Study

a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

40. Comfort for God's People

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’S hand double for all her sins.

3The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. 6The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: 7The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. 8The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

9O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! 10Behold, 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. 11He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

12Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? 13Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him? 14With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding? 15Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. 16And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. 17All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.

18To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him? 19The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains. 20He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved. 21Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: 23That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. 24Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble. 25To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. 26Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. 27Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God?

28Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. 29He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. 30Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 31But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

6. The voice said, Cry. He now describes a different “voice” from that of which he formerly spoke; for hitherto he had spoken about the “voice” of the prophets, but now he means the “voice” of God himself commanding the prophets to cry. Although the voice of the prophets is also the voice of God, whose instruments they are, (for they do not speak of themselves,) (2 Peter 1:20, 21,) yet this distinction is necessary, that we may know when the Lord commands, and when the prophets and ministers execute his commandments. There is also a beautiful comparison between the two “voices,” that we may receive with as much reverence what the prophets utter as if God himself thundered from heaven; for they speak only by his mouth, and repeat as ambassadors what he has commissioned them to declare. Besides, this preface gives notice that the Prophet is about to speak of something highly important; for, although he everywhere testifies that he faithfully delivers from hand to hand what he has received from God, yet, in order to obtain closer attention, he states that the voice of God has expressly enjoined the mode of speaking which he shall employ. Such is also the import of the word Cry, as if he had said that he must proclaim this commandment in a clear and loud voice, that it may make the deeper impression.

And I said, What shall I cry? The addition of this question has great weight; for the Prophet means that he does not break forth at random, and boast of what he appeared to have heard in a confused manner; but that he received clear and undoubted instruction, after having waited for it with composure. Besides, from the fact itself we may learn that there is nothing here that is superfluous, because two chief points of heavenly doctrine were to be briefly handled; that, although man is smoke and vanity, and all his excellence is deceitful and fading, yet believers have the best reason for glorying, because they seek salvation not from themselves; and that, although they are strangers on the earth, (Hebrews 11:13,) yet they possess heavenly happiness, because God unites himself to them by his word; for by renouncing ourselves we are led to desire the grace of God. The Prophet knew, indeed, what he ought to say; but by this question he intended to make a stronger impression on their minds, in order to shew that he and all the other servants of God are constrained by necessity to utter this sentiment, and that they cannot begin to teach in any other manner, though they should put a hundred questions and inquiries; as indeed they will gain nothing by choosing to adopt any other method.

As to the word Cry, I have no objection to view it as denoting both boldness and clearness; because prophets ought not to mutter in an obscure manner, but to pronounce their message with a distinct voice, and to utter boldly and with open mouth whatever they have been commanded to declare. Let every one, therefore, who is called to this office constantly remember and believe, that he ought to meet difficulties of every sort with unshaken boldness, such as was always manifested both by prophets and by apostles.

“Wo to me,” says Paul, “if I do not preach the gospel; for necessity is laid on me.”
(1 Corinthians 9:16.)

All flesh is grass. First, it ought to be observed, that he does not speak merely of the frailty of human life, but extends the discourse farther, so as to reduce to nothing all the excellence which men think that they possess. David indeed compares this life to grass, (Psalm 103:15,) because it is fading and transitory; but the context shews that the Prophet does not speak only of the outward man, but includes the gifts of the mind, of which men are exceedingly proud, such as prudence, courage, acuteness, judgment, skill in the transactions of business, in which they think that they excel other animals; and this is more fully expressed by that which immediately follows —

All the grace of it. Some translate חסדו (chasdo) “his glory;” others, “his kindness;” but I have preferred the word “grace,” by which I mean everything that procures honor and esteem to men. Yet a passive signification may also be admitted; as if the Prophet had said, that all that is excellent and worthy of applause among men is the absolute kindness of God. Thus David calls God “the God of his kindness,” (Psalm 59:10, 17,) because he acknowledges him to be the author of all blessings, and ascribes it to his grace that he has obtained them so largely and abundantly. It is indeed certain that חסד (chesed) here denotes all that is naturally most highly valued among men, and that the Prophet condemns it for vanity, because there is an implied contrast between the ordinary nature of mankind and the grace of regeneration.

Some commentators refer this to the Assyrians, as if the Prophet, by extenuating their power and wealth, and industry and exertions, or rather by treating these as they had no existence, freed the minds of the Jews from terror. They bring out the meaning in this manner, “If you are terrified at the strength of men, remember that they are flesh, which quickly gives way through its own weakness. But their error is soon afterwards refuted by the context, in which the Prophet expressly applies it to the Jews themselves. We ought carefully to observe that man, with his faculties, on account of which he is accustomed to value himself so highly, is wholly compared to a flower. All men are fully convinced of the frailty of human life, and on this subject heathen writers have argued at great length; but it is far more difficult to root out the confidence which men entertain through a false opinion of their wisdom; for, if they imagine that they have either knowledge or industry beyond others, they think that they have a right to glory in them. But he shews that in man there is nothing so excellent as not to fade quickly and perish.

As the flower of the field. The Prophet seems, as if in mockery, to add a sort of correction; for a flower is something more than grass. It is, therefore, an acknowledgment, that, although men have some shining qualities, like flowers in the fields, yet the beauty and lustre quickly vanish and pass away, so that it is useless for them to flatter or applaud themselves on account of this idle and deceitful splendor.


VIEWNAME is study