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Lowell Brueckner

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Divine Attributes and Power


37. An expository study of Isaiah, chapter 40

Comfort, comfort my people

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (v.1). This chapter is one of the great treasures of Isaiah and ranks among the highest portions of Scripture. It is a wonderful word from God for His flock. His intentions are always good towards them and His longing is for them to feel comfort and security under His care. He instructs His messengers to give comfort.

He chastens, as a good father always must, and He said in his covenant with David, concerning his offspring, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul…” (2 S.7:14-15). The destiny of Saul should never be used to frighten the Lord’s sheep into obedience and subjection. The end of David’s line was not to be compared with Saul’s. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem…” Conflict was one of the ways, in which God frequently disciplined, but now Jerusalem is assured that the war had ended and the punishment was more than sufficient (v.2).

John the Baptist’s ministry

The prophecy carries us ahead 700 years to the beginning of the gospel era. Isaiah speaks of John the Baptist and verse 3 is the well-known prophecy, which is quoted in the New Testament in reference to his ministry. It is preparatory to the coming of Christ and let it remind us that preaching of repentance always must precede the preaching of the gospel. Tears of repentance are not to be seen as negative, but a beautiful attitude that begins in the heart of a sinner, preparing it to receive Christ. Every proud mountain is brought down and the lowly valleys of degradation are filled. The crooked, perverted ways are straightened and the rough personality characteristics are tamed and made smooth (v.3-4, see Mark 1:3).

I am reminded of the moving of God’s Spirit among the Eskimos in the far northeastern part of Canada. Under a heavy conviction of sin, repentant natives brought the objects of their vices to the local church. Over a period of time, barrel after barrel was filled with cigarettes, liquor, pornography, drugs, and articles of witchcraft. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police estimated the value, if I remember correctly, from 80,000 to 100,000 Canadian dollars. They were piled in a high mound, because the ground was frozen and too hard to dig for burial. The police contributed gasoline (very expensive in those areas) and the entire population stood, applauded and cheered, as the mountain of sin was removed and turned to ashes. I broke into tears at the beautiful sight and sound of repentance, as I watched the film. Soon hundreds were converted.

The words of Isaiah are far too wonderful not to appear in the New Testament. Peter quotes the following and James refers to it: “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever” (1 P.1:24-25, Jam.1:10-11, from v.6-8). Peter adds, “And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”

Good news

From the time that Hezekiah entertained the Babylonian ambassadors, Isaiah turned his prophecies towards those days and through the rest of the book, spoke comfort to Israel in their distress and oppression. He promises, “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (v.5). He has already told of the preparation for that day and afterwards points the people to live by God’s word.  Man’s glory falls, but the glory of the Word is eternal. Because Israel is His chosen people, “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew” (Ro.11:2).

The total ministry of Christ is put together by the prophet and so, this one refers to the second coming of Christ, as well as the first. In spite of danger, Zion within Jerusalem is to lift up its voice and announce good news to the cities of Judah. They are commanded to be bold and strong in their declaration.

The message is, “Behold your God” (v.9). There is no denying the deity of Christ from this passage. It is the Lord God, who is coming, and He is coming in might to rule from Jerusalem (v.10). Isaiah portrays Christ as the Coming King, but also as the Good Shepherd: “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (v.11). The writer of Hebrews proclaims that He is “the same yesterday and today and forever… the great shepherd of the sheep… Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Heb.13:8,20,21). Who He was, He is and always will be.

How consoling it is to have this depiction of a gentle leader of pregnant ewes, as well as One, who carries the lambs in His bosom! He is almighty and awesome, terrible in battle and fearsome in wrath, yet He is “gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt.11:29). This is the Christ of the Bible.

Infinite greatness

The prophet attempts to describe His incomparable greatness. He shows the ease, with which He controls the universe, holding all the waters on earth, oceans, lakes and streams, in the palm of His hand. With infinite intelligence, He formed the balance of nature, the perfect proportions of land and sea. He determined their size and the weight of the mountains and hills, and stretched His fingers over the expanse of heaven (v.12).

Yet He is immeasurable and being omniscient, He needs no counsel or teaching. “Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?” (v.13-14). We must find our place, as minute and extremely limited beings, unjust and ignorant. He is perfectly just and filled with wisdom and knowledge.

I appreciate the diminishing importance given to the nations in this portion. The first description is of something very small, like a drop in a bucket, dust on the scales, and simply fine dust (v.15). If a worthy sacrifice were to be offered to God, forested “Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering” (v.16). The value of the nations drops from small to nothing: “All the nations are as nothing before him”, and finally fall to minus quantity and worth: “They are accounted by him as less than nothing…” (v.17).


