Old Testament Walk Through: Isaiah 40–48

God—the Holy One of Israel.

In this portion of Isaiah we find God—the Holy One of Israel. His attributes are presented here forcefully. We will try to see these one after another.

I God the Comforter
II God Who Sends Messengers
III The Incomparable God

IV God the Creator
V God’s Salvation
VI God’s Forgiveness

VII God’s Sovereignty
VIII The Titles of God
IX God’s Promises

X God’s Glory
XI God’s Call
XII God’s Judgement
XIII The Servant of the Lord

I God the Comforter
Some sixty years had passed by since the Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem. The people of Judah had experienced the bitter cup of God’s judgement. They knew now without doubt that it was their sin and rebellion against God that had brought this great disaster on themselves. But God was not willing to forsake His own people. He now strikes a different note through Isaiah the prophet.

God says, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (40:1). This is not just a message that was given to a people many centuries ago. It is God’s word to you today. God wanted the prophet to speak tenderly to Jerusalem. The message was that God had paid the price of her sin. Yes, in Christ Jesus who shed His precious blood on the cross, God has taken away your sin. Your punishment too has been taken away. So be comforted.

Many of us often think like the people of Judah that our cause has been disregarded by God. We complain at times (40:27). But the message is that God does not grow tired or weary like human beings do. Instead He gives strength to the weary. Therefore even when the best of youth grow tired, God renews the strength of those who hope in Him (they that wait upon the Lord—KJV). Those who are thus given strength by God, “They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (40:31).

Renewal of strength is an exciting part of God’s offer of comfort. God’s comfort is tenderness combined with an imparting of strength. It is confidence about the future; a new energy and enthusiasm and the knowledge that God’s purposes for your life would be fulfilled.

Note: Handel’s musical masterpiece Messiah begins with the first five verses from Isaiah 40.

II God Who Sends Messengers
There are many voices being heard in Isaiah Chapter 40. Some voices seem to be that of heavenly messengers, possibly angels (example v. 6, “A voice says, `Cry out’ ”). Another voice is that of John the Baptist (see verses 3 to 5). The voice is preparing the way for the coming of the Messiah. All the four gospels quote this as referring to the arrival of Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:3, Luke 3:4—6, and John 1:23).

The message of John the Baptist came in the desert. That is a place of solitude where communion with God is at its best. No other voices would interrupt your listening capabilities. Are you listening to what God is saying? The way has to be prepared. God even today needs voices to prepare the hearts of others to welcome and receive the King. Would you be one of the heralds of God? Would you be a kind of pilot vehicle going ahead announcing the arrival of the King? It is a blessed privilege to do so.

Then there is the voice of Prophet Isaiah himself. His is the voice of human despair. He asks, “What shall I cry?” (v. 6b). Then the message comes that earthly glory fades, the grass withers and the flowers fall. But against human despair and mortality is shown the note of hope of God’s Word and its immortality. It stands forever. Let us remember that the Word of God became flesh and made His dwelling among us! [see vv. 6—8 and John 1:14]

Then there is the voice of the one who brings good news to Jerusalem (v. 9). He is asked to lift up his voice without being afraid. To the towns of Judah the message is, “Here is your God!”

God is introduced as Sovereign Lord [see note at Titles]. But His gentleness is also portrayed: “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” (40:11 NIV). What a lovely description of the gentle shepherd, Jesus. He carries you close to his heart [Read more on this in Notes on Exodus, High Priest’s Garments; how the names of the tribes were engraved on precious stones over the heart of the High Priest].

III The Incomparable God
The great question that Isaiah raises is this: “TO WHOM, THEN, WILL YOU COMPARE GOD?” (40:18). This is the most dominant thought in this section of Isaiah (see 40:25, 46:5). His power, wisdom, and foreknowledge is unmatched.

About His wisdom Isaiah asks, “Who has understood the mind of the Lord, or instructed him as his counsellor?” (40:13).

About His power, Isaiah asks us to lift up our eyes and look to the heavens and see the starry host. God calls each one of them by name and because of His great power not one of them is missing (40:26) (see also Psalm 147:4).

About His foreknowledge, it is written, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come” (46:10).

God vs. Idols
“There are three main passages which deal with this theme:
● 40:18—24, the idol that cannot move. Chained down or weighed down, lacking the crudest indicator of life, which is movement.
● 44:9—20, the idol that cannot reward. Ironsmith and carpenter sweat at their task, but the idol they make cannot reward even them!
● 46:1—7, the idol that is a burden. When an empire fell its idols were hauled off to captivity along with the people. A burden to be carried! Note God’s comment: But I have always carried you.” ­­ Taken from The Bible in Outline, published by Scripture Union.

