VERSE OF THE DAY
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
All those who put themselves in faith of the Lord will become strong and powerful in faith. They will be strong and powerful in grace like eagles soaring high above all. They will go forth and not grow weary or tired they will go forth and walk and not be faint or weak.
As you are waiting on God to strengthen you, remember the words of the prophet Isaiah in Chapter 40, verse 31, “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.” (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV).Oct 31, 2015
MESSAGE: God strengthens us during our time of waiting
Bennie L. RobinsonFor The Leaf-Chronicle
As you are waiting on God to strengthen you, remember the words of the prophet Isaiah in Chapter 40, verse 31, “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.” (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV).
Life’s waiting room is a place where time seemingly stands still. It is a place where life is put on hold. Sometimes when I visit my doctor, while I sit and wait in his office, it feels like hours have passed, and yet when I look at my watch, it’s been only 20 minutes. When we are in the waiting room of life, it seems as if progress has come to a screeching halt. This is how it feels sometimes while we wait on the Lord.
One of the important exhortations of the Bible is the call to “wait on the Lord.” Even though God promises special blessings for those who wait, waiting is one of the most difficult exhortations of scripture. Why is it so hard? Because, as a part of fallen humanity, we are so prone to take matters into our own hands and to follow our own schemes. Yet, over and over again we are told in scripture to “wait on the Lord.”
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We don’t like to wait, and when we think of waiting we are apt to respond with a pun: “Wait? That’s what made the bridge collapse!” Of course, that’s weight, not wait. But then, these two words, weight and wait, are not always unrelated, because one of our needs in waiting on the Lord is the need to cast the weighty burdens of life on Him.
I once heard an illustration about how God strengthens us during times of waiting through trials. It went like this: Did you know that an eagle knows when a storm is approaching long before it breaks? The eagle will fly to a high spot and wait for the winds to come. When the storm hits, it sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm. While the storm rages below, the eagle is soaring above it. The eagle does not escape the storm; it simply uses the storm to lift it higher. It rises on the winds that bring the storm.
When the storms of life come upon us, we can rise above them by setting our minds and our belief toward God. The storms do not have to overcome us; God will strengthen us during our time of waiting. His power will lift us up above the dark clouds so we can ride the winds of the storm that bring sickness, tragedy, failure and disappointment into our lives.
I know because of my recent experience with tragedy. I have had seven deaths in my family this year alone, and through my tragedies, God continues to strengthen me and lift me up above my storms. He will do the same for you, in whatever storm you are dealing with. I just want to encourage everyone who reads this article that God is not asleep and He is not just standing on the sidelines observing. He is in the fight right there with you, lifting you up so you can soar above your storm.
Remember, it is not the burdens of life that weigh us down, it is how we handle them. So wait on the Lord and be of good courage. Wait, I say, on the Lord!
Bennie L. Robinson is pastor of St. Bethlehem Christian Church in Clarksville.
What Does Isaiah 40:31 Mean?
January 25, 2021
by: Drew Hunter
This article is part of the What Does It Mean? series.
But they who wait for 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. —Isaiah 40:31
Isaiah 40:31 contains a great promise of strength for the weary: “they who wait for 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.” This promises a supernaturally renewed strength—a strength that would compare to mounting up as an eagle or running without fatigue. But what does this mean and how do we receive it? The context of this verse helps us.
The Israelites who first received this promise were worn out from their hardship. They had lived in exile in Babylon for several decades. Their perspective was darkened by despairing thoughts: “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God” (Isa. 40:27). They thought God either couldn’t help or didn’t care. Isaiah uses a pair of words—faint and weary—three times in the span of a few verses here (Isa. 40:27-31). They were exhausted and burdened from the circumstances of life. They weren’t just weak in body, but weak in spirit. How could they endure the hard circumstances of life any longer?
Pastor Drew Hunter helps readers grasp the message of Isaiah, a prophetic book about the God who saves his people from their sins.
Isaiah responded to these questions with his own: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not grow faint or grow weary” (Isa. 40:28). This is a good word for the weary: You may grow faint, but God doesn’t. God is an endless source of strength, and he gives it generously—“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength” (Isa. 40:29). This is who he is. The ever-strong and never-weary One loves to help weak and weary people.
Here’s what this shows us: If we think that God is too great to be concerned about us, we actually don’t believe he’s great enough. God’s greatness is not just that he is strong, but that he is strong for us. God’s glory is not just that he has power, but that he loves to use it to help those who need it. God is not too great to care, he’s too great not to care.
In all our weariness, then, how do we get this strength? We may expect Isaiah to share the wisdom of physical rest, exercise, diet, and so forth. But while those are all God-given sources of strength, they cannot give us the deepest strength we need when we come to the end of ourselves. Isaiah acknowledges this—“even youths shall faint and be weary; and young men shall fall exhausted” (Isa. 40:30). In other words, even those in their prime with perfect health have limits. We need a stronger strength to match our deep discouragements.
So, how do we get it? There is only one answer, and here we come to the great promise of this text: “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.” Not, those who work for the Lord, but those who wait for him. This isn’t about doing our part and asking God to do the rest.
God’s greatness is not just that he is strong, but that he is strong for us.
