Isaiah 40: Good News in the Old Testament. Judgment Ceases and Comfort is Here!

Several times, years ago, I had the pleasure and honor of singing Handel’s Messiah in a mass choir. That’s a choir of 30-40 people, along with a local symphony orchestra and professional soloists. What an experience! Technically, I’m a 2nd soprano singing between alto and soprano. Sometimes, I could manage the soprano part if it didn’t go too high. I would have loved to sing the soprano part of Messiah, but it was way too high. I had to settle for alto. Still, the altos had a significant part as did all the voices. I’ve embedded videos of the songs of Handel’s Messiah at the bottom.

Why bring this up? Well, Handel, got his inspiration for the start of his Messiah oratorio from Isaiah chapter 40. When you listen to the performances, you’ll see that it’s just about word-for-word in the King James version.

See, in the prior chapters, as well as in 2 Kings, God was warning the people of both kingdoms, Israel and Judah, of the coming wrath. All they had to do to avoid it was turn away from worshiping the false gods of their neighboring pagan nations and follow the One True God. Yet, they didn’t. Israel was attacked and carted away by the Assyrians and Judah was attacked 3 times and carried away to exile in Babylon.

Chapter 40 of Isaiah is the start of his Gospel prophecies. He’s telling the people that though you’ll go through hard times, God comforts, God is all-knowing and He’s bigger than any other thing in this world. Let’s dig in…

Isaiah 40

“Comfort, comfort my people,”
    says your God.
“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
Tell her that her sad days are gone
    and her sins are pardoned.
Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over
    for all her sins.”

Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness
    for the Lord!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland
    for our God!
Fill in the valleys,
    and level the mountains and hills.
Straighten the curves,
    and smooth out the rough places.
Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
    The Lord has spoken!”

A voice said, “Shout!”
    I asked, “What should I shout?”

“Shout that people are like the grass.
    Their beauty fades as quickly
    as the flowers in a field.
The grass withers and the flowers fade
    beneath the breath of the Lord.
    And so it is with people.
The grass withers and the flowers fade,
    but the word of our God stands forever.”

O Zion, messenger of good news,
    shout from the mountaintops!
Shout it louder, O Jerusalem (Zion).
    Shout, and do not be afraid.
Tell the towns of Judah,
    “Your God is coming!”
10 Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power.
    He will rule with a powerful arm.
    See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.
11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
    He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart.
    He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.

Isaiah 40:1-11 NLT

The Good News of the Good Shepherd

I’m going to borrow again from Pastor Sandy Adams

In ancient times the king always had an advance man. The forerunner would arrive prior to the king’s visit to make the necessary preparations. If a road was too steep and needed to be flattened, or too rough and had to be smoothed, it was up to the forerunner to make sure the king was well received. And in relation to the coming of King Jesus, John the Baptist served as His forerunner. In fact, all four Gospels quote verse 1 and identify this “voice crying in he wilderness” as John. He was Messiah’s forerunner.

Yet rather than smooth things out, in a sense John stirred things up. He lived an
austere life that mocked the materialism and ease of the Jewish leaders. He exposed sin and preached repentance. In anticipation of Jesus’ coming, John worked on the spiritual landscape. He prepared the people’s hearts.

Sandy Adams

Interestingly enough, Jesus didn’t enter Jerusalem as a king until it was “His time”. That was Palm Sunday and His “Triumphal Entry” is also recorded in all 4 Gospels. Jesus died on the cross disappointing many people because He didn’t come to free them from the Romans right then and there. His Kingdom is yet to come.

The Word of God Lasts Forever

Verse 8 is quoted by Peter…

24 As the Scriptures say,

“People are like grass;
    their beauty is like a flower in the field.
The grass withers and the flower fades.
25     But the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And that word is the Good News that was preached to you.

1 Peter 1:24-25 NLT

Why is it that so many people hear the Good News, yet they ignore it?

The Good Shepherd

John 10:9-11, Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
John 10:9-11

The Good Shepherd has many roles. Isaiah mentions 4 of them…

  • He feeds us, satisfying our spiritual hunger with His Word.
  • He gathers us together, calling us by our name.
  • He carries us through our toughest times and finds us when we’re lost.
  • He gently leads us where we should go and protects us from going where we shouldn’t.

He also is patient.

Going on…

The Lord Has No Equal

12 Who else has held the oceans in his hand?
    Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers?
Who else knows the weight of the earth
    or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale?
13 Who is able to advise the Spirit of the Lord?
    Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him?
14 Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advice?
    Does he need instruction about what is good?
Did someone teach him what is right
    or show him the path of justice?

15 No, for all the nations of the world
    are but a drop in the bucket.
They are nothing more
    than dust on the scales.
He picks up the whole earth
    as though it were a grain of sand.
16 All the wood in Lebanon’s forests
    and all Lebanon’s animals would not be enough
    to make a burnt offering worthy of our God.
17 The nations of the world are worth nothing to him.
    In his eyes they count for less than nothing—
    mere emptiness and froth.

18 To whom can you compare God?
    What image can you find to resemble him?
19 Can he be compared to an idol formed in a mold,
    overlaid with gold, and decorated with silver chains?
20 Or if people are too poor for that,
    they might at least choose wood that won’t decay
and a skilled craftsman
    to carve an image that won’t fall down!

21 Haven’t you heard? Don’t you understand?
    Are you deaf to the words of God—
the words he gave before the world began?
    Are you so ignorant?
22 God sits above the circle of the earth.
    The people below seem like grasshoppers to him!
He spreads out the heavens like a curtain
    and makes his tent from them.
23 He judges the great people of the world
    and brings them all to nothing.
24 They hardly get started, barely taking root,
    when he blows on them and they wither.
    The wind carries them off like chaff.

25 “To whom will you compare me?
    Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One.

26 Look up into the heavens.
    Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
    calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
    not a single one is missing.
27 O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
    O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
28 Have you never heard?
    Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
    No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
29 He gives power to the weak
    and strength to the powerless.
30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 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.

Isaiah 40:12-31 NLT

God is All-Powerful, All-Mighty and All-Knowing

God is bigger and more powerful than…

  • nature
  • nations
  • idols
  • rulers
  • stars

Nothing or no one is bigger or more knowledgeable than God. Who is man to think that he could counsel God? Once we accept that God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, we can then treat Him with the awe and respect He deserves. That is, fear God who is all-powerful, everywhere, and knows EVERYTHING.

The Earth is Round

In verse 22, Isaiah states that “God sits above the circle of the earth.” Here he is stating that the earth is round 2200 years before Columbus!

Remember Jesus spoke of the rapture in Luke 17. Two women are grinding (a daytime activity), as two men are in a bed (a nighttime activity)… that’s when He’ll return. How could Jesus promise to return in the day and in the night, and not contradict Himself? Obviously, He knew the Earth was round, not flat.

Sandy Adams

Here’s that scripture verse. Jesus said…

34 That night two people will be asleep in one bed; one will be taken, the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding flour together at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.”

Luke 17:34-35 NLT

The Rapture of the born-again believers will happen at the same time all around the world. My fictional series on what life on earth would be like moments after the Rapture captures this idea with vignettes from around the world.

Will you be left behind?

If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, which can happen at any moment, this is what you have to do…

Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive the Gift of Grace and the Confident Hope of Eternal Life…

Handel’s Messiah “Comfort Ye and Ev’ry Valley”

Handel’s Messiah – “And the Glory of the Lord”

Handel’s Messiah – “Behold a Virgin Shall Conceive” and “Good Tidings to Zion”

The first part of this is from Isaiah 7:14. The rest from Isaiah 40:9.

Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!