Today’s devotional consists of study notes on Isaiah 40-43, an exceedingly rich passage full of precious promises. Remember as you study, these promises were meant for the people of God and if you are one of those by faith in Christ, they are for you. God bless you.
Because of Calvary,
Adult SS Elective: Isaiah 40:1-43:25
III. Messages of Hope With Flashes of Judgment (40:1-66:24)
“…We emerge in 40:1 in a different world from Hezekiah’s, immersed in the situation foretold in 39:5-8, which he was so thankful to escape. Nothing is said of the intervening century and a half; we wake, so to speak, on the far side of the disaster, impatient for the end of captivity. In chs. 40-48 liberation is in the air; there is the persistent promise of a new exodus, with God at its head; there is the approach of a conqueror, eventually disclosed as Cyrus, to break Babylon open; there is also a new theme unfolding, to reveal the glory of the call to be a servant and a light to the nations. All this is expressed with a soaring, exultant eloquence, in a style heard only fitfully hitherto (cf. e.g. 35:1-10; 37:26-27), but now sustained so as to gives its distinctive tone to the remaining chapters of the book.” [Kidner, p. 655]
“With consummate art the prophet has cast his inspired writing into three main divisions, each of which ends with a most solemn note of warning to the wicked. ‘No peace, saith Jehovah, to the wicked.’ (1) xl-xlviii. The antithesis of Jehovah and idols, Israel and the nations, ending with the knell of judgment, ‘There is no peace, saith the Lord, to the wicked.’ (2.) xlix-lvii. The antithesis between the sufferings of the Servant of Jehovah and the glory that should follow, ending with a more emphatic note of warning than the former. ‘There is no peace, saith my God to the wicked.’ (3) lviii-lxvi. The antithesis between the hypocrites the faithful, between the immoral and the self-indulgent, and the mourners and the persecuted for righteousness sake, between the world of sin and sorrow that now is, and the world of blessedness and holiness and purity which is to be, ending with the heaviest note of judgment of all, ‘For their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring to all flesh.’
“The central theme of the first division of these magnificent predictions is comfort, the comfort of the Lord’s people in prospect of their exile and suffering at Babylon, and the assurance of their deliverance and restoration through God’s chosen instrument and servant, Cyrus the Persian. The central theme of the second division is the Servant of Jehovah, the promised Messiah, who by His first advent in humiliation will bring in everlasting righteousness and the salvation for God’s people, and who by His second advent will introduce millennial and eternal glory. And the central theme of the third division is the realization of the promised glory.” [Moorehead, Outline Studies in the Old Testament, p. 225-226]
- Comfort (40:1-48:22)
“I think that by any computation, or from any angle whatsoever, Isaiah chapter 40 must be regarded as one lf the most eloquent and moving chapters in the Bible.” [D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The All-Sufficient God: Sermons on Isaiah 40, (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005), p. 1]
“The voice of comfort (vv. 1-5) tells you that God knows how to measure your chastening and that He forgives and gives you a new beginning. The voice of confidence (vv. 6-8) assures you that He Word stands in spite of the frailty of man. The voice of conquest (vv. 9-11) is your voice as you share the good news with others.” [Wiersbe, With the Word, p. 476]
- The past is behind us (40:1-2)
“No sooner the message of disaster (39:5-7) than the message of comfort (40:1-2)!.. Though the disaster must fall on unfaithfulness, there is still an earthly reality to be called ‘my people’ to whom the Lord is ‘your God’ (40:1). The Zion promises may be forfeited but they cannot perish.” [Motyer, p. 298]
“A great preacher, Joseph Parker, used to say that there is one preacher who is always up to date — the preacher who preaches to aching hearts.” [Clarence Edward Macartney, Macartney’s Illustrations, (New York: Abingdon Press, 1945), p. 351]
“The word ‘comfort’ is in Scripture used in a twofold sense. It is sometimes employed to express that which gives consolation itself…. Second, the term is…frequently employed to express the consolation itself…” [John Colquhoun, Spiritual Comfort, (Morgan, PA, Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1814), p. 3]
“Say first, ‘that her warfare is accomplished’… Secondly, ‘That her iniquity if pardoned.’ Her sin is forgiven fully and freely. Thirdly, ‘That she hath received at the Lord’s hands double for all her sins.’ God hath no more against her, no quarrel, no controversy, no further punishment to inflict upon her…” [William Bridge, A Lifting up for the Downcast, (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1649), p. 10]
“It is a greater comfort to hear that our sins are pardoned than that our afflictions are at an end.” [Venning, The Plague of Plagues, p. 196]
“They had suffered as much chastisement as amply sufficed to clear the Divine character, and correct them of the great evil of idolatry.” [Henderson in Gray & Adams Bible Commentary III, p. 266]
- The Lord is coming to us (40:3-5)
“The Lord’s road is to be straight (3d), level (4ab) and free of obstacle (4cd), i.e. he will arrive without fail, travel without difficulty and be undelayed by hindrances.” [Motyer, p. 300]
- His Word will never fail us (40:6-8)
“There is a tacit antithesis between the word of God and man; what man says is uncertain and precarious, what God says cannot fail.” [Alexander II, p. 98] Cf. I Peter 1:23-25
“Egypt, Tyre, Nineveh, Babylon — names famed then for everything venerable in antiquity, rich in commerce, terrible in war — where are they, what are they now?” [The Speaker’s Bible V, p. 12]
- His promise is before us (40:9-48:22)
- Grounded in the greatness of God (40:9-31)
- He is coming to us (40:9-11)
“J. D. Michaelis compares the ancient practice of transmitting news by shouting from one hill-top to another…” [Alexander II, p. 99]
“Verse 10, recalling the theme of verse 7, turns it into a message of comfort, for the ruling arm (10) is the carrying ‘arm’ (11); the ‘strong one’ (10) is the shepherd (11).” [Motyer, p. 301]
Behold the might and the tenderness of God!