This isn’t about showing God how strong we are and asking him to give us a bit more. No, here we admit that we don’t have the strength we need. We acknowledge that we need the strength only he can give. And we wait for him, which is more than just passing time. In Hebrew, this word carries with it a sense of hopeful expectation. In the midst of hardship, we look to him as the one who works all things together for our good.
As Christians, we look to Jesus, who came to us and said: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). He carried the burden of our sin and judgment upon himself on the cross. He rose again and sent his Spirit to empower us and strengthen us in all our weakness. And we now look to him and wait for him to work—ultimately looking to the day when Jesus returns to set all things right and make all things new.
Drew Hunter is the author of Isaiah: A 12-Week Study.
Drew Hunter (MA, Wheaton College) is the teaching pastor at Zionsville Fellowship in Zionsville, Indiana. He is the author of Made for Friendship and the Isaiah and Matthew volumes in the Knowing the Bible series. Drew and his wife, Christina, live in Zionsville, Indiana, and have four children.
What Does Isaiah 40:31 Mean? ►
But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
Whether the promises of God are for Israel or given to the Church, God’s Word is true. His judgements are just, and His promises are “yes” and “amen”, for those that believe His Word, wait on Him, abide in Him – and He in us.
At the end of Isaiah Chapter 40, we read some well-loved verses that have encouraged generations of Jews and Gentiles, through many centuries of time, “Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall BUT those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will rise up high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”
There are difficulties in life that overwhelm the strongest of people, fears that gnaw at the stoutest of human hearts, and young men who grow faint and weary. They stumble and fall because they rely on their own, inner strength and human resources, which are not a sufficient shield in the storms of life. Only power from above is sufficient to sustain us. Only His protective hand can shelter us from the storms of life and not our own limited, human abilities.
These words of comfort were given to Israel after Isaiah’s repeated warning of approaching punishment if they did not repent of their evil ways, nevertheless… the Lord is a God of comfort and grace. He never goes back on His Word nor does He grow weary – and in His loving-kindness He gives grace to the humble and renews the strength of those that wait upon Him, by faith.
Although these words were addressed to Israel they have an application in the lives of ALL God’s people. They are a call to us all to turn from any wrongdoing in our lives and live by faith and not by sight – to trust in the Lord with all our heart and not lean on our own understanding.
It is faith in His Word that is needed to soar with wings as eagles. It is trusting God to bring to pass all He has promised, even when our senses and logic seem to suggest the opposite or appear to contradict His promised truth. Those who wait on the Lord are those who have the assurance and inner confidence that the promises He has made to His people, and the things for which we hope, are a matter of fact and a present reality… that cannot be contradicted by senses, emotions, reason or fear.
The Lord our God is faithful and true to His Word and He satisfies our years with good things so that our youth is renewed like that of an eagle. He is good to those who wait for Him and seek Him – trust Him and love Him. And He has promised that His grace is sufficient for us, no matter how weary we may become, for His power is perfected in our weakness.
God’s grace is sufficient for every circumstance of life. It is sufficient for every difficulty we may face or any challenge life throws at us. His grace is enough for all who place their entire trust and confidence in His mighty strength. His grace is enough for every eventuality in life and His provision comes through faith in His beloved Son. It is the strength of the Lord Jesus Who sustains those who do not rely upon their own abilities. He will provide strength to those who can admit to their own disability – for His grace is sufficient in all situations of life.
Those who confidently manage their Christian walk by relying on their own personal talents, skills, capacities, and capabilities, eventually discover that their strength is insufficient for their needs. In time they are brought to the very end of themselves until they can admit that the refreshment they desperately need has been drawn from the broken cistern of the old, Adamic-life and will eventually run dry, for the energy-source that is powered through the fleshly self-life, will in time be drained of all its self-induced efforts.
When a believer truly identifies with his Saviour and trusts in Christ’s capacities alone for his journey through life, it is then that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness, it is then that the wind of God will lift us up on eagles’ wings and carry us through life’s stresses and strains, in the power of His Holy Spirit. It is when the man or woman of God is prepared to admit their weakness and incapacitates, that they are enabled by Him to draw from the bottomless well of His everlasting supply, and drink deeply from the living waters of God’s super-abundant provision.
It is then that the spiritual battery is regenerated and renewed by Christ’s limitless power, enabling us to run the straight race – and in His strength, to run in such as way as to win the prize, for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
It is when the man or woman of God is prepared to admit their weakness
The Beautiful Context and Verse Meaning Behind “Those Who Wait on The Lord”
• Heather Adams
“..they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
The name Isaiah means “The Lord is salvation,” and this theme resonates through all of the prophet’s book. The writing reflects an acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty over His people and even pagan nations, as well as a reminder that no one can be holy in their own strength and that we must wait on the Lord for provision.
Along with these difficult passages, the book of Isaiah offers a glimpse of God’s amazing plan to reclaim His people through the arrival of a Deliverer. In the meantime, passages like chapter 40:31 declare God’s promise of provision and victory for those who rely on Him as they wait.
