The Messiah in Isaiah
Chapter 40: Behold... Here is your God!
By I Gordon
The book of Isaiah is amazing. Why? Well, it was written over 700 years before Jesus came to this earth yet it contains clear and accurate prophecies concerning His birth, life and death. Due to this clear revelation about the coming Messiah, it has often been called ‘the 5th gospel’. To back this up, the New Testament contains sixty six direct quotes from the book of Isaiah and twenty of the twenty seven books contain a quote from Isaiah.
Along with other topics, this study series will look at a lot of those prophecies that are found in the second part of the book of Isaiah. Starting from chapter 40, we will examine what Isaiah foresaw concerning the coming Messiah. Along the way we shall hopefully see that in some specific areas there is more revelation in Isaiah concerning Jesus than is even presented in the four gospels. Now this study will look at verses 1-10, 25-31 and it starts, as any half decent study should do, with...
A Mathematical Oddity
As you may or may not know, the book of Isaiah is split into two main sections. The first section encompasses chapters 1-39 and the general theme is the judgement of God. The second section, from chapter 40-66 presents a different theme of God’s grace and comfort through the coming of the Messiah. So where, I hear you ask, is the mathematical oddity in that? Well, thanks for asking. Let me ask you a few questions... Firstly how many chapters are there in the book of Isaiah? Easy you say, 66. That’s correct. And how are those 66 chapters divided up? Well, we saw above that the first 39 chapters focus on judgement and the last 27 chapters focus on the coming Messiah and the grace of God. So now comes the easy bit... How many books are there in the Bible and how is the Bible split up? The Bible has 66 books. The first 39 books focus on the law and judgement where as the last 27 books focus on Jesus and the grace of God. Can you see how the book of Isaiah is a picture of the whole Bible? Now, I can hear what you are saying... If the second half of Isaiah represents ‘the New Testament’ then it should surely start with grace, the coming of the Messiah and maybe even a reference to the ministry of John the Baptist (like the start of the New Testament). I like your thinking! Let’s have a look...
Comfort O Comfort My People!
Isaiah 40:1-2 ‘Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins.‘
Have you ever been given the ‘silent treatment’? I’m sure you have. Well, several times isn’t it? Leading up to the coming and birth of Jesus the Messiah, God kind of gave His people ‘the silent treatment’. You see, for hundreds of years God sent His prophets who spoke to the people saying ‘Thus says the Lord...’ Most of their messages concerned repentance and asked Israel to turn to the Lord once again. And then, just like that, the prophets stopped coming. For about four hundred years leading up to the birth of Jesus there were no prophets sent to the nation from the Lord. Theologians often call this period of time ‘the silent years’. Now what would you expect after such silent treatment? Is God bubbling away behind the scenes ready to burst forth in anger? When you read the prophets and the Old Testament you would expect that if God ever turned up in person then Israel, and probably the whole world, would be in trouble! You would expect judgement, justice, anger and vengeance... and the people would deserve what they got. And then He came, saying ‘Comfort, O comfort my people!’ The apostle John stated this by starting his book saying ‘The Law was given through Moses; Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.’ But the freaky thing is that the justice, judgement and vengeance that the law demanded was not just forgotten or by-passed. It was poured out upon Jesus Himself!
You will also notice that the scripture from Isaiah above says that God has forgiven her and repaid her double for all her sins. That is the true gospel! If God simply forgave someone’s sins, that would leave them in a neutral position. But God has done so much more than that in Christ. Not only have our sins been forgiven but He has also given us a gift of righteousness. (Rom 5:17, 2 Cor 5:21) Now that is giving double!
Make way for the Lord
Isaiah 40:3-5 A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
The coming of the Lord was obviously preceded by the coming of a messenger whose task it was to prepare the hearts of the people to receive their coming King. That man was John the Baptist. He was the voice in the wilderness that cried out to the people requiring their repentance. As we see from the scripture above, there was a highway being built upon which the Lord would come. Every valley should be raised; every hill made low and any obstacle that stood in the way of His coming should be removed. Obviously this is speaking figuratively. It is our hearts that need to be prepared correctly for His ultimate purpose: for the glory of the Lord to be revealed. That is His ultimate goal in our lives! That the light of the Lord would shine through our lives and we would be conformed to the image of His Son. ‘Rugged’ and ‘rough’ is a good description of some of us is it not? But God has His means of smoothing things out for His glory. But just as constructing a new road takes time, effort and is fraught with difficulties and challenges, so too is the work that God undertakes in our lives. But thankfully He is the master engineer. Just don’t fight Him in this work!