- He is the all-powerful (40:12-17)
“Here begins a new section extending to verse 31. Its theme is ‘Jehovah, the Incomparable,’ as viewed in His sovereignty and omnipotence.” [Cambridge Bible in Gray & Adams Bible Commentary III, p. 268]
“By means of the questions introduced by the word who (40:12-17; cf. Job 3:8-11), Isaiah affirms that Yahweh alone is the Creator-God. He needs no counselors. His sovereignty extends to all of creation, and especially over the nations, which are like a ‘drop’ in the bucket or like a piece of ‘dust’ on the scales (15).
“Yahweh is unique in that no one can compare him with anything which the human mind may imagine (40:18-20). He is not to be likened to idols, which are powerless and fully dependent on human craftsmanship.
“The God of Israel is seated ‘above’ the earth (40:21-24). He is the great King, the sovereign Judge over all the world. Yahweh himself oversees all that the nations do. At his time he will bring the nations to judgment. Even as grass is scorched and dried up, so Yahweh will bring the nations to nothing.
“Yahweh is the Creator-God whose might is revealed in the stars of the sky (40:25-26). The Babylonians deified the stars and constellations, but they too are the work of the Creator-God.
“The people are disheartened. They wonder whether God is truly above to establish his kingship (40:27-31)…. He is the everlasting God, Yahweh, the covenant God, the Creator of heaven and earth. He tirelessly works out his plan of salvation for his people.” [VanGemeren, p. 499]
“This superb poem rebukes our small ideas and flagging faith…by its presentation of God as Creator (12-10) and Disposer (21-26) of a universe dwarfed by his presence. The goal of the passage is v 31, where human imaginings (18) and doubts (27) give way to the humble expectancy that is urged on us throughout the book (cf. 26:8…).” [Kidner, p. 656]
(A) He created all (40:12-14)
“Our hope rests on the belief that God, our Savior, is also creator of all things. In this chaotic world there is no ultimate hope in the constancy of nature or the goodness of historical processes. Hope is found…in Isaiah’s firm conviction that God’s creative power which shaped the universe is directed toward redemption and a new creation in which we are invited to participate. That is grounds for ‘joy and gladness’ indeed (65:18-19).” [Watts, “Isaiah,” Word Biblical Themes, p. 37]
“In the section dealing with the splendor of God as Creator…we have three questions, every one of them compelling thought. ‘Who hath measured?’ ‘Who hath directed the Spirit of Jehovah?’ ‘With whom took He counsel?’ More stately language in the setting forth of the majesty of God in creation is impossible. It is this God Who in creation sought no counsel, asked no advice, because He needed none; Who lacked nothing in wisdom, and nothing in power, Who is the One to make glad the wilderness, and the desert to blossom. If we have that vision of God there can be no room for panic, however dark the outlook.” [Morgan, Great Chapters of the Bible, p. 100]
(B) He rules all (40:15-17)
“In times of uncertainty it is good to know these simple facts from Isaiah 40:
- The oceans of the world contain more than 340 quintillion gallons of water, yet God holds them ‘in the hollow of his hand’ (40:12).
- The earth weighs 6 sextillion metric tons, yet God says it is but ‘dust on the scales’ (40:15).
