Tenderness is strength in gentle action. When the power that might crush heals, uplifts, and strengthens, then we see tenderness. Gentleness is not weakness, but it is calm, quiet, loving strength. When the wind--which might wrench the oak from its moorings, snap the cables it has thrown around the rocks, and carry it away on its wings--lifts the hair and fans the cheek of the dying child, it is gentle. When the sun--mighty in his strength, pouring his scorching light on far-off worlds--shoots down a golden ray to cheer the drooping plant, or to “increase strength” in the little seedling which a raindrop would almost crush, it is gentle. And such is the God of whom we speak. The great Father has also a mother’s tenderness. “He giveth power to the faint.” He who Himself is never weary stoops to those who have no might, that He may increase strength. The faint and weak, they are the children of the strong and mighty! And to the faint He giveth “power”--power to suffer, to endure. To the weak He giveth “strength”--strength to labour, to accomplish. There is nothing in this world so mighty as the weakness which takes hold of the Divine strength. Yonder the ocean is white with foam. Wave chases wave across the dark surface of the deep as cloud chases cloud across tile blackened sky. No ship could live in such a storm. The mightiest anchor ever forged could give no safety in such an hour. But out, where the storm is fiercest, on those dreadful rocks against which the waves dash themselves into clouds of spray, is a tiny, helpless shell-fish. Its very strength is weakness. It clings simply by its emptiness; but, clinging to that rock, not all the thunders of the ocean dislodge it thence. It is weakness taking hold of strength. Tender and yet mighty is our God, and His tenderness is His people’s comfort. Whilst we bow in reverence before that power which holds untold worlds in their shining courses, we bow in profounder reverence and love before that power when we behold it in gentle exercise, giving power to the faint.

III. There is a further source of consolation open to us--GOD’S WISDOM. “There is no searching of His understanding.” To say merely that man cannot understand God is to say very little; but the language is the statement of an eternal fact. There is no searching of His understanding; not by the brightest intellects of earth nor by the grandest intelligences of heaven. And God’s infinite wisdom is to us the needful complement of His infinite power. Power, uncontrolled by wisdom, is rather to be feared than worshipped and loved. And shall He who has conceived that mighty plan--that plan which embraces all worlds in its grand conception--notunderstand the plan of our short life? Never let us think “our way is hid from the Lord”; to Him every circumstance of our life is known. (H. Wonnacott.)


I. THE DOCTRINE OF A GENERAL PROVIDENCE. The doctrine of Providence in general is alike supported by reason and revelation.

1. It is necessary to creation. If the world were from eternity, then might it go on self-sustained, as it had ever been: if it were of chance, it might be supported by the same contingency which produced it. If a first cause was necessary to the production of these things, He is also essential to their preservation; and the same voice of nature which proclaims the being of a God, declares His Providence.

2. We must take the testimony of Scripture on this subject.

3. From prophecy.


1. As consistent with the Divine character. The grand objection against a particular Providence has been, that it reduces the Deity to the necessity of superintending such minute concerns as are beneath His dignity--reduces the Deity to a necessity! What necessity can subsist but in His will? The objection proceeds upon principles entirely erroneous. It is an erroneous calculation to call anything great or little in such connection. All affairs are not to us of equal importance--the bursting of a bubble and the ruin of an empire. But, in reasoning thus, we are reducing the Deity to a finite standard, and making Him altogether “such an one as ourselves.” With Him the affairs of an empire and of individuals are equally manageable. The reasoning is false, also, upon the principle of dignity. It deteriorates nothing from the dignity of God to form a mite, with all the vessels and organs adapted to its existence: mere minuteness of operation surely cannot be deteriorating. What it was no degradation to God to create, it can be no degradation to God to preserve and manage.

2. As necessary to the general arrangements of Providence. Here we notice the operations of God, as demonstrating His government. The constitution of nature is of parts: systems compose the universe--worlds compose systems--a conglomeration of particles compose a world. Take the world of waters: seas form oceans--rivers, seas--streamlets, rivers--drops, streamlets--and the atom is infinitely divisible. Take the human frame; made up “of that which every joint supplieth.” Apply this scale of operations to Providence, and then we affirm that no concern can be so little as to be below the superintendence of God; for none can be so small as not to form a part of the grand scheme of Providence. Our ignorance on this subject can be no objection against its reality. I cannot, indeed, trace the link which knits my little concerns with the “ways of eternal Providence”; but neither can I trace the invisible chain which holds all created things together in its remotest parts: some of the larger links I discern, but more are invisible to me. He who admits the doctrine of a general providence and denies that of a particular one, is a being whose obliquity of intellect allows him to conceive of a whole, while he denies the existence of the parts of which that whole is composed.

3. As demonstrated in the course of providential dispensations. Review the circumstances of your separate lives. That life will furnish each of you with the desired evidences on this part of the subject. How frequently have the best concerted plans proved unavailing!

4. As harmonising with our prescribed duties, it is supposed, in the prescription of prayer. Where would be the utility of prayer, or the propriety of prescribing it, if the world was governed by a fate superior to the will of the Supreme Being? The prescription of prayer supposes, on the part of the Deity, a will as well as a power to govern. And this doctrine is reconcilable with the use of means; nay, it requires them.

5. As revealed in the Scriptures.

6. As most consolatory. (W. Patten.)

Unbecoming speech

It is well in times when feeling is strong to say little, lest we speak unadvisedly with our lips, murmuring at our lot, or complaining against God, as though He had forgotten to be gracious, and had shut up His tender mercies in anger. Speech often aggravates sorrow. We say more than we mean; we drown in the torrent of our words the still small voice of the Holy Ghost whispering comfort; we speak as though we had not known or heard. It is wise, therefore, not to pass grief into words. Better let the troubled sea within rock itself to rest. “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel?” (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

“My way hid from the Lord”

The flower which follows the sun does so even in cloudy days: when it cloth not shine forth, yet it follows the hidden course and motion of it. So the soul that moves after God keeps that course when He hides His face; is content, yea, is glad at His will in all estates, or conditions, or events. (T. Leighton.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 40:31". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

The Biblical Illustrator

Isaiah 40:28-31

The Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not.

The unwearied God and wearied men

For nations and for individuals in view of political disasters or of private sorrows, the only holdfast to which cheerful hope may cling, is the old conviction, “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”


God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? “To whom is he speaking? The words of the previous verse tell us, in which he addresses himself to Jacob, or Israel, who is represented as complaining: “My way is hid from the Lord.” That is to say, he speaks to the believing, but despondent dent part of the exiles in Babylon. There is wonder in the question, there is a tinge of rebuke in it. The prophet takes his stand upon the most elementary truth of religion. His appeal to them is: “What do you call God? You call Him the Lord, do you not? What do you mean by calling Him that?” The life of men and of creatures is like a river, with its source and its course and its end. The life of God is like the ocean, with joyous movement of tides and currents of life and energy and purpose, but ever the same, and ever returning upon itself. “The everlasting God’s the Lord; and Jehovah, the unchanged, unchangeable, inexhaustible Being, spends, and is unspent; gives, and is none the poorer; works, and is never wearied; lives, and with no tendency to death in His life; flames with no tendency to extinction in the blaze.” “He fainteth not, neither is weary.” Here is a lesson for us to learn, of meditative reflection upon the veriest commonplaces of our religion. There is a tendency among us to forget the indubitable, and to let our religious thought be occupied with the disputable and secondary parts of revelation. The commonplaces of religion are the most important. Everybody needs air, light, bread, and water. Meditate, then, upon the things most surely believed, and ever meditate until the dry stick of the commonplace truth puts forth buds and blossoms like Aaron’s rod. We all have times, depending on mood or circumstances, when things seem black and we are weary. This great truth will shine into our gloom like a star into a dungeon. Are our he.arts to tremble for God’s truth to-day? Are we to share in the pessimist views of some faint-hearted Christians? Surely as long as we can remember the name of the Lord, and His unwearied arm, we have nothing to do with fear or sadness for ourselves or for His Church or for His world.

II. THE UNWEARIED GOD GIVING STRENGTH TO WEARIED MAN. “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall.” Earth knows no independent strength. All earthly power is limited in range and duration, and, by the very law of its being, is steadily tending to weakness. But though that has a sad side, it has also a grand and blessed one. Man’s needs are the open mouth into which God puts His gifts. The low earth stretches, grey and sorrowful, fiat and dreary, beneath the blue arched heaven, but the heaven stoops to encompass--ay! to touch it. “He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.”

Notice the preceding, words, “Lift up your eyes on high,” and behold who hath created these things, etc. In the simple astronomy of those early times, there was no failure, nor decay, nor change, in the calm heavens. The planets, year by year, returned punctually to their place; and, unhasting and unresting, rolled upon their way. Weakness and weariness had no place there, but, says Isaiah, God’s power does not show itself so nobly up there as it does down here. It is not so much to keep the strong in their strength as to give strength to the weak. It is much to “preserve the stars from wrong,” it is more to restore and to break the power into feeble men.

III. THE WEARIED MAN LIFTED TO THE LEVEL OF THE UNWEARIED GOD, AND TO HIS LIKENESS. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” That phrase means, of course, the continuous bestowment in unintermitting sequence of fresh gifts of power, as each former gift becomes exhausted, and more is required. That continuous communication leads to the “perpetual youth” of the Christian soul. According to the law of physical life, decaying strength and advancing years tame and sober and disenchant and often make weary because we become familiar with all things and the edge is taken off everything. My text goes on to portray the blessed consequences of this continuous communication of Divine strength: “They shall run and not be weary.” That is to say: this strength of God’s poured into our hearts, if we wait upon Him, shall fit us for the moments of special hard effort, for the crises which require more than an ordinary amount of energy to be put forth. It will fit us, too, for the long, dreary hours which require nothing but keeping doggedly at monotonous duties--“They shall walk and not faint.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Energy and wisdom

I. THE DIVINE BEING AS POSSESSED OF INFINITE ENERGY. “He fainteth not, neither is weary.” His most stupendous works are rather the “hidings of His power,” than the manifestations of His might. The fact of God’s possessing infinite energy supplies us with four guarantees--

1. A guarantee of the regularity of the physical universe.

2. A guarantee of ability to fulfil His promises. Of what avail are promises if there be no executive energy?

3. A guarantee of His power to realise His threatenings.

4. A guarantee of Christ’s final enthronement. Feeble instrumentality is no argument against this view. Nor is the guilty indifference of the Church.

II. THE DIVINE BEING AS POSSESSED OF INFINITE MENTAL CAPACITY. “There is no searching of His understanding.” In God, therefore, there is a combination of infinite strength and infinite mind: power is under the government of intelligence! The universe is an embodied idea. Its minutest members are parts of one glorious thought. The infinite understanding of the Divine Being furnishes--

1. An assurance that the darkest providences are under the direction of infinite wisdom.

2. That no plot against His government can succeed.

3. That His plan of salvation is alone sufficient. Possessed of an understanding that is infinite, God knew the exact necessities of the human race, and provided that economy which alone could satisfy the cravings of human nature.

4. That He understands the peculiarities of every case. “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?” These words rebuke the idea that anything can escape the Divine notice. Christ knew all the springs of life, He saw the maladies which tainted the blood and crippled the faculties of man, and at the issue of His fiat the most malignant affection retreated as if in haste and shame!

5. An assurance of eternal variety in the study of His nature. “There is no searching of His understanding.” The eldest born in eternity may at this moment employ this same language; for those who have seen most of the Divine glory, confess most loudly the infinitude of His resources. Application--

The inexhaustibleness of the Divine Power

Power is a faculty for producing changes and performing works. There are three kinds or manifestations of power--physical, intellectual, and moral. I go into St. Paul’s Cathedral when some grand religious service is performed, the choral part is of the highest order, the sermon is delivered by the grandest preacher of the day. Here I receive an impression of three manifestations of power. The bringing together and adjusting the stone, marble, iron, timber that compose the enormous structure, impress me with physical power-power to act on material bodies. In the architectural symmetry of the whole I am impressed with the intellectual power--power of planning and contriving so as to give utility, stability, and beauty to the whole. In the sacred music that floats around me and the eloquent sermon that is addressed to me, my nature is brought under the influence of moral power--power that rouses the conscience, that stirs the deepest sentiments ofthe soul. Out in open Nature these three kinds of manifestations of power appeal to man. God’s power is inexhaustible in all these phases.

I. HIS PHYSICAL POWER IS INEXHAUSTIBLE. This will appear if we consider--

1. The nature of His work in the material department. He is the Originator of all.

2. The effect of His work in the material department.

3. The constancy of His work in the material department.

II. HIS INTELLECTUAL POWER IS INEXHAUSTIBLE. Intellectual force is as visible in nature to a thought ful eye as physical. Science shows that everything--the minute and the vast, the proximate and the remote, is formed, sustained, and directed according to plan. “In Thy book all my members were written.” Think of the boundless variety amongst all the flowers and trees that have ever grown. Amongst all the men of all the generations that are gone, have there been two in face and figure exactly alike? Here is intellectual fertility! The little intellectual force of contrivance possessed by the bee or the bird is very soon exhausted, Man, too, soon reaches a culminating point in inventive skill. But not so with God. But in the creations of the spiritual world the same inexhaustibleness of intellectual energy is displayed. Each spirit involves something of a new plan. On this little planet fresh souls appear every hour.


1. Look at His moral power in nature. Nature is brimful of the moral power of God; power appealing to the souls of men.

2. Look at His moral power in the Gospel. What is moral power? “Truth and grace.” (Homilist.)

The inexhaustible energy of God


1. Look at His contrivance in relation to matter. The rushing currents, the surging sea, the furious tempest, the revolution of planets, and the recurrence of the seasons--all give us the impression of power. But to the thoughtful, the intellectual force is as clearly developed in nature as the material, nay, is implied in the material.

2. Look at His contrivance in relation to spirit. Observe--

II. HIS ENERGY IN THE SPHERE OF EXECUTION IS INEXHAUSTIBLE. His power of working out His plans is equal to His power of invention.

1. It is so in the material. In the material realm God seems to develop His plans in two ways--directly and indirectly; without means and by means.

2. It is so in the spiritual. Let us look at His power to save. What is moral power? It is the power of truth. But the Gospel is the most powerful of any truth--

Example is stronger than precept. The truths to be deduced from the whole are--

Profitable reflection in dark hours

Was it a true thing these exiles said? They suggested that they had worn out the Divine patience. They were ready to admit that He had been the God of their fathers; but He had now withdrawn from His covenant relationship, and would be favourable no more. That, they said, was the reason why they were allowed to languish year after year on the plains of Babylon. They spoke as though they had never known nor heard some of the most rudimentary facts about the nature and ways of God. “Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard?” In our dark hours we should revert to considerations which have been familiar to us from childhood, but have of late ceased to exert a definite impression. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

God’s power the comfort of His people

The terms by which God is described are not what may be termed the gracious designations which are often employed to describe Him; it is not the Father, the Redeemer, the Gentle One; it is the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, as if Divine comfort were not a sentiment only, as if Divine comfort did not come only out of the Divine emotions, but poured itself down upon us from all that is majestic, dominant, mighty, immeasurable, royal, and grand in the Divine nature. (J. Parker, D. D.)

God’s moment the perfect miniature of His everlasting day's

It is said to be the property of a crystal to assume precisely the same form into however many fragments it may be broken up. The infinitesimal particle, for the study of which a magnifying glass must be used, is a precise facsimile of the parent crystal from which it came. If we could take God’s eternity and break it up into aeons, if we could take the aeons and break them up into ages, and the ages into centuries, and the centuries into years, and the years into days, and the days into hours, and the hours into moments, we should find each separate moment of God’s life to be just as resplendent with benignity, compassion, redeeming grace, and helpfulness, as His sublime eternity itself. (T. G. Selby.)

God never grows weary

A story is told of a little girl whose faith in God may teach us a lesson. The lamp had just been put out, and the little girl was rather afraid of the dark. But presently she saw the bright moon out of her window, and she asked her mother, “Is the moon God’s light? Yes, Ethel,” the mother replied; “the moon and stars are all God’s lights.” “Will God blow out His light and go to sleep too?” she asked again. “No, my child,” replied the mother, “God’s lights are always burning.” “Well, mamma,” said Ethel, “while God’s awake, I’m not afraid.”

There is no searching of His understanding

Heartening conceptions of God

How to reconcile the approving verdict of creative wisdom, “God saw that it was good,” with that condition of things of which St. Paul speaks as the whole creation groaning and travailing in pain together; how to reconcile the idea of Almighty goodness with the existence of universal and apparently aimless conflict and struggle for destruction, is a question that, in itself, would seem incapable of exaggerated statement. It is the old, old question, which we shall see solved in the day, and not before the day, when He, the Son, the Creator, shall have put all things under Him; the question between life and death. Still if wisdom is to be justified of her children, we cannot bear as her children not to try to justify her; and although we know that we shall not attain to the answer, we cannot help hearing and thinking of the question. We look first at the possibilities which lie in what God has not revealed, and secondly for the particulars which, in developing His message and expanding our power of receiving it, and in regulating our conduct under and in consequence of it, it has pleased Him to make known to us about Himself. We may without presumption, certainly with nothing short of the most timid tentativeness, approach such mysteries as the travailing of creation, the gradual character of Divine revelation, the delay of the consummation of the mediatorial work, the agency of external and previous influences on the will, the conduct and the responsibility of human beings. All these four matters are of vivid and universal interest, ancient questions, older than Genesis, older than Socrates, older than Archimedes, older than Enoch; questions that no new theories can answer, problems that admit of constant new illustrations, but lie in the very incunabula of human thought. Take them in order.

1. In that beginning of which the first verse of the Bible speaks, the Creator, Almighty and All good, called matter into being: the material world, in that conformation which science reveals to us, may be the result, not only of immensely long periods of energy, but of immensely varied methods of agency; when it comes within our ken it is seen to be the result of operations into which pain and death largely enter, and in which, so far as we can see, they are still, with no traceable connection with mankind, actively at work. In our contemplation of pain and death in human morals, we trace back both to the effect of sin, and sin to the depravation of the free will at the fall of man. What hinders us from conceiving that the existence and continuance of such measures of pain and death as are found anterior to the existence of man, and external to the operation of his moral agency, are the results of a freedom granted to pre-existent, or continued, perverted, and fallen agencies, about which we have no other knowledge? It may surely be as likely that the creation or developing of man on earth, for the vanquishing of evil and the working out of blessing in redemptive and restorative work, may, mixed as are its effects now, be a step in a very gradual victory, by which pre-existent and continuing evil, arising from a pre-existent and continuing perversion, is being brought under the feet of the Only Begotten of the Father? Interminable cycles of the years measured by the revolutions of the earth, by the working of our system, and by the cosmic movements of the universe, might be required, but what obstacle does such a calculation place in the way of such a possibility with an Agent Infinite and Eternal? There is the evil, there is the slowness of the working of law, but there is eternity before and behind. Who shall say to Him, What doest Thou? There shall be no more pain: but it shall be when the former things are passed away.

2. Then, the slowness of revelation and its gradual character? We can either account for that by the reason of law that works so, or by the absolute necessity, the terms and conditions of the situation being such that it should be so; that is, we may either assume the law or justify the law. We have no more right to lay it down, as an axiom, that the perfect God could or would reveal Himself entirely by one act of revelation, than that He would give men free will and always keep it in conformity with His own will. The revelation, to be a part of the victory, must be a revelation that would expand with the expansion of the receiving minds, giving them the choice between light and darkness, and suffering and enabling them to rejoice in the light rather than the darkness. It must have a beginning: the words of revelation must be spoken in the language that the receiver can comprehend; must be weighted with elements that will hold them fast in his mind; must be seasoned with a stimulus that shall provoke his appetite for knowledge. And now that, in the fulness of time, grace and truth are come by Jesus Christ, and in Him, the brightness of His Father’s glory and the express image of His Person, we recognise the perfection of the revelation by which He guides many sons unto glory, we yet are warned that the guide of our life is faith; and heaven itself, in which we trust to know more, and love more, and be conformed to the likeness more, in wonderful growths of the finite into the knowledge, love, and likeness of the Infinite, shall be a perfection of revelation, but even so a revelation of new vistas of perfection, of knowledge, love, and likeness. But glorious as this prospect is, and humble, prostrate, as we lie now on the threshold of the vision, we know that we have not come so far as we have come, but by a long series of dispensations and disciplines; a method, a law of enlightenment, that ages and generations, rising and falling nations, tested and discarded philosophies, have exemplified. God could have revealed the plan of Redemption, could have redeemed the world as soon as Adam fell, as He might have kept him from falling, or stayed the propagation of evil in the first generation: but He would overcome evil with good, and bring out the victory in His own way, preparing the world by the experience of vanity, disciplining the world by the struggle against the causes of misery, and at the last sending His Son.

3. How about the twilight, and those who wandered in it to their fall, before the Daystar arose? How about those who are sitting still in darkness? Does not He care? Are they not safer in His contemplation than in our perplexed hearts? But now that grace and truth are come;--eighteen hundred years ago He founded His Church, and for all that time she has been working; with some drawbacks that she might have overcome, but still working; and three-quarters of the globe are full of heathendom still, and seventy generations of souls have passed away under the cloud of darkness. Is not this strange? Is it all the effect of a neglect that, if it be unmodified by other causes, must be accounted nothing less than a failure of a purpose that assumes to be Divine? Here again we come upon a trace of law that is not to be broken. For fifteen hundred out of the eighteen hundred years of Christianity, one-half of the inhabited world was unknown to the other half; no revelation of God opened up the new world; it was left for discovery to human enterprise, under a guidance, active, certain, but by no means exceptional to the recognised movements of society; and when discovered it was full of strange languages, and of people so framed and disciplined as to have none of the special training by which the old world has been broken up for the reception of the seed of the Word; and when it had been claimed and appropriated and made intelligible and opened up, no part of the process seemed to be overruled for the rapid progress of Gospel light; no new miracles, no new manifestations; all had to be done line upon line, precept upon precept, with lisping voice and stammering tongue. If that ancient strange darkness is indeed evil--and who shall say it is not in the face of the true light?--surely there is some secret in the hand of the Lord that shall justify the delay, and shall vindicate the means in the day of victory.

4. But once more. We are told, and we know it in its measure to be true, that in the course of this world causes and consequences, multiplying and intensifying from generation to generation, do so mould the minds and thoughts of men as seriously to endanger the sense of personal responsibility, and practically to limit anything like free moral agency. We are told, in fact, that we are what our forefathers, our circumstances, our manners and customs, our teaching and religion make us, and scarcely anything more; and so, if we are vicious it is something over which we have no control that makes us so; or, if we are virtuous it is something for which we have no credit; and if we are betwixt and between, we are as God, if there be a God, let circumstances, heredity, the accidents of life, and the stream of family history make us. There is much truth in the statement of facts. There are at least two considerations to modify it: first, the influence of circumstance and cause is not unmixed; there is good as well as evil in the force that impels us; secondly, there is in every one of us, weak, wavering, as we may be, enough of freedom to determine our choice between the good and evil of the circumstance. Each man who has ever lived, and each action of his life, has contributed something; something that of course only the Divine knowledge can discriminate or appreciate, but which is a contribution to the course of this world for good or for evil, and so we have to do the same. God has great purposes to serve, and blesses what little we can consciously do towards the victory of His Son. When we look at the chart of human history, even for the six thousand years that the old chronology delimits for us, and see how great the expanse of ages, in which we know that there were human lives, making experience and influence, and yet whose experience and influence had, so far as we know, nothing to do with the existing conditions of modern society, and see how all that consciously constitutes what we know as modern society falls into a comparatively insignificant section of the chart; and if we take the map of the earth and stretch our compasses across the breadth and length of Christendom, and then look at the heavens, the work of His fingers, and the stars that measure His times and seasons for us, and beyond all that into eternity and infinity of energy; surely we must feel that we cannot limit possibilities or impossibilities, the measure of Goodness and Almightiness, by the line and plummet of our own intelligence. What is man that Thou visitest him? Yet Thou hast visited him, and made him lower than the angels to crown him with glory and power. (Bishop of Chester.)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 40:31". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

The Biblical Illustrator

Isaiah 40:29-31

He giveth power to the faint

The Divine Helper

OUR SPIRITUAL CONDITION IS INTIMATELY KNOWN TO THE DIVINE FATHER. He knows the strong and the faint alike. As a wise Shepherd, He is acquainted with the state of His entire flock.

