40 “Comfort, comfort My people,” says your God.
2 “With gentle words, tender and kind,
Assure Jerusalem, this chosen city from long ago,
that her battles are over.
The terror, the bloodshed, the horror of My punishing work is done.
This place has paid for its guilt; iniquity is pardoned;
its term of incarceration is complete.
It has endured double the punishment it was due.”
3 A voice is wailing, “In the wilderness, get it ready! Prepare the way;
make it a straight shot. The Eternal would have it so.
Straighten the way in the wandering desert
to make the crooked road wide and straight for our God.[a]
4 Where there are steep valleys, treacherous descents,
raise the highway; lift it up;
bring down the dizzying heights.
Fill in the potholes and gullies, the rough places.
Iron out the shoulders flat and wide.
5 The Lord will be, really be, among us.
The radiant glory of the Lord will be revealed.
All flesh together will take it in. Believe it.
None other than God, the Eternal, has spoken.”[b]
During the time of Jesus, John the Baptist wanders around Israel in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets warning the people that they need to correct their attitudes and behaviors, to bring them better in line with what God expects and desires. He declares (warns, actually) that God is coming and will set things right. During the circumstances of exile, the people don’t fully understand who or what this voice in the wilderness will be; centuries later, as the early Christian community looks back over the life of Jesus and John, they recognize the anonymous voice.
6 A voice says, “Declare!”
But what shall I declare?
All life is like the grass.
All of its grace and beauty fades like the wild flowers in a field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades
as the breath of the Eternal One blows away.
People are no different from grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades;
nothing lasts except the word of our God.
It will stand forever.[c]
Isaiah’s message is not just doom and gloom. God determines that His people may return home to rebuild their lives! God uses the new king, Cyrus of Persia, to accomplish this glorious restoration. God does not allow His punishment to last forever.
Now, in this new time, God smoothes the rocky way between Mesopotamia and all Israel; He makes the deserts between the present place of exile and their home just east of the Mediterranean Sea burst with sweet water and bloom with beauty and good things to eat. Treacherous roads and threatening beasts yield to God’s desire that they return safely.
In chapters 40–55, for the most part, the message is one of comfort and encouragement to God’s downtrodden and discouraged people. Many centuries later, these words will be understood in light of the Anointed One.
9 Ascend a high mountain,
you herald of good tidings, O Zion;
With a clear, strong voice make known to everyone
the joy that belongs to God’s chosen place,
O, Jerusalem, You herald of good tidings!
Make the news ring out! Don’t be afraid!
Say to these cities, this Judah: “Behold your God!”
10 The Lord, the Eternal, comes with power, with unstoppable might;
He will take control without question or delay.
He will see to it that wages are paid,
repairs are made, and all is set right again.
11 He will feed His fold like a shepherd;
He will gather together His lambs—the weak and the wobbly ones—into His arms.
He will carry them close to His bosom,
and tenderly lead like a shepherd the mother of her lambs.
12 Who has taken count and measured out all earth’s waters in a single, cupped palm
and determined heaven’s expanse with an outstretched hand?
Who has counted out exactly how many grains of dirt are here on earth,
and weighed the mountains and hills on scales?
13 Who has directed the Spirit of the Eternal One?
Can anyone claim to be His advisor?[d]
14 To whom did God turn for advice or instruction?
Whom did He consult about right and wrong?
Who directed Him down the path of justice or imparted to Him knowledge
or taught Him the way of understanding?
15 Face it; the nations are nothing but a drop in the bucket,
only a smidgen on the scales by the reckoning of God.
He can pick up entire islands as if they are grains of dirt.
16 Even if we had all the resources of Lebanon—
all of its trees to burn for fuel, all of its animals for burnt offerings—
How could we think that we’ve got enough to give to God?
17 All the countries of the world don’t add up to anything. In the eyes of God
they are less than nothing;
they are empty wastelands.
18 So would you try to find someone to compare to Him?
Can you think of anything that has a likeness to God?
19 An idol? Hardly. They are made by human hands.
Even if they are overlaid with gold, decorated with silver,
And shaped by the world’s best artisans,
they are subject to tarnish, tearing, and breaking.
20 Those who cannot afford such an extravagant offering
select a choice hardwood that will not rot,
And seek a skilled artisan to fashion an image
that will not totter and fall.
21 Don’t you know, haven’t you heard or even been told
from your earliest memories how the earth came to be?
22 Who else could have done it except God, enthroned high above the earth?
From such a vantage people seem like grasshoppers to Him.
Who else but God could stretch out the skies as if they were a curtain,
draw them tight, suspend them over our heads like the roof of a tent?
23 God reduces the rulers and judges,
the rich and powerful of the earth, to nothing;
24 They scarcely are planted, take root and start growing,
before God blows a withering breath,
And storm winds carry them away like chaff.
25 The Holy One asks, “Do you really think you can find
someone or something to compare to Me? My equal?”
26 Look at the myriad of stars and constellations above you.
Who set them to burning, each in its place?
Who knows those countless lights each by name?
They obediently shine, each in its place,
because God has the great strength and strong power to make it so.
27 Why, then, do you, Jacob, inheritors of God’s promise,
you, Israel, chosen of God—
Why do you say, “My troubled path is hidden from the Eternal;
God has lost all interest in My cause”?
28 Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?
The Eternal, the Everlasting God,
The Creator of the whole world, never gets tired or weary.
His wisdom is beyond understanding.
29 God strengthens the weary
and gives vitality to those worn down by age and care.
30 Young people will get tired;
strapping young men will stumble and fall.
31 But those who trust in the Eternal One will regain their strength.
They will soar on wings as eagles.
They will run—never winded, never weary.
They will walk—never tired, never faint.