Isaiah 40:1-11

Sunday Morning Bible Study

December 19, 1999

Introduction

The book of Isaiah can be split up many ways, but the main way is to see chapters 1-39 as a group, and chapters 40-66 as a group. There is a distinctive change in tone as we enter chapter 40. Whereas the first part of the book dealt much with coming judgment, and especially with things surrounding the Assyrian invasion, the second part of the book has a greater tone of hope, and focuses on the coming Messiah.

:1-2 Speaking comfort

:1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.

God is commanding Isaiah to comfort these people.

Who is the comfort for?

Itís for Godís people.

He is the God of all comfort.

(2 Cor 1:3-5 KJV) Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; {4} 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. {5} For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

This is also the nature of prophecy:

(1 Cor 14:3 KJV) But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.

There are times when we, like Isaiah, may need to say some things that make people uncomfortable. But donít fall into the trap of thinking that if youíre going to be speaking for God, that you must always sound angry and judgmental towards people. Thatís not Godís heart.

:2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem

comfortably Ė leb Ė (actually a completely different word than the "comfort" in the first verse) inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding; kindly (NAS), tenderly (NLT). We could translate this, "Speak to the heart".

Lesson

Speak to the heart.

Sometimes when weíre sharing with people, we can get so worried about what weíre going to say that we focus only on repeating certain things weíve prepared to speak about, and are totally ignorant of the fact that weíre speaking to a real life person.

A few weeks ago I had some visitors come by the house. Two nice young men wearing white shirts and ties, both with name badges telling me they were "elders". We had a fairly pleasant talk, though I must admit that I found myself just trying to "stump" them. After they left, I felt convicted by the Lord that I was trying more to battle their doctrine than I was in trying to speak to their hearts. These guys were real people. They came from real homes. They have real needs. They need the real Jesus.

:2 her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned

Lesson

The good news

1) Our warfare is over.

We no longer have to be in a state of war against God. Peace has been made.

(Rom 5:1 KJV) Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

2) We are pardoned.

God now looks on us favorably and no longer holds our sins against us.

(Rom 8:1 KJV) There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

:2 for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins.

The idea here isnít that they had received more for their sins than they deserved, but that they had received the full punishment that their sins deserved.

When someone committed a sin against another person, the Old Testament law required that the sinner pay back more than what they took. Most of the time, they were to pay back double what they stole (Ex. 22:9). In some instances, certain sins required the sinner to pay back four times the amount of their sin. (Ex. 22:1)

I think the "double" idea may also be a reference to the two times that Jerusalem would be destroyed, first by Babylon, then by Rome.

Lesson

More good news

3. Itís all been paid for

The difference here is that we havenít paid the price for our sins, but Jesus has.

(Heb 10:12 KJV) But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;

But in the same sense, weíve received the benefit of our sins having been paid for.

You canít add to what Jesus has done for you.

Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that we need to somehow still pay for our sins.

There is a sense in which we need to make things right with people weíve hurt, but in regards to our relationship with God, thereís nothing we can to what Jesus has already done. Thereís nothing we need to add. Itís all been paid for.

:3-5 Prepare the way

:3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness

This would be fulfilled by the ministry of John the Baptist. All the gospels quote this verse, saying that it was fulfilled by John (Mat. 3:1-4; Mark 1:1-4; Luke 1:76-78; 3:1-6; John 1:22-23).

He literally lived in the "wilderness", the desert of Judea. His purpose in life was to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah.

Isaiah says to prepare the way of the LORD. John prepared the way for Jesus. Jesus is LORD.

:4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low

The idea is that of preparing the way for a great dignitary. Itís the idea of building roads, filling in valleys, cutting into mountains, making a straight path. This is the principle our freeways are built on. Sometimes on a freeway youíre travelling across a valley that has been filled in just for the road. Sometimes youíre travelling alongside a hillside thatís been carved out for the road. Instead of going up and down hills, or around winding turns, you drive straight.

In terms of human lives, it means taking those who are sinful, unworthy, and aware of it, and bringing them up, while knocking down those high and mighty ones who think theyíre better than everyone else.

This is just what John the Baptist did. For those who wanted to turn from their sins, he offered them baptism. For those who were too proud to repent, he rebuked.

Jesus said,

Lu 14:11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Lesson

Are you ready?

Are you prepared for the Lord?

Have you been struggling because you feel youíre so worthless that God could never love you? God wants to lift you up. He does care about you.

Do you think youíd be doing God a favor if you decided to follow Him? Watch out, because God wants to bring you down a few notches, buckaroo.

:5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed

glory Ė kabowd Ė glory, honour, glorious, abundance. The glory of God filled the tabernacle and the temple to show that Godís presence was there (Ex. 40:34; 1Ki. 8:11).

This was partially fulfilled at Jesusí first coming.

(John 1:14 KJV) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

This will ultimately be fulfilled at Jesusí Second Coming (Rev. 21:23)

The sense of the verse is this: Get things straightened out for the King, and youíll catch a glimpse of His glory. For those that are so depressed that they canít look up at the Lord, when they realize that God loves them, they catch a glimpse of the glory. For those who are puffed up and become humbled, they too will get closer to the Lord.

:5 for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

There used to be a commercial on TV that had the line, "When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen". But here, the idea is that when God speaks, it happens.

:6-8 The message

:6 all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:

goodliness Ė checed Ė goodness, kindness, faithfulness. Like a flower, the goodness of man can have a form of beauty. Yet like a flower, manís goodness is pretty fragile and temporary.