1. There is our inherent antagonism to evangelical truth. Man is prone to self-leaning. When we leave the Cross we faint; while we glory in its Sufferer we are armed with irresistible might!

2. There is the seductive influence of worldly association.

3. There is the fierce battle for daily bread.

4. There is our ever-recurring unbelief.

II. MORAL FAINTNESS DOES NOT INVALIDATE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. Were all the “faint” to be excluded, how many of you would remain as children of God? Does the parent cast off the crippled child? It will be necessary, however, to guard this assurance with two explanations--

1. It contains no encouragement to moral indolence. You are not to exonerate yourselves from the stern duties oF life on the plea that you are “faint.” The toiler grows strong; exercise develops muscle.

2. It affords no palliation for inconsistency. We are never allowed to plead weakness as a reason for sin.


1. God never communicates surplus power. “As thy days so shall thy strength be.”

2. God’s method of communicating power teaches the dependence of humanity. God’s alone is original; but it is enough for man if he can shine with radiance borrowed from the Fount of uncreated light.

3. God’s willingness to communicate power fearfully increases the responsibility of the Church. What power we might have! I regard the declaration in the following aspects

Almighty God helps the weak

The arguments which demonstrate the folly and guilt of worshipping false gods, and of confiding in them, equally demonstrate the duty and obligation of worshipping the true and living God, and of placing our confidence in Him. Indeed, to remove our adoration from an idol is doing but little, unless at the same time it be given to the Holy and Great Jehovah; it is but renouncing polytheism--a grievous and horrible delusion--for atheism, a delusion still more horrible and grievous.


II. THE POWER OF JEHOVAH, THE TRUE GOD, IS LIKE HIMSELF, UNDIMINISHABLE AND ETERNAL. “He fainteth not, neither is weary.” That the power of Jehovah, the true God, is undiminishable and eternal, is proved by the conservation of nature, as the existence of that power is proved by nature’s production. Were the hand which framed the universe utterly withdrawn, the universe would return to its original nothing. The motion, order, and safety of all things depend upon God. What a contrast does this perfection of undiminishable and eternal power form to the weakness of the creature--of fallen and helpless man especially! Weakness is the attribute of the human body. Man is no less weak as it relates to his mind. Sublime therefore in the highest degree is this account of Jehovah. He never lets fall the reins of dominion; He never retires, overcharged, by attention to His friends, resistance to His enemies, or the superintendence of all!

III. THE POWER OF JEHOVAH THE TRUE GOD IS CONDESCENDINGLY EMPLOYED IN BEHALF OF FALLEN, HELPLESS MAN. “He giveth power to the faint,” etc. Let us attend to some instances in which this truth is illustrated.

1. In His providential interpositions in favour of the more helpless of men. Some persons constitutionally feeble in body, or perhaps made so by disease, are often mysteriously succoured. The victim of oppression also ever finds a Friend in heaven.

2. In the work of our redemption by Christ Jesus. “When we were yet without strength Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6). One of the most afflictive circumstances attending man’s fallen state is that of utter helplessness. When sin entered into the world it not only erased from the soul of man the image of his Creator; it also annihilated, as far as man was concerned, all the means of his recovery. The nerves of obedience were cut, and the spirit of reverence and love utterly blasted.

3. In that invigorating peace communicated to the heart of man, when he believes to the salvation of his soul. Perhaps we are never fully prepared for the mercy of God, through the sacrificial merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, until we see that there is mercy in no other way.

4. In that successful resistance which is made by the faithful Christian, to the assaults of our great spiritual adversary, the devil.

5. In the season of personal affliction.

6. In the case of every one who dies in the Lord. (J. Bromley.)

The aid of the Holy Spirit

No words can do justice to the feelings of joy and gratitude which this gift should excite in all those who partake in its inestimable benefit. When the heathen sage had sketched out virtue in her goodliest forms; when he had pointed to the steep and arduous path which must be trodden by her successful votaries; when he had urged his disciples to enter upon it by the most stimulating motives with which the light of nature could supply him, what could he do more? What words of cheering import could he address to them, when sinking with dismay under a sense of their own infirmity, when trembling with apprehensions of failure, from a comparison between their strength and the task allotted to them? He had no authority to refer them to one who “giveth power to the faint, and increaseth strength to them that have no might.” What he could not, the Christian philosopher can say. (J. Marriot, M. A.)

A spiritual tonic


1. They felt they had lost the favour of God. Their way was hidden from Him, and they walked in darkness, as if they were the sport of chance or the victims of fate.

2. They felt they were left to the mercy of man. It appeared as if judgment upon them and their way was transferred to caprice of men.


1. Faith in the power of God.

2. Hope in the pity of God. He does not crush the feeble and the faint, but increases their power.

3. Love for the service of God. As the hearts of the people became enthusiastic for the worship of Jehovah, and longed to get back to Zion to restore the temple and rebuild the city, their energies would revive as an incoming tide; revived spirit would bring revived strength.


1. Renewed vigour. Strength would come from waiting upon God.

2. Renewed vivacity. The people are told they shall “mount,” “walk,” “run,” without weariness or sense of exhaustion.

3. Renewed vitality. Though the body may grow old, and physical life decline, the soul shall remain young. (F. W. Brown.)

God’s power in the heavens and on earth

(with Isaiah 40:26):--These two verses set forth two widely different operations of the Divine power as exercised in two sadly different fields, the starry heavens and this weary world. The one verse says, “He is strong in power”; the other, “He giveth power.” In the former verse, “the greatness of His might” sustains the stars; in the latter verse, a still greater operation is set forth in that “to them that have no might He increaseth strength.” Thus there are three contrasts suggested; that between unfailing stars, and men that faint; that between the unwearied God and wearied men; and that between the sustaining power that is exercised in the heavens and the restoring power that is manifested on earth. There is another interlocking between the latter of these two texts and its context, which is indicated by a similar recurrence of epithets. In my second text we read of the “faint,” and in the verse that follows it again we find the expression “faint” and “weary,” while in the verse before my text we read that “the Lord fainteth not, neither is weary.” So again the contrast between Him and us is set forth, but in the verse that closes the chapter we read how that contrast merges into likeness, inasmuch as the unfainting and unwearied God makes even the men that wait upon Him unwearied and unfainting. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Unfailing stars and fainting men

(with Isaiah 40:26):--

I. A SAD CONTRAST. The prophet in the former of these verses seems to be expanding the thoughts that lie in the name, “the Lord of hosts,” in so far as that name expresses the Divine relation to the starry universe. The image that underlies both it and the words of my text is that of a commander who summons his soldiers, and they come. Discipline and plan array them in their ranks. The plain prose of which is that night by night, above the horizon, rise the bright orbs, and roll on their path obedient to the Sovereign will; “because He is strong in might, not one” is lacking. Scripture bids us think of God, not as a creative energy that set the universe in motion, and leaves it to roll or spin, but as of a Divine Presence. But in our second text we drop from the illumination of the heavens to the shadowed plain of this low earth. It is as if a man looking up into the violet sky, with all its shining orbs, should then turn to some reeking alley, with its tumult and its squalor. Just because man is greater than the stars, man “fails,” whilst they shine on unwearied. For what the prophet has in view as the clinging curse that cleaves to our greatness is not merely the bodily fatigue which is necessarily involved in the very fact of bodily existence, since energy cannot be put forth without waste and weariness, but it is far more the weary heart, the heart that is weary of itself, weary of toil, weary of the momentary crises that demand effort, and wearier still of the effortless monotony of our daily lives. It is ever to be remembered that the faintness and the ebbing away of might, which is the truly tragic thing in humanity, does not depend upon physical constitution, but upon separation from the Source of all strength.

II. ANOTHER SAD CONTRAST, MELTING INTO A BLESSED LIKENESS. “He fainteth not, neither is weary.” “He giveth power to the faint.” Is that not a higher exercise of power than to “preserve the stars from wrong”? What are the consequences that the prophet traces to this restoring power? “They shall mount up with wings as eagles,” etc.

III. THE WAY BY WHICH THESE CONTRASTS CAN BE RECONCILED, AND THIS LIKENESS SECURED. “They that wait upon the Lord”--that is the whole secret. What does waiting on the Lord include? Keep near Him; keep still: expect. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Two operations of God’s power

(with Isaiah 40:26):--

1. The strength that restores is greater than the power that preserves.

2. The power that is given to the faint is greater than the strength that keeps the stars from falling, because there is in it an actual communication of actual Divine strength. God keeps the planet in its course by an act (for we must not speak about “effort” in regard to Him) of power brought to bear upon it. But He brings strength to us, not by ministration from without, but by impartation within.

3. Once more, this mirror gives us back the reflection of a power which is not only restoration and communication, but multiplication. “To those that have no might He increaseth strength.”

4. The power that redeems, ministers not only restoration and communication and multiplication, but assimilation. There is in the context a very remarkable play upon words. “Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the ever lasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?” He stoops to the faint, and gives them strength, and what is the result in them? “They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” What God is, God’s child in his measure becomes, unfainting and unwearied like his Father in the heavens. God gives, not omnipotence, but something that is a kind of shadowy likeness of it. “All things are possible to him that believeth.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Encouragement to the weary

I. THE LORD SPEAKS OF HIS PEOPLE AS BEING SOMETIMES “FAINT.” The expression is very significant; it implies that there is life, yet life for a time dormant, inactive, powerless either for defence, service, or enjoyment. There is one, for instance, who has watched long by the bedside of a beloved sick one. Others, again, are sorely tried by anxieties connected with their business; by the difficulty of providing daily bread. There, again, is another deeply vexed and grieved with the plague of his own heart. Of such as these the Lord seems to be speaking. “He giveth power to the faint.” His people are further described as having “no might.” Self-sufficiency is one of the plainest marks of the ungodly. And thus are they led truly into the third mark of His people, which the Lord here mentions, “They that wait upon the Lord.”

II. HOW HE DEALS WITH THEM. Three expressions are employed to describe this.

1. To the faint “giving” strength, because, under their sore trials and afflictions, they have utterly fainted; their strength has for a time entirely departed--to them the Lord “gives” strength.

2. Then observe the other word describing His dealings--“He increaseth strength.” That is a very suitable word. It is the experience of every gracious soul, that his own strength decreaseth. He learns more fully that he hath in himself no strength. Wherever the Lord removes any of the props of the believer’s earthly pride and self-sufficiency, there He reveals Himself as the believer’s strength. So that growth in humility is necessarily connected with growth in spiritual strength.

3. They that wait on the Lord shall “renew” their strength. They renew their strength because the Lord renews it. He manifests Himself to them just at those times and in that manner in which they are led to see their need of Him.

III. THE BLESSED RESULTS OF THE LORD’S DEALINGS WITH HIS PEOPLE. These also are described as three-fold--

1. “They shall mount up,” borne aloft heavenward, with a power in comparison with which the eagle’s mighty wings are powerless. And why? Because they are borne aloft by omnipotent grace. This is one blessed result to those who wait upon the Lord--heavenward tendency.

2. There is also promised zeal and rapid progress in their heavenly course. “They shall run and not be weary.” Waiting upon the Lord, they shall be so renewed in strength, that not only their affections, desires, and hopes shall be lifted up to heaven, but they shall also be carried forward swiftly and mightily in their gracious course. They shall run in the way of God’s commandments, and not be weary. Look at all mere human strength; how soon it fails, how quickly it is exhausted.

3. This is the third blessed result--a steady perseverance in the way to Zion. Whilst their progress is “running” for zeal and success, it is “walking” for steady persistency unto the end. It is harder sometimes to walk than to run. There are many who would gain heaven if it were to be won by a hasty run; but when the heavenly course requires not merely a short, quick, impulsive run, but the slow, weary, painful walk, they soon grow tired, and ready to give all up. (G. W. Hills.)

The influence of the Holy Ghost: the doctrine abused by neglecting means

The grand subject here is, “waiting upon the Lord.” The term is of frequent occurrence in God’s Word. It sometimes means nothing more than a quiet, restful frame of soul; and sometimes it will be found to set forth a waiting for the Lord, a patient waiting on Him in expectation of deliverance. But “waiting on Him” seems to imply more than this; it implies a diligent use of those means that He has appointed for the communication of His grace--waiting on Him in the use of those means. It is not an indolent waiting.


1. Every creature is of necessity weak; it is not his fault--it is his nature. When Adam left his hold on God he necessarily fell; as necessarily as any branch would fall if cut off from the parent stem. The creature has no power to sustain himself, nor to help himself; and it was never intended that he should have.

2. If man as an unfallen creature is weak; well may we say, that as a fallen creature, he is altogether weakness.

3. But even as a renewed creature he is weak, and if left to himself, unable to cope with one enemy, or to maintain his own standing for one single moment. “Without Me ye can do nothing.”

4. Besides this, there are certain periods in which the believer is more than ordinarily faint and weak. There are many things that try him.

5. Oftentimes too, through want of watchful, prayerful, holy seeking and turning over the page of conscience, he weakens his little strength. But it is to these very souls that the Lord communicates strength. “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.” The necessities of God’s people seem to touch the very heart of God. But there is something in the very glory of God that constrains Him to grant them

His help in their hours of need. This was David’s plea: “pardon mine iniquity, for it is great,” but “for Thy name’s sake,” he says.

II. OBSERVE THROUGH WHAT CHANNEL IT COMES. It is not a natural channel; it is not the strength of nature, but it is in the way of waiting dependence on Himself. There is a wondrous analogy between the operations of God in grace and in nature. God has given to us the promise that “seed-time and harvest shall never fail” while the world remains; but does this hinder the necessity of casting in the seed? Does it hinder the necessity of ploughing the land before it, and of harrowing it in, and protecting it? The more I look at this appointment of God, the more I see of infinite wisdom in it. I am in great distress, in great need, no one knows of my pressure. Perhaps I tell my friend, but I find no relief at all. And now I cast myself on the Lord--God reveals Himself to me as my Father-it quiets me, it comforts me. See how the Lord makes one step preparatory to another, and makes one thing the means of obtaining another. Prayerfulness leads to strength; that leads to courage; that leads to submission; that leads to patience, and that leads to praise. Observe the same, too, of all other means of grace. Talk we of the Bible, or hearing the Word unfolded? In prayer we speak to God; in His Word He speaks to us by His Spirit. Look at the very means of grace themselves: there is the unfolding of the same wisdom in the means appointed. What a suitable and reasonable ordainment it is!

III. THE ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY OF THIS CHANNEL OF COMMUNICATION. “They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.” When God puts forth His promise He pledges all that is in Himself to fulfil that promise. This is God’s appointed way. Perhaps we can say there are no instances upon record in which it was otherwise, but I dare not say that God may not in one moment so break in upon a man’s soul, by the holy anointing of the Spirit, as to give him the most perfect conviction that he is a child of God. See the greatness of the communication. They shall “run”; they shall “walk”; and they shall “mount up.” Concluding remarks--

1. Would that the saints of God did more deeply feel that they are fainting and full of weakness!

2. Though it is no small mercy to be deeply conscious of our utter weakness before God, take heed how you abuse this glorious doctrine of the blessed Spirit by living a life of ceaseless and useless complaint. There is an observation, I think in Owen, that the religion of some consists in little more than in going from house to house, from friend to friend, from saint to saint, telling one’s nothingness, sinfulness, and wretchedness. They make a sort of secret balm of it.

3. What vast encouragement is here! (J. H. Evans, M. A.)

Causes and cure of fainting


1. We will consider the case of the awakened sinner.

2. I pass on to another character, namely, the child of God in his fainting fits. There is a degree of sinfulness about some of those faintings which is not found in others.


1. See how tenderly the Lord deals with His fainting people. He does not desert them, saying, They are no longer any use to Me; they can do nothing for Me; I will leave them where they are. He gives them power.

2. What sort of power?

3. Why is it that He gives power to the faint?


1. If God gives power to the faint, let us be thankful if we have fainted and have been revived by Him.

2. Let us have done with fainting in the future, because we ought to have no more fainting now that we have received God’s power. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

Strength attracted by weakness

We have seen a little weakling child draw to its cot some strong and burly man, the champion athlete of the country-side. Such a spell can weakness exert over might, and helplessness over helpfulness. It is the burden of Scripture that the strong should bear the infirmities of the weak, and not please themselves. Such is the law of God’s existence. All that He is and has He holds in trust for us, and most for those who need most. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

God’s strength for the weak

Many of us are too strong, self-reliant, and resourceful to get the best that God can do. Jacob must halt on his thigh ere he can prevail with God and man. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

God’s untiring patience

God is ever blotting out sins from His remembrance--never tiring. I will tell you what it is like. It is like the infinite, tireless patience of the sea. The children ply their spades upon the sands, to make work for the sea. They heap the sand up, they dig deep into it. Hundreds of them disfigure the hard, golden surface, and leave their scars upon it; and then quietly the old sea turns upon its course, and rolls its waves across the sands, and every trace of scar is obliterated, becomes as if it had never been; when the tide ebbs again there is no trace upon the smooth, shining surface of the sand to show that it had ever known disturbance. Day after day, day after day, the scene is repeated, and the sea is never tired of putting things to rights; it never complains, it never resents the new work imposed upon it. And the secret is that there is such infinite reserve of power that all that man can do frets it no whir. It is only a question of time, and it will put all things to rights again. Again and again, as I have stood by the sea, this sense of its tirelessness has come over me. It fainteth not, neither is weary. And it has seemed to me an emblem, as the stars are emblems, moving on their courses, as the world is an emblem, swinging through space, as nature is an emblem, pursuing so patiently and unweariedly her age-long business--of that mighty God whose glorious characteristic it is that He fainteth not, neither is weary; but He giveth power to the faint, and increaseth strength to him that hath no might. (C. Silvester Home, M. A.)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 40:31". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

The Biblical Illustrator

Isaiah 40:30-31

Even the youths shall faint

The unfainting spirit

The Hebrew tendency to lean upon the most muscular arm accessible, to buy up horses from Egypt in imitation of the warriors of the plains, to form alliances with neighbouring peoples in a neighbourly, instead of acting in the true Israelite spirit--was a tendency not confined to Hebrew blood.
It is in human nature to live by eyesight, and to go on doing so even although everything should go to wreck under our very eyes. The true Israelite spirit felt--wherever that spirit prevailed--that God’s assuring word had more muscle in it than an army ofPhilistines; that Egyptian cavalry was an encumbrance; that Assyrian spears might be turned into withered blades of grass in a night’s time; and that the only solid ground that never quaked was the Rock that faith stood upon. For the unseen is harder, stronger--has more vitality and power of renewal in it--than the youngest, freshest, fairest, and most select powers that are seen. Our desire is to show wherein lies the power of renewed life and force in a soul and in a Church, so that the vigour shall be real and elastic, being the very strength of God.

I. THE PROPHET EXPECTS THE NATURAL FAINTING AND FALLING OF THE SELECT MEN. “Young men” reads literally “the select men,”--those picked out for an enterprise on account of their youthful vigour.

II. A SPIRITUAL EMPOWERING OF ALL MEN IS PROVIDED THROUGH WAITING ON GOD. Panic seized our Lord’s disciples on the arrest of their Master, and their flight revealed their lack of power. They were converted men, but they fainted and failed. They were young and select, but they fled. When about to part from them, Jesus bade them remain where they were, and not attempt the discipling of the world until they should receive power. The word “renew” in this place signifies “change.” The strength sufficient for one day, and its duty, may need to be exchanged for something larger, deeper, swifter for the next day and its severer trials. The same Spirit works, changing the force and form of His working. How is the Spirit of God working in the renewal of strength to-day? What are the best people feeling the need of, but a closer union among themselves through an intenser, completer fellowship with God?

III. ISAIAH DESCRIBES THE MANIFESTATIONS OF A NEW AND STRONG LIFE IN GOD. A cheering succession of Saxon sentences, precious powers, most desirable energies.

1. There is heavenly elevation. “They shall mount up with wings as eagles.” Theodore Monod says: “If you want to do something, do not try to be somebody.” Certainly, self-exaltation is not heavenly. It ensures your poor wings being clipped or broken very soon. We speak exclusively of the spiritual realm. Live looking unto Jesus, and He “will ere long set you with Him” upon His throne.

2. There is quickened activity. “They shall run and not be weary.”

3. There is the unfainting every-day walk. “They shall walk and not faint.” The unfainting walk, the steady march from hour to hour, is the sharpest, truest, final test of a strong life. It is in trifles that character is revealed. It is in small, monotonous duties that we oftenest break down. (G. H. Dick.)

The secret of immortal youth


1. The words point to the plain fact that all created and physical life, by the very law of its being, in the act of living tends to death; and by the very operation of its strength tends to exhaustion. There are three stages in every creature’s life--that of growth, that of equilibrium, that of decay. You are in the first. If you live you will come to the second and the third.

2. The text points also to another fact, that, long before your natural life shall have begun to tend towards decay, hard work and occasional sorrows and responsibilities and burdens of all sorts will very often make you wearied and ready to faint. In your early days you dream of life as a kind of enchanted garden. Ah! long before you have traversed the length of one of its walks you will often have been tired of the whole thing, and weary of what is laid upon you.

3. My text points to another fact, as certain as gravitation, that the faintness and weariness and decay of the bodily strength will be accompanied with a parallel change in your feelings. We are drawn onward by hopes, and when we get them fulfilled we find that they are disappointing. Do you not think that, if that is so, it would be as well to face it? Do you not think that a wise man would take account of all the elements in forecasting his life, and would shape his conduct accordingly?

II. THE BLESSED OPPOSITE POSSIBILITY OF INEXHAUSTIBLE AND IMMORTAL STRENGTH. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,” etc. The life of nature tends inevitably downward, but there may be another life within the life of nature which shall have the opposite motion, and tend as certainly upwards. Look on this possibility a little more closely.

1. Note, how to get at it. “They that wait upon the Lord” is Old Testament dialect for what in New Testament phraseology is meant by “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” For the motion expressed here by “waiting” is that of expectant dependence, and the New Testament “faith” is the very same in its attitude of expectant dependence. The condition of the inflow of this unwearied life into our poor, fainting humanity is simply the trust in Jesus Christ the Redeemer of our souls. True, the revelation has advanced, the contents of that which we grasp are more developed. No matter where we stand on the course of life, there may come into our hearts a Divine Indweller, who laughs at weariness and knows nothing of decay.

2. What is this strength that we thus get, if we will, by faith? It is the true entrance into our souls of a Divine life. We who have Christ in our hearts by faith shall share, in some fashion and degree, in His wondrous prerogative of unwearied strength. So here is the promise. God will give Himself to you, and in the very heart of your decaying nature will plant the seed of an immortal being which shall, like His own, shake off fatigue from the limbs, and never tend to dissolution. The life of nature dies by living; the life of grace, which may belong to us all, lives by living, and lives evermore thereby. The oldest angels are the youngest. The longer men live in fellowship with Christ the stronger do they grow. And though our lives, whether we be Christians or no, are necessarily subject to the common laws of mortality, we may carry all that is worth preserving of the earliest stages into the latest; and when grey hairs are upon us, and we are living next door to our graves, we may still have the enthusiasm, the energy, and above all, the boundless hopefulness that made the gladness and the spring of our long-buried youth. “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age.”

3. The manner in which this immortal strength is exercised. There is strength to soar. Old men generally shed their wings, and can only manage to crawl. They have done with romance. Enthusiasms are dead. For the most part they are content, unless they have got Christ in their hearts, to keep along the low levels, and their soaring days are done. But if you and I have Jesus Christ for the life of our spirits, as certainly as fire sends its shooting tongues upwards, so certainly shall we rise above the sorrows and sins and cares of this “dim spot which men call earth,” and find ampler field for buoyant motion high up in communion with God. Strength to soar means the gracious power of bringing all heaven into our grasp, and setting our affections on things above. Life on earth were too wretched unless it were possible to “mount up with wings as eagles.” Again, you may have strength to run--that is to say, there is power waiting for you for all the great crises of your lives which call for special, though it may be brief, exertion. Such crises will come to each of you, in sorrow, work, difficulty, hard conflicts. And there is only one way to be ready for such times as these, and that is to live waiting on the Lord, near Christ, with Him in your hearts, and then nothing will come that will be too big for you. Strength to walk may be yours, i.e., patient power for persistent pursuit of weary, monotonous duty. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

How to grow strong

I. We have here UNAIDED NATURE AT ITS BEST PROVING A DISMAL FAILURE. Youths and young men are the personification of activity, agility, vigour, and “go.” Their eye is not dim, nor their natural force abated. Moreover, the word here employed signifies the pick of the people, the flower of the youth, the very first and foremost. These are the strongest of the strong, the bravest of the brave. But what happens to them? Even these shall faint and be weary; even these shall fail and fall. It is in spiritual things that this disappointment is most to be deplored.

