Isaiah 40 The LORD’s People Are Comforted.
Isaiah here receives a command to comfort the people of the LORD with his words. However, Isaiah was not the only hearer of this message. “The verbs are plural in form. God is addressing His heavenly court and the prophetic messengers who participate in it (vv. 9-11; 52:7). The repetition is for emphasis and occurs in 51:9, 17; 52:1, 11; 57:14; 62:10” (NGSB p.1090). These words would also occur again to encourage them to return to the promised land after their Babylonian captivity (48:20-21), but here there is but a foretaste. However, it is a word which will ultimately find fulfillment even after the return from captivity-an everlasting joy (Cf. 61:7).
The second thing to note is that they are still the LORD’s people. Each time the LORD said ‘My people’ he was claiming covenantal ownership (Cf. 1:3; 3:12, 15; 43:20; 51:4, 16; 53:8; 58:1; 65:10, 22). Exile was not a punishment necessarily on an apostate people, in fact, exile was a sparing of a faithful remnant of the covenant through whom the LORD’s promises might be fulfilled. This was the case even though it was because of the sins of the nation, and Hezekiah, which were the legal grounds for the exile. Thirdly, their blessing would be double what it was before the exile, like purging out dross in a refiner’s fire.
The wilderness is a recurring motif in the scriptures, symbolic and expressive of the very state of the nation which occurred when they were delivered out of Egypt, but in their lack of faith they wandered purposeless and without fruit or rule, such as should have immediately transpired with an entrance into the promised land. Nevertheless, into this wilderness a voice from the LORD would be heard, calling a people to the repentance and faith of covenant renewal-just as occurred also finally with the coming of the Messiah Yeshua. In Isaiah’s day and in the years leading up to and after the exile, it was Isaiah and the prophets (v. 3a).
In Jesus’ day it was John the Baptist preparing the way for the Messenger of the covenant (Cf. Mal. 3:1; 4:5-6; Mt. 3:3; Mk. 1:3; Lk. 3:4-6; Jn. 1:23). We must not miss the covenantal nature of this salvation history. The word through Malachi is crystal clear, when the Messiah came, a prophet calling the people to repentance and faith was absolutely necessary, otherwise he would be forced to “strike the earth with a curse” (4:6), and it was a covenantal curse which came upon the apostates of the nation, those who rejected their Messiah who had come in fulfillment of that which was promised.
Without the call to repentance and faith there would be no clear way to Him (vv. 3b-4 Cf. 45:2). In the return of the exiled remnant there was also a call to repentance and faith, and a glory in it to the Lord (Cf. 35:2). However, the glory of the Lord at the coming of Messiah would be far greater still (v. 5). The content of these voices was clear-the inerrant and imperishable word of the living God (vv. 6-8). The good tidings (good news or gospel) would be proclaimed from the highest height from Zion by those without fear-a call for the covenant people to behold their God (v. 9). In both the return from the exile and at Messiah’s appearing, the Lord God would come with strength (v. 10a).
Messiah would come to rule, he won’t come to wait and rule (Cf. 59:16-18). Part of the good news is that Messiah will begin his kingdom reign when his own work is completed on earth in his person, and he ascends to exercise his rule from heaven. He will reward all those who rule under him, and through his people the rest of the work shall be done, through the proclamation and effects of the good tidings to come (Cf. 62:11). The sheep will be fed with the word (v. 11 Cf. Jer. 31:10; Ezek. 34:23, 31; Mic. 5:4; Jn. 14:11, 14-16; Heb. 13:20; I Pet. 2:25). The work of the creator is something this promised redeemer was also engaged in from the foundation of the earth (v. 12 Cf. Prov. 3:34).
This One who was to come would also direct the Spirit to aid in the work of his reign, including the establishment of knowledge, understanding, and justice (vv. 13-14 Cf. Job 21:22; 36:22; 41:11; Rom. 11:34; I Cor. 2:16). None of the nations will be able to prevail against his worldwide reign (vv. 15-17 Cf. Pss. 2, 62:9; 110; Dan. 4:35). The LORD God has no equal. All idols are but the work of men’s hands-both rich and poor (vv. 18-20 Cf. 41:7; 44:10; 46:5-7; Ex. 8:10; 15:11; I Sam. 2:2; 5:3-4; Ps. 115:4-8; Jer. 10:1-10; Hab. 2:18-19; Mic. 7:18; Acts 17:29). Even the gates of death shall not prevail against the Lord (Mt. 16:18 Cf. 38:10).
The Redeemer to come, is the Creator of all, and sovereign author and ruler of providence, including the existence, position, and power of the nations (vv. 21-23). The rise and fall of peoples and kingdoms is as a result of his sovereign will (v. 24). He alone rules the whole of the created order (vv. 25-26). Therefore the LORD asks his people why they ask if the LORD really does rule in the earth (v. 27). The covenant LORD rules the whole earth, and all people in it (v. 28). Power and might is given by him to whom he wishes, and is not of humanity’s own doing. Strength is not the result of the size of a nation, nor the strength of its youth (vv. 29-31 Cf. Cf. 30:15; 49:23; Job 17:9; Ps. 103:5).