Isaiah will lead us to see the gross sinfulness of idolatry and the reason for the second commandment: It is massive blasphemy to compare Him to anything; the difference between the Creator and the sum of His creation is incalculable (v.18). Try to fathom the utter stupidity of an idol: “A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it silver chains” (v.19). These are the idols that find a fashionable and prominent place in society, ornate in the eyes of men. On the other hand, the idols of the common person are baser. He looks for a piece of wood that will not rot and entrusts it to a craftsman to form a god for him (v.20). Are they all insane?

The inspired prophet’s questions go out to all mankind. Are you so ignorant and unlearned? Have you missed the teaching that is as old as the earth itself and its scientific laws? (v.21)? Here is what has been taught since the beginning of time to wise men and it has not been just recently discovered. If the knowledge has been lost, it is because the foolish heart of man has been darkened. The planet earth is round and God sits highly over all, seeing human beings as grasshoppers. He unfolds the heavens as if they were a curtain and, in the middle, sets them like a tent to dwell in (v.22).

The princes and rulers of earth are mortal and, generation after generation, they fall and are forgotten: “Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble” (v.23-24). Gone are the ornate images, with which they tried to depict the Most High. The Holy One again asks a question. To what can you possibly compare Him in order to form an idol? (v.25)

Strong in power

“Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these?” He speaks of the stars in the universe and challenges man to try to find their limits. Make telescopes, if you will, to reach beyond the naked eye; make them ever stronger until they stretch their view beyond the Milky Way to countless galaxies more. They have not exhausted the heavenly bodies; there are yet more… million and billions more! There is only One, who can count them and, in fact, He has a name for each of them! Not one is uncounted and not one is nameless, “because he is strong in power” (v.26). The term ‘strong in power’ smacks of an understatement, knowing what we do know in the 21st Century about the vastness of the universe, but even in language, we are weak and incapable of describing Him.

Here, then, is a message to God’s ancient people, who have known Him longest. One question after another is posed, to Israel and all the world, in order to spark man’s reason, yet it seems impossible to bring him to his senses: “Why do you say… My way is hidden from the Lord? (v.27) They are accusing the Omniscient of blindness and ignorance. Oh, the arrogance of men… how utterly stupid it is! “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable” (v.28).

Those are His attributes and the chapter has wonderfully informed us of them, as few other places in the Bible. We have been left with little to comment, because the prophet has stretched human language to its limits. But now, he turns his attention to divine impartation to a hungry, waiting humanity: “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength” (v.29). We notice that nothing is offered to the strong and energetic. Their advantages over the weak are so small, in comparison to the power that they could obtain from God, but apparently, the pride, due to their puny superiority, has kept them from the best.     

The youths, then, reach their limitations too soon and the young men fall exhausted (v.30). It is the Lord’s intention to prepare a people to join with Him in the business of heaven. Just as Jesus called his disciples from their fishing boats and other common endeavors to make them become fishers of men, so it has always been His purpose to equip the less fortunate for supernatural service. His work requires far more than the young and mighty can provide. Therefore, those He calls must “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come” upon them (Ac.1:8).

The dazzling, flaming seraphim were endowed with six wings in order to serve the Holy One of Israel, you will remember from chapter 6. Two of their wings were to provide them rapid transport in carrying out the orders of the One seated upon the throne. Divine service requires haste. Human beings, as well, who are called into matters that are heavenly, spiritual and eternal, must be supernaturally clothed with power from on high.

Waiting on God

They are waiting on God, just as the early disciples waited forty days in the upper room. It is ironic that flying should require much waiting, but that we find to be true in modern air travel. We must hurry to the airport and then wait in line, perhaps to check our luggage, then wait to go through security. Again, we wait in line to board the plane and then wait for the plane to leave the gate and taxi to the runway. However, when the waiting is over, we experience the apex of modern-day transportation.

We wait upon God, because we will not be satisfied with second-best. He said, “All who came before me are thieves and robbers” (Jn.10:8). In a time when a push of a button gives us immediate satisfaction for the things that move this world, there are those who continue to wait in prayer for God to move. We wait upon God, even though human aid is close at hand. The best that this world provides will never help people to walk on streets of gold. We are waiting for wings! “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles.” This is one of the mightiest promises in the entire oracles of God, yet so few can be found, who are waiting for the Lord. They are running for the preparation offered by mere men and it will never suffice. They will wear down and find, like the five foolish virgins, that their resources are growing weak.

King Ahab had the best and fastest horses in Israel and with them he scurried for shelter towards the city of Jezreel to escape the oncoming storm. Elijah stayed behind on Mount Carmel to wait upon God. As the blackness of the storm swirled in upon Ahab, he looked behind to see a lone figure approaching at high speed. “And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel” (1 Kgs.18:46).

The youth can depend upon their speed and endurance to do the best that human kind can achieve, but we are not waiting for the best of the abilities of men. They will faint, be weary and fall exhausted, but the servants of the Lord will wait upon Him and they “shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (v.31).



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