Isaiah has just pronounced in Chapter 39 that the Babylonians would invade Jerusalem, leading to a period of captivity for God’s people. This was a frightening prospect, especially following all the messages of judgement and condemnation Isaiah had already brought to the nations. God’s faithful needed reassurance, and He graciously shifts the tone of Isaiah’s words to encourage them. Starting in Chapter 40, poetic and prophetic words tell of the comfort, forgiveness and incredible blessings God has in store for those who love and obey Him.
The glory of God is a theme that runs throughout the whole book of Isaiah. But rather than keeping the focus on the fearful aspect of oncoming invasion, Chapter 40 jumps ahead to a time after God’s people have been in captivity in a foreign land. Now comes a touch of consolation and anticipation of a new thing that God will be doing. It starts with the voice of a loving Father to his children who have just been released from Babylon to return home.
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1-2).
Then comes the start of joyful proclamations for those that wait upon the Lord.
Understanding “They That Wait Upon the Lord” Promise
Isaiah leads up to his promise in verse 31 with many other beautiful verses:
“And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together” (Isaiah 40:5).
“You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Zion lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’” (Isaiah 40:9).
Many verses here claim God as Creator and Ruler.
“He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing” (Isaiah 40:22-23).
“Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing” (Isaiah 40:26).
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom” (Isaiah 40:28).
Other passages praise God as the Provider who deeply cares for His own.
“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11).
“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the week” (Isaiah 40:29).
Verse 30 again states that even the most physically fit of men are weak and limited in power, which leads into the beautiful promise in verse 31 of what God’s strength will help them do if they wait on Him.
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Who Is Isaiah Writing to and Why?
The book of Isaiah aims its message mainly at the people of Judah and Israel, but also includes nearby nations like Egypt, Moab and Assyria. His mission is to warn them of upcoming judgement by God for their rebellious behavior. These people have been following religious practices, but their hearts have been turned away.
King Hezekiah had worked hard during his reign to clear out idol worship and restore a sense of purity in Judah. But the nation was being brought down by the evil practices of many of its citizens, and by the threats other nations posed.
Different Translations of Isaiah 40:31
Different Bible translations of verse 31 convey a similar overall meaning. The NIV uses the phrase “those who hope in the Lord” and the Good News has “those who trust in the Lord for help,” while most others say “those who (they that) wait for (upon) the Lord.” The NIV and Good News clarify that waiting is not a passive act, but actively expecting God to work.
The Complete Jewish Bible uses the title “Adonai,” or “God is my Lord”, while the Orthodox Jewish translation reads “Heshem” meaning “the Name.” But they, like the others, both stress that we find our strength only in God, for He is our all-in-all.
Isaiah, the namesake of this book, is widely considered to be one of the greatest of God’s prophets. A large part of his ministry was reminding everyone that God is real and mighty, and that His commands are to be the basis for living holy lives. Leaders and laypeople alike heard his calls to repentance, and most either ignored him or grew angry with the message. But he persevered, serving his Lord faithfully for approximately 40 years during the reigns of four different kings.
Isaiah was the son of Amoz. It is thought that Isaiah came from an upper-class home, and that he was of royal blood – perhaps even related to King Hezekiah. He spent his adult life in Jerusalem, married to a prophetess. His two sons are mentioned in the pages of his book: Shear-Jashub, or “a remnant shall return” (Isaiah 7:3) and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, meaning “speed the spoil, hasten the booty” (Isaiah 8:1-4). Tradition holds that Isaiah was put to death during the reign of King Manasseh around the year 680 BC.
Isaiah is the first book by one of God’s prophets in the Bible. It shows a great command of the Hebrew language, using poetic features like personification, dialogue, metaphors and parables, or stories. Many of the visions that are recounted have a dual purpose – to pronounce events that will happen soon, and then also at another time in the future.
The book can almost be seen as divided into two large sections. Chapters 1-39 list accusations by God and warnings of His oncoming wrath. Chapters 40-66 turn toward promises of restoration and peace to come later. The first 39 chapters take place during Isaiah’s ministry, which was around 700 BC. Chapters 40-66 may have been written later, in about 681 BC.
Because there is such a variety of writing styles and jumps in historical time frames (including before the Babylonians invasion and then after the exile of the Israelites), some scholars have mentioned the possibility of this book being the work of several authors, each writing in different eras. Others think that Isaiah wrote all the content, but that his disciples compiled it at a much later time. Most seem to agree that Isaiah wrote at least the first few chapters.
One of the major themes of Isaiah’s prophecy in the book is the coming of Christ. Isaiah drops many “pearls” of information about how and where the Messiah will arrive, as well as what His ministry will be. This, he declares, is the basis for our hope. He writes, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).
How Do We Renew Our Faith in the Lord Through Waiting?
Every believer needs times of refreshment and renewal. Whether we’ve been through a season of trial or just find ourselves burnt out from doing Kingdom work, the result can be a spirit that’s worn down. We need to find ways to revive before we fall into discouragement or distance ourselves from God.
Fortunately, as Isaiah 40 says, God is our unending source of strength. He generously gives to all who ask, so the key to renewing our faith is staying close to Him. An important way to do this is to cultivate a daily quiet time. This simply means setting aside a certain portion of your day to be devoted to seeking God, using some basic spiritual habits.