- The known universe stretches more than 30 billion light years (200 sextillion miles), but God measures it by the width of his hand (40:12).
- Scientists claim there are at least 100 billion galaxies, and each galaxy is made up of about 100 billion stars. To such mind-boggling math Isaiah reminds us that God calls each star ‘by name’ (40:26).
It’s no small wonder that Isaiah ended such a chapter with those familiar words, ‘Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired; they will walk and not become weary.’” [Navigator’s Daily Walk, July 25, 1991 in McHenry’s Quips, Quotes & Other Notes compiled by Raymond McHenry, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers 1998), p. 141]
iii. Trust Him (40:18-31)
(A) Put away the false gods (40:18-20)
“The Lord created all things whereas the idol is the product of a human workman (19a), and its glory is only such as humans and the world (both elements of divine creation) can give it (19b).” [Motyer, p. 304]
“It is below the Deity to compare other things with it. Who would weigh a feather against a mountain of gold?” [Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1692), p. 22]
(B) Trust in the true God (40:21-31)
“The Disposer. The gigantic similes continue and should be taken as poetry, not science… These verses on the transience of potentates being the general truth of vs 6-8 a step nearer to the particular situation of the captives; and v 26 draws the true lesson from the majestic progress of the stars: the precision, not the absence, of God’s control.” [Kidner, p. 656]
“Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow, and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it.” [Francis de Sales in Gray & Adams Bible Commentary III, p. 270]
“The words lift up are used of astral worship in Deuteronomy 4:19, which was a temptation to Israel even at this period (2 Ki. 17:16; 21:3) and an immense preoccupation in Babylonian religion. But impressive as the stars are, they are creatures…. Innumerable though the stars may be to us (Gn. 15:5), there is neither one more or less than he determines. God’s directive management is not only of the totality but of the individual (he calls them each by name)…. True deity is to be found ― not in some man-made idol but in the one who made the heavens (Ps. 96:5).” [Motyer, p. 306]
“…There are about one hundred billion galaxies, each one containing about one hundred billion stars.” [Bridges, The Joy of Fearing God, p. 56] Cf. Psalm 147:4
“As Isaiah envisages the message of coming disaster (39:6) taking hold of his people, he addresses himself to the despondency which will inevitably set in…. ‘How can God do this to me? He no longer remembers me or cares!’ Having stated the problem (27), his solution is first, theology (28-29), in the form of a pointed reiteration of the doctrine of God ― ‘Do you not know?’” [Motyer, p. 307]
“The wrong inference from God’s transcendence is that he is too great to care; the right one is that he is too great to fail (28).” [Kidner, p. 656]
“There is plenty of speed in Isa. 40:31: We shall fly, run, walk: but it follows ‘waiting upon the Lord.’” [Havner, Consider Him, p. 56]
- Grounded in the reality of God (41:1-29)
“As the exiles prepared to return to their land, they looked around, saw other nations, and were afraid (vv. 1-7). But God was (and is) in control of the nations, and He raised up Cyrus to do His bidding (vv. 2, 25). The false gods of the nations are no match for the true God of Israel.
“Then the exiles looked at one another and asked, ‘Are we able to travel to our land and rebuild our nation?’ (vv. 8-20). But God gave them assurance….
“Finally they looked ahead and wondered about the future (vv. 21-29)…. God’s promise is still ‘I will help you’ (vv. 10, 13, 14), and He will keep it!” [Wiersbe, With the Word, p. 476-477]
- God challenges idolaters (41:1-7)
“The nations are called to come before God’s tribunal… He announces the imminence of the judgment being brought by Cyrus, and then asks the nations who is responsible for his success and their demise.
“He answers his own question in the declaration, ‘I, the Lord ― I am he’ (v. 4). The nations respond foolishly to the sovereignty of Israel’s God. They renew their commitment to idols. The prophet mocks those who are involved in the manufacture of idols…. The irony employed in this passage highlights the folly of dependence on object made by man for protection against the power of the nations and especially against the power of Yahweh, the God of Israel.” [VanGemeren, p. 499-500]
“His promises (40:1-11) are secure because it is he who rules and runs the world.” [Motyer, p. 309]
(A) Cyrus is coming (41:1-3)
(B) I have sent him (41:4)
“Such monotheism and monogerism is a pillow fit for the most aching head, a sedative for the most tattered nerves and a ground for trusting the divine promises.” [Motyer, p. 309]
“first…last, Jehovah existed before all things, and He will outlast them all.” [Gray & Adams Bible Commentary III, p. 273]
(C) Don’t be fools (41:5-7)
“A very graphic picture of the making of an idol. The people were afraid of Cyrus, so they began to appeal to their gods. A pretty god it must have been that had to be made by a carpenter! Then the wood had to be covered with gold plates by the goldsmith, and the god would not be complete without the help of a man smoothing with a hammer and a smith smiting upon an anvil. When it was made, they had to solder it to keep it together; and they had to get nails to fasten it in its place lest, like Dagon, it should fall down and be broken. This is nothing but literal truth; yet what sarcasm it is upon idolatry! What good can come of idols that are made by men, idols that cannot move, and must be fixed in their places with soldering irons?” [Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XXXVIII, (1892), p. 406]
- God comforts Israel (41:8-20)
“Israel will be restored to her former status because as Redeemer Yahweh will be loyal to his ‘servant’….
