The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8
God speaks tenderly to Jerusalem. Her Sovereign Lord is coming, eager to “gather the lambs in his arms” and carry them close to his heart. The chapter continues with an exalted description of God’s great power and wisdom. This one, enthroned above the circle of the earth, cannot be compared with any competing power, or with the universe itself. It is he, Israel’s Sovereign Lord, who lifts up the weary and who renews the strength of those who find hope in him!
This chapter launches the second half of the Book of Isaiah. Chapters 1-35 emphasized judgment and looked ahead to invasion and the ultimate destruction of Judah. The prophetic standpoint of chapters 40-66 is after these tragic events, and Isaiah looks even further ahead to God’s ultimate triumph. While both judgment and comfort are found in each half of Isaiah, the emphasis of the first half is on judgment and that of the second on comfort.
Isaiah’s opening cry is, “Comfort, comfort my people” (40:1). He cries out the good news that, despite man’s brief, ephemeral life, the “Word of our God stands.” Israel’s “Sovereign Lord” is coming with power, and He will care for His people as a shepherd cares for his flock. The prophet exults in his vision of the greatness of our sovereign Lord: He is Creator and Ruler of all; living, enthroned on high; incomparable, everlasting, omniscient, and omnipotent. This is the God who stoops to give strength to those who put their hope in Him. Comfort? Comfort indeed!
Key verse. 40:9: The key to comfort is to know who God is.
9 O Zion, You who bring good tidings, Get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, 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!”
Personal application. Let Isaiah’s vision of our glorious God strengthen you.
Key concepts. Shepherd, Holy Spirit
40:1-55:13 This section is addressed to the Babylonian exiles in a prophetic manner. This book of comfort, written about 150 years before the time of Cyrus, promised the exiles from Judah that they would return to Jerusalem, where God would meet them in the form of the Suffering Servant (42:1-4) – the very One who would become a great King. The restoration after the Exile pointed to the coming of the Lord’s kingdom. In Isaiah’s prophecy, this first taste of salvation merges with predictions of the full salvation that Jesus Christ would bring.
⇒ It is comforting to know that we are mere grass and the grass withers and the flower fades. It is comforting because of the oppressors who are also like grass and grasshoppers. It is we, humans’ default mode. When God blows upon them, people withers. Then comes the good news in 40:11. God will gathers up His people and be a shepherd for them forever.
11 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.