One way to spend this time is in reading God’s Word, which enlightens and stirs God’s people on. Talking to God in prayer gives us a chance to pour out our burdens and find rest in His presence as we rejuvenate. Worship, alone as well as with our church family, awakens a sense of gratitude and excitement that motivates us to move forward.
When we try to push through fatigue on our own for too long, nothing may seem to help right away. But our Lord promises that He will never leave us empty or alone if we seek Him. So in time, we will receive not only a boost for the moment, but equipping to “soar” through life’s situations and demands.
What Does This Verse Mean for Believers?
Staying on the narrow path of faith is not the easy road. But as believers, we are called to be part of a holy nation, shining God’s light into a dark world. As we journey through this life, the pressures and challenges we encounter can leave us drained, feeling unable to take that next step forward.
God’s supply of strength never diminishes, and it is always available to us. As we accept our weakness, lean on our Heavenly Father and trust in His perfect Ways, we’ll find a well of holy power that never runs dry. With His grace, our faith will grow, leading us on toward Christ-likeness.
Isaiah had a heart for the people of Jerusalem and beyond. He longed for everyone to come to a place of submission to God, so that they might avoid His wrath and experience His blessings. The book that bears his name speaks truths that still strongly resonate for us today. Verses like 40:31 invited the Israelites, and us, to let God be our Jehovah Jireh, the One who provides everything we need to go onward and upward.
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Heather Adams is an author, speaker, and singer living in Connecticut. Heather’s passion is to equip and encourage believers to seek more of God’s truth and to experience more of His joy each day. Her book, Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper is a practical, 30-day devotional about worship based on the writings of King David. Heather’s blog, Worship Walk Ministries, offers weekly Scripture passages and insights to ponder. A native New Englander, Heather is settling into her home in the South, trying out local foods and watching for the alligators that live nearby! You can connect with her on her website: heatheradamsworshipwalk.com
Isaiah Chapter 40
Isaiah 40 – Comfort and Strength for God’s People
A. The Word of the LORD prepares the way of the LORD.
1. (1-2) Comfort for the afflicted people of God.
“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!”
Says your God.
“Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her,
That her warfare is ended,
That her iniquity is pardoned;
For she has received from the LORD’s hand
Double for all her sins.”
a. “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God: The previous 39 chapters of Isaiah certainly had passages of comfort and hope, but there was a strong tone of judgment and warning throughout the section. Now, beginning with Isaiah 40, the tone shifts to being predominantly full of comfort and blessing, full of the glory of God.
i. Remember where Isaiah 39 just ended: announcing the coming Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem, and the exile of the nation. “The announcement that the Babylonians would someday capture Jerusalem and take the people into exile was a bitter blow. How could Judah celebrate the downfall of Assyria when everyone knew that a more powerful invader was on the way?” (Wolf)
ii. Isaiah is a book in three sections. Chapters 1-35 are prophetic, with the theme of condemnation. Chapters 36-39 are historic, and the theme is confiscation. Chapters 40-66 are messianic, and the theme is consolation.
b. Comfort, yes, comfort My people: Isaiah knew what it was to warn and instruct God’s people, but the LORD also wanted His people to receive His comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3 speaks of our Lord as the God of all comfort; God wants His messengers to speak comfort to His people.
i. In any group waiting to hear God’s word, there are any number of hidden hurting hearts. It is important for those hurting hearts to hear a word of comfort from God’s messenger. As one preacher put it, “Preach to broken hearts and you will never lack an audience.”
c. Speak comfort to Jerusalem: This means that Jerusalem needed a word of comfort. This means that God had comfort to give them. God’s comfort is not a hollow, positive-thinking, “There’s-a-silver-lining-behind-every-cloud” kind of message. God always gives His people reasons for comfort.
i. The comfort comes with tender words, spoken to the heart. Speak comfort is literally, “‘speak to the heart’, like a young man wooing his girl (Genesis 34:3).” (Motyer) It is important for God’s messengers today to speak to the heart.
d. That her warfare is ended: At the moment Isaiah spoke this, the battle may have still loomed. This may very well have been a prophetic word; even though there was still an army against them, as far as God was concerned, her warfare is ended. This was reason for comfort.
i. It is in this same sense that God speaks to us and tells us we can be more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37). The battle still looms, but as far as it concerns the believer in Jesus Christ, her warfare is ended, because You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
e. That her iniquity is pardoned: At the moment Isaiah spoke this, Jerusalem was well aware of her sin – Isaiah had made them aware of it! Yet, the prophet speaks of a day when comfort can be offered because her iniquity is pardoned. This is real comfort; to be recognized as a sinner – as one having iniquity – yet knowing just as much that our iniquity is pardoned. This was a reason for comfort.
f. For she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins: This declares the basis for the pardon of iniquity – the sin has been completely paid for. Isaiah, speaking in Old Covenant terminology, speaks of Jerusalem bearing the curse for disobedience described in passages like Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. But the same principle applies to the believer under the New Covenant; our iniquity is pardoned because our sin has been paid for. This is a reason for comfort.
i. Does it seem unfair that God would have a double payment for sin? “Double means ‘to fold over, fold in half’ (Exodus 26:9)…. When something is folded over, each half corresponds exactly with the other half, and this would yield the thought of exact correspondence between sin and payment.” (Motyer) A payment has been made, and it was exactly the payment that was needed.
ii. Our iniquity is never pardoned because God has simply decided to “let us off the hook.” That would make God an unrighteous, wicked judge, something He could never be. But under the New Covenant, it is not we who have received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins; it is our sin-bearing Savior Jesus Christ, who received the cup of wrath from the LORD’s hand double for all our sins.
2. (3-5) A voice in the wilderness prepares the way of the LORD.
The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the LORD;
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough places smooth;
The glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
And all flesh shall see it together;
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
a. The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Here, Isaiah speaks for the LORD’s messenger, who cries out to the barren places.
b. Prepare the way of the LORD: The idea is that the LORD is coming to His people as a triumphant King, who has the road prepared before Him so He can travel in glory and ease. Every obstacle in the way must be removed: every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth.
i. Whatever was wrong in the road must be corrected. The problems were not the same everywhere. Sometimes, the road in the valley needed to be lifted up; other times a road had to be cut through a passage in the mountains.
ii. The idea of preparing the way of the LORD is a word picture because the real preparation must take place in our hearts. Building a road is very much like the preparation God must do in our hearts. They are both expensive, they both must deal with many different problems and environments, and they both take an expert engineer.
c. The glory of the LORD shall be revealed: His glory is revealed to the prepared hearts described in the previous verses. And it is revealed without regard to nationality; all flesh shall see it together. This glory of the LORD is not revealed only to Jerusalem or Judah, but to every prepared heart. The certainty of this word is assured because the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
d. Prepare the way of the LORD: This passage of Isaiah 40:3-5 has a direct fulfillment in the New Testament, in the person and ministry of John the Baptist. Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, knew this at the birth of his son (Luke 1:76). And three gospels directly relate this passage to the ministry of John (Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:3, and Luke 3:3-6).
i. Jesus was the coming Messiah and King, and John the Baptist’s ministry was to be one crying in the wilderness, and through his message of repentance, to prepare the way of the LORD. We often fail to appreciate how important the preparing work of the LORD is. Any great work of God begins with great preparation. John wonderfully fulfilled this important ministry.
3. (6-8) The message of the voice in the wilderness.
The voice said, “Cry out!”
And he said, “What shall I cry?”
“All flesh is grass,
And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.”
a. What shall I cry? The voice in the wilderness knew he had an important work, but wanted to know more exactly what his message should be.
b. All flesh is grass: The message is the frailty of man. Isaiah thinks of the beautiful green grass covering the hills of Judah after the winter rains, and how quickly the grass dies, and the hills are left brown and barren. This is how frail and weak man is. Even the beauty of man is fleeting and passes as quickly as spring wildflowers (all its loveliness is like the flower of the field).
i. Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it: Man is in this frail state at the pleasure of God. It is to God’s glory and according to His plan that man is this frail, and the glory of man is so fleeting.
c. The word of our God stands forever: The message is the permanence of God and His word. In contrast to the frailty and fleeting glory of man (The grass withers, the flower fades), the word of our God endures.
i. The word of our God certainly has endured. It has survived centuries of manual transcription, of persecution, of ever-changing philosophies, of all kinds of critics, of neglect both in the pulpit and in the pew, of doubt and disbelief – and still, the word of our God stands forever.
ii. “Written on material that perishes, having to be copied and recopied for hundreds of years before the invention of the printing press, did not diminish its style, correctness, nor existence. The Bible, compared with other ancient writings, has more manuscript evidence than any ten pieces of classical literature combined.” (Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict)
iii. In A.D. 303, the Roman Emperor Diocletian demanded that every copy of the Scriptures in the Roman Empire be burned. He failed, and 25 years later, the Roman Emperor Constantine commissioned a scholar named Eusebius to prepare 50 copies of the Bible at government expense.
iv. Voltaire, the French skeptic and infidel who died in 1778, said that 100 years from his time, Christianity would be swept from existence and passed into history, and that the Bible would be a forgotten book. Many years after Voltaire’s death, the Geneva Bible Society used his press and his house to produce stacks of Bibles.
v. “Infidels for eighteen hundred years have been refuting and overthrowing this book, and yet it stands today solid as a rock. Its circulation increases, and it is more loved and cherished and read today than ever before. Infidels, with all their assaults, make about as much impression on this book as a man with a tack hammer would on the Pyramids of Egypt. When the French monarch proposed a persecution of the Christians in his dominion, an old statesman and warrior said to him, ‘Sire, the Church of God is an anvil that has worn out many hammers.’ So the hammers of the infidels have been pecking away at this book for ages, but the hammers are worn out, and the anvil still endures. If this book had not been the book of God, men would have destroyed it long ago. Emperors and popes, kings and priests, princes and rulers have all tried their hand at it; they die and the book still lives.” (Hastings, cited in McDowell)
vi. “A thousand times over, the death knell of the Bible has been sounded, the funeral procession formed, the inscription cut on the tombstone, and committal read. But somehow the corpse never stays put.” (Bernard Ramm, Protestant Christian Evidences)
d. The word of our God: This message, cried out by the voice in the wilderness, was meant to prepare hearts for the coming of the LORD by leading them into repentance. The understanding of our frailty and fleeting glory, contrasted with the eternal enduring of God and His word, should humble us in repentance before the LORD. It certainly worked in the ministry of John the Baptist (Luke 3:7-18).
