|<< Isa 39|
Isaiah 40-43 Listen
Here we go...the second half of Isaiah!
Old Testament scholars generally agree that Isaiah is divided into two halves, chapters 1-39 and chapters 40-66. For those with advanced math degrees, you're saying, "Hey...39 isn't half of 66!" My reply, "I don't make the news; I just report it." Chapters 1-39, for the most part, address judgment upon Israel and the world. Chapters 40-66 deal primarily with the restoration of Jerusalem and Israel along with the Messianic reign.
1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
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.
3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 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:
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 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 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 for ever.
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!
10 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.
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 that are with young.
12 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?
13 Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?
14 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?
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 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 melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains.
20 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.
21 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?
22 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 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.
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, 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.
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.
In the preceding chapter 39, Isaiah has just prophesied that the Babylonians would capture Jerusalem. Interestingly enough, Babylon had not yet risen to power in the world; they were still a vassal state of the Assyrians. Certainly enough, though, after Hezekiah's death, in 586 B.C. Jerusalem did fall to the newly-founded Babylonian Empire (II Kings 24-25, see notes). This chapter recites Isaiah's prophecy of the restoration of Jerusalem, the return from Babylonian exile some 70 years later and finally the restoration that will one day be made possible by the Messiah. As a matter of fact, the next 9 chapters deal with this restoration.
The Messianic message of chapter 40 is framed nicely for us with the New Testament appearance of John the Baptist. John was asked to identify himself, and notice his reply in John 1:23 (see notes), "He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias." John identified himself as the "voice" of Isaiah 40:3 proclaiming the Messiah. (To see more detail on John the Baptist's fulfillment of prophecy, click here.) As is obvious, all the provisions of Isaiah 40 were not fulfilled at the first advent of Jesus Christ. This complete restoration will be seen during the Messianic Kingdom, which is yet future to us.
By the way, with regard to the permanence of the Gospel of salvation, Peter quotes from Isaiah 40:6-8 in I Peter 1:24-25 (see notes) when he says, "For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."
Chapter 40 is divided into two parts:
Then the capper, verse 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." This oft-quoted verse encourages us to be patient; God works in his own time.
1 Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength: let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment.
2 Who raised up the righteous man from the east, called him to his foot, gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings? he gave them as the dust to his sword, and as driven stubble to his bow.
3 He pursued them, and passed safely; even by the way that he had not gone with his feet.
4 Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.
5 The isles saw it, and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and came.
6 They helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage.
7 So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smote the anvil, saying, It is ready for the sodering: and he fastened it with nails, that it should not be moved.
8 But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.
9 Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.
10 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.
11 Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish.
12 Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.
13 For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.
14 Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
15 Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff.
16 Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the LORD, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.
17 When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
18 I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.
19 I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together:
20 That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.
21 Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob.
22 Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen: let them shew the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come.
23 Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together.
24 Behold, ye are of nothing, and your work of nought: an abomination is he that chooseth you.
25 I have raised up one from the north, and he shall come: from the rising of the sun shall he call upon my name: and he shall come upon princes as upon morter, and as the potter treadeth clay.
26 Who hath declared from the beginning, that we may know? and beforetime, that we may say, He is righteous? yea, there is none that sheweth, yea, there is none that declareth, yea, there is none that heareth your words.
27 The first shall say to Zion, Behold, behold them: and I will give to Jerusalem one that bringeth good tidings.
28 For I beheld, and there was no man; even among them, and there was no counsellor, that, when I asked of them, could answer a word.
29 Behold, they are all vanity; their works are nothing: their molten images are wind and confusion.
Isaiah is prophesying events that are future to him by a couple of centuries, the judgment on the nations; there is no protection for them from the conqueror in verses 1-4. This is not bad news for Israel though; although he is not Jewish, this conqueror is righteous. At the time of writing, the nations surrounding Isaiah, including Israel and Judah (except Jerusalem), had been conquered by the Assyrians. Isaiah had already prophesied that Jerusalem would not fall to the Assyrians (Isaiah 37:7-10, see notes), but would fall to the Babylonians (Isaiah 39:6-7, see notes). This chapter steps past these events and looks to the conquering efforts of the Babylonian Empire which flourished from 626 B.C. until 539 B.C. - not very long as empires go. Cyrus, of Persia, overtook the Babylonians in 538 B.C.