“Though Israel has been guilty of many offenses and has consequently gone into exile, she is still God’s servant because of Abraham and Jacob… He is Yahweh, the Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Although his people are as insignificant as ‘a worm’ by themselves (v. 14), they will become like a ‘threshing sledge,’ pulverizing and crushing any obstacle (vv. 15-16)….
“Yahweh the Redeemer….will do everything in order to restore his people to himself.” [VanGemeren, p. 500]
(A) With the basis of salvation (41:8-9)
(B) With the promise of salvation (41:10-16)
“Where God is, there is no cause for fear: ‘Fear thou not; for I am with thee.’ That is a grand argument. ‘Be not dismayed; for I am thy God.’ Everything we need lies within the compass of those words.” [Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XXXVIII, (1892), p. 407]
“Fear in all its forms is a kind of atheism. The man who is afraid has lost faith; he no longer believes in God.” [Dwight L. Moody, One Thousand and One Thoughts from My Library, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, n.d.), p. 133]
“First, ‘I will give thee strength, and then I will use my own strength on thy behalf: ‘I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; Yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. The poor child of God seems to cry, ‘Lord, thou sayest, “I will help thee,” but I can hardly stand; I am such a babe, I have not yet learned to stand alone.’ ‘Well, then,’ says God, ‘I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.’ Are any of you afraid that you will slip with your feet? Are you put in very perplexing positions, so that you hardly know which way to turn? Then rest on this sweet promise, ‘Yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.’” [Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XLIV, (1898), p. 395]
“They that strive with thee shall be as nothing, and shall perish.” [Gray & Adams Bible Commentary III, p. 275]
“God’s people are sometimes as worms, in their humble thoughts of themselves and their enemies’ haughty thoughts of them ― worms, but not vipers, as their enemies are, not of the serpent’s seed.” [Matthew Henry’s Commentary IV, p. 175]
“However weak and despised and trodden under foot thou mayest be, in thy captivity and exile, yet fear not, I will help thee.” [Wordsworth in Gray & Adams Bible Commentary III, p. 275]
“That is the third time that we have had that promise, ‘I will help thee.’ ‘Ring that silver bell again,’ says the Holy Spirit to Isaiah, ‘let it comfort my tired ones.’ ‘I will help thee.’” [Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XXXVIII, (1892), p. 407]
“Now however, and suitable to the inherent weakness of the worm, the Lord is Redeemer, the one who takes upon himself and as his own all the needs of his next-of-kin.” [Motyer, p. 313]
“The Easterns drag a wooden machine over the corn to fetch out the grain from the ear. This is called a corn-drag, and they put teeth in it, similar to the teeth of a harrow. God said that he would turn his Church, his people, into a new corn-drag, with teeth sharp and tearing, and that they should go against their difficulties, which were like mountains, and against their trials, which were like hills, and they should thresh them small, and make them to be like chaff.” [Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XXXVIII, (1892), p. 407]
“Here we have another stage of transformation: the threshing-sledge becomes the winnower. This time it is not aided by the gentle wind usually desired for winnowing, which simply separated the straw into a heap, but a gale…which removed it without trace.” [Motyer, p. 313]
(C) With a picture of salvation (41:17-20)
“The righteous God of verses 8-13 and the Redeemer of verses 14-17 is now the Creator (20), transforming his creation (18-19) for the benefit of the needy ones (17)…. The Lord is the prayer-answering God (17) and the Creator (20). In answer to the cry of the needy he makes a new earth around them ― the motif is the exodus journey (Ex. 15:22ff.; 17:1ff.), the ultimate realization is the ‘new heaven and earth’ of the eschatological day, but the experience covers the whole pilgrimage of the Lord’s people.” [Motyer, p. 314]
“Water (18) and shade (19) are the two great needs of the desert-traveler (Ex. 15:27).” [Motyer, p. 314]
iii. God challenges idols (41:21-29)
“The argument…is a continuation of the first (vv. 1-7). The deities of the nations are unable to do what God does. He can declare from the beginning what is going to happen…. By contrast, the gods of the nations are powerless. They cannot respond. Therefore, the nations must know that as long as they depend upon their gods they are actually without protection. Yahweh, the God of Israel, will raise up Cyrus.” [VanGemeren, p. 500]
“Let’s compare the Bible with other religious texts. In all the writings of other religions, you will not find a body of predictions that is 100 percent accurate. Buddha could not precisely foretell the future. Mohammed’s writings are filled with confusion. Yet, the fulfilled prophecies of the Bible have come to pass just as predicted.