e. The word of our God stands forever: Peter made a wonderful reference and application to this passage in 1 Peter 1:22-25.
i. There, he gives a stirring call for love among believers (Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 1 Peter 1:22).
ii. Then, using the passage from Isaiah 40:8, he says why we should love one another this way: having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the LORD endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.(1 Peter 1:23-25)
iii. Peter makes a beautiful connection, showing that the enduring word Isaiah spoke of is the same word of the gospel that is preached and believed, bringing salvation.
iv. Peter also makes a beautiful application. Since this eternal, always potentially fruit-bearing seed is in us, we have both the obligation and the ability to have a sincere love of the brethren. Perhaps we could say that if we need more love for others, it begins with having more of the incorruptible seed set in our hearts and allowed to grow.
B. “Behold Your God!”
1. (9) An invitation to behold your God.
You who bring good tidings,
Get up into the high mountain;
You who bring good tidings,
Lift up your voice with strength,
Lift it up, be not afraid;
Say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
a. You who bring good tidings, get up into the high mountain: Isaiah speaks of a message so great – tidings so good – that they must be spread as widely as possible. From on top of the high mountain, the messenger can proclaim this great message to as many people as possible. It is a message that should be shouted out, so the messenger is told, Lift up your voice with strength.
b. Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God”: What is the great message, that should be shouted so loud? It is an invitation to behold your God. There is nothing greater for a believer to do than to study and to know their God.
i. The message isn’t to give God a passing glance. No; we are invited to behold your God. It speaks of a study, of a long-term mission to know the greatness and the character of our God. It also shows how important it is for the message of God’s preacher to focus on God. After every sermon, a preacher should ask, “Did I help the people to behold your God?”
ii. A great philosopher named Alexander Pope once wrote, “Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; the proper study of mankind is man.” In one sermon, Spurgeon replied to that famous statement: “It has been said by someone that ‘the proper study of mankind is man.’ I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.”
2. (10) Behold the returning LORD.
Behold, 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.
a. Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand: One aspect of our God we should behold is the fact of His return. Our God will return to this earth, and He will come with power (a strong hand…His arm shall rule).
b. The Lord GOD shall come: When the LORD comes back, He comes to reward His people (His reward is with Him). He comes to inspect His work (and His work before Him). This is something important for us to know about our God.
3. (11) Behold the loving Shepherd.
He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.
a. He will feed His flock like a shepherd: Another aspect of our God to behold is His loving care as a shepherd. The first thing a shepherd must do for his sheep is feed them, and the LORD feeds us like a shepherd feeds his flock.
i. Sheep must be directed to the good pasture and must be moved on to new pasture when they have stripped the grass bare. We need as much carefully directed feeding as sheep! “No creature has less power to take care of itself than the sheep; even the tiny ant with its foresight can provide for the evil day, but this poor creature must be tended by man or else perish.” (Spurgeon)
ii. God loves to identify Himself with a shepherd. Many of the greatest men of the Bible were shepherds, and their character as shepherds points to Jesus Christ.
Abel is a picture of Jesus, the sacrificed shepherd.
Jacob is a picture of Jesus, the working shepherd.
Joseph is a picture of Jesus, the persecuted and exalted shepherd.
Moses is a picture of Jesus, the calling-out-from-Egypt shepherd.
David is a picture of Jesus, the shepherd king.
b. He will gather the lambs with His arm: Our LORD shows special care for the lambs. The youngest, the weakest, are not despised – they are given special care by the LORD who first actively gathers them and will carry them in His bosom. He doesn’t cast the weak lambs over His shoulder, as a shepherd might carry a sheep. Instead, He lovingly cradles them in His bosom, close to His heart. That is both a safe place and a tender place.
i. “To carry is kindness, but to carry in the bosom is loving-kindness. The shoulders are for power, and the back for force, but the bosom is the seat of love.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “I see the Lord of angels condescending to personal labor. Jesus Christ himself gathers with his own arm and carries in his own bosom the lambs of his flock. He doth not commit this work to an angel, nor does he even leave it to his ministers; but he himself, by his Spirit, still undertakes it.” (Spurgeon)
c. And gently lead those who are with young: The shepherd carries a rod and a staff and knows how to use them, but He also knows how to gently lead those who are with young. He knows exactly when to be gentle, and when more severe guidance should be used.
d. Like a shepherd: Jesus is given three great titles regarding His work as a shepherd.
i. Jesus the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-15). He is good in His care and sacrifice for the flock.
ii. Jesus the Great Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20). He is great in His glorious triumph over every enemy.
iii. Jesus the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). He is the Chief over all His people in His return. At His return, Jesus also exercises another aspect of His role as Shepherd: He divides the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-33). “Did you ever notice that the same Shepherd who saves the lost, will curse the finally impenitent? He shall separate them one from another as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats, and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall he say unto them on the left hand, ‘Depart ye cursed.’ What lips are those which pronounce those dreadful words? The Shepherd’s lips.” (Spurgeon)
4. (12) Behold the God over all creation.
