Messages of Comfort

Prepare for God’s Arrival

40 1-2 “Comfort, oh comfort my people,”
    says your God.
“Speak softly and tenderly to Jerusalem,
    but also make it very clear
That she has served her sentence,
    that her sin is taken care of—forgiven!
She’s been punished enough and more than enough,
    and now it’s over and done with.”

3-5 Thunder in the desert!
    “Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road straight and smooth,
    a highway fit for our God.
Fill in the valleys,
    level off the hills,
Smooth out the ruts,
    clear out the rocks.
Then God’s bright glory will shine
    and everyone will see it.
    Yes. Just as God has said.”

6-8 A voice says, “Shout!”
    I said, “What shall I shout?”

“These people are nothing but grass,
    their love fragile as wildflowers.
The grass withers, the wildflowers fade,
    if God so much as puffs on them.
    Aren’t these people just so much grass?
True, the grass withers and the wildflowers fade,
    but our God’s Word stands firm and forever.”

9-11 Climb a high mountain, Zion.
    You’re the preacher of good news.
Raise your voice. Make it good and loud, Jerusalem.
    You’re the preacher of good news.
    Speak loud and clear. Don’t be timid!
Tell the cities of Judah,
    “Look! Your God!”
Look at him! God, the Master, comes in power,
    ready to go into action.
He is going to pay back his enemies
    and reward those who have loved him.
Like a shepherd, he will care for his flock,
    gathering the lambs in his arms,
Hugging them as he carries them,
    leading the nursing ewes to good pasture.

The Creator of All You Can See or Imagine

12-17 Who has scooped up the ocean
    in his two hands,
    or measured the sky between his thumb and little finger,
Who has put all the earth’s dirt in one of his baskets,
    weighed each mountain and hill?
Who could ever have told God what to do
    or taught him his business?
What expert would he have gone to for advice,
    what school would he attend to learn justice?
What god do you suppose might have taught him what he knows,
    showed him how things work?
Why, the nations are but a drop in a bucket,
    a mere smudge on a window.
Watch him sweep up the islands
    like so much dust off the floor!
There aren’t enough trees in Lebanon
    nor enough animals in those vast forests
    to furnish adequate fuel and offerings for his worship.
All the nations add up to simply nothing before him—
    less than nothing is more like it. A minus.

18-20 So who even comes close to being like God?
    To whom or what can you compare him?
Some no-god idol? Ridiculous!
    It’s made in a workshop, cast in bronze,
Given a thin veneer of gold,
    and draped with silver filigree.
Or, perhaps someone will select a fine wood—
    olive wood, say—that won’t rot,
Then hire a woodcarver to make a no-god,
    giving special care to its base so it won’t tip over!

21-24 Have you not been paying attention?
    Have you not been listening?
Haven’t you heard these stories all your life?
    Don’t you understand the foundation of all things?
God sits high above the round ball of earth.
    The people look like mere ants.
He stretches out the skies like a canvas—
    yes, like a tent canvas to live under.
He ignores what all the princes say and do.
    The rulers of the earth count for nothing.
Princes and rulers don’t amount to much.
    Like seeds barely rooted, just sprouted,
They shrivel when God blows on them.
    Like flecks of chaff, they’re gone with the wind.

25-26 “So—who is like me?
    Who holds a candle to me?” says The Holy.
Look at the night skies:
    Who do you think made all this?
Who marches this army of stars out each night,
    counts them off, calls each by name
—so magnificent! so powerful!—
    and never overlooks a single one?

27-31 Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
    or, whine, Israel, saying,
God has lost track of me.
    He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
    He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
    And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
    gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
    young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind.

Comfort My People

40 Your God says to you:

    “Comfort, comfort my people[a] with gentle, compassionate words.[b]
Speak tenderly from the heart[c] to revive those in Jerusalem,[d]
    and proclaim that their warfare is over.[e]
    Her debt of sin is paid for, and she will not be treated as guilty.[f]
    Prophesy to her that she has received from the hand of Yahweh
    twice as many blessings as all her sins.”[g]
A thunderous voice cries out in the wilderness:[h]
    “Prepare the way[i] for Yahweh’s arrival!
    Make a highway straight through the desert for our God!
Every valley will be raised up,[j] every mountain brought low.
    The rugged terrain will become level ground
    and the rough places a plain.
Then Yahweh’s radiant glory will be unveiled,
    and all humanity[k] will experience it together.[l]
    Believe it, for Yahweh has spoken his decree!”[m]
A voice says, “Cry out!”
    And I ask, “What should I say?”
    “All people are as frail as grass,
    and their elegance is like a wilting wildflower.
The grass withers, the flower fades
    when the breath of Yahweh blows upon it;
    the people are just like grass!
But even though grass withers and the flower fades,
    the word of our God stands strong forever!”[n]