There's a reference to Cyrus in verse 2 as "the righteous man from the east." While the Assyrians and Babylonians deported the Jews to distant lands, they began to return and rebuild under the Persians (around 535 B.C.). To substantiate that Isaiah is looking forward two Empires here (over 150 years), we will see in Isaiah 44 (see notes) that Isaiah actually names Cyrus - a remarkable prophecy of the future with respect to the Jews, even before they had fallen to the Babylonians. Then we see in verses 25-29 another reference to the conquering king - none other than the Persian king, Cyrus. The account of Cyrus' rise to power can be seen in Ezra 1 (see notes).
1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.
3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.
4 He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.
5 Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein:
6 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
8 I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
9 Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.
10 Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof.
11 Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains.
12 Let them give glory unto the LORD, and declare his praise in the islands.
13 The LORD shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies.
14 I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once.
15 I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools.
16 And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.
17 They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, Ye are our gods.
These are descriptions of the justice that will come with the Messiah's rule. You will recall that after the baptism of Jesus, a voice was heard from Heaven in Matthew 3:17 (see notes) saying, "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased." While this is a quotation of Psalm 2:7 (see notes), there is a striking resemblance to Isaiah 42:1 there, "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles." Notice the mention of Gentiles here as well, a reference to the fact that Jesus' death on the cross secures salvation for Jews and Gentiles alike. Not only so, the Messianic reign of Jesus will bring blessings upon both Jews and Gentiles. Then we see in Matthew 12:17-21 (see notes) a quotation of this passage indicating that this is, indeed, the Messiah being referenced here.
A reminder of how Israel got where they were (Isaiah 42:18-25)
18 Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see.
19 Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the LORD’S servant?
20 Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not.
21 The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.
22 But this is a people robbed and spoiled; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison houses: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore.
23 Who among you will give ear to this? who will hearken and hear for the time to come?
24 Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? did not the LORD, he against whom we have sinned? for they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient unto his law.
25 Therefore he hath poured upon him the fury of his anger, and the strength of battle: and it hath set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart.
It was rebellion against God that would cause Judah to fall in 586 B.C. (II Kings 24-25, see notes). Later, when they would be reflecting back on Isaiah's prophecy after those things had come to pass, they would come to realize that all of these things came upon them because they chose not to obey God's commandments. This loss of land by Israel was prophesied all the way back in Deuteronomy 28:49-53 (see notes).
1 But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.
2 When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
3 For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.
4 Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.
5 Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west;
6 I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth;
7 Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.
8 Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears.
9 Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth.
10 Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.
11 I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.
12 I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.
13 Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?
14 Thus saith the LORD, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; For your sake I have sent to Babylon, and have brought down all their nobles, and the Chaldeans, whose cry is in the ships.
15 I am the LORD, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King.
16 Thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters;
17 Which bringeth forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power; they shall lie down together, they shall not rise: they are extinct, they are quenched as tow.
18 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
20 The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.
21 This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.
22 But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.
23 Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense.
24 Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities.
25 I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.
26 Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.
27 Thy first father hath sinned, and thy teachers have transgressed against me.
28 Therefore I have profaned the princes of the sanctuary, and have given Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproaches.
This is a continuation of Isaiah's prophecy concerning Israel's return to their land. As you will recall, they were deported to the modern-day Iraq area during the Assyrian captivity and later, Jerusalem to Babylonian captivity. This passage was written before the fall of Jerusalem (II Kings 24-25, see notes), but has prophesied already the fall of Jerusalem and subsequent deportation of its inhabitants, and now is prophesying their return.
There was a return to the land under the Persian King Cyrus who began his reign in 538 B.C. (Ezra 1, see notes). However, the supernatural aspects shown in this chapter leave the reader uncertain as to which restoration is being referenced here. Perhaps the references look to the Messianic Kingdom instead - to the final restoration of the land to Israel, rather than the return of the deported Jews back to their land in 535 B.C. Some evidence to that is to be seen in verses 5-6 where we see exiles returning to the land from all directions - not just from the east, the location to which we know the inhabitants of Judah in the sixth century were deported. The return from all directions would indicate the gathering of Israel after the Battle of Armageddon at the beginning of the millennium. We know from Matthew 24-25 (see notes) and Revelation 20-22 (see notes) that a gathering of the nations will take place; this seems compatible with verse 9 in this chapter, "Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled."