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God’s People Are Comforted

40

Comfort, O comfort my people,

says your God.

2

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

and cry to her

that she has served her term,

that her penalty is paid,

that she has received from the Lord’s hand

double for all her sins.

 

3

A voice cries out:

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

4

Every valley shall be lifted up,

and every mountain and hill be made low;

the uneven ground shall become level,

and the rough places a plain.

5

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,

and all people shall see it together,

for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

 

6

A voice says, “Cry out!”

And I said, “What shall I cry?”

All people are grass,

their constancy is like the flower of the field.

7

The grass withers, the flower fades,

when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;

surely the people are grass.

8

The grass withers, the flower fades;

but the word of our God will stand forever.

9

Get you up to a high mountain,

O Zion, herald of good tidings;

lift up your voice with strength,

O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,

lift it up, do not fear;

say to the cities of Judah,

“Here is your God!”

10

See, the Lord God comes with might,

and his arm rules for him;

his reward is with him,

and his recompense before him.

11

He will feed his flock like a shepherd;

he will gather the lambs in his arms,

and carry them in his bosom,

and gently lead the mother sheep.

 


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Isa 40:1-31. Second Part of the Prophecies of Isaiah.

The former were local and temporary in their reference. These belong to the distant future, and are world-wide in their interest; the deliverance from Babylon under Cyrus, which he here foretells by prophetic suggestion, carries him on to the greater deliverance under Messiah, the Saviour of Jews and Gentiles in the present eclectic Church, and the restorer of Israel and Head of the world-wide kingdom, literal and spiritual, ultimately. As Assyria was the hostile world power in the former part, which refers to Isaiah's own time, so Babylon is so in the latter part, which refers to a period long subsequent. The connecting link, however, is furnished (Isa 39:6) at the close of the former part. The latter part was written in the old age of Isaiah, as appears from the greater mellowness of style and tone which pervades it; it is less fiery and more tender and gentle than the former part.

1. Comfort ye, comfort ye—twice repeated to give double assurance. Having announced the coming captivity of the Jews in Babylon, God now desires His servants, the prophets (Isa 52:7), to comfort them. The scene is laid in Babylon; the time, near the close of the captivity; the ground of comfort is the speedy ending of the captivity, the Lord Himself being their leader.

my people … your God—correlatives (Jer 31:33; Ho 1:9, 10). It is God's covenant relation with His people, and His "word" of promise (Isa 40:8) to their forefathers, which is the ground of His interposition in their behalf, after having for a time chastised them (Isa 54:8).

2. comfortably—literally, "to the heart"; not merely to the intellect.

Jerusalem—Jerusalem though then in ruins, regarded by God as about to be rebuilt; her people are chiefly meant, but the city is personified.

cry—publicly and emphatically as a herald cries aloud (Isa 40:3).

warfare—or, the appointed time of her misery (Job 7:1, Margin; Job 14:14; Da 10:1). The ulterior and Messianic reference probably is the definite time when the legal economy of burdensome rites is at an end (Ga 4:3, 4).

pardoned—The Hebrew expresses that her iniquity is so expiated that God now delights in restoring her.

double for all her sins—This can only, in a very restricted sense, hold good of Judah's restoration after the first captivity. For how can it be said her "warfare was accomplished," when as yet the galling yoke of Antiochus and also of Rome was before them? The "double for her sins" must refer to the twofold captivity, the Assyrian and the Roman; at the coming close of this latter dispersion, and then only, can her "iniquity" be said to be "pardoned," or fully expiated [Houbigant]. It does not mean double as much as she deserved, but ample punishment in her twofold captivity. Messiah is the antitypical Israel (compare Mt 2:15, with Ho 11:1). He indeed has "received" of sufferings amply more than enough to expiate "for our sins" (Ro 5:15, 17). Otherwise (cry unto her) "that she shall receive (blessings) of the Lord's hand double to the punishment of all her sins" (so "sin" is used, Zec 14:19, Margin) [Lowth]. The English Version is simpler.

3. crieth in the wilderness—So the Septuagint and Mt 3:3 connect the words. The Hebrew accents, however, connect them thus: "In the wilderness prepare ye," &c., and the parallelism also requires this, "Prepare ye in the wilderness," answering to "make straight in the desert." Matthew was entitled, as under inspiration, to vary the connection, so as to bring out another sense, included in the Holy Spirit's intention; in Mt 3:1, "John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness," answers thus to "The voice of one crying in the wilderness." Maurer takes the participle as put for the finite verb (so in Isa 40:6), "A voice crieth." The clause, "in the wilderness," alludes to Israel's passage through it from Egypt to Canaan (Ps 68:7), Jehovah being their leader; so it shall be at the coming restoration of Israel, of which the restoration from Babylon was but a type (not the full realization; for their way from it was not through the "wilderness"). Where John preached (namely, in the wilderness; the type of this earth, a moral wilderness), there were the hearers who are ordered to prepare the way of the Lord, and there was to be the coming of the Lord [Bengel]. John, though he was immediately followed by the suffering Messiah, is rather the herald of the coming reigning Messiah, as Mal 4:5, 6 ("before the great and dreadful day of the Lord"), proves. Mt 17:11 (compare Ac 3:21) implies that John is not exclusively meant; and that though in one sense Elias has come, in another he is yet to come. John was the figurative Elias, coming "in the spirit and power of Elias" (Lu 1:17); Joh 1:21, where John the Baptist denies that he was the actual Elias, accords with this view. Mal 4:5, 6 cannot have received its exhaustive fulfilment in John; the Jews always understood it of the literal Elijah. As there is another consummating advent of Messiah Himself, so perhaps there is to be of his forerunner Elias, who also was present at the transfiguration.

the LordHebrew, Jehovah; as this is applied to Jesus, He must be Jehovah (Mt 3:3).

4. Eastern monarchs send heralds before them in a journey to clear away obstacles, make causeways over valleys, and level hills. So John's duty was to bring back the people to obedience to the law and to remove all self-confidence, pride in national privileges, hypocrisy, and irreligion, so that they should be ready for His coming (Mal 4:6; Lu 1:17).

crooked—declivities.

5. see it—The Septuagint for "it," has "the salvation of God." So Lu 3:6 (compare Lu 2:30, that is, Messiah); but the Evangelist probably took these words from Isa 52:10.

for—rather, "All flesh shall see that the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken it" [Bengel].

6. The voice—the same divine herald as in Isa 40:3.

he—one of those ministers or prophets (see on Isa 40:1) whose duty it was, by direction of "the voice," to "comfort the Lord's afflicted people with the promises of brighter days."

All flesh is grass—The connection is, "All human things, however goodly, are transitory: God's promises alone steadfast" (Isa 40:8, 15, 17, 23, 24); this contrast was already suggested in Isa 40:5, "All flesh … the mouth of the Lord." 1Pe 1:24, 25 applies this passage distinctly to the gospel word of Messiah (compare Joh 12:24; Jas 1:10).

7. spirit of the Lord—rather, "wind of Jehovah" (Ps 103:16). The withering east wind of those countries sent by Jehovah (Jon 4:8).

the people—rather, "this people" [Lowth], which may refer to the Babylonians [Rosenmuller]; but better, mankind in general, as in Isa 42:5, so Isa 40:6, "all flesh"; this whole race, that is, man.

9. Rather, "Oh, thou that bringest good things to Zion; thou that bringest good tidings to Jerusalem." "Thou" is thus the collective personification of the messengers who announce God's gracious purpose to Zion (see on Isa 40:1); Isa 52:7 confirms this [Vulgate and Gesenius]. If English Version be retained, the sense will be the glad message was first to be proclaimed to Jerusalem, and then from it as the center to all "Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth" (Lu 24:47, 49; Ac 1:8) [Vitringa and Hengstenberg].

mountain—It was customary for those who were about to promulgate any great thing, to ascend a hill from which they could be seen and heard by all (Jud 9:7; Mt 5:1).

be not afraid—to announce to the exiles that their coming return home is attended with danger in the midst of the Babylonians. The gospel minister must "open his mouth boldly" (Pr 29:25; Eph 6:19).

Behold—especially at His second coming (Zec 12:10; 14:5).

10. with strong hand—or, "against the strong"; rather, "as a strong one" [Maurer]. Or, against the strong one, namely, Satan (Mt 12:29; Re 20:2, 3, 10) [Vitringa].

arm—power (Ps 89:13; 98:1).

for him—that is, He needs not to seek help for Himself from any external source, but by His own inherent power He gains rule for Himself (so Isa 40:14).

work—or, "recompense for his work"; rather, "recompense which He gives for work" (Isa 62:11; Re 22:12).

11. feed—including all a shepherd's care—"tend" (Eze 34:23; Ps 23:1; Heb 13:20; 1Pe 2:25).

carry—applicable to Messiah's restoration of Israel, as sheep scattered in all lands, and unable to move of themselves to their own land (Ps 80:1; Jer 23:3). As Israel was "carried from the womb" (that is, in its earliest days) (Isa 63:9, 11, 12; Ps 77:20), so it shall be in "old age" (that is, its latter days) (Isa 46:3, 4).

gently lead—as a thoughtful shepherd does the ewes "giving suck" (Margin) (Ge 33:13, 14).




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