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?
a. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand: Another aspect of our God to behold is His authority over all creation. Our God is so great, and so dominant over all creation, that He has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand and has measured heaven with a span.
i. This is another example of what we call anthropomorphism – speaking of God in human terms so we can partially understand who He is and what He does. God is not a being with the body of a giant, so large that all the waters of the earth could be cupped in His hand, or so large that the universe could be measured by the span of His hand. The Bible tells us that God the Father is spirit, so He does not have a body as we know it (John 4:24). But we understand exactly what the LORD tells us through the prophet Isaiah – God is so great, so dominant over all creation that we should stand in awe of His power and glory.
ii. Once my youngest son and I had a discussion about who in our family was bigger. We observed that his big brother was bigger than he was, and his big sister was bigger than the big brother, and mom was bigger than big sister, and I was bigger than mom was. Then my son looked at me and said, “But you’re not bigger than God.” That’s something for everyone to remember.
b. And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure: It isn’t just about size; it’s also about smarts. God is so great in His wisdom and intelligence that He calculated the dust of the earth in a measure. God knows exactly how many grains of dust there are on the earth. Even if a person knew the number of hairs on their head (as God knows, according to Luke 12:7), they could never calculate the dust in their own house – much less the dust of the earth.
i. To take it further, God knows how heavy the mountains are (He weighed the mountains in scales), and the hills also for that matter! (And the hills in a balance)
5. (13-14) Behold the God of all wisdom.
Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD,
Or as His counselor has taught Him?
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?
a. Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as His counselor has taught Him? Another aspect of God to behold is His great wisdom. He has the raw intelligence to know how much dust there is in the earth, and how heavy the mountains and the hills are. But more than that, God has the wisdom to use that knowledge. God is so wise, that no one has directed the Spirit of the LORD; no one as His counselor has taught Him.
i. Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD: In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament used in the days of Jesus and the disciples), this is translated Who has known the mind of the Lord? The apostle Paul quoted this line in Romans 11:34.
b. With whom did He take counsel: God needs no counsel, no instruction, no teacher, and no one to show Him the way of understanding.
C. God’s greatness is measured in comparison to others.
1. (15-17) God’s greatness surpasses all nations.
Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket,
And are counted as the small dust on the scales;
Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.
And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn,
Nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering.
All nations before Him are as nothing,
And they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless.
a. Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket: The glory of a powerful nation is something to behold. We think of a huge military parade, with all the strength of the nation on display. But compared to God, it is nothing. The greatest glory of the greatest nation is as a drop in a bucket compared to the greatness and glory of the Lord GOD.
b. Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering: If man were to take all the wood in the mighty forests of Lebanon and use it to make a burnt offering of all the animals of the land, it would not be enough to satisfy God. Man’s best efforts cannot satisfy the honor and glory of God.
c. They are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless: In this chapter, God declares His greatness over all creation, but He never says of creation that it is less than nothing and worthless. But the nations have an arrogance, a pride against God that puts them lower than creation itself – He accounts them less than nothing and worthless.
2. (18-20) God’s greatness surpasses all idols.
To whom then will you liken God?
Or what likeness will you compare to Him?
The workman molds an image,
The goldsmith overspreads it with gold,
And the silversmith casts silver chains.
Whoever is too impoverished for such a contribution
Chooses a tree that will not rot;
He seeks for himself a skillful workman
To prepare a carved image that will not totter.
a. What likeness will you compare to Him? There are many likenesses that represent the gods of the nations. How do they compare to God? They don’t compare at all, because they are only the work of men’s hands (the workman molds an image).
i. “Maybe we are not as crude as the ancient Israelites, though some nations are. However, some people worship a crucifix, others will worship the church, or idolize the preacher. Some people will bow before the gods of materialism, ambition, sex, even home and loved ones, and will substitute anything if only they can escape having to get down to the basic need of facing why it is that God does not guide or deliver.” (Redpath)
b. To prepare a carved image that will not totter: The empty images that are the idols of the nations are so insignificant that they must be made so that they will not totter. They can’t even stand up on their own! God has no rivals.
i. Look at the care you have to give to your idols. First, you have to choose good wood, because who wants to worship a rotting god? Then you must choose a skilled workman because who wants to worship a poorly made god? Then it has to be well designed because who wants to worship a god that keeps falling over? “Whenever Isaiah speaks about idolatry, he cannot keep from using the most cutting mockery.” (Bultema)
3. (21-26) God’s greatness is evident, as He is the Creator of all.
Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
He brings the princes to nothing;
He makes the judges of the earth useless.
Scarcely shall they be planted,
Scarcely shall they be sown,
Scarcely shall their stock take root in the earth,
When He will also blow on them,
And they will wither,
And the whirlwind will take them away like stubble.