Proclaim Good News

Go up on a high mountain, you joyful messengers of Zion,
    and lift up your voices with power.
    You who proclaim joyous news to Jerusalem,
    shout it out and don’t be afraid.
    Say to the cities of Judah,
    “Here is your God!”
10 Look! Here comes Lord Yahweh as a victorious warrior;
    he triumphs with his awesome power.[o]
    Watch as he brings with him his reward
    and the spoils of victory to give to his people.
11 He will care for you as a shepherd tends his flock,
    gathering the weak lambs and taking them in his arms.
    He carries them close to his heart
    and gently leads those that have young.[p]

The Infinite God

12 Who has measured the waters of the sea
    in the hollow of his hand
    and used his hand-width to mark off the heavens?
    Who knows the exact weight of all the dust of the earth[q]
    and has weighed all the mountains and hills on his scale?
13 Who fully understands the Spirit of Yahweh[r]
    or is wise enough to counsel him?[s]
14 Whom does he consult to be enlightened?
    Who teaches him the ways of justice?[t]
    Who imparts knowledge to him or shows him
    the true path of wisdom?[u]
15 Even the nations are to him like a drop[v] in a bucket,
    regarded as nothing more than dust on a scale.
    He picks up the islands like fine grains of sand.
16 All of Lebanon’s trees[w] are not enough firewood for him,
    nor are all its animals enough for a burnt offering.
17 The nations are nothing in his eyes;
    he regards them as absolutely nothing.[x]

Idols Cannot Be Compared to God

18 Who even comes close to being compared to God?[y]
    How could you ever compare God to an idol?
19 A craftsman forms[z] an idol-god,
    then a goldsmith overlays it with gold
    and forges its silver chains.[aa]
20 The one who is poor and cannot afford silver or gold[ab]
    chooses a tree[ac] that will not rot,
    then seeks a skilled workman
    to make an idol that will not topple.

Fear Not

21 Don’t you realize that God is the Creator?
    Don’t you hear the truth?[ad]
    Haven’t you been told this from the beginning?
    Haven’t you understood this
    since he laid a firm foundation for the earth?[ae]
22 He sits enthroned high above the circle of the earth;
    to him the people of earth are like grasshoppers!
    He stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
    spreading it open like a tent to live in.[af]
23 He reduces rulers to nothing
    and makes the elite of the earth as nothing at all.
24 They barely get planted and barely take root in their position of power
    when the Lord blows on them and they wither away,
    carried off like straw in the stormy wind.

God Above All Others

25 The Holy One asks:
    “Can you find anyone or anything to compare to me?
    Where is the one equal to me?”
26 Lift up your eyes to the sky and see for yourself.
    Who do you think created the cosmos?[ag]
    He lit every shining star and formed every glowing galaxy,
    and stationed them all where they belong.
    He has numbered, counted, and given everyone a name.
    They shine because of God’s incredible power
    and awesome might; not one fails to appear!
27 Why, then, O Jacob’s tribes, would you ever complain?
    And my chosen Israel, why would you say,
    “Yahweh isn’t paying attention to my situation.[ah]
    He has lost all interest in what happens to me.”[ai]
28 Don’t you know? Haven’t you been listening?
    Yahweh is the one and only everlasting God,
    the Creator of all you can see and imagine!
    He never gets weary or worn out.
    His intelligence is unlimited;
    he is never puzzled over what to do!
29 He empowers the feeble
    and infuses the powerless with increasing strength.
30 Even young people faint and get exhausted;
    athletic ones[aj] may stumble and fall.
31 But those who wait for Yahweh’s grace
    will experience divine strength.[ak]
    They will rise up on soaring wings and fly like eagles,
    run their race without growing weary,
    and walk through life without giving up.[al]