“Consider the life of Jesus, for example. Thousands of years before He was born, Old Testament writers described His birthplace, said His family would flee into Egypt, predicted that His own people would reject Him, foretold His crucifixion and prophesied that He would rise from the dead. Every prophecy came true!
“Dr. Aft Crawford, a well-respected scientist who worked with Einstein on the atomic bomb, figured out the probabilities of biblical prophecies occurring exactly as foretold. Let me describe his conclusions.
“Suppose you predicted that someone you know would be involved in a traffic accident tomorrow. The likelihood of your prediction occurring would be one chance in two. Either it will happen or it won’t. Add to you prophecy another element: the accident will happen at noon. Now your chances of accuracy decrease to one in four.
“For every specification you add, the mathematical probability doubles. If you say that the collision will be between a Chevrolet and a Buick and that one will be a 1981 model and the other a 1992, that one driver will be a woman and the other a man, your chances of being right drop to one in thirty-two.
“If you add ten modifications to your original prophecy, the chance of fulfillment decreases to one in 2,048.
“The Old Testament contains 333 prophecies concerning the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ. Now picture the mathematical probability of all 333 happening exactly as they were foretold: one in two raised to the 333rd power.
“I can’t even comprehend a figure that large. It’s so immense we will never have to doubt that Jesus Christ is exactly who the Bible says He is.
“The Bible contains more than two thousand other prophecies on many subjects. Every time historians or archaeologists discover new evidence in these areas, the facts confirm the truth of biblical predictions. Not once has the data proved an error in God’s inspired Word.” [William H. Pew, A Second Chance at Life, (San Bernardino, CA: NewLife Publications, 1992), p. 109-110]
“With their emphasis on prediction, these verses would touch the heathen world on a sensitive spot, since divination was a major preoccupation (cf. 47:13); and Croesus of Lydia was to pay dearly for the Delphic oracle’/s ambiguity over his prospects against Cyrus. (Told that he would destroy a great empire, he joined battle and destroyed his own.” [Kidner, p. 657]
- Grounded in the servant of God (42:1-25)
“The parallel sections within 41:21-29 each ended with… (‘Look/See’) ― ‘Look at the idol-gods’ (24); Look at the idolaters’ (20); and now ‘Look at my servant’ (42:1). The servant steps onto the stage specifically to perform a world-wide task of revelation, the Lord’s remedy for the emptiness, and particularly the absence of a sure word of God (41:28) which marks the Gentile world. The nine verses are in two parts: in verses 1-4 the Lord speaks of his servant, describing his task; in verses 5-9 he speaks to his servant, confirming his task.” [Motyer, p. 318]
- The true servant (42:1-9)
“my servant, this term has been applied both to Israel and to Cyrus; here it is applied to Messiah.” [Gray & Adams Bible Commentary III, p. 278]
“Israel, also, in its highest ideal, is called the ‘servant’ of God (ch. xix.3). But this ideal is realized only in…its representative-man and Head, Messiah…” [Fausset, p. 693]
“The Jewish writer Abarbanel says that they who do not interpret this of Messiah are smitten with blindness.” [Gray & Adams Bible Commentary III, p. 278]
“The servant’s task is to bring ‘justice’ to the nations (vv. 1, 4), which is identical to the purpose of the coming messianic king (9:7; 11:4)…. The servant is tender, gentle, and faithful, and as such there is a clear allusion to Jesus Christ. The nations are waiting for their inclusion in the kingdom. The ministry of the servant will last until the fullness of the kingdom has been established.