“To whom then will you liken Me,
Or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high,
And see who has created these things,
Who brings out their host by number;
He calls them all by name,
By the greatness of His might
And the strength of His power;
Not one is missing.
a. Have you not known? Have you not heard? Isaiah can’t believe that anyone could doubt the greatness of God when they see the glory of God’s creation. First, He sits above all creation (It is He who sits above the circle of the earth). Second, He created it all (Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain).
i. Isaiah’s amazement is well placed. How can anyone look at the glory and design evident in creation, and fail to understand that there must be a glorious designer behind such a glorious design?
ii. “This is one of the central Old Testament passages on the doctrine of creation. It teaches that the physical fabric of creation is a direct artifact of the Creator.” (Motyer)
iii. Isaiah uses an interesting phrase when he describes God as the One who sits above the circle of the earth. How could Isaiah possibly know that the earth’s shape was a circle? He probably didn’t know, but the LORD who spoke through Isaiah did know.
iv. Every once in a while, unlearned critics talk as if Bible-believing people are members of the “Flat Earth Society” – people so out of touch with real science that they still insist the earth is flat. In response, we should be reminded that Augustine, perhaps the greatest of the church fathers, who lived about a thousand years before Columbus, professed that the earth was round, not flat. As well, in the thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas, the most profound and prolific of medieval theologians, observed that the spherical shape of the earth could be empirically demonstrated. All they did was agree with Isaiah: It is He who sits above the circle of the earth.
b. He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless: God’s power and glory are not only exalted above the inanimate creation, but also over men of power on the earth. When people have political power (princes) or legal power (judges) it is easy for them to think of themselves as gods! Through the message of Isaiah, the LORD sets this straight. All God needs to do is to blow on them, and they will wither.
c. Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name: God’s mastery over all creation is shown by the fact that He can bring out all the stars by number, and then He calls them all by name. With the billions and billions of stars in the universe, it is staggering to know that God can number and name them all.
i. “The astronomers are still busily engaged in counting and classifying the stars, but Christ has described, counted and ordered them already.” (Bultema)
D. Applying the knowledge of God’s greatness.
1. (27-28) Having confidence in God’s power and wisdom.
Why do you say, O Jacob,
And speak, O Israel:
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
And my just claim is passed over by my God”?
Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the LORD,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
a. Why do you say: Having spent all of Isaiah 40 showing us the greatness and the glory of God, now Isaiah shows us how understanding this makes a difference in our lives – beyond the obvious compulsion we should feel to honor and worship this great God.
b. Why do you say, O Jacob…“My way is hidden from the LORD, and my just claim is passed over by my God”? Understanding the greatness and glory of God persuades us that there is nothing in our life hidden from God, and there is nothing neglected by God.
c. Have you not known? Have you not heard? The people asked this question in Isaiah 40:21 doubted there was a God who created all. The ones asked the same question in this verse seem to know there is a creator, but live as practical atheists. They don’t seem to understand that the fact there is a God of all creation makes a difference in everyday life.
i. “How easy it is to believe in the infinite power of God and at the same time to feel that He is unable to meet our personal needs!” (Wolf)
d. Have you not heard? These practical atheists need to hear what they already know: that the Lord GOD is the Creator of the ends of the earth. Then they need to hear about the Creator: that He neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. Those who really believe these truths about God should live as if God is really there.
2. (29-31) Receiving the strength of the LORD.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
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.
a. He gives power to the weak: After explaining all the greatness and glory of God, now Isaiah explains another benefit we can receive from our God – He gives us His great power.
i. Notice who God gives power to: the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Those who are proud and confident in their own wisdom and strength will receive no strength from God.
b. Even the youths shall faint and be weary: Those who thought themselves strong find themselves weak. God’s strength is reserved for those who know they are weak, and know they have no might.
c. But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength: How do we receive this strength from the LORD? We receive it as we wait on the LORD. The idea behind wait on the LORD is not a passive sitting around until the LORD does something. Yes, God gives us strength; but we don’t expect it to come as if He were pouring it into us as we sit passively. He brings it to us as we seek Him, and rely on Him, instead of our own strength. If we are weak, it is because we do not wait on the LORD.
i. We are also told that we renew our strength. It is strength that was once received when we first came to the LORD in weakness and no might. Then, that strength is renewed as we wait on the LORD. Renew is “from a basic meaning ‘to change’…[it] comes to mean ‘to put on afresh’: here, ‘keep putting on fresh strength.’ (Motyer)
d. They shall mount up with wings like eagles: This is the measure of strength the LORD gives us – strength to soar above everything else.
e. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint: This is the purpose of the strength the LORD gives us – strength to move forward and progress for Him. It isn’t strength to show off, but strength to go forward in.
i. Weak in Isaiah 40:29 and faint in Isaiah 40:30 are the same Hebrew word, which means “failure through loss of inherent strength.” Weary in Isaiah 40:30 is a different word, which means “exhaustion because of the hardness of life” (Motyer). If we are worn out for either reason, God is here to give us strength – if we will wait on Him.
f. Notice the order, because it seems strange. First, we mount up with wings like eagles. Then we run. Finally, we walk. Does it seem out of order? Not at all. First, we recognize that we soar up into heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6). Then we set ourselves on the course to run the race (Hebrews 12:1). Then we are in a good place to walk the walk (Colossians 2:6).
(c) 2021 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
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