God declares in unmistakable terms: “Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no saviour” (43:10b,11). Again in 44:6, 7, 8 He says, “I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? . . . Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.” In Isaiah 45:18b we read, “I am the Lord, and there is no other.” In 45:21b, “And there is no God apart from me.” See also 46:9.

Perhaps in our cultural context it is important to understand that the powers of darkness should not be feared if you’re God’s child and living in the light. God challenges both the idol— worshippers of yesterday and the modern man who goes after astrology in these scathing words: “All the counsel you have received has only worn you out! Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you” (47:13). (see also 44:25, 26).

IV God the Creator
The knowledge of God as Creator is limited to Genesis 1 and 2 as far as a vast majority of Christians is concerned. That is why many Christians feel a kind of inferiority complex when others come and tell them about evolution and other scientific theories which deny the Creator. For such Christians these passages from Isaiah should provide strength. For God the Creator is presented here with great force.

2700 years before our time, Prophet Isaiah understood that the earth is circular in shape and not square or rectangle. In verse 22 of Isaiah 40 we read, “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.” Isaiah 42:5 and 44:24 again tells us that He is the Creator God. In 48:13 it is written, “when I summon them, they all stand up together.” It echoes the truth found in Genesis 1 that “God said” and it came to be! (see also Hebrews 11:3).

In 45:18 we find God’s purpose in creation. He created the earth so that it will be inhabited. He did not create it to be empty.  The scientific community and nations are spending billions to find out if there is life in outer space. If only the people would accept the fact that God made the earth for man to live!

V God’s Salvation

The Key Verse is: “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other” (45:22).

This salvation of God is personal. It is for you. It is for Jerusalem and all Israel. This salvation of God will not be delayed (46:13). At the same time, this salvation is for all peoples. See the angelic announcement in Luke’s gospel. “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (2:10).

VI God’s Forgiveness
Let us first look at what the Psalmist says about forgiveness: “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (Psalm 130:3, 4 NIV). Man’s greatest need is to be forgiven by God. Behind most diseases and stress lies this need to be forgiven. And to feel the acceptance with God.

Prophet Isaiah reveals to us a forgiving God. The very first chapter of Isaiah has the promise of God’s power and willingness to transform our lives from sinfulness to purity (1:18). In this section that we’re studying now, we find more of His promises of forgiveness. God says that for His own sake He blots out our transgressions. He says that He will remember our sins no more (43:25). What a great forgiveness! When you trust in this God, He deliberately forgets your sin when you repent of it and are washed in the blood of the Lamb of God.

God, through Prophet Isaiah, also sounds the call to the people to return to Him. He tells the people that, “I have swept away your offences like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist” (44:22a NIV). Think about this. What hope in life or in the life hereafter is there for you if God were not a forgiving God? If God dealt with us according to our sin, would we stand? Therefore be in awe of God and His great forgiveness. Thank Him today for His forgiveness. Remember the words of Jesus on the cross, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34)! We continue to live because Jesus our great high priest lives to intercede for us (Hebrews 7:25).

VII God’s Sovereignty
“I am he; I am the first and I am the last.” (48:12b). God rules over all. Kingdoms will rise and fall, but God remains King (see 44:6). People of this world are awed by the power of nations and multinational companies who seem to sway even governments. But Prophet Isaiah gives us a proper perspective of things. He tells us that “the nations are like a drop in a bucket” (40:15) and “Before him all the nations are as nothing” (40:17). He says, “See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him” (40:10). [emphasis added]

His sovereignty is also revealed in His foreknowledge. Through Prophet Isaiah, God promised a deliverer for Israel; a king who would defeat the Babylonians and allow the Jewish people to return home from their 70 year long Babylonian captivity. That man was Cyrus a Persian king. This man is called by name in the Book of Isaiah (see 44:28, 45:1). But Prophet Isaiah died 150 years before the days of Cyrus. Thus God shows His sovereignty through His foreknowledge. An individual, a pagan king, was mentioned by name and even a pagan king is moved by God to do His will (see 2 Chronicles 36:22, 23; Ezra 1:1—4).

Prophet Isaiah also foresaw the day when all will bow before God: “Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear” (45:23). This is also the New Testament certainty as shown in Philippians 2:9—11. Our God is sovereign. All will soon bow before Him.