“Yahweh the Creator God has called the servant to be a light to the nations (42:5-9)…. Yahweh’s jealousy for his glory assures his continued presence with his people. He will open the eyes of the blind, free the prisoners and do whatever is necessary to establish his kingdom on earth, in fulfillment of his word to the patriarchs (Gen. 12:1-3) and through the prophets.” [VanGemeren, p. 500]
(A) God speaks of Him (42:1-4)
“Perhaps this imagery may be derived from the practice of the ancient shepherds, who were wont to amuse themselves with the music or a pipe of reed or straw; and when it was bruised they broke it, or threw it away as useless. But the bruised reed shall not be broken by this Divine Shepherd of souls. The music of broken sighs and groans is indeed all that the broken reed can afford Him; the notes are but low, melancholy, and jarring; and yet He will not break the instrument, but He will repair and tune it; till it is fit to join in the concert of angels on high; and even now its humble strains are pleasing to His ears. Surely, every broken heart must revive while contemplating this tender and moving imagery.” [President Davies in Gray & Adams Bible Commentary III, p. 278-279]
“The second and third stanzas have an interesting association in the gentleness of the servant to the bruised reed and smoldering wick (3ab) and his own imperviousness to smoldering and bruising (he does not falter or become discouraged (4a)… Falter and be discouraged pick up the verbs translated smoldering and bruise in verse 3ab. The servant finds himself subject to the same pressures which have made others ‘burn low’ (smolder…), but he does not burn low’ (falter…). Likewise they are bruised…but he does not bruise’ (does not become discouraged)… In context, the intention is not to say that the servant will be immune from suffering but only that the pressures and blows that immobilize others will not deter him.” [Motyer, p. 319-320]
“The NIV rightly sees here the world’s response to the servant: they will stake their future on what he reveals to them, having been won to his allegiance.” [Motyer, p. 321]
(B) God speaks to Him (42:5-9)
“The Lord (Yahweh) as God is Creator and sustainer of all (5); he has a beneficial purpose for the whole world (6-7); he is the only God, apart from whom there is nothing but idols (8); and he controls history by his predictive word (9).” [Motyer, p. 321]
“The servant will be a covenant, i.e. the means through whom people will come into a covenant relation with the Lord…. The covenant was Israel’s distinctive privilege, from its inception in Abram (Gn. 14, 17) to its climax in Moses (Ex. 2:24; 24:7-8). It is God’s free decision to take and keep a people for his own possession, drawing them to himself (Ex. 6:2-7), constituting himself as their God and Redeemer (Ex. 20:1-2) and bringing them into a life of freedom and obedience (Ex. 20:3ff.). The covenant, however, originated in Noah (Gn. 6:17-18), and its extension to the whole world is thus not a violation of its nature but rather its release to be true to itself in a worldwide salvation. The conqueror drives the nations to further idolatry (41:5-7), but the servant brings them to God.” [Motyer, p. 322]
“The developing contrast between servant and conqueror (41:1-4; cf. on verse 6) is the key to verse 9. The former things are the work of the conqueror (the principles of divine action established in 41:3-4 are presently to be applied to the career of Cyrus) and the new things are the now-predicted work of the servant.” [Motyer, p. 322]
- The true response (42:10-17)
“…A call for world praise in response to the worldwide work of the servant…” [Motyer, p. 423]
“The violent similes, like a warrior (13) and like a woman in childbirth (14), dispose of any idea of grace as a mere softening of God’s mood. Rather, his fury (13) against evil and his pent-up zeal to redress it (14; cf. Lk 12:50) supply as much of the motivation as do his tenderness (16a) and constancy (16b) towards its victims. Salvation will come only through judgment and will not be for the impenitent (17) Cf. 63:1-6, and the fiery complement of ch. 53.” [Kidner, p. 657]
“Yahweh has been patient with the nations for a long time… Now he is ready to act on behalf of his people. When he comes, nothing can stop him…. He has the power to destroy and to make things desolate, yet he also has the power to redeem his people.” [VanGemeren, p. 501]
iii. The blind servant (42:18-25)
“The heart of the section is what the Lord wished (21) and what Israel became (22a-c)…. The cardinal sin of the people of God is to possess the divine word and to ignore it.” [Motyer, p. 328]
“The ‘missionary’ task of the Old Testament was characteristically performed by attraction rather than by outreach, by the Lord’s magnetic people. In 2:2-4 this is envisaged happening; in Deuteronomy 4:5-8 it is promised. The Lord would display through Israel all the loveliness of his word and way, and thus the nations would be delivered from their blindness and be nursed by the Lord into Zion…. But the cherished purpose was never achieved because Israel, who should have brought the nations submissively to the Lord (e.g. 45:14-25), actually activated the opposite, whereby the nations became dominant and Israel a spoil (cf. 2:5-9). Thus Israel lost its distinctive status in the world (22a-c) and its protected status before the Lord (22d-g).” [Motyer, p. 328]
“Notwithstanding all God’s favor to Israel, Israel is spoiled and carried captive, and why? Not because of any failure in God’s love, but because of their sins; because they are willfully blind and deaf.” [Wordsworth in Gray and Adams Bible Commentary III, p. 281-282]