Lift up your voice
Isaiah 40:9-10 You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, "Here is your God!" See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.
The first part of this passage speaks to those that have met their king. They have prepared their hearts, received Him as King and are now asked to do something for Him. The scripture says ‘You who bring good tiding, lift up your voice, lift it up and do not be afraid; say to the towns “Here is your God”‘. And that is the responsibility of all those that have come to know the Lord. They are not asked to remain silent but should share with others the ‘good news’ of what they have found. As if to back this thought up, the scripture then gives us a reason why we should do this... it gives us a glimpse into the future when the Lord shall return in power and rule over this earth. And on that day His reward and recompense will be given to all who have served and followed Him here and now. Never forget or underestimate the following statement of the Lord Jesus:
Rev 22:12 "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.
How great is our God? How small is our faith?
Isaiah 40:25-27 "To whom then will you liken Me That I would be his equal?" says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the LORD, And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God"?
Jump with me if you will to the end of the chapter and let us examine how this great chapter ends. For the chapter starts with the promise that there will be comfort for God’s people and it ends a great promise showing the way in which that comfort and strength shall come. (And before that we have Israel saying that they are not feeling comforted!). But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! We see above that God asked His people if there is anyone that He can be compared with. I can’t think of any! Obviously the answer is no. He is the God who declares the end from the beginning as we have seen in the first part of this study. But now we learn something else about Him. He is the one who not only created all the stars but also calls them by name! All of them. Amazing. Not only that but they are all kept by His power.
So note what God says next – He says ‘Why do you say O Jacob, and assert O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”?’ What was Israel saying here? Well, Israel was saying that “God may be great and He may be massive, but He doesn’t care about me. He doesn’t notice what I’m going through. I don’t ever see the justice that I should get. What I’ve had to deal with seems to have been totally missed by God.”
Have you ever found yourself saying this? I have. When things go on for years it is quite possible for your trust to start moving to blame. Not because God deserves to be blamed but because there is something wrong with our hearts that seek to blame someone – and that someone eventually becomes God. We all need to beware of turning our problems into goliaths and our God into a grasshopper. But let’s have a look at God’s response to this claim of neglect by Israel.
Waiting on the Lord leads to new strength
Isaiah 40:28-31 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, 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.
God’s answer to the claim that He is unaware or uninterested in what Israel is going through gives us one of the most well known passages in the Old Testament. First of all He reminds His people that He is not someone that becomes weary or tired and nor is His understanding limited. Nothing escapes His notice or catches Him by surprise. He is aware of all that His people are going through. So the question must be asked then, does God help us in our troubles?
Ok, so that was a stupid question because the answer is of course YES! Look at what God says in answer to this. He says that He gives strength and power to the weary. Those who wait for the Lord WILL gain new strength! It is a great promise and you can count on it. If you are going through a tough time thank the Lord for this promise. God has said it. He will fulfil His word and promises. Our God is a great God. He does not overlook or miss the needs of His people. Yes, He does work in mysterious ways at times. Yes, He does often work in unseen ways. But He will supply strength to walk, run and fly.
So what is our task? Our need is to wait on the Lord. This is not a passive sitting and waiting for something to happen. It is an active seeking, relying and hopeful expectation upon the Lord to supply the strength that you need. Let me close with this text from the Amplified Bible for it brings this out really well.
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and [selected] young men shall feebly stumble and fall exhausted; But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired. (Isaiah 40:30-31)
 Especially in regards to the behind the scenes relationship between God the Father and Jesus His Son. Isaiah presents conversations between the Father and the Son that are remarkable.
 It is called the ‘silent years’ because there were no inspired writings by the prophets during this time. The prophecies and writings of Malachi in 435 BC were the last before the New Testament era. This doesn’t of course mean that God didn’t speak at all during these times! Even at the birth of Jesus there was Anna who was said to be a ‘prophetess’ (Luke 2:36). But during this time there are no prophets who were called to speak to the whole nation as Isaiah, Jeremiah and others did. And obviously there were no divinely inspired writings during this time.