1. This is a picture of those who, starting in their own strength, are presently disillusioned. Here, then, is a picture of ourselves in our unregenerate condition.

2. This is a picture, too, of how we were when, having been convicted of sin, we began to try to cleave our own way to heaven, and to pave it too; when from self-complacency we turned to self-righteousness.

3. I see here, also, an all too accurate picture of some true Christians. The boastful Christian is represented here, the man who fancies that his native courage will carry him through, who imagines that his wide experience will suffice in his extremity, who supposes his rigid orthodoxy is enough.

4. There are some well-nigh prayerless Christians, too, who seem to imagine that since they are already converted to God, and have had great experience of His dealings, they need no longer be as fervent and as frequent at the mercy-seat as in early days.


1. What is this waiting upon God?

2. What is the result of waiting upon God?

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 40:31". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

The Biblical Illustrator

Isaiah 40:31

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength--

Strength for the returning exiles

There was a real climax in the prophet’s statement.
And its application, in his thought, was to the return of the exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem. God’s helpfulness would be adequate to their needs in all the stages of their return. In the first flush of joy, and in the first flights of eager anticipation, “on which we see them rising in the psalms of redemption as on the wings of an eagle”; again, in the rush and excitement of their hurried departure, the running to and fro in hasty and exhausting preparation; but finally, when they wanted it most, in the long tramp, tramp, tramp of those seven hundred weary miles, day after day, week after week, when their pace must be adapted to those of the heavily-laden beasts of burden, and of the little ones whose strength would often fail and who would need to be lifted up and carried in the father’s arms. How often on that tiresome journey would the sweet music of the prophet’s words return to their memory, “they shall walk and not faint.” Then it was that their trust in Jehovah would be put fully to the proof. It was in the walking and not in the flying that their faith would triumph
. (J. Halsey.)

The Gospel of the Exile

I. This is THE GOSPEL OF THE EXILE the “Gospel before the Gospel” (Cheyne); the good news of the swift accession of power and deliverance to the Jewish people, humiliated, dispirited, and tired out by monotonously waiting in their Babylonian captivity for a long-delayed good.

II. Like all Gospels, THIS GOSPEL OF THE EXILE IS GOD’S. Every true prophet’s great appeal is, “Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard” of God! The whole air rings with His name. The universe is lit up with His glory. The stars speak His power. In His ceaseless activity, fatherly solicitude, and unsleeping watchfulness for His people, He fainteth not, nor is weary. The Exile is not a mistake. You are not in the wrong school. He knows what He is doing. There is no searching of His understanding. Believe in Him, wait on Him, wait for Him, and you will become younger and stronger than ever. So God in His loving care for, and constant education of souls, is the Alpha and Omega of this whole Gospel for captive Israel. We cannot have any good news for any age, or for any people, or for any soul, without Him. All flesh is aa grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the revelation of the inexhaustible God liveth and abideth for ever. The strength of God is the salvation of men.

III. Like all Divine evangels, THIS GOOD NEWS FOR THE CAPTIVES OF BABYLON IS ADDRESSED IMMEDIATELY TO A SPECIAL NEED, AND ADAPTED BY ITS FORM TO EFFECT A PARTICULAR RESULT, namely, that of patient endurance of acute affliction. The Gospel is for men and women who have lost their strength in living, and are losing it more and more, day by day, till they fear its utter extinction by the presence of thickening despairs, and the ceaseless gnawing of spiritual fibre by silent misery and unutterable grief. Nothing tires like hopelessness. Nothing makes the heart sick like long delays. Unto them, therefore, is the word of this salvation sent. “Wait for God.” “Wait upon the Lord.” “Trust in Him at all times.” He will come. He cannot help coming, His nature urges Him towards you with all the tenderness of His love, and all the helpfulness of His omnipotence. Faith in God takes multitudinous forms in the long story of the soul’s life with God. It is a Divine law on which this direction rests. God must be waited for. We cannot anticipate Him. While the soil is frozen and hard we cannot compel the crop; we wait for the spring. The farmer of the Nile waits till the waters rise and then casts his bread upon them, hoping to see his harvest after many days. There is a time for growth, and we must take facts according to God’s plan. Even young men faint in the conflict because they will not wait for God. Defeated and overwhelmed with despair you say, “It avails nothing, I am no forwarder to-day than I was last week, I am as far from the kingdom of God as ever; my passions are as wild, my mind as untameable as it was when I started for a better and manlier life.” Recall Moses. Did he not in his impatience lift up the standard of freedom forty years too soon? But is not waiting for God cowardly indolence and fatalistic apathy? Cowardly indolence, indeed! Nothing will more test any fibre you’ve got!

IV. Like all Gospels from the heavens, THIS ONE FOR THE HEBREW EXILES OBTAINED ITS FULL AND COMPLETE VERIFICATION FROM THE UNCONTRADICTED FACTS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE. The captive people waited for God and on God, and they did not wait in vain. The ransomed of the Lord returned: but the return was the least good they received, and deliverance their smallest boon. Grace and strength came by the prophets and by prayer in unbroken continuity, and fresh gifts of power and light and zeal and joy enlarged and enriched their lives. They were born again. They renewed their youth, and became a regenerated, pure, missionary people; found Babylon a better school than Jerusalem, and the severities and perils of captivity a healthier discipline than the luxuries and security of freedom. The sevenfold blessing of the Exile stands written in the unimpeachable Chronicles of Israel, and the world.

1. First and most distinctive of the gains of the Jews from their captivity, stands their advanced and perfected knowledge of God. The Divine idea was lifted above all the restrictions of race and locality to the throne of the universe; the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob was recognised as the Saviour of the ends of the earth. We fret and chafe in our sufferings and under our chastisements, when to patience and meekness the God of all comfort comes with His sweetest and most refreshing revelations.

2. Next comes up out of the Exile the more definitely shaped and clearly conceived image of the Anointed of the Lord, the Daysman or Mediator, the Lord our Righteousness, the Herald of a New Covenant, the suffering and conquering Servant of God, who is to realise the ideal Jerusalem, and bring a new heaven and a new earth.

3. Fired by this hope of a personal Redeemer, and controlled by a spiritual conception of Jehovah, the worship of God entered on that final spiritual phase which has never been wholly eclipsed, though it has suffered, and still suffers, many painful obscurations.

4. Bound up with this we see the generation of a higher ethic; the birth of a nobler conception of life, as the sphere for rightness of aim and righteousness of character. Through this gate of tribulation Israel enters into the kingdom of holiness.

5. The temporary limitations and restrictions of Israel being annulled, it is forthwith lifted into the stream of universal history, never to be taken out again. It is proved that Hebraism can exist without a temple and without a priest, without an altar and without a land, without anything or anybody save the soul and God.

6. With glowing ardour and intense enthusiasm these elect souls go forth on this service, seeking to establish a knowledge of the true God, urging the heathen to accept the light they enjoy, and sharing with them as proselytes the peace and prosperity, brought by truth and righteousness. The missionary spirit, as well as the missionary idea, glows and throbs in the oracles and songs which represent the highest thought and the purest emotion of this time.

7. This was completed by the enlargement and recension of that unique and marvellous missionary agent, the Old Testament literature, so splendidly enriched with some of its most pathetic and consolatory contributions, so carefully transcribed and sacredly guarded by the “Scribes,” who started into existence in these days; and so diligently pondered by those choice spirits who had learnt to sigh for God as their exceeding joy, and to serve Him as their chief delight. It was the Great Missionary Book. “Salvation is of the Jews.” Believe it, then; exhausted men get fresh strength by trustful longing for God; renew their spiritual energy, their faith in goodness, their power for selfsacrificing work, for fleet-footed missions of mercy, by waiting on God and for God. It is history, and actual experience.

V. This GOSPEL, LIKE ALL ITS FELLOWS, NEVER DIES. It endures for ever and ever as a living message, not effete though old, not wasted though abundantly used, but partaking of the unwearied energy and eternal reproductiveness of its infinite source. Man’s wants are too diverse to be met by any one messenger. God speaks at sundry times, and by different voices; but no voice ever dies out, no message is ever wholly lost, and if not for one soul, yet for another and another, it is quick and powerful, renewing faith, and hope, and zeal. (J. Clifford, D. D.)

Waiting upon God


1. We are reminded of the solemn and formal acts of devotion, as implied in the words--“wait upon the Lord.”

2. The words of the text are descriptive of the state and exercises of the mind; of the feelings and aspirations of the heart in Divine worship. They imply--

II. WE ARE ASSURED OF THE BENEFIT RESULTING FROM THE DISCHARGE OF THIS DUTY. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,” or change their strength; its measure shall be adapted to their different claims.

1. The Christian’s strength may fail amid the many trials and temptations of life, and its revival become necessary. The soul may lose its energy, its decision of purpose, its promptitude of action, its confidence in God, and become weak, irresolute, and fearful.

2. Our situation may demand additional strength. We may be summoned to a post of great responsibility, to the performance of arduous duty.

3. Where are we to obtain this power,--this reviving of strength?

4. With pleasure contemplate the animating result of this renewal of strength. In conclusion, our text suggests

Waiting upon the Lord

I. WHAT IT IS TO WAIT UPON THE LORD. Three things make it: service, expectation, patience. We must be as those Eastern maidens, who as they ply their needle or their distaff, look to the eye and wait upon the hand of their mistress, as their guide which is to teach them, or their model which they are to copy. Our best lessons are always found in a Father’s eye. “Therefore if you would wait upon the Lord, you must be always looking out for voices--those still small voices of the soul,--and you must expect them, and you must command them.” But service, however devoted, or expectation, however intense, will not be waiting without patience. Here is where so many fail.

II. THE ACTION. Elevation, rapid progress, a steady course--soar, run, walk. Is it not just what we want--to get higher, to go faster, and to be more calmly consistent?

1. Elevation. What are the wings? Beyond a doubt, faith, prayer; or, if you will, humility and confidence in a beautiful equipoise, balancing one another on either side, so that the soul sustains itself in mid-air and flies upward.

2. The servants of God in the Bible--from Abraham and David to Philip in the Acts--whenever they were told to do anything, always ran. It is the only way to do anything well. A thousand irksome duties become easy and pleasant if we do them with a ready mind, an affectionate zeal, and a happy alacrity.

3. To maintain a quiet sustained walk, day by day, in the common things of life, in the house and out of the house, not impulsive, not capricious, not changeable,--that is the hardest thing to do. Let me give four rules for this walk:

Communion with God


II. THE SUPPORT OF LIFE’S JOURNEY. “They shall run,” etc.

III. THE BASIS OF LIFE’S EXALTATION. They shall “mount up,” etc. (J. T.Harwood.)

Waiting upon the Lord

I. THE DUTY HERE RECOMMENDED. “Waiting upon the Lord.” This expression may include many acts of the mind, but the connection of the words shows that here it principally refers to prayer. Waiting on the Lord implies--

1. A sense of our own weakness, and our need of Divine help.

2. A persuasion of the power and goodness of God; His readiness to stretch out His almighty hand to help us, amidst the difficulties, infirmities, and temptations to which we are exposed.

3. That Divine help is to be sought by prayer.

4. If we hope for His interposition, we are to be diligent in the use of those means which He hath appointed, and to which He hath promised His blessing.

II. THE ENCOURAGEMENT GIVEN. Such devout, humble souls shall “renew their strength.” They shall grow more steady and established in religion. They shall find a supply of Divine help proportioned to their trials. As their work and their difficulty are renewed, so shall the vigour of their souls be renewed. How far this strength shall operate, and what noble effects it shall produce, may be seen by the following words.

III. WAITING UPON GOD HATH IN ITSELF A NATURAL TENDENCY TO ESTABLISH AND STRENGTHEN THE SOUL. It promoteth that humility which is our greatest security, and restrains that pride which goeth before a fall. It will also lead us to exert our best endeavours, and put forth all our own strength, as we would not be chargeable with the guilt of affronting God by asking His help without them. The nature of the blessed God strengthens this encouragement. Therefore the prophet had suggested to Israel this thought, that “the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary.” His power is vast and unbounded, and nothing is too hard for Him. His understanding is infinite; there is no searching it. Therefore He can never be puzzled with any difficulties, but must know how in every possible case to deliver the godly out of their temptations. Consider also His promises and His covenant. (Job Orton.)

The encouragement of true worshippers

Nothing can give a better conception of the strength and the weakness of human nature, than by comparing what man has done in subduing the material powers by which God has surrounded him, and in providing for his own temporal comfort, and his utter helplessness in those things which relate to the life of the soul. When he has to contend with the powers of nature, he is strong and victorious; but when he has to contend with the powers of spiritual wickedness, and with his own ungodly desires, he is helpless. The lord of nature, he is the slave of sin. The helplessness of man in spiritual things is a disease for which no remedy has been discovered, and for which no remedy ever will be discovered but that which the Word of God points out.

I. WHAT IS MEANT BY WAITING UPON THE LORD? Waiting upon God is a duty very frequently enforced in Scripture, and to which the highest blessings are annexed. “Because of His strength,” says the Psalmist, “I will wait upon Him, for God is my defence.” “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart.” “Our soul waiteth for the Lord; He is our help and shield.” “Wait on the Lord,” says Solomon, “and He shall save thee.” “Keep mercy and judgment,” says the prophet Hosea, “and wait on thy God continually.” It is an expression peculiar to the Old Testament; but in the New Testament the same duty is repeatedly inculcated, though in different language. The precept is the same in substance with the exhortation of St. Paul, “Be ye followers of God, as dear children”; or with that of St. James, “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.” The expression denotes a feeling of need, and a sense of dependence upon the Almighty, without whom nothing is strong or holy. For one to wait upon another implies inferiority, and a desire of protection and assistance. In many circumstances we require the protection and assistance of our fellow-creatures, but in all circumstances we require the protection and assistance of our Creator. He is ever ready to extend to us that protection and help without which we are powerless and defenceless. But He requires, as the condition of our receiving His grace, that we sincerely feel and humbly acknowledge our need of it; and that, ceasing from our own wisdom, and confessing from the heart our own weakness, we throw ourselves unreservedly upon His wisdom and strength. This sense of entire dependence upon the grace of God will naturally express itself in prayer, and in a devout and regular use of the appointed means of grace. Not only in the immediate exercises of religion, but at all times the Christian will be animated by a spirit of devotion. He will keep himself constantly near to God. But waiting upon God not only implies worship, it also implies obedience. In short, to wait upon God is to be a religious man.

II. THE NATURE OF THIS GREAT BLESSING WHICH GOD HAS ASSURED TO ALL THAT WAIT UPON HIM. In the weary pilgrimage which they have to finish, in the sore warfare in which they are engaged, He will strengthen and uphold them. Not merely is help found for the weakness of believers, but a provision is also made for relieving and substituting for it a buoyancy and joyful exaltation of spirit, so that he is enabled to hold on his way with gladness as well as with constancy. The pious man is compared in Scripture to the sun--“his soul is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” The Gospel is a message of joy. (W. Ramsay.)


What are some of the methods by which men, in the Divine economy, advance in spiritual impulse, and rise permanently higher?

1. We must not be biassed by any theory of Church or ordinances, nor by any preaching, to suppose that we are shut up to the dealings of God with us through these channels. The Church is a very powerful instrument, and will be indispensable through ages. Does not the village common school work upon the human soul? Do not books? Do not newspapers? Do not men in all the ten thousand struggles of business? Do not all the influences which go to make up the ever-teeming society? Is there anything which God does not use in operating upon the reason, the affections, and the moral sentiments of men?

2. It pleases God to make the spiritual development of men depend on time-growth. We know how it is with children. We know that they develop first by the body. Then come the social affections, with the elementary forms of the intellect. Nor can you force things in a normal and healthy child. You must take it in the hour of God’s appointment. Third in the order of time, and last, is the spiritual nature. We rejoice in the earliest flower because it is the earliest, and we rejoice in the latest flower because it is the latest; but do what you will, you cannot make the aster blossom in spring. You must wait until the time for it to blossom arrives. Now, among men the same thing happens. There are those who have a premature development of spiritual impulses.. But because the higher nature of some people is unfolded early, are we to make them the criterion for other people? It is better not to seek to produce ecstatic experiences in anticipation of the normal methods.

3. Then there are many persons who renew their strength, who develop into a higher spiritual life, into more fevour, more joy, and more stability by reason of the removal of false or imperfect views of truth.

4. There are many persons who fail to come to the light of truth, and to the inspiration of the higher views of religion, by reason of worldly prosperity, which tends to satisfy their lower nature. Under such circumstances it is that, in the Divine ordering of things, what are called distresses, infirmities, and even great sorrows, are blessed of God to the opening of their nature and to the renewing of their spiritual strength. Men never could see the corona of the sun--the red flame that surrounds that orb--until the sun was eclipsed; and the corona, the light, the glory of God is seen when men are under eclipse and in darkness. There are revelations made to men then, which prosperity never brings to them. We are rich and strong, not by the things which we possess, but by the amount of true manhood which is developed in us.

5. It pleases God, also, to employ the companionship of friends and neighbours in developing men in the direction of their higher manhood. There is nothing that is so helpful to a soul as the contact of another soul.

6. When, by the use of these various instrumentalities our souls have grown, and have come into the possibility of a higher spiritual disclosure, then there is a further soul-growth in us. We come to a state in which there is a direct influence of the soul of God exerted upon us--as direct as sight and voice are to the bodily senses. The Divine Spirit comes into the hearts of men in ways that are inexplicable to the lower understanding, and that, therefore, men who are on the lower plane of life do not comprehend. When men come to a higher Christian life they have days of spiritual insight; and those days grow longer and longer, like the days of the coming summer, when the sun goes down later and later, and rises earlier and earlier. As the result of a whole life of education and practice in Divine duties men may come, at last, into that state in which the Spirit of God shines with a steadfast lustre upon them. Then there is the triumph of grace in the soul. Then intuitions become truths--not fitful, nor irregular, not based upon inchoate and undigested knowledge, but constant, regular, and founded on sound judgment. (H. Ward Beecher.)

The strength of believers, and the renewing of it


1. It is that spiritual vigour of mind by which sin is overcome.

2. And by which the world is overcome.

3. By this strength, spiritual duties are acceptably performed.

4. This strength is that qualification of mind by which the followers of Christ are enabled to endure trials and bear the cross.

5. “A deathbed is a detector of the heart.” But death does not “make cowards of us all.” He who said this, knew but little of the courage which the grace of God communicates to the minds of the most timid of the disciples of Jesus.


1. It is possible for the best of men to lose much of the influence of religion from the heart, and for a time to be very unconscious of it.

2. The corroding cares of the world should excite them to obtain the renewal of their strength.

3. Their strength requires to be renewed, because it is not innate, but communicated.

4. And because the servants of God have gone awfully wrong when it has not been renewed.

5. Good men have done wonders when their strength has been renewed.


1. Prayer is the waiting posture of the soul.

2. Waiting upon the Lord includes expectation. “My eyes are unto Thee; my expectation is from Thee.”

3. Watchfulness is implied in waiting upon the Lord.

IV. THE BLESSEDNESS OF WAITING UPON THE LORD. “They shall mount up with wings as eagles,” etc. This is expressive of--

1. Steady attachment to the ways of God. “Walk without fainting.”

2. Rapid progress. “Run without weariness.”

3. Elevated devotion. “Mount up with wings as eagles.” “They shall put forth fresh feathers as the moulting eagle.” No doubt the allusion is to the velocity with which the eagle soars towards the sun, after the renewal of his feathers. (W. Jones.)

The waiting Christian strengthened

I. THE DUTY ENJOINED. To wait upon God. This implies the recognition of God as the supreme Arbiter and Disposer of all human events. It is the posture of expectancy for every blessing of which we stand in need, temporal and spiritual.


1. The way of public ordinances.

2. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

3. The exercise of domestic worship and private prayer.

4. Seeking to become wise unto salvation out of His written Word, and in meditation on its soul-inspiring contents.


1. It implies the existence of an invincible faith, which nothing can destroy, although for a moment it may be disturbed.

2. This calls into action another principle closely connected with faith, and emanating from it,--the principle of patience and Christian resignation to the will of God.

3. Obedience.

IV. THE ENCOURAGEMENT HERE BESTOWED ON THE FULFILMENT OF THE DUTY REQUIRED,--renewed strength shall be imparted. This implies a declension of strength, fainting, and fatigue; to all of which the Christian pilgrim is more or less exposed.

1. In consequence of the exhausted spirits of the weary traveller never being renewed, some who did run well are hindered, and halt in their career; while others adopt altogether a retrograde movement, return to the path of their former delights, apostatise from the faith, and become worse than infidels.

2. But here we have a direct promise from a covenant-keeping God, that our strength shall be renewed adequate to all the demands which a perilous enterprise can render necessary.

3. We must speak in the language of reproof to all those who are strangers to this operation in the soul; who never do humbly wait upon God, but when chastised and rebuked of the Lord are disposed to resist His authority, to impugn His character as merciful and gracious; who give utterance to all the outbreaks of a rebellious, unsanctified heart. They are both to be censured and pitied.

4. But we speak encouragement to those who have already assumed the waiting position, and are thus tarrying the Lord’s leisure. Endeavour in every possible way to cultivate this holy, humble, dependent spirit. (H. S.Plumptre, M. A.)

Exhaustion and renewal, in nature and in grace

As it is the same God who works in nature and in grace, so a most interesting analogy may be traced between His operations in both. When the earth is parched with the heat of summer, and its productions begin to languish from excessive drought, it is watered and refreshed by the showers of heaven, and its various plants and fruits not only resume their former health and vigour, but spring up and flourish with greater luxuriance than before. The flower, too, that had drooped and withered at the close of day, is revived by the cool and the dews of night, and in the morning puts forth its buds, and expands its leaves anew, delighting the eye with the beauty of its colours, or perfuming the air with the sweets of its fragrance. For every degree of exhaustion in nature, indeed, the wisest and most adequate provision is made by its all-pervading and beneficent Author. When, in like manner, the spiritual strength of the Christian is impaired, and he is ready to sink under.the pressure of temptation or distress; when his consolations appear to be nearly exhausted; or when, through the prevalence of remaining unbelief and corruption, he becomes languid in duty, or faint under affliction--his decays of strength are recruited from above; new fountains are opened for his comfort; he rises as from the ground, on which he was sitting in feebleness and sorrow, and no longer with faltering, but with firm and steady steps, pursues the course of active duty, or of patient suffering, in which he is appointed to move. The stores of Divine grace provided for him are inexhaustible, and the communications of this grace imparted to him are most suitably proportioned to his need of them (Philippians 4:19). (D. Dickson, D. D.)

Waiting on God


1. They earnestly desire the enjoyment of His favour.

2. They diligently attend to, and take peculiar delight in, all His service and will.

II. THE IMPORT OF THE DECLARATION, that they who thus wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; or, as the words might be translated, shall be renewed in strength.

1. That the principles of the spiritual life within them shall be gradually strengthened and increased.

2. That increased communications of Divine grace shall be made to them.

III. THE INTERESTING EFFECTS OF ITS BRING SO RENOVATED OR INCREASED. “They shall mount up with wings as eagles,” etc. This may intimate--

1. That their devotions shall become more elevated and intense.

2. By that renovation and increase of spiritual strength which is the effect of waiting on the Lord, His people acquire greater alacrity and perseverance in doing His will. They shall run, or march on, and not be weary. Here the metaphor is varied, and changed into one that is more common in the sacred writings, as expressive of Christian duty, which is frequently compared to running or marching. “I will run in the way of Thy commandments, when Thou shalt enlarge my heart.”

3. Fortitude and patience under affliction is also the effect of that renewing and increase of spiritual strength, which is received from waiting on the Lord. They shall walk, and not faint.” Even when incapable of being active in the service of God, grace is promised for enabling them to move forward without fainting in the path of submission and suffering. (D. Dickson, D. D.)