“Looking forward as he was to the frightful experience of exile, Isaiah knew that not even suffering and trauma on that scale would being a true change of heart (cf. 48:22). For this a further and different act of God is required. But at all events…we have learned who the servant cannot be: a simple identification of ‘the servant’ of 42:1-4 with ‘my servant Israel’ (41:8) is not possible.” [Motyer, p. 329-330]
- Grounded in the honor of God (43:1-44:5)
“The But now…is a feature of these chapters, as the love of God, continually rebuffed, continually returns with the initiative. The same Hebrew expression is found at 44:1; 49:5; 52:5; 64:8…” [Kidner, p. 658]
“God’s grace never shines so brightly as when it shines through the cloud of His people’s sins. Nor does it ever appear so glorious as when displayed in the depth of their unworthiness. When nature is at the lowest, grace is generally at the highest.[James Smith in Gray & Adams Bible Commentary III, p. 282]
“It is said there are 365 ‘Fear nots’ in the Bible — one for each day of the year.” [David A. Seamands, Healing of Memories, (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), p. 88]
- God redeems His people (43:1-7)
“Israel’s formation was not a mistake. God elected (‘created,’ ‘formed’) Israel…. He loves his people and will do anything to redeem them…. He is their God by covenant, the Holy One who has consecrated them, their Redeemer…. Thus both the experience of rejection and the affirmation of redemption are the out working of God’s will, and are expressions of his fatherly concern for his children.” [VanGemeren, p. 501]
“These verses give Israel in eloquent detail the assurance Christ gives to his church, that the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. Fire and water, peoples and distances, can take no toll; everyone (7) will safely arrive (cf. 40:26) whom God calls mine (1). Some of the many strands that bind them to him are enumerated, such as creation, redemption, call (1), love (4), adoption (6) and the honor of his name (7). The unique relationship is emphasized by the fold figure of a human ransom (3-4; cf. v 14), i.e. great nations have fallen and will fall to make way for Israel. …The other side of the matter is that the nations will gain from Israel far more than they lose (cf. 41:1-9), and that her ultimate ransom must be a very different victim (cf. 53:5-6).” [Kidner, p. 658]
- God confirms His promises (43:8-13)
“Isaiah uses again a favorite literary form, the courtroom drama. The fundamental point behind this figure is that what he asserts are not fables but truths tested and attested at law, verified conclusions based on firm evidence. At first sight it would seem that the issue to be contested is whether, like the Lord, the idol-gods can predict and fulfill their predictions. As we listen to the proceedings, however, the issue begins to recede and to be replaced by a question about which of all the claimant gods can act (cf. 41:23de) and which has the sovereign capacity to determine on a course of action and see it through. Thus verses 11 and 13 major on the only God as Savior, sovereign in power (‘No-one can deliver’), and irresistible worker.” [Motyer, p. 333]
“Isaiah acts like a court reporter (as also in verse 9ab), watching the litigants coming in and recording (with astonishment) ‘he has brought out the blind and the deaf ― as his witnesses!’… Relying on such testimony, he is bound to lose the case, for what court accepts the testimony of the blind to what they have seen or of the deaf to what they have heart? Therefore, though the Lord seeks to prompt his people to their duty of testimony by reiterating ‘You are my witnesses’ (10,12) he has, in fact, to bear his own testimony in default of theirs (10-11). This is not a natural but a culpable deficiency for they have eyes and ears, i.e. they had been granted the faculties of spiritual perception but have contracted blindness and deafness by constant refusal to see and hear (6:9ff; 29:9),” [Motyer, p. 334]
“The exodus redemption was the ‘first’ act of the Lord specifically for Israel. Have the false gods any similar act to their credit?” [Motyer, p. 334]
“…The gods are unable to meet the challenge and Jehovah turns to his servant Israel, who could abundantly testify to the Divine faithfulness and goodness.” [Gray & Adams Bible Commentary III, p. 284]
“The prompting (10a) that You are my witnesses has apparently been met by silence on the part of the blind and deaf. The Lord must become solely responsible for his own care. His contention covers his being (10ef) and his work (11).” [Motyer, p. 335]
“Once more in default of his witnesses stepping forward, the Lord must engage in self-proclamation but, in keeping with the court scene, he casts himself into the role of presiding judge and announces the verdict.” [Motyer, p. 335]
“Jehovah is not only the Immutable, but also the Omnipotent and Irresistible.” [Gray & Adams Bible Commentary III, p. 284]
iii. God keeps His promise (43:14-21)
“The God who redeemed his people from Egypt will bring down Babylon and deliver his people from exile. The old, old story of the Passover and the miraculous journey through the Red Sea is dwarfed in comparison with the ‘new thing’ (v. 19). This ‘new thing’ refers to the new era of forgiveness, restoration, and God’s presence…. The very purpose of the deliverance is that the people may praise Yahweh upon experiencing the blessings of redemption and restoration.