 In scripture, God is called the ‘God of all comfort’. Here it is: ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. And we to are called to preach words of comfort to people. Someone once said ‘Preach to broken hearts and you will never lack an audience.’
 FYI: All four gospels quote this verse and apply it to John the Baptist. See Mat 3:1-3; Mark 1:2-5; Luke 3:2-6; John 1:23.
 Spurgeon has a note on this verse in his ‘Morning and Evening’
devotional which shows its spiritual/figurative meaning.
“The four directions in the text must have my serious attention. Every valley must be exalted. Low and grovelling thoughts of God must be given up; doubting and despairing must be removed; and self-seeking and carnal delights must be forsaken. Across these deep valleys a glorious causeway of grace must be raised.
Every mountain and hill shall be laid low. Proud creature- sufficiency, and boastful self-righteousness, must be levelled, to make a highway for the King of kings. Divine fellowship is never vouchsafed to haughty, highminded sinners. The Lord hath respect unto the lowly, and visits the contrite in heart, but the lofty are an abomination unto Him. My soul, beseech the Holy Spirit to set thee right in this respect.
The crooked shall be made straight. The wavering heart must have a straight path of decision for God and holiness marked out for it. Double-minded men are strangers to the God of truth. My soul, take heed that thou be in all things honest and true, as in the sight of the heart-searching God.
The rough places shall be made smooth. Stumbling-blocks of sin must be removed, and thorns and briers of rebellion must be uprooted. So great a visitor must not find miry ways and stony places when He comes to honour His favoured ones with His company. Oh that this evening the Lord may find in my heart a highway made ready by His grace, that He may make a triumphal progress through the utmost bounds of my soul, from the beginning of this year even to the end of it.”
 Now, I’m not sure about you, but I have issues with remembering names! And I don’t have to remember all that many! Do you know how many stars there are? Let’s not complicate issues by moving out of our galaxy but in our Milky Way galaxy alone there are 200-400 billion (with only around 8000 visible to the naked eye.) Alright, let’s complicate the issue by now saying that there are up to 500 billion galaxies (apparently!). So do the maths and you’ll come to the conclusion that there are, argh, um, carry the one, um, well, that’s obviously oodles of stars. And God knows them all by name. Beat that!
 Even Job (as amazing as he was!) eventually fell into this because of the longevity and depth of his problems (and also thanks largely in part because of the not so great advise that he received from his ‘friends’!) If you want to run off and do a little study for yourself then notice the downward progression that occurred by examining the following scriptures:
amazing attitude: Job 1:20-21, 2:9-10
Then trying to maintain integrity: 6:8-10
Then starting the blame God: 10:1-3
Then wanting to argue with God: 13:3
Then the claim that there is no justice (like Israel in our passage above!): 19:6-7
Finally read God’s reply!: 40:1-2, 6-9, 42:1-6
 Other versions speak
of the ‘Weak’ and the ‘Weary’. ‘Weak’ means ‘failure through loss of inherent
strength’. ‘Weary’ means ‘exhaustion because of the hardness of life.’ Our
world and this age are turning out many that are weak and weary. So in many
ways this promise of God through in Isaiah 40:30-31 is one that many should
trust and claim.
 J Vernon McGee
writes on this passage:
There are three degrees of power here, and several expositors have likened them to the three stages of Christian growth that you have in 1Jn_2:12-14. These three stages of growth are: (1) the young Christian shall mount up as an eagle; (2) the adult Christian shall run; and (3) the mature Christian shall walk.
This reminds me of the black preacher down in my southland who preached a very wonderful sermon, in which he said, "Brethren, this church, it needs to walk." And one of the deacons said, "Amen." He continued, "Brethren, this church needs to run." And the deacon said, "Hallelujah." Then he said, "Brethren, this church needs to fly." And this deacon said, "Amen and hallelujah." Then the minister said, "Well, it's going to cost money to make this church fly." To this the deacon replied, "Let her walk, brother, let her walk."
My friend, regardless of who you are, if you are going to move with God through this earth, it will cost you something. But God will furnish you strength whatever your condition. If you need strength to walk, He will give it to you. If you need strength to fly, He has that for you also. This is a wonderful chapter revealing the comfort of God as our Creator, as our Savior, and as our Sustainer.