VIII The Titles of God
This section of Isaiah shows us our God like a precious diamond which has different facets; all part of the same yet reflecting some part of the whole so that we might appreciate Him better. Let us look at how God is shown in this section.
The LORD (40:2) or Yahweh, His personal name.
The Sovereign LORD* (40:10)
Shepherd (40:11)
The Holy One (40:25)
The Everlasting God (40:28)
The Creator (40:28)
Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel (41:14)
The God of Israel (41:17)
Jacob’s King (41:21)
Servant (Jesus Christ) (42:1)
God the LORD (42:5)
(like) A mighty man, a warrior (42:13)
Your Saviour (43:3),
Saviour of Israel (45:15)
Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty (44:6)
Rock (44:8)
Maker (45:9) [God as a Potter is implied in this verse]
A righteous God (45:21)
The First and the Last (48:12) [see Revelation 1:17]

*Note: Sovereign LORD in Hebrew reads “Adonai Yahweh.” Now “Yahweh” is translated as LORD (in caps) in English Bibles (most translations). “Adonai” is translated as Lord (in small letters). So “Adonai Yahweh” has to be written as “Lord LORD.” To avoid this repetition translators opted for “Sovereign LORD.” But the trouble is that the meaning you would get on hearing “Sovereign Lord” is “Supreme or Almighty Lord”, which is not what it means. It is “Lord Yahweh”, identifying which Lord is spoken of or is speaking, just like “Lord Jesus”.

IX God’s Promises
Paul tells us that, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are `Yes’ in Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:20a). Think about it. Is there any God who has made promises like what you find in the Bible? We adore and worship a God who is faithful in keeping His promises. This section of Isaiah records many promises of God. Though most of them refer to the nation of Israel, it has personal application in our lives as well. Let us look at some of the promises of God seen in this section.

Isaiah 40:31 This promise is for those who hope in the Lord. Renewal of strength is promised. Reaching of greater heights is assured. So friend, keep hoping in the Lord.

Isaiah 41:10 is a promise that can strengthen you much. It is like a rainbow:

“So do not fear,
for I am with you;
do not be dismayed,
for I am your God.
I will strengthen you
and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:14, 15 God is addressing His people saying, “Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you.” Note the word, “worm.” Surely there have been occasions in life when you had felt that you are nothing but a worm—of no good, no value, no significance and no worth. If you’ve ever felt like that hold on to this grand promise of God. He says that He will make you into a threshing sledge, new and sharp, with many teeth. God is more than willing to reshape you, give you a new beginning and make you useful with greater edge.

Isaiah 43:2 This promise gives us the assurance that God will walk with us in our troubles and not allow “the waters” or “the fire” to overwhelm us.

Isaiah 43:18, 19 One of man’s greatest enemies is his past. But there is hope in Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). And therefore your past cannot hold you down. God says through Isaiah, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” Do not keep looking at the rear view mirror. Bury your past and do not dig it up again. Forget even the glory of the past as Paul said, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind . . .” (Philippians 3:13). Yes, God is going to do a new thing in your life. It is even now springing up. Expect it now!

Isaiah 43:25, 44:22 Promises of God’s forgiveness of sins. [see section on God’s forgiveness]

Isaiah 44:3 God’s promise of pouring out His Spirit on the descendants of Israel is very much applicable to us today according to Acts 2:39. Yes, this promise is for you!

Isaiah 44:21 I will not forget you. [Read also 49:15, 16]. No matter what happens, your God will never forget you. There are times in life when mood swings occur. One moment you can feel elated, the other moment depressed. It is quite easy to feel lonely even when your friends are all around you. Often you feel, “I am alone. Nobody cares for me. Nobody understands.” Dear friend, feelings change. But God’s promises don’t. When God says, “I will not forget you,” he never forgets. So cheer up, You’re remembered; always!

Isaiah 45:1—3 These promises were made to Cyrus, the Persian King whom God was going to bring to destroy the Babylonian power. Yet these promises are true for us too. In verse one, the promise is that God will open doors. Dear friend, in this world people go to any lengths to get things done. They use money, influence, force and other methods to open doors. But remember the words, “What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open” (Revelation 3:7b).

So trust in the Son of David who opens doors for you. Then in verse 2 is the promise of cutting a path through seemingly impossible obstacles. The promise of God going ahead of us and making a level path for us is also given. In verse 3 is the grand promise of “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places.” God can surprise us with the variety of ways He is able to provide for us. And there are occasions when God blesses us with plenty that was always there, but hidden from us till He made it known and gave it to us.

Isaiah 46:4 which reads, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” A promise that will take away the fear of the future, and of old age when there might be no on to care of you.

Isaiah 48:17 God tells you, “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” Ask God what He wants you to do with your life. He teaches you what is best for you. In verse 18, God expresses his sadness at the people’s unwillingness to have the peace, deep and wide, that God would have given them if they had chosen His paths for them.

X God’s Glory
“I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols” (Isaiah 42:8 NIV/see 48:11b also).

God is a jealous God (see Exodus 20:5). He will not yield His glory to another. There are one or two practical things you can note in this context. Do not do seek the praise and approval of men when you do something for God. See the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus gives examples of giving, prayer and fasting (Chapter 6) done for getting praise from men. When you do things to get praise from men you are forgetting to give glory to God.

The second thing is do not say that luck, chance or coincidence gave you success or help in life’s situations. Instead openly acknowledge that God did it for you. In this way you’re giving glory to God.

In simple words, giving glory to God means to acknowledge Him in all things and remembering to extol His greatness: “Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11 NIV).

XI God’s Call
Perhaps you might be familiar with Acts 1:8 where Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses.” Yes, God has called us to be His witnesses to His glory, His salvation, His judgement and His redemption. And this call was first sounded through Prophet Isaiah. In 43:10, 12 and 44:8, God says, “You are my witnesses!”

Witnessing is not just saying what benefits God has given to you; but more importantly it is about telling others who God Is and what God has done through Jesus Christ on the cross for us. This responsibility no Christian can escape. God wanted the nation of Israel to be a light to the gentile world; but they failed. Today God wants Christians to be the light of this world. Will we fail?


XII God’s Judgement
This is a topic we would love to dismiss from our minds. But the Bible speaks much about God’s awesome judgement. The time for it is at hand. The world is about to witness God’s great judgement. Isaiah 46 and 47 records the amazing prophecy of Babylon’s fall. No one living at that time would ever have imagined that the great Babylonian empire would go down to ruins. Yet it happened according to the word spoken by the Lord. It is an awesome example of God’s judgement.

Even though Babylon was a kingdom that existed in the geographical location of modern Iraq, “Babylon” today stands for the world’s political, religious and trading systems that defy God and do things in their own rebellious ways. Revelation 17 and 18 talk about God’s awesome judgement coming on world systems that rebel against Him.

Remember the first great rebellion against God that happened right at Babylon where they tried to build the Tower of Babel (see Genesis 11:1—9) and how God judged it. Yes, the judgement of God is coming upon this world quickly. So keep your lamps burning. See that the oil is always there. See that the wicks are trimmed. In other words, keep your heart pure and right before God always.

XIII The Servant of the Lord
Prophet Isaiah now introduces us to The Servant of the Lord. It at times refers to the whole nation of Israel, at times to the faithful few in the nation and in many places talks directly about Jesus Christ and His sufferings for us. The Messiah as a suffering servant is what the Jews failed to understand. Otherwise they would not have rejected Jesus Christ.

Comment: “Four passages from Isaiah have been called the Servant Songs: 42:1—4; 49:1—6; 50:4—9; 52:13—53:12. However, the word `servant’ and the idea of the Servant of the Lord appear right through 41:8—53:12, and, in fact, the word `servant’ occurs fairly regularly throughout Isaiah.” ­­ The Bible in Outline, Scripture Union.

Let us look at the servant passage in Isaiah 42. Matthew quotes this and applies it to Jesus Christ identifying Him unmistakably as the Servant of the Lord (Matthew 12:17—21). [In contrast, the servant in Isaiah 42:18—25 is the nation of Israel who had to be punished for their disobedience and rebellion.]

Let us now look at one promise that holds good for us in Jesus Christ, the Servant of the Lord. It occurs in verse 3, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.” What does this promise mean to you? It means that God will not destroy you when you fall. Instead Jesus Christ of Nazareth will come to you in gentleness and give you a chance to get up and walk again in the light of His love. He will not break you when you’re injured by His judgements nor will He allow the faint glow of light in you to die; instead He will fan it into a flame yet again. In other words, dear child of God, He is not over with you yet. He will not give up on you. Instead He’ll restore you to usefulness once again!

Isaiah 40:31 Those Who Hope in the Lord
Isaiah 41:14 Do Not Be Afraid, O Worm Jacob, O Little Israel
Isaiah 41:15, 16b I Will Make You into a Threshing Sledge, New and Sharp
Isaiah 42:3a A Bruised Reed, A Smoldering Wick
Isaiah 42:4a He Will Not Falter or Be Discouraged
Isaiah 43:10a You Are My Witnesses
Isaiah 43:13b When I Act, Who Can Reverse It?
Isaiah 43:18,19 Forget the Former Things
Isaiah 44:2 He Who Made You, Who Formed You in the Womb
Isaiah 44:21,22 Remember These Things
Isaiah 45:1,2a To Open Doors Before Him
Isaiah 45:3 Treasures of Darkness, Riches Stored in Secret Places
Isaiah 46:10,11 I Make Known the End from the Beginning
Isaiah 48:3,6b From Now On I Will Tell You of New Things
Isaiah 48:17b,18a God, Who Teaches You What Is Best for You

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