Strength by patience

“New strength” is often our deepest need. The machinery of the steamship, the locomotive, or the factory may be perfect in itself, its parts exquisitely adjusted, and all ready for action; yet it is inoperative until the steam is generated and applied. So, what a human being often needs is just--motive power. Not new faculties of body or of mind; not new opportunities for action, or new fields of enterprise; not so much new knowledge either; not even new desires and affections; but “new strength”--fresh inspiration. It is painful to be in that condition in which we feel that we can, and yet cannot; that we have faculty, yet lack inspiration; that we have wings of heavenward desire, with but little power to use them. The prophet here points us to the source of all true inspiration: “He giveth power to the faint.” He points us also to the condition on which this Divine energy is to be recovered: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”

1. What, then, is meant by this “waiting upon the Lord”? We use the word “wait” with reference to service: a servant “waits” upon his master or his master’s guests. We use it, too, with reference to the holding of an interview with a superior: a deputation “waits” upon the Prime Minister; the Prime Minister “waits” upon His Majesty. We use the word also with reference to a state of expectation, more or less prolonged: as when we say that we are “waiting” for some friend. It is in this last sense--the sense of continuous expectancy--that the word is used in the Bible. To “wait” is more than to pray. It is to keep looking for the answer to our prayers. It is the opposite, therefore, both of despair and of impatience. Hence the Psalmist says, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.” And again, “I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in His word do I hope,” etc. So here the prophet does not mean to say that if we would “renew our strength,” we have simply to seek an interview with God and lay our request before Him; but that if we keep looking to God with a believing and patient expectation, new vigour will come to us, our very patience will be a source of strength, and the God in whom we hope will not disappoint us.

2. “Waiting is often the only means of receiving fresh energy.” Man goeth forth to his work and to his labour until the evening. But when the evening comes, he is exhausted. All the organs are there, but they want new strength. The man lies down on his bed, and “waits.” Sleep comes upon him; and through its influence the waiting body recovers all its vigour, so that the man rises again in the morning ready for his toil. Often, too, the very best prescription which a physician can give is, “Rest and cheerful society.” A godly patience, then, is the grand secret of spiritual might. For such patience not only carries within itself the germs of strength, but also places the soul in that condition in which it is most susceptible of quickening influences and can most readily take advantage of fresh opportunities. Power is hidden in patience, as the subtle force of the lightning slumbers in the brooding cloud. Despair paralyses. Impatience, too, weakens. Magnetise a needle, and it becomes much more sensitive to the force of the magnet. And so a human heart which is constantly looking to God will be much more susceptible of all influences that come from God. The soil is ready for the vitalising shower. The sails are unfurled to catch the heavenly breeze. The ear is listening for the whispers of the Divine voice. Whereas the man who has worn himself out by impatience, or yielded himself up to despair, is too inert or too distracted to take adequate advantage of the fresh opportunities which may come at last. On the other hand, the blended eagerness and calm of the soul that is “waiting upon the Lord” make it the more receptive of all Divine influences, and keep it at least strong enough to take advantage of fresh sources of strength.

The renewed of strength

I. THE MEANS OF RENEWING OUR STRENGTH, as expressed in the phrase, “they that wait on the Lord.”

1. There must be approach to God.

2. Expectation.

3. A patient continuance in an expecting attitude, until we actually receive the fulfilment of the Divine promise. This phrase is descriptive, not merely of an occasional exercise, but of what is, or ought at least to be, the constant temper and frame of the believer’s mind.

II. To those who live in this spirit is given AN EXCEEDING GREAT AND PRECIOUS PROMISE. They “shall renew their strength.” Our spiritual strength seems to include chiefly three things--

1. Clear and comprehensive views of the truth of God. We often say that “knowledge is power”: certainly, ignorance of.the truth of God is weakness.

2. A correspondence between our will and affections and the truth existing in our minds.

3. Divine consolation. “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”


The blessedness of Divine service

There are three blessings suggested as consequent upon this waiting--

I. RENEWED VIGOUR. “They shall renew their strength.” This is not arbitrary, but necessary.

1. The intellect is strengthened by holy exercises upon Divine themes.

2. The affections are strengthened by holy exercises on right objects.

3. The will is strengthened by holy exercises in godly purposes. The whole soul gets strength by such exercise.

II. SOUL ELEVATION. “Mount up with wings as eagles.”

1. Holy gratitude is a wing that will bear the soul aloft to its


2. Holy love is a wing that will bear the soul upward to its object.

3. Holy hope is a wing that will bear the soul above to its anticipated possessions.

III. INTERESTING PROGRESS. “Run, and be weary,” etc.

1. Godliness is progress. It is not a stationary state. It is a running and a walking. Forgetting the things that are behind, etc.

2. Godliness is progress without fatigue. There is no weariness in love. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The highest strength derived from the highest service


1. The highest strength is not physical nor intellectual, but moral. Strength to resist the wrong, to pursue the right, to honour God and bless humanity.

2. What is the highest service? Waiting upon the Lord. To wait upon Him implies a practical recognition of His existence, personal superintendence, and absolute authority. This service must be--


1. Soul devotion.

2. Soul progress. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Waiting on God

The Lord’s people must wait--

1. In simplicity of intention. On Him only (Psalms 62:5).

2. In faith. They “wait for the Lord, and in His word do they hope” Psalms 130:5). Even when He hides His face (Isaiah 8:17). Their faith at one time is supported only by the promises,,-at other times by their own experience (Psalms 27:14; Lamentations 3:25-26; Isaiah 30:18; Isaiah 49:23).

3. They wait with patient perseverance. It is not only an act, but a gracious habit of mind (Psalms 25:5).

4. They wait with humility and self-denial. They wait on God, asking counsel, seeking strength, and imploring pardon and peace. This posture of mind becomes the ignorance and guilt and unworthiness of the creature; the perfection, the wisdom and love of such a Being.

5. They wait with submission and resignation. They wait His time, acquiesce in His methods. (J. Cooke.)

Waiting upon the Lord

These consolations are suited to men in all ages, and in all countries. We are precisely in the same position in which the Jews were found--we are equally apt to faint when under God’s rod; and He seeks to inspire us with hope and confidence.

I. Let us notice: THIS WAITING UPON THE LORD. And the first thing that strikes us is the language used by the prophet--language so far removed from mere formal expression. There is no mention here of the use of many words, or of certain external marks of devotion; it is simply, “Waiting upon the Lord!” Evidently the prophet uses it as representing an act of devotion, looking to God for help in the time of need. True waiting upon the Lord seems to have three features, which we suppose to be contained in the words here used.

1. Desire.

2. A collected frame of mind.

3. Trust in the Lord.

II. “They that wait upon the Lord SHALL RENEW THEIR STRENGTH.” We are altogether dependent upon God for our natural, as well as for our spiritual strength. God seems to observe in spiritual things a similar order to that which exists in natural things. Our natural strength requires constant renovation by the food that is convenient for us. So it is in the spiritual life: we can make no provision of grace for the future; we are called to depend upon God day by day. There are various reasons why we should constantly apply to God for a renewal of our spiritual strength. There are conflicts to be endured with our spiritual foes, within our own hearts; we live in a world that is lying in wickedness; we have to do with matters concerning the present life that are often very trying and perplexing in their nature, and often is our courage likely to fail. In an indirect manner, then, this encouraging passage of Scripture reminds us of the cause of our spiritual declensions. It is because we do not constantly wait upon the Lord. (J. Hocart.)

Waiting upon the Lord

1. THE GENERAL PROPOSITION. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”

II. THE DEMONSTRATION OR CONFIRMATION OF THIS. “They shall mount up,” etc. (T. Horton, D. D.)

Waiting in patience

Profane and desperate persons fly off in a discontent and impatience, like Jehoram (2 Kings 6:33). The more willing we are to wait upon God the better it is for us; for He pays for time and gives us the more because we have waited. (T. Horton, D. D.)

Strength for strength

“Change their strength” (marg.). This seems to be the proper sense and meaning. There is a double kind of change to be observed.

1. In quality. They shall have a new kind of strength bestowed upon them, over what they had before conversion, as Caleb had another spirit, and Saul another heart. For even before conversion there is a kind of strength which does appear, and that also in reference to religion, and the duties of it, but it is not such a strength as any are to rest themselves contented with. There is the strength of temper, and natural constitution, and a man may be able both to do and suffer very much by it. This is that which does for the most part extend itself to the outside and form of religion. The strength of wit, and reason, and understanding, and memory, and the like, while their heart and will and affections have no saving work at all upon them. There is the strength of custom, and religious education. There is the strength of civility and moral principles. This was the strength which was in Paul before his conversion. They that wait upon the Lord shall “change,” that is, they shall have another strength bestowed upon them, and such as will be more useful to them. Instead of this natural, and moral, and customary strength, they shall have a supernatural and spiritual given unto them. This is different, and surpassing the other.

2. In quantity and degree. Good Christians shall through God’s grace grow stronger and stronger.

The strength of a Christian

The strength of a Christian is amplified by a resemblance to a threefold motion.

1. Flying.

2. Running.

(a) Because he has a great way to go, much ground to be despatched; therefore there is need of speed for the passing over it.

(b) But a little time, and much time lost already.

(c) The vehemency of desire to the thing itself which we run for. It is a 1 Corinthians 9:25).

3. Walking. Walking is less than running, and fainting is more than weariness. If then those who run are not weary, the same when they walk shall not faint. There are divers things which we are liable to faint at, which yet the Scripture takes us off from fainting at.

Renewing strength

This it nearly concerns us to do upon these considerations.

1. In point of honour, and that especially with God Himself. Spiritual weakness is a disparagement, especially as a relapse, and after some former degrees of strength. The excellency of dignity and the excellency of strength go both together, and he that falls from the one does, with Reuben, fall also from the other. Becoming weak as water, he shall not Genesis 49:4).

2. In point of ease. A weak Christian is a burden to himself as meeting with many difficulties which he cannot grapple with, but which prove too hard to him. There are many temptations to resist, and many afflictions to endure, and many duties to perform.

3. In point of comfort. A weak Christian will be an uncomfortable Christian. (T. Horton, D. D.)

Waiting upon the Lord


1. This sounds as if they were in danger of becoming weary and faint in their minds. Is this really so? What do you say, Christian tradesman--you upon whom God hath laid the responsibilities of home and family--you Christian citizen-you whom the arrows of affliction have wounded--you proclaimer of the Lord’s message?

2. The least can mean is they shall stand their ground.

3. But the margin speaks of this renewal as a change of strength, as if it would remind us of the mansidedness of the grace of God, and its perfect adaptability to our everchanging needs.

II. “THEY SHALL MOUNT UP WITH WINGS AS EAGLES.” This seems to say that the life of communion with God is not a long series of vapid and unemotional hours, a dead level of mechanical and spiritless employments, but a life that has rare and glorious experiences, holy aspirations, ennobling thoughts, ecstatic emotions, spirit-stirring hopes.

1. Purer air.

2. Clearer vision.

3. Untroubled quiet.

4. Rare landscape.

5. Unclouded sunshine.

III. “THEY SHALL RUN AND NOT BE WEARY.” Capacity for the most strenuous exertion.

IV. “THEY SHALL WALK AND NOT FAINT.” Is this the same as saying that we shall have the power of steady perseverance, of patient endurance under protracted trial? Did the prophet put this last in his brief summary because patience is one of those Christian graces that has its perfect work the latest? (J. H. Anderson.)

The strong in danger of exhaustion

It is a great mistake to suppose that only the puny are liable to downfalls. The truth lies the other way! The more alert and bold a youth will be, the more certainly he will at some time overtask his strength. The boy who never knew what it was to be fagged out at school is not worth much. The young man who never overdid himself and felt utterly exhausted through some strenuous exertion in a great contest will never do much in the world--he is not worth much-Not the tame, slow idlers, but the forceful men, the men who rejoice in their strength and to use their strength, the men who would rather drop than give in while another yard can be run, or another step be made, or another blow be struck for victory--these are the men who will assuredly be carried on in the great enterprise until they are weary, and when weary will be carried on by their indomitable spirit, while others are seeking rest, until at last they reel and stagger and collapse. Hence it is for these that the prophet chiefly writes. For the old, for the young, for the sick and infirm, and even for such as may be tottering into the grave, he writes for them, and all he says is true and needful for their case. But more than all, in view of the great work to which he is calling his countrymen, he writes for those who feel called upon to do something in the world, for those who are conscious of high powers, and are in the purest sense of the word ambitious. (T. V. Tymms.)

Waiting upon God


1. It means prayer--much more than an occasional supplication, however real; it means persistent, persevering, continual prayer; it means an abiding attitude of trustful dependence upon God; it means all that is wrapped up in those beautiful words, “Oh, rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him”; it means trust in the Lord and do good; it means trust in the Lord at all times, for with Him is everlasting strength, and have no confidence in self.

2. But the prophet has a deeper thought than this. There are many things for which we can only ask and then wait in quiet stillness, things which we cannot help God to give us, things which God Himself bestows without our aid, if we are ever to possess them. Renewal often comes to men in their extremity like this.

3. But while we cannot pass over such times and such experiences, it would be unhealthy to be dwelling upon them as if they were the whole of life. They are not. We are not always faint. Usually we have, at any rate, just a little strength, and then waiting upon Him means not only prayer and uplooking, but doing His commandments like the angels, who because they do them excel in strength.

II. WHAT IS THE ISSUE OF SUCH WAITING UPON GOD? The prophet’s imagery is startling, and some critics would presume to call his figures somewhat mixed; but the thought conveyed is clear. The older Jewish commentators imagined they discovered here a reference to an ancient belief that at a certain time the eagle plunged into the sea and bathed off his worn-out plumage, and that afterwards new feathers grew. The Septuagint translators of the Old Testament were so sure of this bit of false science that in order to square their Hebrew Scriptures with the fashion of thought in Alexandria, they ventured to alter the words of our text, and to read, “They shall put forth new feathers like eagles,” and so the old Greek version reads to-day. But we have good reason to believe that the prophet drew his imagery from familiar objects in the land of exile. There could be little doubt but that from childhood he had often looked upon some of those carved tablets on which men with wings of eagles fastened to their shoulders were common, that he had often looked on those colossal images of winged bulls and lions and men such as may be seen in our British Museum to-day. Now those composite figures had subtle meanings. They could not suggest to the prophet his religious thought, but his inspired genius laid them under tribute to assist the utterance of a thought of higher inspiration. At any rate he found in the matchless wing-power of the eagle a sublime image of an inspiring and God-seeking man. The figure of one flying through the heavens, coupled strangely with the promise of running without being wearied, represents the godly man as ever having courage to entertain great hopes. Never failing to seek and obtain fellowship with God in the highest, always daring to attempt great actions, this heavenly minded man has thoughts and yearnings which raise his mode of life above the level of common things. This man, however, has this double life. There is the soaring Godward, and there is the common drudgery of daily walk and conversation, the practical common life. (T. V. Tymms.)

Renewal of strength

As we look back on history we can see positive evidence that the promise of this text was historically fulfilled, and in the eases of the men to whom the message came first. The national life was restored, and that restoration of national life in the Jews is unique in the history of mankind; you cannot point to anything like it since man walked this earth, but it took place. It seemed impossible that these few exiles could escape from those nations, and go back to their own land and restore their institutions, but they did. And who did it? The men who were making themselves rich in those days in Eastern cities stayed there. The men who led the remnant back were God-fearing men like Ezra and Zerubbabel, men who waited on God. The wall of Jerusalem, of the second temple, would never have been built but for men like Nehemiah and Haggai, men who had their times of fear and depression and weakness, hut who went to God and came back not only strengthened themselves, but able to strengthen their brethren, so that the great work was done. So to-day in every Christian Church, in every Christian enterprise, in every modern fight for righteousness and truth, there are some men who never know when they are defeated; there are some men who, because of this, are invulnerable men; and the men who, when cast down always say there is lifting up, the men who can live and die for Divine ideas, the men who to-day are converting savage races into Christian peoples and working out in painful and prosaic details, and with much danger to their lives in some cases, the glowing dreams of ancient seers respecting the transformation of mankind, these are they who wait in secret on their God. (T. V. Tymms.)

Exhaustion and recovery

1. If anything were needed to teach men the necessity for connecting their own spirits with the Divine, it is the quick exhaustion of individual resources. Even “as the stream of brooks they pass away.” Faith and hope and love itself, so dewy fresh in the morning, spend themselves in noonday’s scorching heat, and run low at eventide. Sometimes, indeed, long before the shadows are stretched out, in manhood’s very prime the wasting is manifest. I can strive no more, says the tired heart. Who does not know the temptations of reaction, and the days when the lights burn low?

2. In such moods we need to look away from the crowds, and from the glaring lights of the city, to the calm glories of the moon, and the stars above our heads. All these evils, so full of fierce and destructive energies, will soon be as the dust beneath our feet. Truth and holiness and right abide for ever. To “look off” unto the eternal, to get behind the veil into the realm of true being is the need of the fevered and exhausted soul. Hidden in that secret pavilion we see things as they really are. Wrong may prosper for a time. Greed, unrighteousness, sensuality, may appear to be more stable than granite. But they are only painted cloud. We see the years move on, and the everlasting truth subdue all to itself. Maybe in revolutions and bloodshed, for the wheels of God grind inexorably and small. But at the last, evil is found to be in its nature only decay. “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Such a vision restores the heart of faith. To think that we are labouring in vain is the thought that paralyses. But whatever is done for right is done for God and endures eternally.

3. But there are other thoughts that come to us in the quietude of the Divine fellowship. We are shown the infinite powers that He concealed in the heart of a solitary man of faith. Faith is like a spark. Though it seems tiny, it is real fire, and it can set the world ablaze. Faith can work miracles. Our Lord trusted to faith to subdue humanity. It has already conquered half the world, and controls the whole. Luther changed the course of the centuries by faith. Wesley fashioned modern England by faith. Booth by faith has changed the drunkard and the sensualist into saints. All things are possible to him that believeth. If, then, truth is eternal, and faith is omnipotent, why should any difficulties, however stupendous, or failures, however extensive, lead us to despair? (Sunday School Chronicle.)

The source and design of spiritual strength

I. SPIRITUAL STRENGTH, HOW IS IT TO BE OBTAINED? There was a time when our human nature seemed to possess much spiritual strength, but there came a time when it was all lost; and from that time, in the experience of every human being, it has had to be renewed. This renewing influence must come from God; surely that is a statement in harmony both with reason and with Scripture. To speak of a man as able to strengthen himself, so as to dispense with Divine aid, is as unreasonable as it is unscriptural As well might you talk of a leafless tree clothing itself with verdure without the vernal sun--as well of an enfeebled body recovering tone and energy without the reviving air of heaven. Who can bring strength out of weakness? who can bring life out of decay? How is this renewing influence, then, to be obtained? By waiting upon the Lord. You see the progression of ideas; it is strength that has to be renewed, and it has to be renewed by God, and God gives it when we wait upon Him. Some who like to trace the analogy between the works of nature and the works of grace, may perhaps have seen a flower which the storms of night have severely shaken, towards the morning turn wistfully to the dawn, and seem to be waiting for the coming day. Nor does it wait in vain. Beneath that bright beam the moisture that encumbered it is exhaled; its bent stalk raises itself again, its shrivelled petals expand into beauty, and it diffuses around a cheering fragrance in gratitude to the power that has renewed its strength. Your stalk may be a broken one, and your petals may be shrivelled, but by waiting upon the Lord you shall renew your strength.


1. In rapturous contemplation of the things of God. The eagle is a bird that soars upwards towards heaven: so is the Christian to mount upwards in holy contemplation. He has powers adapted to this exercise--powers with which he can glorify his Maker; and he must not point those eagle faculties to the dust, but let them take wing and rise. The most vigorous pinion will never reach the sun, but yet it may reach so high that earth-bound creatures shall fail to track its flight, and lose it in the glare of the excellent glory.

2. In untiring activity in the direct service of God. In common daily duty we are to run in the ways of God’s commandments; but the word is more frequently employed to denote some direct obedience to some special command. We are not to spend all our time in rapturous contemplation. We are not to devote all our lives to lonely musing. It is well to rise up on wings of eagles, but now and then we must come to the level of our fellow-creatures, and in their service we are to run and not be weary. I may be very busy in connection with the Church of Christ and the advancement of the knowledge of Christ. But who is not weary, sometimes, in well-doing! It is one thing to begin, and another thing to go on.

3. They shall walk and not faint--words which seem to denote consistency in common daily life. In vain all my lonely musing, in vain all my bustle in the kingdom of Christ, if consistency of daily life does not accompany the whole. The world expects it of me; Christ demands it of me. This is the religion of the Bible: is it not a noble thing? There is many a young man who thinks, “I find plenty of occupation for my energy in the service of the world, but if I become a religious man, then I am sure to become a poor, lifeless, morose character.” Not so; for the religion of the Bible is this: mounting up with wings of eagles, running and not wearying, walking and not fainting. All your youthful energy will be useful in the service of religion, and you will find it much more happily employed than in the service of the world and of Satan. (F. Tucker, B. A.)

The privileges of those who wait upon God


1. Waiting, in Scripture language, is a term used to denote dependence. “These wait all upon Thee; that Thou mayest give them their meat in due season.” The meaning is obviously, They, all depend upon Thee; men and beasts alike.

2. Another sense in which the word “waiting” occurs in Scripture is, a willingness to be directed by the person waited upon. Thus Job says, unto me men gave ear, they waited, and kept silence at my counsel”: which is as if he had said, “I had only to speak, and they were ready to obey my directions.” And when a contrary disposition is charged upon Israel, the Psalmist expresses it by saying, “They waited not for His counsel”: that is, they wanted it not, nor meant to follow it, and therefore would not wait to receive it. This sense of the word gives us another part of the character of those that wait upon the Lord. They are willing to receive direction and instruction from Him.

3. Waiting, in the Scriptures, sometimes includes the idea which we affix to it in common life; namely, that of attendance or service.


Despondency and hopefulness

I. The despondent are unhappy and weak, and they shrink from effort; but the hopeful are joyous and strong, and they delight to put forth their strength in action. The inertness of the despondent continually deepens their despondency, increases their weakness, and aggravates their misery. But hope feeds upon every act to which it prompts, and it grows thereby.

2. There are various kinds of hopefulness, which differ greatly in their nature and their effects. The nature of each man’s hopes will be in accordance with his ruling desires, and the amount of his hopefulness will depend on that to which he trusts for the fulfilment of his desires. One man’s desires, and therefore his hopes, will go forth in the direction of the pleasures of sense. What has he to trust in for the continuance of the hope that these desires shall be gratified? But, for the most part, these exhaustive pleasures rapidly fret away that on which they depend. Health, hope, and desire pass quickly away together, and a loaded table becomes an object of revulsion. If, however, his desires are set on the more refined pleasures of sense, such as the enjoyment of works of art, his hopes depend on the retention of the delicate sensibility of the organs by which he receives his impressions. But in time the eye becomes dim, and the subtle beauties of a fine painting cannot be seen; the ear becomes dull, and the sweetest music charms no more. When, again, we think of those whose pleasures are more purely intellectual, we know that an enfeebled memory puts an effectual check on the acquisition of knowledge.

3. The slight and shifting nature of the foundations on which worldly hopes are built makes it evident that they can do but little towards giving abiding and progressive strength to character, while frequent failures and disappointments depress and enfeeble. Let us, therefore, see what there is in reserve for us in the large world into which Isaiah is prepared to conduct us We are at once made aware of its vastness, to the expanding and refreshing of our spirits, for we are brought face to face with God in all the majesty of His perfections: the infinite Greatness, to which the nations are as the small dust of the balance. This large world, the spiritual, into which Isaiah has ushered us, includes all worlds, for it is as limitless as its Ruler.

We all, therefore, belong to it in one sense or another, and cannot pass out of it. (W. Howells.)

Strength of soul made perfect by hope in God

I. THE HOPES THAT ARE BASED ON FAITH IN GOD GIVE STRENGTH ENOUGH TO APPROACH HIM. This is the highest of all exercises of spiritual strength, and effectually prepares for all the rest. This is a mounting up on wings, as compared with which the rest are but running and walking. Who, then, shall give wings to a heavy laden sinner, strong enough to sustain him in his upward flight? We have not far to search for the answer.

1. He receives strength to confess his sins to the God of truth from the hope of pardon founded on God’s merciful promise.

2. Hope and strength rapidly grow when faith clearly sees and steadfastly rests on the firm ground of forgiveness in the death of Christ.

3. The justified believer derives strength to advance to closest fellowship with God from the hope that he may meet Him in likeness of character.

4. Who can measure the unfailing strength which inspires the Christian when he feels that he is safe in the threefold grasp of the Triune God?

II. THE HOPES THAT ARE BASED ON FAITH GIVE STRENGTH TO LIVE FOR GOD. If we take the running of the text to mean the rendering of active public service to God, and the walking to mean steadfast advance in character, the Christian requires the strength needed for both in the approach to God. He comes down from the mount made ready, like Moses, for work in the camp at large, or in the retirement of his tent. In so far as the spiritual life is one, it is a life in God. The energy of this life manifests itself in various ways. It puts forth its utmost strength in rising towards its Source when the Christian enters into fellowship with the Father and the Son.

1. The Christian makes a hopeful start in his course of service when he clearly realises the spiritual security of his own position.

2. All the motives which the Gospel presents before him feed his hopefulness and increase his working power. “I can do all things,” said Paul, “through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Our deepest affections are stirred when we are told that redemption was made in love. Once more, the Christian is prompted to strenuous and persevering action by the appeal made to his desires. The highest point in his destiny is to be conformed to the image of the Son of God. “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.”

Mounting up; running; walking

Mount up with wings as eagles, run, walk. That is a very lame finish. Surely there must be some mistake. The man with so keen an eye for rhetorical effect as this writer shows could not have ended this matchless oration so tamely. It is quite clear that the order in which the prophet wrote was, “They that wait upon the Lord shall walk and not faint, shall run and not be weary, shall mount up with wings as eagles.” That is the way to finish. It’s a sorry thing to begin with the eagle’s flight and come down to four miles an hour! “So I saw in my dream that he went from running to going, and from going to scrambling on his hands and knees, because of the steepness of the place.” You know who wrote that, and how true to the experience of a Christian is his picture. Perhaps that is the commentary on this verse. The order, then, may be the correct one, after all--not so good as a rhetorical finish, but true to life. And, at any cost, let him who speaks from the mouth of the true God himself be true. And this is true to life” “They shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run; they shall walk.” The flash of inspiration brings eager enthusiasm; you actively pursue your ideal for a time, and then, because of the steepness of the place, you come down to a painful walk. Is not that the history in a nutshell of what is called the progress of nearly every society or opinion that you know? Whether it be philanthropic, political, social, or religious, that seems to be tram. “Mount up with wings as eagles, run, walk,” and one might almost dare to add a fourth--“stand still!” (F. L.Wiseman, B. A.)

Untiring progress

But is the prophet translated rightly? Our revisers have left this text exactly as, it stands in the A.V., “Mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run, and walk,” and yet I do not think it is what the prophet meant. As we read his words the image they call up is of three modes of motion, three rates of progression--the flight of the eagle, the swift foot of the deer, and the ordinary pace of man. But the idea in his mind is not one of comparative motions. Let me translate that last word again, translate it by a word that is about as wide in its English significance as the word used by the prophet in his own time, “They shall mount up, they shall run, they shall go.” The word does not say anything about the rate at which they go, and is used of the flight of the arrow through the air, or of the way of the ship driven before the wind, or of the gait of a swift-footed animal, or of the ordinary pace of man. The prophet is not speaking of three rates of motion, but he is rather speaking of the active motion and then onward continuance. “They shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall go on and on and not faint.” This is the truth on which he is insisting before these downhearted and enfeebled Babylonian captives whose hands hang down, whose knees are feeble. The man of God, the man who waits on God, is equal to any emergency, is equal to any strength. If you want the flash of a new inspiration the man of God will receive it; if you want swift progress the man of God is equal to it; if you want steady perseverance you shall find it in the man of God also. With a stronger stroke than the eagle’s wing will he be able to beat the air and penetrate to the third heaven; he will run before the chariot of the king and get to the city sooner than the fleetest horses of which even the king of Israel can boast; like Asahell he shall be lissom of limb and light of foot; and when far in the trackless desert even the endurance of the camel gives out, shall the man of God hold on his way. The man who waits upon God has three cardinal qualities which above all others will tend to the conquest of the world--buoyancy of spirits, activity, and perseverance; the man who can command these is the man who will win. (F. L. Wiseman, B. A.)

Recuperative power

But it is said the prophet gives us the natural order. Then I have a question to ask. What did your man of the natural order stop running for? He stopped running because he was tired. It is precisely because he is not tired that the man of God does not stop. “They shall run, and not be weary.” The whole point is there. He walks and does not faint, and he will not have to stop and take rest and food because he is faint, but goes on and on. There is no need for the word of inspiration to tell us that you can begin with a big inspiration and go on fast for a time, and then slow down to the ordinary tramp. You have learnt that to your sorrow by the bitter teaching of experience. But the message of the recuperative power, that you shall mount up with wings as eagles, run and not be weary, and go on and on knowing neither weariness nor faintness, this is the word of inspiration alone. It is a power that is not your own, a power that comes from no earthly source, a supernatural power, power from on high which the prophet is here offering. (F. L. Wiseman, B. A.)

Strength helping weakness

At a certain junction the train by which I was travelling was divided into two parts. One part was taken on by the engine to the higher end of the platform, the other and hinder remained where it was. Some carriages standing on the middle line of rails were to be attached to our train. An engine came down and gave them a push, sending them towards the stationary carriages at such a rate that it seemed as though they would crash into the train with violence. But as they came round the curve from one line to the other friction and gravitation asserted their power. Every moment the speed was reduced, and finally the carriages came to a standstill a foot away from those to which they were to be attached. Then the engine and carriages of the detached front part of the train came back and all were coupled up. And away went those weary, dilatory carriages as fast as the rest. They were now coupled up to the source of the power, and the effect of every pulse of the engine was communicated to them, and had it run one hundred miles an hour so would they have done. That is the teaching of the prophet. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,” they are coupled up to the source of power without, and being coupled to the power without, the effect of every throb of the engine is communicated to the carriages, and the love of every beat of the heart of God comes down to the Church of the living God. (F. L. Wiseman, B. A.)

The power to realise ideals

We are constantly being exhorted to-day by good and earnest men to set a high ideal before us. But I believe that the preaching of the high ideal, divorced from the preaching of its attainment by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, is the reason for more than one-half the cynicism that you find amongst men from thirty-five to forty at the present day. The fact is, men are led to think they are going to conquer the whole land in five minutes, and imagine they are going to realise their ideal before they are five-and-twenty; and when they find that the nearer they ought to be getting to their ideal the farther it recedes into the distance, they are discouraged, and, out of sheer despair of ever reaching their ideal, they give it up, and laugh at those who try to pursue it. I do not say “Do not pursue your ideal,” but what I say is this, “If you ever really want to make your ideal, you must be endued with the power from on high.” (F. L.Wiseman, B. A.)

Godly optimism

The knapsack that galls and oppresses the novice at mountain climbing is borne without fatigue by the guide who is accustomed to it. There are amateur and spasmodic philanthropists who dabble occasionally with the great social problems, and they feel their weight and cry out in despair. But the Christian has had that care upon his heart daffy, and he knows how to bear it, and before whom to lay it. But, further. He who has only seen the sorrow, the grief, the sin of the world has not penetrated to the depth of the problem. He sees the clouds and mist around the planet, but not the world itself. Who, of all men who ever lived upon the earth, was the One who had the sorrow of the world nearest to His heart? But you picture the life of the Lord Jesus Christ from the wrong angle, if you picture Him only as “the Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” He was that, but that is not the last analysis of the character of the Lord Jesus Christ. None had such joy as Christ. Do you remember after His statement of great intellectual and moral truths that make the brain weary and the heart of the uninitiated faint, it is recorded that the Lord Jesus Christ’s spirit leapt for joy, and He said, “Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes”! He mounted up on eagle’s wings to meet the down-coming Spirit of the Father. And look at that time when He has the burden of the world upon Him. He is making His will. What has the Lord Jesus Christ to leave? His Cross. That is His great legacy to the Church. But how does He leave it? In the power to endure it. “My peace I give unto you,” that is the legacy. And when He Calls us home, He who sits upon the circle of the heavens, and sees all the sorrow of this world as you and I can never see it, bids us “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” He who looks only at the burden of the world, and only sees its sorrow and shame, has not got to the last analysis of its meaning; he has not touched the Rock, is floundering in the mud. You must get deeper and deeper yet, and when you touch the Rock--the pillars of the earth--you will come to the fact that under all there is the eternal blessedness. And the man who waits upon God enters into that eternal calm and blessedness. (F. L. Wiseman, B. A.)

Strength renewed by waiting on the Lord


1. The Philistines were utterly unable to find out in what the amazing strength of Samson consisted, until he revealed it to his espoused wife. It was his religious observance of the laws of the Nazarite which occasioned his extraordinary power. His uncommon bodily strength, therefore, was from the Lord; and when He departed from him, he became weak as another man.

2. But the strength spoken of in our text is evidently not corporeal strength; it is a power seated in the mind; but neither is it intellectual vigour. It is often found in persons of weak understanding, and in minds not highly cultivated by refined education.

3. The strength spoken of is a moral, or more properly a spiritual quality. As bodily health is only found in a well-balanced and healthy state of the corporeal functions, so spiritual strength can only be found in souls into which new life has been infused, and is in vigorous exercise. The elements of this strength are--

II. HOW SPIRITUAL STRENGTH MAY BE ACQUIRED AND HOW RENEWED, WHEN IT HAS BEEN IMPAIRED. We are not exhorted to be strong in ourselves, but “in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” But, in order to obtain aid from on high, we must make use of the appointed and appropriate means. These are all comprehended in one expression, “waiting on the Lord.”

III. WHAT BENEFITS AND AIDS THEY RECEIVE WHO WAIT UPON THE LORD. They are said, in our text, “to mount up on wings as eagles.” The soul of fallen man naturally grovels on the earth; his face instead of being raised to heaven, is prone toward the ground. But when the Holy Spirit enters into any man, his thoughts and affections are raised to those things which are above. By the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, faith, love, and hope are brought into lively exercise; and these are as pinions to the soul. When by faith the regenerated soul draws near to God, the earth appears to recede; all its objects are seen to be diminutive; and the realities of the heavenly state are perceived, and operate with power on the susceptible mind. But such seasons of elevated devotion and delightful contemplation are not constant. Our text speaks not only of flying, but of running and walking. Reflections--

1. “The men of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.” When the body is debilitated and needs to be strengthened, they spare no pains or expense to recover impaired health. If they hear of a medicinal spring far off in the mountains they hesitate not to undertake the journey, and undergo the hardships of the rugged way, that they may test the efficacy of the mineral waters. And this is done commonly, in the greatest uncertainty whether the means will prove effectual.

2. As our natural life requires to be nourished by suitable food from day to day, without which it would decline and death would ensue, so the spiritual life of the Christian needs to be recruited continually, with the nutriment which is suited to its growth and strength.

3. Although every degree of spiritual strength is a precious possession, and we are not permitted “to despise the day of small things,” yet it is the duty and privilege of every believer to aim at high attainments in the Divine life, and to encourage and aid others in doing the same. (A. Alexander, D. D.)

Condition and conduct

Every river needs a channel; and the wider and deeper the channel the fuller and more copious the stream, provided the waters are inexhaustible. The river is God’s infinite power; the channel is our conscious weakness. By waiting on the Lord the stream flows into its appointed bed. Let the stream flow on uninterruptedly, and all your need in the way of weakness, helplessness, ignorance, emptiness will be met moment by moment. The result will be as it is figuratively expressed: We shall mount up; we shall run; we shall walk.

I. THE PROMISE. “They that wait,” etc. “Renew” means to “change your strength.”

1. A change from one kind of strength to another. Here is a Christian, bewildered, not quite knowing why he has so perpetually failed. Now when he ceases from self and takes God as his strength, he changes his strength.

2. A change from one measure of strength to another. It is like a river or a stream--always passing away, and yet the power is always present; the power moving the mill-wheel, not by jerks, but by a continuous stream, always passing away, and yet ever flowing in; one measure of strength succeeding that which has been expended. Our whole future is mapped out with tests and trials, but we need not be afraid of these things if we are in the stream of the Divine supply. You see the eagle mounting up by a power that God has given it. But it is possible to rise by another kind of power. By a sudden impetus or effort. You throw a stone into the air. Watch it a bit and down it comes again; the power has spent itself. So it is possible for the Christian to be moving on by a power that very soon expends itself, and by a process of exhaustion he falls back again under the gravitating influence of his evil tendencies. This is not the strength spoken of here. Our Lord refers to a similar thought in John 4:14, “The water that I shall give him shall become in him.” That word “become,” in the new version, is full of deep meaning in this connection. It puts before us the thought, not of a new gift, but of a new experience of an old gift. As long as you rest, in the place of power and blessing the stream will flow through you unceasingly.

II. THE CONDITION of all this. “Waiting upon the Lord.” What is it to wait? There must be stillness of soul, dependence, expectation.

III. THE RESULT. Heavenly-mindedness. “He shall mount up.” There are two wings in our spiritual ascent--faith and obedience. If we try to rise by means of faith alone we shall be like a bird with one wing. If we trust and obey, obey and trust, we rise into a purer atmosphere, and have a clearer vision--we live in the very presence of God. This threefold description of mounting up, running and walking, presents three aspects of the same character. If I am to run and walk I must be in close communion with God; I must know what it is to mount up. Then there is the “running,” that is ready obedience--a mark of the true servant. The “walking” is the most important part after all. It is far easier for some of us to run than to walk. We like a little bit of excitement or emotion. To walk we want something like continuous, sustained evenness of conduct, progressing quietly and steadily day by day in the common round of life; not impulsive, not capricious, not changeable; without show, humble, and always the same. For this we need power. And that power God has provided. (Evan H. Hopkins, B. A.)

Waiting upon God

One brother in the ministry asked me, “Is there not a danger of too great passivity?” I said “Oh yes, my brother, as long as we think it is our activity that must do it, then passivity robs us of time and strength. But once we understand that it is God that must work it in us, then I understand that my highest passivity will be my highest activity, for when I give myself entirely away to God, God can work in me, and then I will work as they that wait upon the Lord.”

1. If you are to wait aright upon the Lord, you must learn to know Him, you must turn away your thoughts and eyes and heart and trust from everything, and set them upon God alone, My conduct in waiting for a man, or waiting on him, will depend entirely upon what I think of him. One who waits upon the king behaves in a different way from one who waits upon an ordinary person. And all our waiting upon God will depend upon one thing--the knowledge that we have of Him. But how does God reveal Himself when He calls upon us to wait upon Him? (Isaiah 40:25-29). He never is weary. He has kept the world going all these ages; and my short life of sixty, seventy, or eighty years--will my God not care for and maintain that? When I look at what He does for the stars, I realise that His work is done every moment. And God, in His omnipotence and faithfulness, is willing to work in my heart every moment of the day.

2. The second great thing is to know ourselves, to be willing and determined to accept what God reveals about us. And what does God reveal in contrast with His great omnipotence? Our utter impotence. If a number of ships of war were sent out to sea, and were ready to start at any moment, and if the question were asked, what are they waiting for?, the answer would likely be one of two things: either that they were waiting for supplies, or waiting for orders. Child of God, that is to be your position. You are to wait for supplies. Wait for the power of the Holy Spirit every day. Cultivate also the habit of waiting for orders. Study and love your Bible, but remember it is God who must give the orders, and you will fail if you take them from a book. Love your Bible and fill your heart with it, but let God apply it in your daily life.

3. Once more, if I am to wait upon the Lord aright I must study well what this word “wait” in itself implies. It implies patience. The Bible speaks about waiting patiently, and also about waiting quietly. You must cultivate that habit. How can you do it? When you go into your closet for your morning devotions, do not, as is very often done, read the Bible and think about it and pray about it, and then get up and go. But do something else in between. Before you read, set yourself still that your soul may realise, I am waiting for God to come in and take possession of me for to-day. That is your great need. And then, before you pray, sit still, and shut your eyes and say, Will God now listen to me for certain? Learn to come into blessed fellowship with God. Then wait continually--not one or two days, not one moment, but all the day (Psalms 25:5). (Andrew Murray.)

Life’s order and the Divine sufficiency

We find here the true order of experience in life.

1. First comes the “flying” stage. The period of fresh, wild enthusiasms; the season of zeal without discretion, when all sorts of impossibilities are dreamed, all sorts of vain things attempted. This mood comes at the beginning, and not at the end of our career. It is in the period of youth that we have our ambitious dreams, and take our higher flights. Thank God for the flying stage while it lasts, for we do get visions in those flights that abide with us long after our wings have dropped off, and we have learned that the ether is not our element; visions whose memory helps to cheer us as hereafter we trudge along the monotonous and dusty ways of life’s hard routine. Youth is full of impulses, full of excesses, full of exaggerations. Let us not be impatient of them. It is a grand thing that there is one time in our lives when we have wings. Too soon the wings, like those of Icarus, melt, and we drop to mother earth again. Too soon a hard and cynical world converts our ingenuous confidence into self-mistrust. In religious experience youth is the time of wings. Its faith is romantic, the thrill of its devotion is exquisite. The spiritual is so real. God is so near. Doubt seems so impossible, and elements of character are forming then that we should be poor indeed without in future time. But the period comes when these youthful impulsions give place to the more restrained and disciplined energies of life, like those of the runner who has trained himself to maintain his pace, and to maintain it by not exceeding it. But running is harder than flying. Watch the bird in the air. Nothing looks less like effort.

2. When we have done flying, we go on running. We have found that after all we have to live on terra firma. But there is immense energy in us still. Thank God, too, for the running stage. That is the time when we are spiritually aggressive, when we count as an active force in the world.

3. But that stage, too, passes. And then we come to the quiet, steady, persistent “walk.” And it is this that tries our mettle most of all. For we have lost the exhilaration of youth and the stimulus of strong emotions. We traverse the solid unromantic ground of principle, while the ghost of many a shattered illusion haunts our path. It is the period of disenchantment; when we discover the bounds of the practical, and when we have a stronger sense of life’s limitations than of its possibilities. To do this makes greater demands upon our moral steadfastness than to do either of the before-mentioned stages in our life experience. Patiently to endure, persistently to press on--whatever the burdens we must carry, whatever the inequalities and roughnesses of the way, whatever the obstacles that lie and the enemies that lurk in our path, whatever the tempests that beat overhead--requires a strength of character and a heroism of soul that are the last achievement and the highest triumph of the spiritual life. (J. Halsey.)

The Christian’s walk

We find the same idea also in the New Testament with spiritual applications. There, throughout, we find the Divine life in man described as a “walk.” To “walk worthy of his high vocation” is the supreme exploit of the Christian’s faith. Other images are used; those of the runner in the stadium, and the wrestler in the arena; but it is always on the walking that stress is laid. It is the daily walk along the beaten path that reveals the depth and sincerity of our religion. Paul had had his eagle “flights,” but he did not make much of them. “Caught up into the third heaven” he had seen “visions and revelations”; but he does not appeal to them as any sign of special grace. He had “run” swiftly to and fro on many an errand of evangelisation; but he does not dwell on these as having called forth any remarkable manifestations of the Divine helpfulness. It was as he pursued the ordinary routine of his ministry along the common ways, with the humbling “thorn” ever rankling in his flesh, that he felt the need of and received special succour. It was in this greater exigency that his inner ear caught the promise, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” (J. Halsey.)

Standing still

But, you say, if this progression of ideas is a true climax, flying, running, walking--why stay there? Why not logically carry the idea further, and say that standing still is the sublimest consummation of the Divine life in many Even so. That is precisely what Paul does say. “Having done all, to stand!” It is when all the romance is past, when all the effervescence of youth has subsided, when all incitements from without and all excitements from within are over, when life has settled into its groove, and, surrounded by the monotonous and the sordid, we find our horizon limited by “the daily round” and “the common task”--it is then that faith rises to its true heroism, enabling us to maintain our spiritual level and hold our ground against the deadening inroads of formality and in differentism. (J. Halsey.)

Renewing strength

Human strength is of many kinds--physical, mental, spiritual; but every form of human strength must of necessity spend itself. All strength apart from God is derived strength, and is consequently measurable, and must come to an end. On the other hand, Divine strength never fails. These two things seem very far away: man with his faintness, God with His eternity and inexhaustible omnipotence. If we can bring these two together, what a wondrous thing will happen! Then the sacred words of the text will be fulfilled.

I. WE SEE HOW A TRUE CHURCH MAY BE DESCRIBED. “They that wait upon the Lord.”

II. WE SEE WHAT THE LORD’S WAITING PEOPLE NEED. To “renew their strength.”

1. Because they are human.

2. Because they are imperfect.

3. We must renew our strength, for it is for our honour, comfort, and safety.

4. It is for God’s glory and our own usefulness.

III. HOW ARE WE TO RENEW OUR STRENGTH? By continually waiting upon God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The continued renewal of strength

No man is as strong as he desires to be. Many things he desires to do but cannot. He would exhaust his strength if he continued working. God has provided hours for rest and refreshment.

I. SPIRITUAL LIFE DEMANDS RENEWAL. Strength for to-day does not insure strength for to-morrow. Full provision has been made to supply this need of the soul. The bread of life for the hungry, the water of life for the thirsty.

II. ALL RENEWAL OF STRENGTH SHOULD BE REGULAR. Spasmodic efforts are dangerous. There must be a regular feeding on God’s Word and promises.

III. RENEWAL OF STRENGTH MEANS A RENEWAL OF ACTIVITY. Use all strength as a gift of God. When exhausted renew your power. (R. M.Donaldson, D. D.)

Waiting on God

This passage has the ring of an Alpine horn. It is very easy to misunderstand this word “wait,” and regard it as meaning inactive passivity. There is a vast deal of verve in the original Hebrew; it signifies to be strong enough to hold out. It expresses a solid endurability such as belongs to a stiff piece of oak that never bends and never breaks under heavy pressure. Thence the word came to signify patience as opposed to worry and despondency. “Waiting” denotes a habit of mind-a devout habit that loves to call on God, a submissive habit that is ready to receive just what God sees fit to send, an obedient habit that is glad to do just what God commands, a stalwart habit of carrying such loads as duty lays upon our backs. It is a religion of conscience, and not a mere effervescence of pious emotion. In short, it is a grace, just as much as the grace of faith, or love, or humility. If you and I have this grace, and if we practise it, what may we expect?

1. That God will “renew our strength.” For every new occasion, every new trial, every new labour, we shall get new power. If we have failed, or have been foiled, God will put us on our feet again. I have often gone to Saratoga, in the heat of the early summer, quite run down, and my vitality burned out as coal gets exhausted in the bunkers of a steamer. Then I repaired to one of the tonic springs and “waited” on its bubbling waters, trusting them and taking them into my system. Presently a new appetite for food was awakened, and a new life crept into my ten fingers; walking became a delight, and preaching as easy as for a lark to sing. All this renewal of vitality was the result of waiting on one of those wonderful healthfountains. I brought but little there. I took a great deal away. Just such a well of spiritual force is the Lord Jesus Christ. All the men and women of power are men and women of prayer. “Waiting on the Lord” by prayer has the same effect on them that it has on an empty bucket to set it under a rain-spout. They get filled. When I have heard C. H. Spurgeon pray I have not been so astonished at some of his discourses.

2. Waiting on God not only gives strength, it gives inspiration. “They shall mount up with wings as eagles.” God means that every soul which waits on Him shall not creep in the muck and the mire, nor crouch in abject slavery to men or devils. When a soul has its inner life hid with Christ and lives a life of true consecration it is enabled to take wing, and its “citizenship is in heaven.” He gains wide outlooks; he breathes a clear and crystalline atmosphere. He outflies many of the petty vexations and grovelling desires that drag a worldling down into the mire. What cares the eagle, as he bathes his wings in the translucent gold of the upper sky, for all the turmoil, the dust, or even the murky clouds that drift far beneath him? He flies in company with the sun. So a heaven-bound soul flies in company with God. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

Waiting on the Lord

I. One of the oldest and best tried rules of religion is THE SACRED DUTY OF COMMUNION WITH GOD. The expression “wait upon” is a most felicitous one, because while it includes prayer it means and covers so much more.

1. To wait on the Lord is the drawing nigh unto Him, to pour out our wants before Him, though He knows them so well, to plead the necessities arising out of our own ignorance, waywardness, and poverty of soul, to ask for His light to shine in our darkness, to clear our minds of the mists and fogs of native prejudice and of traditional error, to make plain before us our path of duty, and to keep our feet steadfast therein, to take into His loving hands the discipline and correction of our hearts, and to make us willing to undergo it, to keep us from all vanity and lies, and from every form of subtle self-deception, so that we may ever be true to Him and to ourselves. But waiting on the Lord implies much more than this. Although we have a perfect right to go to God and pour out every wish and longing of our hearts, worthy and unworthy alike, yet this is not by any means the whole or the highest part of communion with Him. Poor and barren and diseased must that heart be which has no song of praise to sing, no gratitude to pour forth for past deliverances and for present mercies, which has no emotion of adoring love for a goodness so infinite and untiring. To make our religion a delight and a glory we must surely wait on the Lord with songs of gladness and joy, praising Him more for what He is, and for what He has taught us to know and believe Him to be, than for the good gifts which His bounty hath bestowed.

2. Yet, further, there is a waiting on the Lord which is neither prayer nor praise, but silent and serene contemplation, when the mind muses upon His wondrous works and ponders over the stupendous fact that the infinite and eternal God can and will and does come near to the soul of His finite and imperfect creature man, and permits the ineffable solace and privilege of communion with Himself.

3. But all forms of waiting on the Lord involve the personal, conscious, voluntary act of the mind or soul within us, for which no mere ceremony or ritual can be a substitute. All outward observances, whether private or public, have no meaning, and can have no avail without that conscious voluntary movement of the soul towards God. If public worship helps you to this direct personal communion with God, I need not say you are bound to attend it; you are sure to do so of your own free will without any pressure. Experience has proved that, to a great many souls, public worship is the greatest help they ever get, that it gives wings to their holiest prayers and brightness to their gladdest songs of praise, and that it does bring them nearer to God than any other external agency that they know of. But this is not true of all. And I am bound to say that those who find the least pleasure and the least benefit from public worship are those who do not wait on the Lord in private. They do not know by experience the blessings of communion, and therefore these outward aids in public worship are of little use to them. It is like a banquet spread before one who has no appetite or whose habitual food is altogether different, or like a rich and perfect performance of music to one who is altogether destitute of any musical sense.

II. I turn now to dwell on THE NATURAL EFFECTS OF WAITING ON THE LORD, as stated by the prophet, and vouched for by myriads of the faithful and devout in all ages.

1. “They shall renew their strength.” This is what we all need in this weary world, whose toils and cares and temptations perpetually remind us of our weakness and the need of invigorating grace. We renew our strength in the battle with our besetting sin, in the conquest of fierce passions and unruly tempers, and in the maintenance and steadfastness of high resolve. We renew our strength to meet misfortunes and to carry our load of grief or bereavement, to keep a cheerful heart under the depression of disease, and when chilled by the cold shadow of death. And we renew our strength for all enterprise which makes demand on our courage and truthfulness.

2. This leads us to notice the three degrees of moral and spiritual activity presented to us in the figurative language of the prophet:. “They shall mount up on wings as eagles: they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Running and walking

Any racehorse will start at full speed; but how few have staying power! The tyro in cycling will go at full pelt; but only the experienced rider can walk or stand. To pursue the common track of daily duty--not faltering nor growing weary--to do so when novelty has worn off, when the elasticity of youth has vanished, when the applause of the crowd has become dim and faint--this is the greatest achievement of the Christian life. For this, earthly and human strength will not avail. But God is all-sufficient. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

God’s grace sufficient for all life’s stages

The spiritual teaching of this verse is, that for all the stages and moods of our life-pilgrimage Heaven’s grace is available and sufficient. (J. Halsey.)

They shall mount up with wings as eagles--

God’s eagles

I. The eagle is built for FLIGHT.

1. His structure marvellously combines strength, lightness, and muscular power. The anatomy of the bird shows feathers, bones, muscles, and sinews to be designed by the Creator for the purpose of flying; and a master specimen of perfect adaptation e.g., the cylindrical structure of bones and feathers makes each virtually a balloon, so that when the wings are spread for flight, the tendency is upward instead of downward, and no effort is needed to support the body upon the air, which rather buoys it up.

2. Built for high flights, capable of mounting above all other birds, no other being capable of rising to such elevations, or being so at home in the upper atmosphere. In fact, as the air becomes more ratified, the bird seems to soar with greater ease and rapidity, and finds it the more natural to ascend.

3. Built for sustained and tireless flights, maintaining himself without exhaustion for any length of time, and resting on the wing. Those who have watched the eagle’s flight have observed that there is no apparent effort; he rather finds in it rest and recreation than a struggle to maintain himself.

4. Built for fearless flight. The eagle soars above the abyss without even a trace of timidity, a stranger to all fear. What to us is danger, is to him delight, challenging and provoking his flight.

II. The eagle is built for REPOSE. No bird can be so still and motionless when he rests. When the eagle perches on the crag, and grasps it with his talons, the more he settles down, the firmer and more immovable his clutch. The anatomy of his legs exhibits the adaptation of his whole structure to the purposes of perching. The weight of the body, resting upon the lower portion of the legs, increases the tenacity of the hold upon whatever is chosen as a resting-place. His sleep, therefore, is secure, for h,.’s grasp can only relax as he rises upon his feet and so releases all the sinews by which his talons grip the rock. He goes to sleep, therefore, without a doubt that he will find himself there in the morning.

III. The eagle is built for the STORM. He perceives it afar off and is not afraid. This king of birds detects the approach of the storm-cloud, not only with eyes and ears, but with mysterious senses to which we are strangers; and, when as yet there is no appearance of the coming tempest above the horizon, he scents its approach, lifts up his majestic head, looks toward the coming storm, and prepares himself for a gigantic grapple with the forces of nature. He welcomes tempests before which wild beasts flee to their dens in terror. He preens his feathers, shakes himself as tornado and tempest approach, actually takes the very front and leads the storm, outflying it at its most rapid pace, rejoicing in its violence, and, when he will, rising far above it into the clear heights of cloudless day, whence he looks down upon it.

IV. The eagle LIVES A SOLITARY LIFE. There is no bird so alone. Other birds go in flocks; the eagle, never; if two are seen together, they are mates. Its majesty consists partly in its solitariness. It lives apart because other birds cannot live where and as it lives, and follow where it leads.

V. The eagle is TRAINED BY DISCIPLINE. The parent bird trains the young to fly; and, if need be, the mother pushes the young bird off the edge of the cliff, and lets it fall over into the abyss, and tumble screaming and screeching, apparently doomed to be dashed in pieces; but the mother bird watching, drops like a plummet, with incredible rapidity, beneath the young bird, and receives it on her broad maternal wings and bears it up to the heights only to let it drop again; until, by and by, the fledgling is prepared, as the mother bird swoops down to arrest its fall, to take the wing and follow the parent on her majestic flight.

VI. The healthy eagle IMPARTS STRENGTH. A sick eagle, whose vitality had been reduced by long confinement, was set loose and placed on the heather, but only drooped and seemed ready to die. Then another eagle, that from the heights saw the feeble bird, swept down and touched and fanned it with his great wings. This was repeated until the sick bird, gradually feeling the inspiration of the other’s vitality, preened itself, expanded its wings, and ultimately followed in the upward flight. We seldom get an upward look, aspiration, or ascent, unless someone from the heights sweeps down add touches us.

VII. The eagle, thus built for the heights, is NOT CONTENT TO DWELL ON EARTH. (W. P. Ray.)

Life with wings

Waiting is not so much a transient action as a permanent attitude. It is not the restless vagrant calling at the door for relief, it is rather the intimacy of the babe at the breast. They who thus wait upon the Lord shall obtain a marvellous addition to their resources. They shall obtain wings. We do well in picturing the angel presences to endow them with wings. At the best it is a clumsy symbolism. What do we mean by wings? We mean that life has gained new powers, extra ordinary capacity; the old self has received heavenly addition, endowing it with nimbleness, buoyancy, strength. What are some of the characteristics of life with wings?

1. It is life characterised by buoyancy. We become endowed with power to rise above things! How often we give the counsel one to another, “You should rise above it!” If, when we give the counsel, we could give the wings, the things that bind to the low plains of life might be left behind. How frequently we are held in bondage by grovelling to the mean and trifling. Some small grievance enters into our life and keeps us from the heights. Some disappointment holds us in depressing servitude. Some ingratitude paralyses our service and chills our delight in unselfish toil. Or some discourtesy is done to us, we cannot get away from it. Or, perhaps, it is “the murmur of self-will,” or “the storm of passion” which prevents our emancipation. When we get the wings we have the power to rise above these trifles, and even above the things that may be larger than trifles and may appear like gigantic hills. The life with wing-power is not the victim of “the spirit of heaviness.”

2. Life with wing-power is characterised by loftiness. “Mount up!” We speak of a “lofty character” as opposed to one who is low or mean. There is no feature that the Bible loves more to proclaim than this “aboveness.” “Seek the things that are above”; “Set your mind on things above.” It speaks also of dwelling” with Christ in the heavenly places.”

3. The wing-life is characterised by comprehensiveness. High soaring gives wide seeing. Loftiness gives comprehension. One man offers his opinion on some weighty matter and he is answered by the charge, “That is very low ground to take.” “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” It is well when we get so high that our vision comprehends our town, better still when it includes the country, better still when it encircles other countries, best of all when it engirdles the world. It is well when we are interested in home missions; better still when home and foreign work are comprehended in our view. “Lord, we saw one casting out devils in Thy name and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.” How narrow the outlook! One day the vision of the disciples will be immeasurably enlarged.

4. The wing-life is characterised by proportion. To see things aright we must get away from them. We never see a thing truly until we see it in its relationships. We must see a moment in relation to a week, a week in relation to a year, a year in relation to eternity. Wing-power gives us the gift of soaring, and we see how things are related one to another. An affliction looked at from the lowlands may be stupendous; looked at from the heights it may appear little or nothing. “This light affliction which is but for a moment worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” What a breadth of view! (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

The happy effects of waiting upon God

They that wait upon the Lord mount up.

I. WITH THE VIGOUR OF EAGLES. In all true Christians there must be a considerable attention to heavenly things. They are all exhorted to “set their affections on things which are above, and not on things, which are on the earth.” Therefore, they cannot be true believers whose minds are not under the influence of spiritual and heavenly objects. But, among true Christians there is a great difference. Some have their minds much more in heaven than others. This difference arises from their difference in waiting upon God. Waiting upon God their faith becomes strong and lively; their love pure and fervent; their hope joyful and blessed. These graces, like the wings of an eagle, lift their souls above worldly things. Their flight is sustained so long as these wings of the renewed soul continue unwearied; and when, like all things belonging to the human soul, they wax feeble, their strength is renewed by waiting upon God. They who do not wait upon God are weighed down to the earth, and find the concerns of this world, like the fogs and mists of a darkened atmosphere, clouding their prospects and obstructing their progress.

II. WITH THE EASE OF THE EAGLE. There is not only a strength of character, but a simplicity, an ease belonging to them who wait upon God with diligence and constancy to which others who are deficient in this duty can never attain. Now religion is eminent and exalted in proportion as it is easy and unconstrained.

III. WITH THE ELEVATION OF EAGLES. With what majesty does the eagle soar through the heavens and pursue his lofty course, unmoved by those little persecutions of the feathered race which equally bespeak their fear, and their conscious inferiority! Here you behold a fit emblem of the man who, by waiting upon God, mounts up with wings; and, nobly disregarding the censures of the world, which originate in a consciousness of its own inferior excellence, and in a hatred of those qualities it can never reach, pursues his heavenly flight without one retaliating stroke, without one malignant feeling. And see how, even in his sublimest course, his eagle eye surveys with interest the concerns of this lower world. By waiting upon God he is enabled to unite the benevolence, the magnanimity, and the heavenliness of the saint, with the sobriety, the wisdom, and the activity of the citizen of the world. (M. Jackson.)

Mounting as on eagle’s wings

This is the disposition of good Christians to be heavenly in their meditations and desires. This they are upon these grounds--

1. Out of respect to Christ who is their Head, and is in heaven already Colossians 3:1).

2. The new nature which is in Christians inclines them hereunto likewise. What makes fire to go upward? It has a principle in it which does so dispose it. Everything acts suitably to its principles, and so it is here. Believers are born from above, and therefore it is that they are carried up thither.

3. The end they are ordained to. They are “begotten to a lively hope,” and to a “heavenly inheritance.” Now where should the minds of great heirs be but where their estates lie? (1 Peter 1:3-4.) (T. Horton, D. D.)


1. The real marrow of life is in its higher experiences. We manage to endure a great deal that is disagreeable and depressing, if now and then come seasons of spiritual uplifting, moments of soul glow and sunrise. “They shall mount up on wings as eagles.” This is our privilege. The soul is free. It has wings in the joy of pure emotion, in the upspringing might of faith, in the ardour of heavenly aspiration, in the swift flight of love, in the liberty of exultant hope.

2. With some these wings are often folded. They droop often through sheer weariness. They trail frequently in the dust. Making ample allowance for differences in temperament and scope of thought in individuals, the devout nature is not ignorant of blessed experiences that impel the soul onward--sympathies, insights, ardours--refreshing and enriching to the hidden life.

3. A few hints will awaken precious memories. You remember how the spring odours of the tender-leaved woods seized your finer sense as you came forth from the place of prayer, and wafted your thought to the trees of Paradise. More than once, in the solitude and by the sea, amid the noon’s delicious peacefulness, and when the fresh winds blew health and music out of the west, over leagues of prairie, starred with unnumbered flowers, your heart overran with sacred emotion, and expanded to embrace the beautiful repose! Wings were yours. Then, too, after a season of spiritual depression, where you had gone mournfully with a sense of barrenness and burden, the painful spell was finally broken, and you seemed set in “a large place.” Your soul bounded outward into blessed light. Great freedom was yours, and you wondered why such doubt could have fettered the faith that now exults in the joyful confidence of a son beloved. You remember how, before now, you have come into the church heavy, gloomy, discouraged, an evil world shadowing your hope, and life looking sepulchral and poor amid earth’s losses and changes and delusions, and how hymn and psalm and confession and prayer have little by little stolen away your unrest, and then how the Word of grace uttered from the depths of a prophetic soul flowed with healing, and light, and comfort, to your heart, and how, on the wings of its benediction, you rose up stronger and clearer visioned, and went forth as on the landscape of a better world.

But it is in the closet, if you live nobly, that your strength is most graciously renewed.

4. We give grudgingly, we labour in heaviness, we minister painfully, we worship coldly, we live meanly, until the higher life is begotten within us--until the soul gets a glow, and an earnestness, and a breadth of sympathy, and an impulse of high and pure aspirations that make it a joy to do good. Love is always winged. If you would conquer your besetments, rise to a more gracious benevolence, enjoy a livelier consciousness of eternal things, and have your Christian duties delightful; get the ardent, unselfish, consecrated heart of love, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, the Inspirer and Comforter. (H. N. Powers.)

As eagles


1. Eagles’ wings are connected with strength. God spoke by Moses to the children of Israel on this wise--“Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto Myself.” Here God’s almighty power, displayed in the deliverance from Egypt, and with all the varied privileges of Israel, is compared to the strength of eagles’ wings. In Deuteronomy 32:11, it is said, “As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings, so the Lord alone did lead him.” Here the eagle’s wings are brought before us in connection with the support of the young, but at the same time with the purpose which the parent bird has in disturbing her nest and her young, namely, to teach them to provide and to fly. All this is more than verified in the experience of those who wait upon the Lord. They are strong, and their strength is continually being renewed--which no circumstances can exhaust, and which in no emergency will be allowed to fail them. Wherein does the strength of the believer rest, then? The apostle John describes this strength when he says, “I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you; and ye have overcome the wicked one.” In other words, the strength of the believer is manifested in opposition to moral and spiritual evil--in opposition to all that is erroneous and contrary to the will and mind of God. Error is very attractive to some minds, but he who waits upon the Lord obtains that spiritual vigour of mind which enables him to throw off the poisonous influence of error, and to abide in the truth. True manliness consists in refusing to do what is wrong, whoever be the tempter, or whatever inducements there be to give way to the temptation. True Christian manliness fears God, and fears no one besides. The promise of the text, then, is that such true energy of mind shall belong to those who wait upon the Lord. It is strength which St. Paul describes as connected with the power of God’s might. It is strength which is manifested oftentimes in connection with human weakness, and with the changes that are incident to our human and worldly condition. Observe the expression, “shall renew their strength”; for the eagle, although noted for its strength, is not always strong. There is a season when it loses the feathers of its wings, and sits solitary, drooping, and sad, unable to seize upon its prey, and no longer the terror of the smaller birds; but it is noted that during that season, though the eagle cannot rise to the sun as she was wont to do, she shows herself to the sun, and basking in the sunshine, her feathers grow again, her strength comes back, and she mounts up and meets the sun as of old. And what a striking indication this is of the experiences of those who are “strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might”! It is not strength which is liable to no variableness. There are seasons of depression for those who are strong in the Lord.

2. But the Bible speaks of the eagle, and of eagle’s wings, in connection with swiftness. If you refer to Deuteronomy 28:49, you will find it said, in reference to the judgment which the Lord would bring upon Israel if they persevered in sin, “The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand.” We may see the fulfilment of this by referring to the Lamentations of Jeremiah (Lamentations 4:19). The eagle’s wings are used for the swiftness with which they propel the eagle in his Right. The believer, waiting upon God, is one whose experience is described in the sacred song in this remarkable language--“Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Ammi-nadib”--chariots noted for swiftness.

3. The eagle is noted for its peculiarity of flight. It is said that it is furnished with two pairs of eyelids, and that the inner one is transparent, and is drawn over the eye because its flight is always directly towards the sun. Whereas other birds see other objects in the light of the sun, it is the eagle’s peculiarity of flight that its eye seems to be fixed upon the sun, and the eyelid of which I speak seems to be for the purpose of pro tecting the eye from the scorching brilliancy of the sunlight. Now, in this respect there is a similarity to the experience of those who wait upon the Lord. The believer in Jesus Christ is one whose tendency is directly to the Sun of

Righteousness. And what a consolation it is, that in the humanity of Jesus the believer finds protection from all that is awful in contemplation of Deity!

4. The flight of the eagle is the flight of life. Think of the contrast between the flight of an arrow and the flight of an eagle. The flight of the arrow is only as high as it is propelled by the impulse that is given to it from the bow; when that impulse ceases, down comes the arrow again. It is not the flight of life, but of impulse. The flight of the arrow may be likened to those impulses for good which some who profess and call themselves Christians have.

II. WHO ARE THEY THAT WAIT UPON THE LORD? And when is it that they are experiencing this blessed promise? The eagle is flying highest when she sees the world the least. The eagle rejoices in light. When she mounts up with her strongest wings it is in the sunlight, contrasting this respect with the flight of the bird of night. It is always a good sign, when we want the light thrown upon everything that we have to do with--when we want to bring all our motives, and all our actions, and all our plans into the light of God’s truth. On the other hand, “He that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds be reproved.” (W. Cadman, M. A.)

The wings of surrender and trust

We might name our wings the wings of surrender and trust. If we will only surrender ourselves utterly to the Lord, and will trust Him perfectly, we shall find our souls “mounting up with wings as eagles” to the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, where earthly annoyances or sorrows have no power to disturb us. (Mrs. Pearsall Smith.)

Crawling and soaring

The caterpillar, as it creeps along the ground, must have a widely different, view of the world around it, from that which the same caterpillar will have when its wings are developed, and it soars in the air above the very places where once it crawled. And similarly the crawling soul must necessarily see things in a very different aspect from the soul that has “mounted up with wings.” (Mrs. Pearsall Smith.)


This is what the soul on wings does. It overcomes the world through faith. To overcome means to “come over,” not to be crushed under; and the soul on wings flies over this world and the things of it. (Mrs. Pearsall Smith.)

Spiritual difficulties

A friend once illustrated to me the difference between three of her friends in the following way. She said, if they should all three come to a spiritual mountain which had to be crossed, the first one would tunnel through it with hard and wearisome labour; the second would meander around it in an indefinite fashion, hardly knowing where she was going, and yet because her aim was right, getting around it at last; but the third, she said would just flap her wings and fly right over. (Mrs. Pearsall Smith.)

Wings must be used

Not the largest wings ever known can lift a bird one inch upward unless they are used. (Mrs. Pearsall Smith.)

Weights holding the soul to earth

As well might an eagle try to fly with a hundred-ton weight tied fast to its feet, as the soul try to “mount up with wings” while a weight of earthly cares and anxieties is holding it down to earth. (Mrs. Pearsall Smith.)

“With wings as eagles”

Once when I was in Switzerland I saw an eagle, a splendid bird, but it was chained to a rock. It had some twenty or thirty feet of chain attached to its legs, and to an iron bolt in the rock. There was the king of birds, meant to soar into heaven, chained down to earth. That is the life of multitudes of believers. Are you allowing business, are you allowing the cares of the world, are you allowing the flesh to chain you down, so that you cannot rise up?

1. You ask me, How can I get these eagle wings? I answer, How did the eagle get its wings? By its birth. It was born a royal eagle; it had a royal descent. And every child of God is born with eagle wings. God means you to live a heavenly life.

2. How does God teach His eaglet children to use their wings? He comes and stirs up their nest. Sometimes with a trying providence, with a death, with sickness, with loss, with some tribulation, with temptation. Why? Just as those eaglets, ready to sink, find the mother coming under them and carrying them, so the everlasting arms are stretched out underneath the soul that feels itself ready to perish, and God calls upon the soul to trust Him. As the eaglet trusts the mother to carry it, God asks me to trust Him, that He will bear me. And God longs to teach His children to mount on eagle wings. But how can they do it? “They that wait upon the Lord shall mount up with wings as eagles.” God often comes to the Christian worker and stirs up the nest, because He sees the eagle wings are not being used.

3. What is the characteristic of the eagle wings? To be able to mount up to heaven, the wings of the eagle must have greater strength than the wings of any other bird. And God wants His children to be so strong that they can live above the world. The great mark of the disciple of Christ that Christ spoke of in His prayer to the Father was, “They are not of the world, as I am not of the world.” They belong to heaven, their life and heart are there. This idea of strength is the great idea of our text, and you have it in the words that precede (Isaiah 40:28-31). You find that word “faint” four times in the passage. First, it is God “fainteth not”; and then it is, He giveth power to the “faint”; and then it is, the young men shall “faint.” All human strength shall faint--the very strongest shall faint and be of no avail. Then, “They shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not ‘faint.’” (Andrew Murray.)

The glory of the common life

This movement from the wing of the eagle to the foot of man is no descending path, no record of decaying spiritual vigour, but rather the ascending line of life.

1. Religion is not some highly wrought emotional experience--rare, ecstatic, lifting us into the seventh heaven; but an accession of permanent spiritual power to enable us to do the work of our everyday life and grow in the grace of a normal Christian character. In the common experience of man all true religion begins on the soaring wing of some strong emotion, some wave of feeling that comes over the heart for mercies received. It was as Moses when God met him in the desert of Horeb and showed him the burning bush, a rare sight, a moment of vision of heavenly things from which all future experiences were to be dated. The common lot of man falls upon the believer; the moment of thrill and ecstasy passes away. Moses has to go down to Egypt among the politicians and do the hard work and drudgery of life. Is, then, the ecstasy a waste of force? Moses, as he turned to the worrying work of rounding up the Israelites for the long journey over seas and across the desert, may frequently have thought that God s service had not procured for him either the ease or the honour that the ecstatic experiences of the burning bush had promised. But when we look back on the life and work of the great statesman we can see that the burning bush was but an ancillary incident in a great moral career; and that the patient, daily labour, the unflinching loyalty to duty, which for forty years had to be pursued in all weathers and in all moods, are the facts that loom large like mountain peaks in this great life. It was to warm his heart and inspire his spirit for those days of toil and nights devoid of ease that the vision was given. It was precisely the same truth that we find illustrated in the religious experience of the apostle Paul. His spiritual life began with a celestial vision; and in its upward development he came, not to more and clearer visions, but to the perception of a sanctity and nobility which lay in the common work of life. The Christian man as father and priest in his own household hallows his home by the benediction of his morning prayers. You do not regard your morning prayer as false and futile because during the day you cannot live up to all your own high ideals. The aspiration to be better is itself the accession of power to do better. This truth, so full of the poetry of passion and the deepest philosophy of life, is brought to us with wonderful force and tenderness in Hogg’s “Skylark.” The wild abandon of feeling that carried the songster so far into the sky was not frenzy nor foolishness because he had to come back and gather worms for the nestlings. On the contrary, there had been no nestlings but for the emotion that produced that song. And the song of rapture found its crowning glory in the lowly service of the obscure nest.

2. The intellectual man is in danger of disparaging the emotions and of setting aside the mysticism and ecstasy of the soul as mere fancies and dreams. But the emotional man is in still greater danger of regarding them as the only kind of religious experiences worth seeking after, the only evidence of true religion in the heart, and certainly the glory of the Christian life. In a word, the emotional man regards the glory and crown of life to be the rapture and ecstasy of the love and faith, and not the works and character which these feelings should produce. He mistakes the means for the end. In the effort to correct this mistake we must go the length of saying that love to and trust in Christ are not religion at all; just as seeds are not trees. They become religion only as they are transmuted into Christian character in the daily work and warfare of the common life. It is of vital importance that people should understand the laws of life in regard to the relation of emotions to acts. Pleasure is not an end, but the servant of higher and nobler ways of living. Nature provides that eating and drinking shall be a pleasure to man; but what is the man called who cares merely for the pleasure of eating; who lives to gratify his appetites and never does an honest day’s work for the food he consumes? No deeper stain, no more deadly practice can come into our life than the pursuit of pleasure for its own sake. The moment you love the excitement more than the work, so that you come soon to steal the excitement and shirk the work, nature revenges herself on you by making all such work as you are forced to do a drudgery instead of a pleasure. I have heard hard-working wives and mothers say, “I have lost my religion! I have so many little children to care for, so many duties in the home that I cannot get to church.” Is not this mother’s care and self-sacrifice for her children her religion? What did she love and trust Christ for? That she might gad about at religious meetings, or that she might bring up her little ones m the fear of

God? She and her child, with the sense of the presence of the Father-God, make that nursery the holiest of shrines. If a youth should learn mathematics and mensuration in school for the purpose of making him a surveyor, and then be sent out into the prairies or the Rocky Mountains for six months to apply his theoretical knowledge to the practical work of his profession, you would pronounce him crazy if, when he came back with a successful survey of the region, he should say, “Yes, that is good work, but I have lost my mathematics; I was not in a school all those six months.” The mathematics were a means to an end. If faith and love to God are spiritual things, then their glory lies just in this--that they are not dependent outlines and places, on churches, on moods or sentiments. It is not the state of “feeling good” that makes a man a humble, true Christian, but the act of doing good. Faith and prayer and the emotional exaltation of the church service are only the raw material out of which religion is made. Religion is life, and the deepest and grandest of all the realities of life. Life is known and expressed only as we test and try the religious emotions in all those various phases of business and social activity. The eagle’s wing can carry me far, but it is in danger of leaving me remote, and so out of touch with common men and common interests. I want to be able to walk without weariness, to sympathise with plain people, to enter into the lowly door of pity, to keep company with the plodding man on the highway, and the toilers in the field. (D. Beaton, D. D.)

The ecstasies and commonplaces of love

Nature makes no mistakes in the manner in which it moves its creatures in those elemental feelings which have the perpetuation of life as their object. She is far-sighted, she has purposes in view. The lover is to become a husband; the husband is a protector and provider: the duties incident to that lot are prosaic and often dull. In a word, the common lot is soon to fall upon those two souls now transported into the seventh heaven by the ecstasies of love. They will have to discuss ways and means of domestic economy. Salaries and savings, the price of meat and babies’ clothes, not to speak of new gowns for this paragon of beauty herself, will all be serious questions that cannot be effectually settled without a good deal of the tenderness that still warms their hearts from the old ecstasy. (D. Beaton, D. D.)

The Christian’s air-ship

I. NOTE CERTAIN FACTS OF AERIAL FLIGHT to illustrate some experience of a soul elevated to fellowship with God.

1. As with the aeronaut so with the Christian, the higher he rises from earth the smaller the world appears. Afflictions seem “light” and “but for a moment.” Honour, wealth, and all material things seem mere earth toys.

2. As with the air navigator, so with the Christian rising from the earth, impurities and discord are left below. The soul that waits upon God and rises to the high privileges tendered by the grace of God, rises above the nauseating vices and conquering swarms of poisonous temptations, and the annoying, stinging adversities incident to sinful human life.

3. As with the sailor of the air in his realm, so with the Christian in his, each gets a better, broader view and a truer perspective as he rises. To the aeronaut the horizon is widened. True experimental religion is exceedingly broad, sane, and tolerant. It holds truest ideas as well as loftiest ideals. Not he who comes close and stays close to some little wall of prejudice, some river of personal preference, some mountain of hereditary impulse, or some self-constructed village of creeds, but he who on wings of faith rises to higher altitudes for observation and sees all and each in its relation to all others--such hold opinions most in accord with truth.

4. As with the navigator of the air in his realm, so with the Christian in the spiritual realm, each is inspired with healthful vigour as he rises, the one on the wings of the wind and the other on the wings of an intelligent, rational faith and the exercise of his soul in prayer. Dr. Naiger, at a meeting of the Academy of Medicine in France, tells us that ascension into the air acts as a powerful tonic; that the red corpuscles of blood are multiplied in a remarkable degree and with astonishing rapidity; further, that the recuperated condition remains for some time after the navigator returns to the ground. He gives it as his professional opinion that five brief air-ship trips are of more value to a consumptive than would be a summer in the mountains. As Christians, we cannot get permanently away from the world of sin any more than the air navigator can get permanently away from terra firma. We go like the disciples of old with Jesus to the Mount of Transfiguration, to our public and private devotions, to gather strength for the duties that will appear in the valley.


1. One principle which has been quite lately discovered, and which is held by at least one school of aerial scientists, is that the elevating power and the propelling power must be from the same source, and all are agreed that they must be in harmony, and so arranged that they will in no way conflict. The balloon idea as an elevating power is constantly lifting straight upward, while a propelling power of some kind of enginery drawing horizontally is constantly in conflict with the elevating power. Prof. Thomas May, in The Aeronautical Journal, declares that before there can be successful navigation of the air, the propelling power and the elevating power must be in exact harmony, if not produced by the same appliance Some very successful experiments have been made with “gliding-machines,” the balloon idea having been abandoned in these appliances. And with this principle the Wright brothers have been enabled to move their machines near the earth or far away as they choose, sometimes gliding only a few inches from the surface. For the Christian to make progress in his spiritual flight, whether near to or far from the earth, this principle must be rigidly enforced and carefully observed. God’s Spirit is the elevating power. Our own wills and purposes constitute the propelling power of the soul. These must be in harmony with the will of God, be submerged into His will, so that the elevating power and the propelling power are one in every essential, though some way God needs the modifying elements of our own consecrated purposes. For while “we can do nothing without Him,” it is equally true that in practical, spiritual grace He has so arranged His plans that He does nothing without us.

2. Note one more principle of aerodynamics, which is called the Langley law because it was discovered and applied by Prof. S.P. Langley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and the inventor of an air-ship device known as Langley’s aeridrome. The law is that as the speed of a flying-machine increases, the power necessary to propel it decreases in definite proportions. Theoretically, this is true indefinitely; but, practically, only to a certain limit. Just why, when the working hypothesis is tried, the experiment fits the theory only to a certain limit, has not yet been fully explained; but the theory has been demonstrated so that it is worthy of a place among scientific principles. The law certainly prevails within the limit of natural and acquired ability, and modified by opportunity, in the human soul in its operations in the spiritual realm. The more decidedly and persistently, determinedly and vigorously, the Christian prosecutes his spiritual movements, the easier it becomes for him to do so, and he finds by practical experiment that as he advances he is able to accomplish more and more with less and less of propelling power. More and more he speeds along with less of emotional feeling and persistent determination. (F. W.Luce, D. D.)

The eagle’s strength

The swiftness of its flight shows its strength. The eagle is often known to fly at the rate of between forty and fifty miles an hour. Then, the great height to which it flies shows its strength. Then, in the food which it carries to its nest for its young ones to eat, we see the strength of the eagle. It carries geese, and turkeys, and kids, and lambs, and even little children for its young ones to feed on. In one of the cantons of Switzerland, two little girls were playing together in a meadow; one of them was about three years old, and the other five. While they were busy in their play, an eagle came and swooped down upon them. He seized hold of the elder child, and carried her away to his nest, which was about the distance of a mile and a half from where he found the child. And there the remains of the poor child were found by a hunter some time afterwards. (R. Newton, D. D.)

Living above the world

Observatories used to be erected in the heart of cities, but it was found that these were the worst places for them. The atmosphere is obscured, the instruments do not act properly, and now they are built thousands of feet above the sea. We must rise into God’s own climate if we would see things in God’s own light, and correct our consciences by the eternal. Just as man lives on a high level he is safe from moral contamination and hurt. I have read that when the eagle flies in the depth of blue the bullet of the sportsman merely brushes his feathers. Its force is all spent before it reaches him. The eagle shakes it disdainfully from his wings, and soars away into the heavenly places. Travellers tell us that in the Australian forests it is almost impossible to bring down a cockatoo, because the bird seeks refuge in the highest branches of the gigantic trees. It is no use fighting temptation on a low level. Fly high, and its bullets will be spent before they reach you. (W. L. Watkinson.)

They shall run, and not be weary

The unwearied runner

I. THE RUNNING. There are different paces among the Lord’s servants: Ahimaaz is swifter than Cushi, and John outruns Peter, but he who by faith has truly entered upon the road to heaven, though his march be slow and limping, shall nevertheless ultimately reach his journey’s end. Scores of timid believers creep towards heaven as the snail crept into the ark. However, there is no reason why you should imitate these slowly moving pilgrims; if Mephibosheth be lame in both his feet, it is not desirable that you should imitate his limp.

1. Running is the pace of energy. Be it yours and mine to outstrip the energy of this world, and so to run in our Master’s ways as to prove that the servants of Christ can render Him more loyal and devoted service than princes win from their favourites and flatterers.

2. Running is a pace which indicates fulness of alacrity. Mark often uses about our Lord the words “straightway” and “immediately.” Mark’s is the Gospel descriptive of Christ as a servant, and it is one of the attributes of a good servant that he is prompt at once to do his lord’s bidding.

3. To run is to be diligent.

4. Running indicates thorough-going hearty zeal.


1. Running is most commendable, because it is a warming pace.

2. Running is a pace that clears the ground.

3. It is a cheering pace.

4. It is the winning pace.

5. It is a fitting pace for a believer.

III. THE RUNNER’S GIRDLE. “They that wait upon the Lord shall run, and not be weary.” What is it to “wait upon the Lord”? Singleness of eye in serving God, simplicity of dependence upon the Divine power, and constant expectation that the power will be given.

IV. THE RUNNER’S STAFF. The runner’s consolation lies in this promise, that “he shall not be weary.” How is it that running Christians do not become weary?

1. Because they have daily strength given them for all their daily needs.

2. As the Christian advances he finds fresh matter to interest him.

3. Above all, there is one fact that keeps the Christian from weariness, namely, that he looks to the end, to the recompense of the reward. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

They shall walk, and not faint

They shall walk, and not faint

When [the prophet] says last, and most impressively, of his people’s fortunes, that “they shall walk, and not faint,” he has, perhaps, just those long centuries in view, when, instead of a nation of enthusiasts taking humanity by storm, we see small bands of pioneers pushing their way from city to city by the slow methods of ancient travel,--Damascus, Antioch, Tarsus, Iconium, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, and Rome--everywhere that Paul and the missionaries of the Cross found a pulpit and a congregation ready for the Gospel; toiling from day to day at their own trades, serving the alien for wages, here and there founding a synagogue, now and then completing a version of their Scriptures, often times achieving martyrdom, but ever living a pure and a testifying life in face of the heathen, with the passion of these prophecies at their hearts. It was certainly for such centuries and such men that the word was written, “they shall walk, and not faint.” (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 40:31". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Isaiah 40:27-31. Why sayest thou, &c.— The third, or consolatory part of this discourse begins at this verse, wherein the foregoing doctrine and prophesy are applied to the comfort of the church; who, in her various afflictions, complained that she had been neglected of the Lord. This complaint makes the basis of the consolation contained in this verse. The consolation itself follows; in the first part whereof it is shewn, that God is not faint or wearied with the care of his church; that it is not a burden to him; that his providence comprehends all things, and nothing is exempted from it; that his understanding is infinite; for this is the meaning of the last clause of Isaiah 40:28 which is parallel to Psalms 147:5. The second part teaches that the same God was able to supply and would supply strength, to the faint and weary; to those among his people whose faith and hope were very low; which he would support in the faithful even until the manifestation of the great salvation: that the faithful should not fail, but persevere until the time of grace, and reassume new strength with that happy period. This doctrine or promise is proposed in Isaiah 40:29 and is explained and illustrated by a simile, Isaiah 40:30-31. See Psalms 103:5. The spiritual sense of this passage is plain; namely, that God will never fail those who put their trust in him. In this prophetical sense it refers to those apostles and first preachers, who, with indefatigable ardour, and unwearied perseverance, ran, and were not weary, walked and fainted not, in the great business to which they were called; preaching Christ amid persecutions, perils, and martyrdom, and every where proclaiming the kingdom of God. See 1 Corinthians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 4:21 and Vitringa.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The conclusion of the prophet's message in the former chapter spoke terror and conviction; the opening of this joy and consolation; for though it be a needful severity to wound, it is the more pleasing part of our office to bind up the broken-hearted, and to preach the Gospel of peace.

It would afford the pious Jews a beam of cheering hope amid the evils that were expected, and support the fainting spirits of the poor captives, to have these great and precious promises set before them, and to be assured that, whatever they suffered, there was hope in the end. We have here,

1. The commission given: Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God; speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, or, to the heart of Jerusalem, and cry unto her. [1.] The persons addressed are my people; this is their character. [2.] The person speaking, your God, your reconciled God in Jesus Christ, in whose love his believing people are interested, and therefore may expect all that almighty power, boundless mercy, and infinite wisdom can bestow. [3.] The employment of God's ministers is, to comfort his people, who are often greatly dejected through affliction, temptation, or corruption. [4.] The order is repeated, and they are commanded not only to speak, but cry aloud; for though it be the privilege of God's people to rejoice, and his will concerning them that they should be happy in him, yet sometimes they are apt to write bitter things against themselves, and can then scarcely be persuaded to receive the blessings which God hath in store for them.

2. The mercies promised; and these are, [1.] The pardon of sin. Her iniquity is pardoned; however deep the die, and aggravated the guilt, it is pardoned freely and fully. The blood and infinite merit of Jesus have obtained the pardon for us, and there is no condemnation to them that believe. [2.] Victory over all our enemies. Her warfare is accomplished. Christ, the captain of our salvation, hath vanquished, for the faithful, sin, Satan, death, and hell; and hath entered into the land of glory, as a conqueror, to take possession. Though we have a warfare to maintain, while we are in the body, against flesh and blood, against the world and the devil; yet by his grace those who perseveringly cleave to Christ shall be more than conquerors, and see quickly all their enemies put under their feet. [3.] She hath received at the Lord's hand double for all her sins. God speaks as a tender parent, whose love makes him think the corrections he had given his dear children beyond measure: or rather the words intimate the full satisfaction which God hath taken of Christ our surety, exacting from him to the uttermost the desert of our iniquities, and in consequence pouring down upon his church superabundant grace and blessings.

2nd, The scriptures of the New Testament have not left us uncertain of the person, whose voice should cry in the wilderness. John, like the morning-star, the harbinger of day, appears to usher in the Sun of Righteousness, and to awaken, by his preaching, the souls of sinners to turn their eyes towards the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.

1. The cry is, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a high-way for our God. Jehovah, our God, here spoken of, is the glorious Redeemer, whose eternal godhead is asserted. Our hearts are a desert, till his presence and love change the dreary scene. Where his footsteps tread, waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams of grace and consolation in the desert. The preparation for him must be from him; and he that commands must give the hearing ear, the contrite heart, and dispose us to welcome him into our souls; and then if we will open to him, he will enter in, and bless us with his presence.

2. Where Jesus comes, 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. Such will be the effects of his grace upon the souls of believers; those who were sunk into the lowest deep under the sense of guilt, shall be raised up by divine mercy and exalted: the proud, who in their own eyes before were high in conceit of their own worth and excellence, shall be brought low, and acknowledge their sin and vileness: the crooked and rough ways of men of perverse minds shall be made straight, their errors removed, their corrupt practices reformed, and their hearts renewed in holiness.

3. The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, the Redeemer Jesus, the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person, and all flesh shall see it together; he being the universal Saviour, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it, and therefore no jot or tittle of his promises shall fail.

4. A farther commission is given to the preachers and at his request he is instructed what to cry; which may refer to the weakness and impotence of the Babylonians, to detain the Jews in their captivity, when the Lord should arise to save them; or, more generally, may be applied to all men, where the word of the Gospel is preached, as an alarming motive to attend to the great and precious promises of a better world, seeing this is so frail and fading. All flesh is grass, weak and withering, and all the goodliness thereof as the flower of the field, which, though it look more gay and beautiful, is as frail and feeble. Such are all human gifts and greatness, which, however specious, quickly fade. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it; then drooping, dying, all our beauty and glory languish: health loses its bloom, our possessions fade away, and death closes the scene: or when the Spirit of Jehovah breathes upon us in conversion, our past doings and duties appear poor and wretched; and those things on which we prided ourselves we count loss, that we may win Christ. Surely the people is grass, all people of every age, rank, and degree; the grass withereth, the flower fadeth, such perishing things are all merely natural excellencies; but the word of our God shall stand for ever; and therefore, when all beside perishes, and every earthly comfort or possession in death is for ever lost, they who make the great and precious promises of the Gospel their constant stay, will find, to their everlasting comfort, a portion which cannot fail them in the better world of glory.

3rdly, Great was the joy when, by the edict of Cyrus, once more the Jews were permitted to return to their own land, and loudly was it proclaimed by those who had at heart the prosperity of Zion. To this the prophesy may refer; but it was evidently designed for the days of Christ, and respects his incarnation.

1. His manifestation in the flesh is proclaimed to sinners, as their greatest happiness. O Zion, that bringest good tidings, when his ministry chiefly was exercised; or, O thou that bringest good tidings to Zion, as addressed to John the Baptist, and all the ministers of the Gospel, whose office it is to proclaim the divine, glorious, and transcendent excellence of the Redeemer, in all his offices and undertakings for the salvation of sinners; get thee up into the high mountain, to the most public places, such as the mount of the Lord's house. O Jerusalem, &c. or, O thou that bringest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength: lift it up, be not afraid of the opposition and revilings of men, who would persecute the preachers of the Gospel. Say unto the cities of Judah, where Christ appeared, Behold your God incarnate, the promised Emmanuel; a man, and yet the eternal Jehovah, come with the most joyful tidings that can greet a sinner's ears, to proclaim pardon, grace, and salvation, freely and to the uttermost.

2. His power and all-sufficiency are declared. Behold, the Lord God will come; that desire of all nations, and especially the glory of his Israel; he shall come with a strong hand, mighty to save his believing people and punish his enemies: or, against the strong one, to destroy the works of the devil, and break his hateful power in the hearts of men: and his arm shall rule for him, self-sufficient, and designing his own glory: or against or over him, the great enemy of souls, who must yield to this conqueror. Behold! with joy, ye people of God, his reward is with him, to bestow eternal life on all who faithfully stay on him: and his work before him, the glorious work of redemption: he came fully acquainted with the steps necessary thereto, and perfectly able and willing for the undertaking.

3. His grace and love are tenderly displayed under the character of a watchful shepherd. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: his believing people are his sheep, and therefore with tenderest regard he feeds them in the green pastures of his ordinances; bestows on them the waters of consolation; and watches over them night and day, defending them from every danger. He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom; as when the cold is ready to kill the new-cast lamb, or it is so weak that it cannot follow the dam, the shepherd in his bosom bears and cherishes it; so does Christ the lambs of his flock, pitying their weakness, helping their infirmities, and in the bosom of his love cherishing and strengthening their souls: and shall gently lead those that are with young, whose circumstances are embarrassed, and trials difficult; he leads them gently as they are able. Let the under-shepherds learn of their chief shepherd to partake of his spirit, and tread in his steps, consulting the weakness, and ministering to the wants, of those sheep and lambs of his flock intrusted to their care.

4thly, The prophet speaks consolation to God's people, and declares the infinite power and wisdom of their God. The captives in Babylon need not fear Jehovah's ability to compass their deliverance; and faithful souls may ever be assured, that he, who in his condescension is their shepherd, suffers no diminution of his uncreated glory thereby. The description here given of our Redeemer is unutterably grand. Such his immensity, the vast abyss of waters to him are but as a few drops in the hollow of his hand; the expanded heaven to him is but a span; the ponderous globe but as a few particles of dust; and the mountains and hills, so prodigious in height and breadth, weighed in his scales, appear as grains of sand, and all nicely proportioned for the purposes they were designed to serve. In his amazing work of creation he needed no adviser; himself the fountain of wisdom, all receiving from him, none capable of adding to him. Before him the mightiest nations are but as a drop of the bucket, or the small dust of the balance; so light, as not to turn the poised scale. The isles he taketh up, or casteth away, as chaff, or the down of thistles. Were Lebanon with all its forests hewn down for fuel, and the innumerable herds which feed thereon slain for a sacrifice, utterly insufficient would they have been to expiate the sins of men: no less than the incarnate Jehovah could offer the propitiation, before whom all nations are as nothing, and, as if words were wanting to express their insignificance, they are counted less than nothing, and vanity. Note; (1.) The more we see of the Redeemer's greatness and glory, the more should our hearts be established in him. (2.) The less we are in our own eyes, and the more we see our own vanity, the more shall we admire the infinite love and condescension of our Immanuel.

5thly, The sin and folly of idolaters are here upbraided.

1. The absurdity of idolatry is here described. Mad in the pursuit of idol vanities, the founder casts the figure; and, lavish of their riches, they deck the senseless image; it is overlaid with plates of gold, or adorned with chains of silver. Yea, he that cannot afford an offering will have a god, though carved from a tree; and, choosing the wood which is most incorruptible, has it fashioned into shape, and fixed in its place. Amazing stupidity! to pay adoration to a senseless log, or expect support from that which cannot stand without being fastened. Note; (1.) The idolatry which hath prevailed so universally is a striking proof of the fall of man, and of the dreadful darkness of the human understanding. (2.) The continuance of this abominable practice in the church of Rome is among the strong proofs of her utter apostasy. (3.) Beware of spiritual idolatry: to place a confidence in gold, or set up the creature above God in our affections, is equally criminal as to bow the knee to a stock or a stone.

2. The prophet expostulates with them, 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? From the visible creation the great Author's eternal power and godhead might be clearly seen, and traditionary notices of his being were handed down from the beginning; yet they degraded him into an image made like to a corruptible man, and worshipped him not as God; so that they were without excuse. See Romans 1:20. A glorious description then follows of the great Jehovah: on the circle of the heavens he sitteth, by his power find providence upholding all things: on this terrestrial ball he looks, an atom in the vast expanse, and puny mortals appear but as grasshoppers or locusts before him. As a curtain he stretches out the firmament, and in the heavens, hid from mortal eye, spreads his radiant tabernacle. In his view earth's mightiest princes shrink into nothing; their persons, counsels, power, are all vanity. Fixed as their thrones appear, and great as they seem to worms like themselves, one breath of his displeasure blasts them as grass, and hurls them from the earth as stubble before the whirlwind.

3. He directs them whither to turn their eyes, nor more attempt to liken God, the eternal Spirit, to any corporeal form. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things; read, in the expanded volume above, the legible characters of the Creator's glory; that bringeth out their host by number, marshalled in exact order: he calleth them all by names suited to their position and influence: by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth; bound by omnipotent power, each in his several orbit performs his revolution, and uses his influence according to his Creator's will. Since then God is so infinitely above the highest creatures, and all these the works of his hands, every representation of him by them must be a debasement of his glory.

6thly, Their long captivity was ready to discourage the hearts of the Jews; and some of them, under the power of unbelief, were ready to conclude themselves forgotten and forsaken of God; for which the prophet here reproves them; and their rebuke is designed for our admonition, who, are ready to faint when we are corrected of him.

1. He exposes their impatience and unbelief. Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord; he disregards my afflictions; and my judgment is passed over from my God? he hears not my appeals, nor gives me the expected redress. Note; (1.) Such questions as our impatience utters, must be silenced. Why and wherefore do we complain? God is not slack in his promises, but we are hasty in spirit. The vision is for an appointed time. (2.) It argues our folly, as well as sin, to suppose that God does not see our distress, or is not able to relieve us.

2. He reminds them of two things, which they ought to have known and considered: the infinite power, and unsearchable wisdom of God? Hast thou not known? after all the wonders displayed in behalf of his people; hast thou not heard, from the experience of past ages, as well as the oracles of truth, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? His power is never exhausted, nor his government enfeebled: he is from eternity unchangeably the same, and, as the Creator of all, must needs be able to govern the work of his own hands; and therefore, however low his church may be reduced, it is not owing to weakness or weariness that he does not appear for their relief. He will save his faithful people to the uttermost, nor can be at a loss for the means, when infinite wisdom is joined with almighty power; for there is no searching of his understanding; therefore we are bound at all times to trust him, and patiently expect the salvation of God.

3. When we do so, we are sure of being holpen. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might, he increaseth strength: such as, seeing their own spiritual weakness and helplessness, apply to him, find him a very present help. When I am weak, then am I strong. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: such as trust on an arm of flesh, and, self-confident, think they are able to extricate themselves from their difficulties, or, by the strength of their own natural endeavours, to overcome the powers of their corruptions; these shall prove their insufficiency, and utterly fail: but they that wait upon the Lord, both for righteousness and strength, and in every trial cast their care upon him, sensible of their own ignorance and weakness, these shall renew their strength, be enabled to stand in the evil day, supported under the sore burden of their temptations, afflictions, and corruptions: yea, more than supported, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, so swift and strong; and their trials shall serve to strengthen their graces, and lift up their souls farther from earth, and nearer heaven: they shall run, and not be weary, in the way of God's commandments, pleased in his happy service, and accounting it perfect freedom: and they shall walk, and not faint; though long their journey, and difficult the way, the everlasting arms of Jesus's love shall bear the faithful up, and bring them safe at last to their eternal home. Hold out then, faith and patience!

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Expositor's Bible Commentary



Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24

IN the chapters which we have been studying we have found some difficulty with one of our prophet’s keynotes-"right" or "righteousness." In the chapters to come we shall find this difficulty increase, unless we take some trouble now to define how much the word denotes in Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24. There is no part of Scripture, in which the term "righteousness" suffers so many developments of meaning. To leave these vague, as readers usually do, or to fasten upon one and all the technical meaning of righteousness in Christian theology, is not only to obscure the historical reference and moral force of single passages, -it is to miss one of the main arguments of the prophecy. We have read enough to see that "righteousness" was the great question of the Exile. But what was brought into question was not only the righteousness of the people, but the righteousness of their God. In Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 righteousness is more often claimed as a Divine attribute, than enforced as a human duty or ideal.


Ssedheq, the Hebrew root for righteousness, had, like the Latin "rectus," in its earliest and now almost forgotten uses, a physical meaning. This may have been either "straightness," or more probably "soundness,"-the state in which a thing is "all right." "Paths of righteousness," in Psalms 23:1-6 and Isaiah 40:4, are not necessarily straight paths, but rather sure, genuine, safe paths. Like all physical metaphors, like our own words "straight" and "right," the applicability of the term to moral conduct was exceedingly elastic. It has been attempted to gather most of its meaning under the definition of "conformity to norm"; and so many are the instances in which the word has a forensic force, as of "vindication" or "justification," that some have claimed this for its original, or, at least, its governing sense. But it is improbable that either of these definitions conveys the simplest or most general sense of the word. Even if "conformity" or "justification" were ever the prevailing sense of ssedheq, there are a number of instances in which its meaning far overflows the limits of such definitions. Every one can see how a word, which may generally be used to express an abstract idea, like "conformity," or a formal relation towards a law or person, like "justification," might come to be applied to the actual virtues, which realise that idea or lift a character into that relation. Thus righteousness might mean justice, or truth, or almsgiving, or religious obedience, -to each of which, in fact, the Hebrew word was at various times specially applied. Or righteousness might mean virtue in general, virtue apart from all consideration of law or duty whatsoever. In the prophet Amos, for instance, "righteousness" is applied to a goodness so natural and spontaneous that no one could think of it for a moment as conformity to norm or fulfilment of law.

In short, it is impossible to give a definition of the Hebrew word, which our version renders as "righteousness," less wide than our English word "right." "Righteousness" is "right" in all its senses, -natural, legal, personal, religious. It is to be all right, to be right-hearted, to be consistent, to be thorough; but also to be in the right, to be justified, to be vindicated; and, in particular, it may mean to be humane (as with Amos), to be just (as with Isaiah), to be correct or true to fact (as sometimes with our own prophet), to fulfil the ordinances of religion, and especially the command about almsgiving (as with the later Jews).

Let us now keep in mind that righteousness could express a relation, or a general quality of character, or some particular virtue. For we shall find traces of all these meanings in our prophet’s application of the term to Israel and to God.


One of the simplest forms of the use of "righteousness" in the Old Testament is when it is employed in the case of ordinary quarrels between two persons; in which for one of them "to be righteous" means "to be right" or "in the right." [Genesis 38:26; Cf. 2 Samuel 15:4] Now to the Hebrew all life and religion was based upon covenants between two, -between man and man and between man and God. Righteousness meant fidelity to the terms of those covenants. The positive contents of the word in any single instance of its use would, therefore, depend on the faithfulness and delicacy of conscience by which those terms were interpreted. In early Israel this conscience was not so keen as it afterwards came to be, and accordingly Israel’s sense of their righteousness towards God was, to begin with, a comparatively shallow one. When a Psalmist asseverates his righteousness and pleads it as the ground for God rewarding him, it is plain that he is able with sincerity to make a claim, so repellent to a Christian’s feeling, just because he has not anything like a Christian’s conscience of what God demands from man. As Calvin says on Psalms 18:20 "David here represents God as the President of an athletic contest, who had chosen him as one of His champions, and David knows that so long as he keeps to the rules of the contest, so long will God defend him." It is evident that in such an assertion righteousness cannot mean perfect innocence, but simply the good conscience of a man, who, with simple ideas of what is demanded from him, feels that on the whole "he has" (slightly to paraphrase Calvin) "played fair."

Two things, almost simultaneously, shook Israel out of this primitive and naive self-righteousness. History went against them, and the prophets quickened their conscience. The effect of the former of these two causes will be clear to us, if we recollect the judicial element in the Hebrew righteousness, -that it often meant not so much to be right, as to be vindicated or declared right. History, to Israel, was God’s supreme tribunal. It was the faith of the people, expressed over and over again in the Old Testament, that the godly man is vindicated or justified by his prosperity: "the way of the ungodly shall perish." And Israel felt themselves to be in the right, just as. David, in Psalms 18:1-50, felt himself, because God had accredited them with success and victory. But when the decision of history went against the nation, when they were threatened with expulsion from their land and with extinction as a people, that just meant that the Supreme Judge of men was giving His sentence against them. Israel had broken the terms of the Covenant. They had lost their right; they were no longer "righteous." The keener conscience, developed by prophecy, swiftly explained this sentence of history. This declaration, that the people were unrighteous, was due, the prophet said, to the people’s sins. Isaiah not only exclaimed, "Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire"; he added, in equal indictment, "How is the faithful city become a harlot! it was full of justice, righteousness lodged in it, but now murderers: thy princes are rebellious, they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come before them." To Isaiah and the earlier prophets Israel was unrighteous because it was so immoral. With their strong social conscience, righteousness meant to these prophets the practice of civic virtues, -truth-telling, honesty between citizens, tenderness to the poor, inflexible justice in high places.

Here then we have two possible meanings for Israel’s righteousness in the prophetic writings, allied and necessary to one another, yet logically distinct, -the one a becoming righteous through the exercise of virtue, the other a being shown to be righteous by the voice of history. In the one case righteousness is the practical result of the working of the Spirit of God; in the other it is vindication, or justification, by the Providence of God. Isaiah and the earlier prophets, while the sentence of history was still not executed and might through the mercy of God be revoked, incline to employ righteousness predominantly in the former sense. But it will be understood how, after the Exile, it was the latter, which became the prevailing determination of the word. By that great disaster God finally uttered the clear sentence, of which previous history had been but the foreboding. Israel in exile was fully declared to be in the wrong-to be unrighteous. As a church, she lay under the ban; as a nation, she was discredited before the nations of the world. And her one longing, hope, and effort during the weary years of Captivity was to have her right vindicated again, was to be restored to right relations to God and to the world, under the Covenant.

This is the predominant meaning of the term, as applied to Israel, in Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24. Israel’s unrighteousness is her state of discredit and disgrace under the hands of God; her righteousness, which she hopes for, is her restoral to her station and destiny as the elect people. To our Christian habit of thinking, it is very natural to read the frequent and splendid phrases in which "righteousness" is attributed or promised to the people of God in this evangelical prophecy, as if righteousness were that inward assurance and justification from an evil conscience, which, as we are taught by the New Testament, is provided for us through the death of Christ, and inwardly sealed to us by the Holy Ghost, irrespective of the course of our outward fortune. But if we read that meaning into "righteousness" in Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24, we shall simply not understand some of the grandest passages of the prophecy. We must clearly keep in view, that while the prophet ceaselessly emphasises the pardon of God "spoken home to the heart" of the people as the first step towards their restoral, he does not apply the term righteousness to this inward justification, but to the outward vindication and accrediting of Israel by God before the whole world, in their redemption from Captivity, and their reinstatement as His people. This is very clear from the way in which "righteousness" is coupled with "salvation" by the prophet, as [Isaiah 62:1] "I will not rest till her righteousness go forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burneth." Or again from the way in which righteousness and glory are put in parallel: [Isaiah 62:2] "And the nations shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory." Or again in the way that "righteousness" and "renown" are identified: [Isaiah 61:11] "The Lord Jehovah will cause righteousness and renown to spring forth before all the nations." In each of these promises the idea of an external and manifest splendour is evident; not the inward peace of justification felt only by the conscience to which it has been granted, but the outward historical victory appreciable by the gross sense of the heathen. Of course the outward implies the inward, -this historical triumph is the crown of a religious process, the result of forgiveness and a long purification, -but while in the New Testament it is these which would be most readily called a people’s righteousness, it is the former (what the New Testament would rather call "the crown of life"), which has appropriated the name in Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24. The same is manifest from another text: [Isaiah 48:18] "O that thou hadst hearkened to My commandments; then had thy peace been as the River, and thy righteousness like the waves of the sea." Here "righteousness is not only not applied to inward morality, but set over against this as its external reward,"-the health and splendour which a good conscience produces. It is in the same external sense that the prophet talks of the "robe of righteousness" with its bridal splendour, and compares it to the appearance of "Spring." [Isaiah 61:10-11]

For this kind of righteousness, this vindication by God before the world, Israel waited throughout the Exile. God addresses them as "they that pursue righteousness, that seek Jehovah." [Isaiah 51:1] And it is a closely allied meaning, though perhaps with a more inward application, when the people are represented as praying God to give them "ordinances of righteousness," [Isaiah 58:2] -that is, to prescribe such a ritual as will expiate their guilt and bring them into a right relation with Him. They sought in vain. The great lesson of the Exile was that not by works and performances, but through simply waiting upon the Lord, their righteousness should shine forth. Even this outward kind of justification was to be by faith.

The other meaning of righteousness, however, -the sense of social and civic morality, which was its usual sense with the earlier prophets, -is not altogether excluded from the use of the word in Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 Here are some commands and reproaches which seem to imply it. "Keep judgment, and do righteousness,"-where, from what follows, righteousness evidently means observing the Sabbath and doing no evil. [Isaiah 56:1] "And justice is fallen away backward, and righteousness standeth afar off, for truth is fallen in the street, and steadfastness cannot enter." [Isaiah 59:14] These must be terms for human virtues, for shortly afterwards it is said: "Jehovah was displeased because there was no justice." Again, "They seek Me as a nation that did righteousness"; [Isaiah 58:2] "Hearken unto Me, ye that know righteousness, a people-My law is in their hearts"; [Isaiah 51:7] "Thou meetest him that worketh righteousness"; [Isaiah 64:5] "No one sues in righteousness, and none goeth to law in truth." [Isaiah 59:4] In all these passages "righteousness" means something that man can know and do, his conscience and his duty, and is rightly to be distinguished from those others, in which "righteousness" is equivalent to the salvation, the glory, the peace, which only God’s power can bring. If the passages that employ "righteousness" in the sense of moral or religious observance really date from the Exile, then the interesting fact is assured to us that the Jews enjoyed some degree of social independence and responsibility during their Captivity. But it is a very striking fact that these passages all belong to chapters, the exilic origin of which is questioned even by critics, who assign the rest of Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 to the Exile. Yet, even if these passages have all to be assigned to the Exile, how few they are in number! How they contrast with the frequency, with which, in the earlier part of this book, -in the orations addressed by Isaiah to his own times, when Israel was still an independent state, -"righteousness" is reiterated as the daily, practical duty of men, as justice, truthfulness, and charity between man and man! The extreme rarity of such inculcations in Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 warns us that we must not expect to find here the same practical and political interest which formed so much of the charm and the force of Isaiah 1:1-31 - Isaiah 39:1-8. The nation has now no politics, almost no social morals. Israel are not citizens working out their own salvation in the market, the camp, and the senate; but captives waiting a deliverance in God’s time, which no act of theirs can hasten. It is not in the street that the interest of Second Isaiah lies: it is on the horizon. Hence the vague feeling of a distant splendour, which as the reader passes from Isaiah 39:1-8 to Isaiah 40:1-31, replaces in his mind the stir of living in a busy crowd, the close and throbbing sense of the civic conscience, the voice of statesmen, the clash of the weapons of war. There is no opportunity for individuals to reveal themselves. It is a nation waiting, indistinguishable in shadow, whose outlines only we see. It is no longer the thrilling practical cry, which sends men into the arenas of social life with every sinew in them strung: "Learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow." It is rather the cry of one who still waits for his working day to dawn: "I will lift up mine eyes to the hills; from whence cometh my help?" Righteousness is not the near and daily duty, it is the far-off peace and splendour of skies, that have scarce begun to redden to the day.


But there was another Person, whose righteousness was in question during the Exile, and who Himself argues for it throughout our prophecy. Perhaps the most peculiar feature of the theology of Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 is its argument for "the righteousness of Jehovah."

Some critics maintain that righteousness, when applied to Jehovah, bears always a technical reference to His covenant with Israel. This is scarcely correct. Jehovah’s dealings with Israel were no doubt the chief of His dealings, and it is these, which He mainly quotes to illustrate His righteousness; but we have already studied passages, which prove to us that Jehovah's righteousness was an absolute quality of His Godhead, shown to others besides Israel, and in loyalty to obligations different from the terms of His covenant with Israel. In Isaiah 41:1-29 Jehovah calls upon the heathen to match their righteousness with His; righteousness was therefore a quality that might have been attributed to them as well as to Himself. Again, in Isaiah 45:19 "I, Jehovah, speak righteousness, I declare things that are right,"-righteousness evidently bears a general sense, and not one of exclusive application to God’s dealing with Israel. It is the same in the passage about Cyrus: [Isaiah 45:13] "I have raised him up in righteousness, I will make straight all his ways." Though Cyrus was called in connection with God’s purpose towards Israel, it is not that purpose which makes his calling righteous, but the fact that God means to carry him through, or, as the parallel verse says, "to make straight all his ways." These instances are sufficient to prove that the righteousness, which God attributes to His words, to His actions, and to Himself, is a general quality not confined to His dealings with Israel under the covenant, -though, of course, most clearly illustrated by these.

If now we enquire, what this absolute quality of Jehovah’s Deity really means, we may conveniently begin with His application of it to His Word. In Isaiah 41:1-29 He summons the other religions to exhibit predictions that are true to fact. "Who hath declared it on-ahead that we may know, or from aforetime that we may say, He is ssaddiq." Here ssaddiq simply means "right, correct," true to fact. It is much the same meaning in Isaiah 43:9, where the verb is used of heathen predicters, "that they may be shown to be right," or "correct" (English version, "justified"). But when, in Isaiah 46:1-13, the word is applied by Jehovah to His own speech, it has a meaning of far richer contents, than mere correctness, and proves to us that after all the Hebrew ssedheq was almost as versatile as the English "right." The following passage shows us that the righteousness of Jehovah’s speech is its clearness, straightforwardness, and practical effectiveness: "Not in secret have I spoken, in a place of the land of darkness,"-this has been supposed to refer to the remote or subterranean localities in which heathen oracles mysteriously entrenched themselves, -"I have not said to the seed of Jacob, In Chaos seek Me. I am Jehovah, a Speaker of righteousness, a Publisher of straight things. Be gathered and come, draw near together, O remnants of the nations. They know not that carry the log of their image, and pray to a god who does not save. Publish and bring near, yea, let them take counsel together. Who caused this to be heard of old? long since hath published it? Is it not I, Jehovah, and there is none else God beside Me; a God righteous and a Saviour, there is none except Me. Turn unto Me and be saved, all ends of Earth, for I am God, and there is none else. By Myself have I sworn, gone forth from My mouth hath righteousness: a word and it shall not turn; for to Me shall bow every knee, shall swear every tongue. Truly in Jehovah, shall they say of Me, are righteousnesses and strength. To Him shall it come, and shamed shall be all that are incensed against Him. In Jehovah shall be righteous and renowned all the seed of Israel." [Isaiah 45:19-25]

In this very suggestive passage "righteousness" means far more than simple correctness of prediction. Indeed, it is difficult to distinguish how much it means, so quickly do its varying echoes throng upon our ear, from the new associations in which it is spoken. A word such as "righteousness" is like the sensitive tones of the human voice. Spoken in a desert, the voice is itself and nothing more; but utter it where the landscape is crowded with novel obstacles, and the original note is almost lost amid the echoes it startles. So with the "righteousness of Jehovah"; among the new associations in which the prophet affirms it, it starts novel repetitions of itself. Against the ambiguity of the oracles, it is echoed back as "clearness, straightforwardness, good faith"; [Isaiah 40:19] against their opportunism and want of foresight, it is described as equivalent to the capacity for arranging things beforehand and predicting what must come to pass, therefore as "purposefulness"; while against their futility, it is plainly "effectiveness and power to prevail." [Isaiah 40:23] It is the quality in God, which divides His Godhead with His power, something intellectual as well as moral, the possession of a reasonable purpose as well as fidelity towards it.

This intellectual sense of righteousness, as reasonableness or purposefulness, is clearly illustrated by the way in which the prophet appeals, in order to enforce it, to Jehovah’s creation of the world. "Thus saith Jehovah, Creator of the heavens-He is the God-Former of the Earth and her Maker, He founded her; not Chaos did He create her, to be dwelt in did He form her." [Isaiah 45:18] The word "Chaos" here is the same as is used in opposition to "righteousness" in the following verse. The sentence plainly illustrates the truth, that whatever God does, He does not so as to issue in confusion, but with a reasonable purpose and for a practical end. We have here the repetition of that deep, strong note, which Isaiah himself so often sounded to the comfort of men in perplexity or despair, that God is at least reasonable, not working for nothing, nor beginning only to leave off, nor creating in order to destroy. The same God, says our prophet, who formed the earth in order to see it inhabited, must surely be believed to be consistent enough to carry to the end also His spiritual work among men. Our prophet’s idea of God’s righteousness, therefore, includes the idea of reasonableness; implies rational as well as moral consistency, practical sense as well as good faith; the conscience of a reasonable plan, and, perhaps also, the power to carry it through.

To know that this great and varied meaning belongs to "righteousness" gives us new insight into those passages, which find in it all the motive and efficiency of the Divine action: "It pleased Jehovah for His righteousness"; [Isaiah 42:21] "His righteousness, it upheld Him; and He put on righteousness as a breastplate." [Isaiah 59:16-17]

With such a righteousness did Jehovah deal with Israel. To her despair that He has forgotten her. He recounts the historical events by which He has made her His own, and affirms that He will carry them on; and you feel the expression both of fidelity and of the consciousness of ability to fulfil, in the words, "I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness." "Right hand"-there is more than the touch of fidelity in this; there is the grasp of power. Again, to the Israel who was conscious of being His Servant, God says, "I, Jehovah, have called thee in righteousness"; and, taken with the context, the word plainly means good faith and intention to sustain and carry to success.

It was easy to transfer the name "righteousness" from the character of God’s action to its results, but always, of course, in the vindication of His purpose and word. Therefore, just as the salvation of Israel, which was the chief result of the Divine purpose, is called Israel’s righteousness, so it is also called "Jehovah’s righteousness." Thus, in Isaiah 46:13 "I bring near My righteousness"; and in Isaiah 51:5 "My righteousness is near, My salvation is gone forth"; Isaiah 40:6 "My salvation shall be forever, and My righteousness shall not be abolished." It seems to be in the same sense, of finished and visible results, that the skies are called upon "to pour down righteousness," and "the earth to open that they may be fruitful in salvation, and let her cause righteousness to spring up together" (Isaiah 45:8; cf. Isaiah 61:10 "My Lord Jehovah will cause righteousness to spring forth").

One passage is of great interest, because in it "righteousness" is used to play upon itself, in its two meanings of human duty and Divine effect- Isaiah 56:1, "Observe judgment"-probably religious ordinances-"and do righteousness; for My salvation is near to come, and My righteousness to be revealed."

To complete our study of "righteousness" it is necessary to touch still upon one point. In Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 both the masculine and feminine forms of the Hebrew word for righteousness are used, and it has been averred that they are used with a difference. This opinion is entirely dispelled by a collation of the passages. I give the particulars in a note, from which it will be seen that both forms are indifferently employed for each of the many shades of meaning which "righteousness" bears in our prophecies.

That the masculine and feminine forms sometimes occur, with the same or with different meanings, in the same verse, or in the next verse to one another, proves that the selection of them respectively cannot be due to any difference in the authorship of our prophecy. So that we are reduced to say that nothing accounts for their use, except, it might be, the exigencies of the metre. But who is able to prove this?

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:31". "Expositor's Bible Commentary".

The Pulpit Commentaries




Prefatory Remarks

THE Assyrian struggle is over. The prophet has accepted into the depths of his spirit God's announcement that the true spoiler, "the rod of his anger, and the staff of his indignation," is not Assyria, but Babylon. He has accepted the sentence that his people is to go into captivity. Into this future of his nation he throws himself with a faith, a fervour, and a power of realization, which are all his own. "The familiar scenes and faces, among which he has hitherto lived and laboured, have grown dim and disappeared. All sounds and voices of the present are hushed, and move him no more. The present has died out of the horizon of his soul's vision The voices in his cars are those of men unborn, and he lives a second life among events and persons, sins and suffering, and fears and hopes, photographed sometimes with the minutest accuracy on the sensitive and sympathetic medium of his own spirit; and he becomes the denouncer of the special sins of a distant generation, and the spokesman of the faith and hope and passionate yearning of an exiled nation, the descendants of men living, when he wrote, in the profound peace of a renewed prosperity". The primary idea which occurs to him is that of "comfort." He will "comfort his people" in their affliction, so far as in him lies; and he will do this by preaching

Isaiah 40:1

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people. The key-note is struck at once. With that iteration which is his favourite mode of emphasizing what is important (see the comment on Isaiah 38:11), the prophet declares that he and his brethren have a direct mission from God to "comfort" Israel. Note the encouragement contained in the expressions, "my people," and "your God." Israel is not cast off, even when most deeply afflicted.

Isaiah 40:2

Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem; literally, speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem. Address her inmost feelings, her very spirit and soul. Her warfare is accomplished … is pardoned … hath received. These perfects can only b