:7 the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it

spirit Ė ruwach Ė wind, breath, mind, spirit. Thereís kind of a play on words here. The wind blows on the grass and flowers and they wither. The Spirit blows on man and he withers.

:8 but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

Peter quotes this verse and tells us that the good news of Jesus Christ is a fulfillment of this verse (1Pet. 1:22-25)

Lesson

Trust something that lasts.

Some people are always trying to keep up with the latest thing. But you just canít do it. Things change. People change. Styles change. I couldnít have share this next list ten years ago Ö

Illustration

SIGNS YOU'VE HAD TOO MUCH OF THE 90's

~ You try to enter your password on the microwave.

~ You now think of three espressos as "getting wasted."

~ You haven't played solitaire with a real deck of cards in years.

~ You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of 3.

~ You consider 2nd day air delivery painfully slow.

~ Your idea of being organized is multiple colored post-it notes.

~ Cleaning up the dining area means getting the fast food bags out of the back seat of your car.

Philosophies change. Governments change. Only one thing lasts.

Illustration

In the 1930s in Stavropol, Russia, Stalin ordered that all Bibles be confiscated and Christian believers be sent to prison camps. Ironically, most of the Bibles were not destroyed, yet many Christians died as "enemies of the state." With the recent dissolution of the U.S.S.R., a CoMission team arrived in Stavropol in 1994 for ministry. Their request to have Bibles shipped to Moscow was being held up. But someone told them about a warehouse outside of town where confiscated Bibles were still stored.

Remarkably, the team was granted permission to distribute them. Hiring several local Russian workers, they began to load their trucks.

One young man, a hostile agnostic, came only for the day's wages. But not long after they had started, he disappeared. He was found in the corner of the warehouse, weeping, a Bible in his hands. Intending to steal it for himself, he had picked his own grandmother's off the shelf! Her signature was on the front page. Today, that young Russian is in the process of being transformed by the very Bible that his grandmother was persecuted for, but still held dear.

-- Ken Taylor, Christian Reader, Sept/Oct 1995, p. 57.

God doesnít change. His Word stays the same.

:9-11 Spread the news

:9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings Ösay unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

good tidings Ė basar Ė to bear news, bear tidings, publish, preach, show forth. This is the idea behind the New Testament idea of "preaching the good news" or "preaching the gospel".

Lesson

Tell people about Jesus.

We are a city on a hill, just like Jerusalem.

(Mat 5:14-16 KJV) Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. {15} Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. {16} Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Let people see their God, both in the things you say and in the things you do.

:10 behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.

This is talking about the Second Coming of Jesus. For those who have served the Lord, He will pay out His wages as rewards and blessings. For those who have rejected the Lord, there will be a bill due, judgment and punishment.

:11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd:

One of the main responsibilities of a shepherd is to feed the flock. Thereís no use in being a shepherd if your flock is dead from starvation.

When Jesus met Peter after the resurrection, three times Jesus told Peter to, "Feed My sheep" (John 21:15-17). That was to be Peterís job description.

When God places you in a position of spiritual responsibility with another person, one of Godís main concerns is that we feed them. Spiritually speaking, this means to teach them Godís Word. A good shepherd will lead his flock into "green pastures" so they can have a healthy diet. Our "green pastures" are in Godís Word. As a shepherd, you want to make it your desire that your flock would be the "best loved and best fed" flock in the whole world.

:11 he shall gather the lambs with his arm

God has some pretty amazing arms!

They must be very strong because He does great, powerful, and mighty things with His arm.

(Isa 40:10 KJV) Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.

(Isa 30:30 NLT) And the LORD will make his majestic voice heard. With angry indignation he will bring down his mighty arm on his enemies. It will descend with devouring flames, with cloudbursts, thunderstorms, and huge hailstones, bringing their destruction.

But Godís arms are also gentle and tender.

(Isa 40:11 KJV) Öhe shall gather the lambs with his arm Ö

Of course the Scripture talks of Godís arms in a metaphorical sense. God is a Spirit. He has no physical body. The concept of Godís arm is the idea of His strength and how He accomplishes what He wants.

:11 and carry them in his bosom

The bosom is a place of great tenderness, affection, and comfort.

Here Isaiah paints the picture of a Shepherd picking up a fragile little lamb and tucking the little creature under his arm, inside his coat. A little lamb wonít have to be afraid of a cold night when it is lying in the bosom of the shepherd.

:11 and shall gently lead those that are with young.

gently lead Ė nahal Ė to lead, give rest, lead with care, guide to a watering place or station, cause to rest, bring to a station or place of rest, guide, refresh

The mother sheep need to go a little slower than the rest of the flock because they need to stop and nurse the lambs. The Shepherd doesnít beat them or yell at them to go faster. He gently guides them and leads them from one place of rest to the next.

Lesson

Run to the tender arms of God.

God is powerful. But God is also gentle and tender.

A good example for husbands and dads to follow.

A good place for you to run. To your Fatherís arms.

Illustration

Years ago a military officer and his wife were aboard a ship that was caught in a raging ocean storm. Seeing the frantic look in her eyes, the man tried unsuccessfully to calm her fears. Suddenly she grasped his sleeve and cried, "How can you be so calm?" He stepped back a few feet and drew his sword. Pointing it at her heart, he said, "Are you afraid of this?" Without hesitation she answered, "Of course not!" "Why not?" he inquired. "Because itís in your hand, and you love me too much to hurt me." To this he replied, "I know the One who holds the winds and the waters in the hollow of His hand, and He will surely care for us!" The officer was not disturbed because he had put his trust in the Lord.