1. We humans are enslaved beings.

"Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they are." Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

2. We humans enslave one another (by our demands, expectations, power).

"Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed." Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves." Abraham Lincoln.

3. Freedom involves making a choice/decision.

"Freedom is not the right to do what we want, but what we ought. Let us have faith that right makes might and in that faith let us; to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it." Abraham Lincoln.

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Voltaire.

"The unity of freedom has never relied on uniformity of opinion." John F. Kennedy.

{ unencumbered } "...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Heb 12:1).

4. The way to freedom.

{ soaring, flying } "...those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles..." (Isa 40:31, NIV). ["wait for" (ESV, NASB); "trust" (HCSB, NLT)]

{ set free } "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (Jn 8:31-32). ["abide" (ESV), "continue" (NASB, HCSB), "remain faithful" (NLT)]

{ you must be freed } "Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free" (Jn 8:36, HCSB). "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Cor 3:17). "So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don't get tied up again in slavery to the law" (Gal 5:1, NLT).

{ greatest, most useful lesson } "If you want to learn something that will really help you, learn to see yourself as God sees you and not as you see yourself in the distorted mirror of your own self-importance. This is the greatest and most useful lesson we can learn: to know ourselves for what we truly are, to admit freely our weaknesses and failings, and to hold a humble opinion of ourselves because of them." Thomas Kempis.

{ embrace suffering as inevitable } "Plan as you like and arrange everything as best you can, yet you will always encounter some suffering whether you want to or not. Go wherever you will, you will always find the cross… God wants you to learn to endure troubles without comfort, to submit yourself totally to him, and to become more humble through adversity." Thomas Kempis.

"Great tranquility (freedom) of heart is his who cares for neither praise nor blame." "Grant me prudently (freedom) to avoid him that flatters me, and to endure patiently him that contradicts me." Thomas Kempis.

No one can be happy without freedom. Unhappiness comes from enslavement.


Idols vs. the Perfect Servant (Isaiah 41:21-29; 42:1-9)

41:21-29 is Isaiah's 2nd statement of his case against idols and 42:1-9 is his 2nd address to the servant of the Lord. The case against idols is similar to the first (Isa 41:7) except that it is considerably more pointed. The address to the servant is very different from the first (Isa 41:8-20), so much so that it is likely to be a different servant being addressed.

The Case Against the Idols (41:21-29)

(41:21-24) Again God calls on the idol worshippers to present their case that the things they worship are really gods (Isa 41:21-22). Here Isaiah strikes directly at the heart of the pagan worldview. He calls on the idolaters to give evidence that their idols have ever specifically predicted the future or give an explanation of the past (Isa 41:22). Since there is neither a sense of purpose or of overarching meaning, there is no possibility of understanding why anything happens. If the past cannot be explained, then neither can the future be predicted (Isa 41:23). Have any of the gods ever given a specific prediction of something that had never happened before but that then subsequently did occur? Of course not. So God mocks them, daring them to do anything at all--either good for their worshippers or frightening against their enemies (Isa 41:23). But there is no answer. So God pronounces judgment (Isa 41:24). These gods are nothing. Their works are worthless. Those who worship them are foolish (detestable, an abomination). In attempting to deify creation, the idol worshippers have actually committed an offense against it.

(41:25-27) God responds to the challenge. God has a plan for history. What will unfold before the exiles' eyes will be the evidence of it. God has brought the conqueror (Isa 41:2; 44:28-45:1) who is coming down on Babylon like a brick-maker or a potter, who jumps into the vat where the clay is and treads it into liquid form (Isa 41:25).

It is one thing to assert that Cyrus's is coming at the direction of Jacob's King (Isa 41:21), but quite another to prove that the assertion is so. To prove this Isaiah declares that none of the idols predicted Cyrus's coming at all (Isa 41:26, 28). By contrast, the God of Israel did make such a prediction in advance (Isa 41:27) through Isaiah his messenger of good tidings in this very writing. The prediction is made in what Isaiah wrote during his own lifetime. Then when that writing is read with opened eyes (Isa 8:16; 29:11-12) amidst its fulfillment during the Exile, 150 years later, it will become its own confirmation.

41:28-29 is the pronouncement of judgment on the idol worshippers. They have been unable to give any answer to the questions God asked (Isa 41:28). There is no one among them who can give evidence that their gods are even in the same category as Yahweh (Isa 41:29). He alone is truly Other, and thus he alone is truly Holy. All who worship something other than the true God are doomed to become like their gods: nothing, worthless, wind and chaos (Isa 41:24,29). Their lives are doomed to become as meaningless as their gods are.

An Address to the Servant (42:1-9)

God's perfect Servant. The "servant of God" theme is one of the riches strands of Isaiah's thought, and it lies right at the heart of his message as it moves to its climax in this second half of the book.

In 41:1-20 the fearful servant needed to be reassured that although Cyrus's coming meant terror for the idol worshippers, it need not cause the servant any fear (Isa 41:10, . In 42:1-9 expands on Yahweh's control of history. Just as God will bring down the Babylonian Empire through Cyrus, so he will bring justice (Isa 42:1,3,4) to the nations  through his servant. The "new things" God will do through his servant (Isa 42:9) is what the gods/idols could never declare in advance, which the Lord can do so with impunity.

The identity of this servant has been the source of endless controversy. The differences between him and the servant Israel are striking. The servant Israel is fearful and blind, yet God loves him and will deliver him so that he can be God's evidence to the nations that he is indeed God. But this Servant who only appears here in ch.40-48 and but three times in ch.49-50, is of a different sort. He is always obedient and responsive to God, his mission is to bring justice to the nations for God, and he is to be a light to the nations and a covenant to the people (Isa 49:6). In contrast to the promises of divine blessing constantly being given to the servant Israel, this servant receives no benefits through his ministry but only increasing difficulty (49:1-7; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12). In sum, whoever this is, it is not the nation of Israel; it is another figure altogether.

The reiterated statements are that
  • this person is going to bring justice on the earth (Isa 42:1,3,4),
  • God's Spirit will be on him (Isa 42:1), and
  • his accomplishment of this end will not be through oppression (Isa 42:3).
This reminds us of the prophecies of the Messiah in Isaiah 9, 11 and 32, where we have the servant as King, while here we have the king as Servant. The idea that the ends of the earth (the islands), which could not defend the deity of their gods (Isa 41:1), will put their hope/wait for/trust in his law (Isa 42:4) is further indication that this figure is a messianic one (Isa 2:1-5).

The further description of the ministry of this Servant in 42:6-7 confirms that this is not the nation but someone who will function for the nation and indeed for the world. Where Israel was blind and deaf, captive to the powers of this world, this Servant will give sight and freedom. This ministry will be the ultimate revelation of the glory of God, which fills the earth (Isa 6:3) and belongs to no idol (Isa 42:8).

Reference: Oswalt, John N. Isaiah: The NIV Application Commentary. 2003.


Fear Not, I Am God (Isaiah 41)

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isa 41:10). "'For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob, little Israel, do not fear, for I myself will help you,' declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel" (Isa 41:13-14).

In 40:12-31 Isaiah reasoned that the greatness of Yahweh as Creator guarantees that the huge and worldwide promises of 40:1-11 will be fulfilled. This great God cannot fail to keep his promises and guard his people. In 41:1-20, