Isaiah had been prophesying of Judah’s coming judgment. History tells us of the kingdoms that ruled over them. Eventually, the time came for Judah to be disciplined by the Lord who used Judah’s enemies as a rod in His hand to do so. Discipline is a painful thing but it imparts wisdom. Fortunately, a time of comfort comes after a time of discipline.
In Isaiah 40, the Lord tells the prophet to comfort the people of Jerusalem because her time of discipline was over; her time of service was completed, her guilt was paid off, and she received double for all her sins. Isaiah is never addressed by the Lord after Isaiah chapter 39. It seems as if someone else may be writing the remainder of the book.
Next, a voice cries out to prepare the way for the Lord. Matthew 3:3 explains that John the Baptist was the voice in the wilderness who cried out, “Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.” John the Baptist did this to prepare the people for the coming of the glory of the Lord.
This passage is also applicable to the future. Although Israel’s enemies are causing death and destruction in order to bring forth their end time prophet, their thinking is in error. What they are doing is really being a rod in the hands of the Lord to turn the hearts of His people to Himself. God is in complete control of the coming of the ultimate false prophet. He is also in complete control of the timing of the return of the Lord. The job of the Lord’s present-day prophets is to prepare the way for the return of the Lord. This is also the job of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:3.
What else should a prophet proclaim? The same thing as Isaiah 40:6-8: “All flesh is grass, And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades, Because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”
This means that human life is short. Most people are going to eventually die unless the Lord returns first. Everyone must turn to the Lord and His commandments before it’s too late. People are like a dandelion flower that has gone to seed or a lighted candle. All it takes is for the Lord to blow on them and their lives are over. Sometimes people get the idea that they are invincible but nothing could be further from the truth. They are similar to the dead leaves that fall off deciduous trees in the fall. Jesus reminded His disciples, “Every plant that my Father in heaven has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.”[i]That sounds forceful to me. I’d rather be gently gathered in my Father’s loving arms.
According to the prophet, at some point in the future, those in Jerusalem will need to get up on the high mountain and declare as loud as possible, “Behold Your God!” Why? Because, Isaiah 40:10 says, “…the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, And His arm shall rule for Him; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him.”
Revelation 19:11-13 describes Him like this: “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. 13 He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.” He won’t be coming alone. His armies in heaven will be coming with him on white horses to destroy Israel’s enemies. When the battle is over, the wedding feast will take place between Jesus and His bride. He will be a great shepherd and care for His people.
Isaiah 40:12-14 asks, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, Measured heaven with a span And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales And the hills in a balance? 13 Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, Or as His counselor has taught Him? 14 With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, And taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, And showed Him the way of understanding?” Surely this was Jesus’ Father in heaven to whom Jesus prayed regularly.
Today, Jesus’ disciples have the Holy Spirit within them to counsel and instruct them. They must learn to listen to the Holy Spirit so they won’t be led away by false doctrine. As you study the Scriptures, please understand that nothing anyone teaches should conflict with the literal meaning of the whole weight of the text. If the literal text appears to conflict with itself, there could be a cultural issue present that we may not understand or an idiom that has different meaning for us today. If something is taught in passing without an explanation that pricks your spirit, do not fail to question it. If something is taught that may be supported by some verses but conflicts with others, question it. Look at the context of each passage. Don’t let a teacher lead you astray; raise questions! Study their responses for yourself. Do your own research; ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into truth. You don’t want to be following false doctrine when the Lord returns.
Isaiah 40:17 says the nations of the world are insignificant and worthless to the Lord. They seek after false gods that are costly and beautiful to behold or inexpensive as a piece of skillfully carved wood. They worship idols made by mere men. People should worship the one who created them; people are mere grasshoppers to the One who sits about the circle of the earth. Don’t allow something to take the position of God in your life.
The leaders of the world think they are so great and prestigious. They are nothing in God’s eyes. They think they can hide their evil deeds from both God and men. They care only about themselves and make empty promises to those around them. They commit fraud and get away with it. They abuse the power that the Lord has given to them. Although the Lord is responsible for planting them in positions of authority, one day He will blow on them when He has finished using them for His purposes. They will be no more just as any other common man.
Isaiah 40:31 says, “But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” We often have these words on the wall or on tables in our homes. They are there to remind us of where are strength comes from. What if this verse is really a snapshot of the future? First Corinthians 15:52-53 says, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” Could this immorality include wings? How else can “we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”[ii] This is just something to consider.