Starting Over on a New Day (Isaiah 40:1-11; 12-26; 27-31)

Isaiah 40: A New Day. A New Dawn. A New Beginning. Starting Over. Soar Like An Eagle.

Isaiah 40 begins a major new section of the book. Isaiah is no longer addressing Judah in his own day. He is being projected by the Holy Spirit out into the future, like the Apostle John in Revelation. He is looking into his prophetic crystal ball, so to speak, seeing a future day and declaring the gospel to the Jews languishing in Babylonian exile. He is saying to them and to us, "God has not abandoned you. Your best days are still ahead. God has a purpose of grace for you better than ever. He is coming to save you. Believe it, and let this hope fill your sails." [Ray Ortland]

The Motive and Means of Servanthood is Grace (Isaiah 40-55). The dominant idea of Isaiah 40-55 is the undeserved grace of God. This is what will motivate people to trust God, just as was intimated in Isaiah 12. When God delivers his people without any deserving on their part, they will at last be willing to cast themselves on him without reservation. If Isaiah 7-39 were about trust as the basis for servanthood, Isaiah 40-55 are about grace as the motive and the means of servanthood.

Comfort for all. Astonishingly, no sooner has Isaiah pronounced judgment on Hezekiah's sin that he immediately follows with messengers of comfort in 40:1-11. But this comfort-message is not only for Israel but it covers all the earth. [Alec Motyer]

The opening part of Isaiah 40 (1-11) is like the overture to a great musical composition. All the major themes which the following chapters will develop so powerfully get their first exploratory treatment here:
  • comfort (Isa 40:1).
  • atonement (Isa 40:2).
  • the way of the Lord (Isa 40:3).
  • the glory of the Lord (Isa 40:5).
  • the power of the word of ...God (Isa 40:8).
  • the city of God (Isa 40:9).
  • the might and tenderness of Zion's savior (Isa 40:10-11).
These themes leave us full of expectation that a whole new movement in God's dealings with his people is about to unfold. [Barry Webb]

The most wonderful thing about 40:1-11 is not the beauty of their expression (though that in itself would have been enough), nor the attractiveness of what they reveal (though, again, though would suffice), but the place where they come. Doom has been pronounced on Hezekiah (Isa 39:6-7), and with it the death knell seems to have been sounded. At this darkest of moments,
  • the call goes out to speak the word of comfort (Isa 40:1),
  • to proclaim hardship finished and sins forgiven (Isa 40:2),
  • to announce that Yahweh himself is on his way with worldwide significance (Isa 40:3-5),
  • that his word and promises can never fail (Isa 40:6-8) and 
  • that Zion's people are the flock he has worked for and now holds in his tender care (Isa 40:9-11).
This is the Lord undefeated even by our most grievous sin; the Lord who never calls back the word he has spoken, and who cannot be deflected from its fulfillment! This will all become even more wonderful as Isaiah develops and expands upon his message in these chapters. So much wonder lies ahead, yet we should never lose sight of this initial wonder or fail to stand in awe of it. It is what God is toward us sinners and failures; it is the way his intentions triumph over our frailties. The Sovereign God is never more sovereign than in the work of mercy and salvation, and it is those who know they have most signally erred and strayed from his ways, who, within the blessed arena of salvation, feel most gently the warmth of his shepherding arms around them, and know themselves for sure to be the lambs of his flock. [Motyer]

Isaiah 40 has two main subdivisions: 1-11 and 12-26 with 27-31 as a summary conclusion. [John Oswalt]
  1. 1-11 addresses whether God has cast his people away. Echoing Isaiah 12, where this event is anticipated, God speaks not judgment but comfort. He will deliver them, and they will be in a position to tell the world of the deliverance.
  2. 12-26 speaks of God's ability to deliver them. God is the incomparable God, like whom there is no other. The nations of the earth are nothing to him, so they need not fear that they have been abandoned.
  3. 27-31 says that God's people need only to wait in hope for God will do what he promised and deliver them.
New Bible Commentary [Derek Kidner]
  1. The long-awaited Lord (1-11).
  2. God the incomparable (12-31).
    1. The Creator (12-20).
    2. The Disposer (21-26).
    3. The very present help (27-31).
Consolation for the Lord's People (40:1-11) [Motyer]
  • Console, console my people (1-2)
  1. The first voice: Yahweh coming; worldwide revelation (3-5).
  2. The second voice: Human transience and the permanent Word (6-8).
  3. The third voice: Good news for Zion (9-11).
God's Glory, Our Comfort (40:1-11) [Ray Ortland]; The Long Awaited Lord [Derek Kidner]
  1. The occasion (1-2). The gentle voice.
  2. The content (3-5). The herald's call.
  3. The certainty (6-8). The preacher's word.
  4. The spreading (9-11). The crier's news.
40:12-31 [Motyer]
  1. Wisdom (12-14).
  2. Greatness (15-17).
  3. Sole deity (18-20).
  4. King of kings (21-26).
  5. Unforgetting and self-giving (27-31).
God's Uniqueness, Our Assurance (40:12-26) [Ortland] God is...
  1. The wise Creator (12-14).
  2. The immense Lord over the nations (15-17).
  3. God alone is God (18-20).
  4. The active Lord over world leaders (21-24).
  5. The watchful Creator (25-26).
God's Greatness, Our Renewal (40:27-31) [Ortland]
  1. Our despair (27).
  2. God's greatness (28-29).
  3. Our renewal (30-31).