Footnotes

  1. Isaiah 40:1 The Targum reads “You prophets, prophesy comfort, comfort to my people.” See Jer. 31:13, 20; Zeph. 3:14-17; 2 Cor. 1:3.
  2. Isaiah 40:1 The Hebrew nacham contains deep emotion, compassionate words that give relief and tender consolation to people. Beginning in Isaiah 40, the prophet’s tone and ministry changes from that of chs. 1–39, much like the New Testament brings us an even sweeter, more glorious message than the Old (2 Cor. 3:9). The New Testament begins with John the Baptizer quoting from Isaiah 40, demonstrating that the time has come for the removal of our sins. Compare Isa. 40:3 and Mark 1:3. Isaiah 1–39 speaks of a worldwide desolation; Isaiah 40–66 speaks of a worldwide restoration. The later chapters of this book are described by some scholars as the “New Testament of Isaiah.” The New Testament has twenty-seven books, corresponding to Isaiah’s last twenty-seven chapters. An outline of the remainder of the book could be: The Book of Comfort (40–43), The Book of Cyrus (44–48), The Book of Messiah, the Servant of the Lord (49–57), the Book of Judah, the Victory of the Bride (58–66).
  3. Isaiah 40:2 Or “Speak to the heart (to revive).”
  4. Isaiah 40:2 Scripture often contains multiple meanings and applications. Jerusalem here can also mean the church. The church does not replace Jerusalem (Israel), but can be viewed as a “new” Israel (Gal. 6:16). Believers today find their present reality in the New Jerusalem, where God and man have become one. See Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22.
  5. Isaiah 40:2 For the overcoming believer, the warfare of Romans 7 has ended as we become victorious overcomers who move into Christ’s victory found in Romans 8. Our race begins at the finish line (Rom. 6:5-7).
  6. Isaiah 40:2 See John 19:30; Rom. 8:1; Col. 2:13-4; 1 Peter 3:18.
  7. Isaiah 40:2 The Hebrew text is somewhat ambiguous. It could mean double punishment or double blessing. That is, they will receive from the hand of God twice what they have lost. Favor and mercy always triumph over judgment. God will excel in grace toward his people and give us back even more than what our sins took from us. See Ex. 22:4, 7, 9; Job 42:10; Isa. 61:7; Zech. 9:12; Rom. 5.
  8. Isaiah 40:3 Or “In the wilderness prepare the way for Yahweh’s arrival.” This was a prophecy of John the Baptizer and his ministry of calling people to repentance in preparation for the appearing of the Lord Jesus. Although John came in the spirit of Elijah, he worked no miracles. His prophecy was not to begin a road project but to prepare people’s hearts. Even now the voice of the Spirit is crying out in the wilderness of people’s souls, bringing them to repentance and faith in Christ.
  9. Isaiah 40:3 See John 14:6.
  10. Isaiah 40:4 See Isa. 54:17.
  11. Isaiah 40:5 Or “all flesh” (i.e., Jews and gentiles).
  12. Isaiah 40:5 Or “All flesh will see it as one.” See Rom. 8:19.
  13. Isaiah 40:5 See Luke 3:5-6.
  14. Isaiah 40:8 See Ps. 103:15-16; 119:8-90; James 1:9-11; 1 Peter 1:24-25.
  15. Isaiah 40:10 Or “His mighty arm rules for him.”
  16. Isaiah 40:11 These verses are somewhat parallel to Eph. 4:11, where we can see the apostle, “his mighty arm” (v. 10), the prophet’s “reward” (v. 10 and Matt. 10:41), the evangelist (salvation’s) “rewards he gives his people” (v. 10), the pastor or “shepherd tending his flock” (v. 11), and the teacher who “gently leads” (into truth, v. 11).
  17. Isaiah 40:12 Or “Who has weighed the dust of the earth in a basket (third of an ephah)?” The Creator could never be measured by his creation; he is infinitely greater.
  18. Isaiah 40:13 See Eph. 1:17.
  19. Isaiah 40:13 See Rom. 11:34; 1 Cor. 2:16.
  20. Isaiah 40:14 Or “Who teaches him the right way to do things?” or “Who gives him insight to make right decisions?”
  21. Isaiah 40:14 That is, who is capable enough to show God how to skillfully design his plan or give him the wisdom needed to carry it out? He is too wise to make a mistake. These verses show us God’s heart of love (v. 11), God’s hand of power (v. 12), and God’s mind of wisdom (vv. 13–14).
  22. Isaiah 40:15 The Hebrew word used for “drop” is not a drop of water but a myrrh drop. Myrrh was harvested by piercing a tree and collecting drops of sap in a bucket. Nations are more than a drop of water but like myrrh dropping into a bucket.
  23. Isaiah 40:16 Lebanon was known for its lumber and forests.
  24. Isaiah 40:17 Or “from nothing but emptiness (as though they didn’t exist).”
  25. Isaiah 40:18 This is the Hebrew word ‘el, “the mighty God.”
  26. Isaiah 40:19 Or “melts (pours out).”
  27. Isaiah 40:19 The Hebrew clause is uncertain.
  28. Isaiah 40:20 The Hebrew clause is uncertain.
  29. Isaiah 40:20 Adam and Eve chose the Tree of Good and Evil. See also Jer. 10:3-4.
  30. Isaiah 40:21 Or “Do you not know? Do you not hear?” These two questions (imperfect tense) are best seen as invitations rather than a surprise over their ignorance. See Young, Book of Isaiah, vol. 3, 40–66.
  31. Isaiah 40:21 See Ps. 24:2.
  32. Isaiah 40:22 See Ex. 25:8.
  33. Isaiah 40:26 See Col. 1:15-16; Eph. 3:9.
  34. Isaiah 40:27 Or “my way is hidden from Yahweh.”
  35. Isaiah 40:27 Or “my decisions are passed over.”
  36. Isaiah 40:30 Or “young men.”
  37. Isaiah 40:31 Or “will grow new feathers like eagles” (LXX) or “renew their strength.” An eagle has the longest lifespan of any bird. See Ps. 103:5.
  38. Isaiah 40:31 Or “without fainting.” The outer court is where we walk, the Holy Place is where we run, and we soar like eagles (into the heavenly realm) in the Holy of Holies (Heb. 10:19).

Comfort for God’s People

40 Comfort, comfort(A) my people,
    says your God.
Speak tenderly(B) to Jerusalem,
    and proclaim to her
that her hard service(C) has been completed,(D)
    that her sin has been paid for,(E)
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double(F) for all her sins.

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
    the way(G) for the Lord[a];
make straight(H) in the desert
    a highway for our God.[b](I)
Every valley shall be raised up,(J)
    every mountain and hill(K) made low;
the rough ground shall become level,(L)
    the rugged places a plain.
And the glory(M) of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.(N)
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”(O)

A voice says, “Cry out.”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”

“All people are like grass,(P)
    and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers(Q) and the flowers fall,
    because the breath(R) of the Lord blows(S) on them.
    Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers(T) fall,
    but the word(U) of our God endures(V) forever.(W)

You who bring good news(X) to Zion,
    go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,[c](Y)
    lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
    say to the towns of Judah,
    “Here is your God!”(Z)
10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes(AA) with power,(AB)
    and he rules(AC) with a mighty arm.(AD)
See, his reward(AE) is with him,
    and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:(AF)
    He gathers the lambs in his arms(AG)
and carries them close to his heart;(AH)
    he gently leads(AI) those that have young.(AJ)

12 Who has measured the waters(AK) in the hollow of his hand,(AL)
    or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?(AM)
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
    or weighed the mountains on the scales
    and the hills in a balance?(AN)
13 Who can fathom the Spirit[d](AO) of the Lord,
    or instruct the Lord as his counselor?(AP)
14 Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him,
    and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge,(AQ)
    or showed him the path of understanding?(AR)

15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
    they are regarded as dust on the scales;(AS)
    he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.(AT)
16 Lebanon(AU) is not sufficient for altar fires,
    nor its animals(AV) enough for burnt offerings.
17 Before him all the nations(AW) are as nothing;(AX)
    they are regarded by him as worthless
    and less than nothing.(AY)

18 With whom, then, will you compare God?(AZ)
    To what image(BA) will you liken him?
19 As for an idol,(BB) a metalworker casts it,
    and a goldsmith(BC) overlays it with gold(BD)
    and fashions silver chains for it.
20 A person too poor to present such an offering
    selects wood(BE) that will not rot;
they look for a skilled worker
    to set up an idol(BF) that will not topple.(BG)

21 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?(BH)
Has it not been told(BI) you from the beginning?(BJ)
    Have you not understood(BK) since the earth was founded?(BL)
22 He sits enthroned(BM) above the circle of the earth,
    and its people are like grasshoppers.(BN)
He stretches out the heavens(BO) like a canopy,(BP)
    and spreads them out like a tent(BQ) to live in.(BR)
23 He brings princes(BS) to naught
    and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.(BT)
24 No sooner are they planted,
    no sooner are they sown,
    no sooner do they take root(BU) in the ground,
than he blows(BV) on them and they wither,(BW)
    and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.(BX)

25 “To whom will you compare me?(BY)
    Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.(BZ)
26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:(CA)
    Who created(CB) all these?
He who brings out the starry host(CC) one by one
    and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,(CD)
    not one of them is missing.(CE)

27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
    Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
    my cause is disregarded by my God”?(CF)
28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?(CG)
The Lord is the everlasting(CH) God,
    the Creator(CI) of the ends of the earth.(CJ)
He will not grow tired or weary,(CK)
    and his understanding no one can fathom.(CL)
29 He gives strength(CM) to the weary(CN)
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men(CO) stumble and fall;(CP)
31 but those who hope(CQ) in the Lord
    will renew their strength.(CR)
They will soar on wings like eagles;(CS)
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.(CT)

Footnotes

  1. Isaiah 40:3 Or A voice of one calling in the wilderness: / “Prepare the way for the Lord
  2. Isaiah 40:3 Hebrew; Septuagint make straight the paths of our God
  3. Isaiah 40:9 Or Zion, bringer of good news, / go up on a high mountain. / Jerusalem, bringer of good news
  4. Isaiah 40:13 Or mind