The Book of Isaiah
A MESSAGE OF COMFORT
Text: ISAIAH 40
1. It has been pointed out that the Bible has 66 books, and the book of Isaiah has 66 chapters.
2. There are 39 chapters in the OT and then there is a break. There are 39 chapters in the book of Isaiah and then there is a break. We have now come to that break.
3. The Scofield Study Bible has divided the book of Isaiah into two parts:
4. It is interesting to note that the OT stresses sin and the judgment of God. And the first 39 chapters of Isaiah emphasize God’s judgment on sin.
5. The emphasis in the NT is on the Lord Jesus Christ, and this is also the emphasis in the second section of Isaiah. The NT begins with the ministry of John the Baptist, and so does Isaiah 40 (cf. 40:3).
6. The Bible ends with the lost being sent into the lake of fire, and the saved enjoying the new heavens and the new earth. So does the book of Isaiah (66:22-24).
7. This section of Isaiah contains more verses that are quoted in the NT than any other OT passage of equal length.
8. From this section in Isaiah are drawn several of the most beautiful portions of Handel’s Messiah. No portion of Scripture presents the sufferings of Christ more vividly or sets forth their purpose more clearly than Isaiah 53.
9. Of course, there are many Messianic prophecies in the first section of Isaiah (7:14; 9:6, 7; etc.), just as there are many Messianic prophecies in the OT.
10. Before moving on, let me add that liberals teach there are two Isaiah’s. In fact, some say there are three! But we can be certain that there is only one Isaiah.
11. Matthew 8:17 (quoting Isaiah 53) refers to “Isaiah the prophet.”
12. Luke 4:17, 18 (quoting Isa. 61:1) refers to “the prophet Isaiah.” Many other examples could be given.
13. The great theme of this final section of Isaiah is a message of comfort. Notice the repetition (40:1, 2).
I. A MESSAGE OF PARDON (40:1, 2)
II. A MESSAGE OF PREPARATION (40:3-5)
III. A MESSAGE OF PEACE (40:6-11)
I. A MESSAGE OF PARDON
1. “Her iniquity is pardoned” (40:2). These are words of comfort.
2. Israel had sinned greatly against the LORD but they were still God’s people. The LORD says in Isaiah 40:1, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.” He was still their God (40:1b).
3. The Psalmist said, “We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:3).
4. Isn’t it good to know we are God’s people? (If you are not now God’s people, you can be.)
5. Despite Israel’s idolatry, and rebelliousness, and disobedience, and immorality, God still loved them and says in Isaiah 40:2, “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem…”
6. Not roughly, not harshly, but “comfortably,” i.e. tenderly.
7. God dealt with Israel’s sin – “for she hath received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins” (40:2b).
8. Isaiah 61:7 says, “For your shame ye shall have double.”
9. Jeremiah 16:18 says, “And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double.”
10. Jeremiah 17:18 says, “Bring upon them the day of evil, and destroy them with double destruction.”
11. Zechariah 9:12 says, “Even to day do I declare that I will render double unto thee.”
12. Revelation 18:6 says, “Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.”
13. Many Bible expositors have disagreed over this “double” punishment, and there are different views. Harry Bultema wrote, “It must be remembered that Israel did sin doubly; her first sin is found in the prophets and her second in the gospels. Thus, there is double punishment for double sin” (Commentary on Isaiah).
14. God dealt with Israel’s sin. This is why Jerusalem was destroyed and the people were in captivity in Babylon. But despite all their sins and chastisements, God was still their God, and they were still His people (40:1).
15. Harry Ironside wrote, “God means to comfort His people, but in doing so He has to bring before them very definitely their true condition in His sight, and then shows His remedy…In His gracious ministry of comfort God always begins by showing us our need and our dependence upon His omnipotent power” (Isaiah).
16. These prophecies will not be fulfilled until Israel repents and accepts Jesus as their Messiah. “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written (Isa. 59:20), There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Romans 11:26).
17. Zechariah 12:10 says, “And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”
II. A MESSAGE OF PREPARATION (40:3-5)
1. The picture here is of a forerunner (an ambassador or courier) preparing the way for the coming of a king (40:3). This prophecy was fulfilled by John the Baptist (Matt. 3:1-3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:3-6; John 1:23).
2. Notice that Isaiah says in Isaiah 40:3 that the forerunner was to prepare the way for “the LORD” (i.e., JEHOVAH).
3. Spiritually speaking, Israel was “in the wilderness” (Isa. 40:3). John preached repentance and got his head cut off. John prepared the way for our Lord.
4. Our Lord preached repentance and they rejected Him too (cf. Matt. 21:23-46).
5. Isaiah’s prophecy encompasses both the first coming and the second coming of Christ. “And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed” (40:5). John 1:14 says, “And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
6. But our Lord prayed to God the Father in John 17:5, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.”
7. Our Lord’s glory was mostly hidden at His first coming, but it will be wonderfully displayed at His second coming.
8. Our Lord said in Matthew 25:31, “When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory.”
9. Notice Isaiah 40:5 says, “and all flesh shall see it together” (cf. Luke 3:6). This will happen at the second coming of Christ. Revelation 1:7 says, “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him.”
10. Isaiah draws a contrast between the strong and eternal Word of God, and frail and feeble man (40:8).
11. Isa. 40:6 says, “All flesh is grass.” James 1:10 says, “because as the flower of the grass he (man) shall pass away.”
12. First Peter 1:24, 25 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.”
13. Moses wrote in Psalm 90:5, 6, “In the morning they are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.”
5. Commenting on this Scripture, Spurgeon said, “Here is the history of the grass – sown, grown, blown, mown, gone; and the history of man is not much more.”
14. Isaiah prophesied that the mighty nations of Assyria and Babylon would soon be gone. Like the grass, nations and their leaders (Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, et al) fulfill their purposes and then fade away, “but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isa. 40:8).
15. Spurgeon was right – the history of man is like the history of the grass: “sown, grown, blown, mown, gone.”
III. A MESSAGE OF PEACE (40:9-11)
1. “Good tidings” (40:9) is “good news.” In the NT, it is called “the Gospel.”
2. God is revealed as a personal God, the God of Israel – “Behold your God” (40:9b).
3. God is revealed as a strong God – the Ruler and Deliverer of Israel (40:10a).
4. God is revealed as a Rewarder (40:10b). Hebrews 11:6 says, “He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”
5. Our Lord said in Revelation 22:12, “And, behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”
6. Isaiah 40:10 says, “His reward is with Him, and His work before Him.” Isaiah 62:11 says the same thing – “Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him.”
7. God is also revealed as the Good Shepherd (Isa. 40:11). Our Lord said in John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.”
1. In II Corinthians 1:3, the apostle Paul refers to God as “the God of all comfort.”
2. And Paul goes on to say, “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (II Cor. 1:4).
3. In other words, God comforts us in order that we may be able to comfort others that need comfort.
4. And there sure are many people who need comfort.
5. The best thing we can do for them is introduce them to the Lord Jesus Christ, who will then give them “the Comforter” (John 14:16; 16:7).