“The postexilic Jewish community enjoyed the benefits of restoration from exile, resettlement in the land of Canaan, and the physical and spiritual blessings of God’s presence. This progressive restoration was intensified, however, in the coming of the Messiah who gives the water of life (John 4:14). Yet the final restoration of all things will bring with it the climactic fulfillment of these words.” [VanGemeren, p. 501]
“The name Babylon appears for the first time since 39:7, and…the main thrust of the passage is a clear promise of a greater exodus, in which God’s wonders in the desert (19-20) will outmatch even those of the Red Sea (16-18). The promise is once again rooted in the covenant (note the terms of relationship in vs 14-15 and of election in vs 20c-21).
“For its real fulfillment we must look beyond the modest homecomings from Babylon of the sixth and fifth centuries BC, although these are certainly in view, to the exodus which the Son of God accomplished at Jerusalem (Lk. 9:31; cf. 1 Cor. 10:4, 11), which alone justifies the language of this and kindred passages.” [Kidner, p. 658]
“The whole drama of the Red Sea in a nutshell: the opening of a road for Israel (16) and a pit for Egypt (17).” [Motyer, p. 337]
“The new thing is the deliverance from Babylon; a national liberation patterned on the exodus.” [Motyer, p. 337]
“The circumstances connected with the return should be altogether novel in their character. To indicate that every provision for comfort and security would be made, the boldest poetical images are employed.” [Henderson in Gray & Adams Bible Commentary III, p. 285-286]
“Here we see the acts of God bringing the whole world into harmony, a feature which will be perfected in the Messianic day (11:6-9). Here, the journeying people are met by a transformed world (19cd) into which the animal creation gladly enters with benefit.” [Motyer, p. 337]
“But ― a sorrowful ‘but’; and the strain sinks from a triumphant shout to a doleful lamentation…” [Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XLIII, (1897), p. 611]
“Israel’s devastating response to divine ardor is a yawn or apathy. No rebuff could be worse; yet it gives occasion for a penetrating comparison between religion as a burden (23b-24a) and as grateful homage (23a) to the burden-Bearer (24b-25; cf. 46:3-4), who once again offers to prove his case in open court (26; cf. 41:1).” [Kidner, p. 658]
- God forgives His people (43:22-28)
(A) Sin exposed (43:22-24)
““By deftly swinging the spotlight from what the Lord desired in his people (21) to what he found (22) Isaiah introduces the topic of the spiritual state of Israel.” [Motyer, p. 338]
“The Lord called his people into his fellowship and this involved hearing and obeying his word (Ex. 19:5), but they chose another way (30:9-11). To walk with the Holy One was too costly, and they settled for the softer and more exciting option of religious fervor. But in the intention of God the sacrificial system was meant to meet the needs of people as they discovered their inability to live up to the law and their constant need for forgiveness and restoration. Thus the sacrifices were designed for relief, delight and homecoming to God. By opting for a mere ritual and evacuating the sacrifices of their power they remained in their sin and as such were a constant weariness to the Holy One. Thus Isaiah’s message in these verses is the same as in 1:10ff. There was much religious fervor but no religious reality. At the point where they might have expected to please God they wearied him (24, 1:14); where they most zealously assumed themselves to be right they were proving only that they were still in their sin…. Cf. the strictures of the Lord Jesus (Mt. 15:9) on a tradition-based religion which has deserted the revealed word.” [Motyer, p. 338-339] Cf. Isaiah 1:10-15
“How sad it is that those who have been loved so much, should make such a shameful return for it all!” [Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XLIII, (1897), p. 611]
(B) Sin expunged (44:25)
“Isaiah leaps straight from the God burdened by his people’s sins (24) to the God who blots them out.” [Motyer, p. 340]
“O glorious mercy! We are sunk in the depth of sin, and yet God pardons us on the spot; and at once puts every sin away, and bids us go in peace.” [Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XLI, (1895), p. 394]
“blotteth… Figure for erasing from public records the charge of crime.” [Gray & Adams Bible Commentary III, p. 286] Cf. Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12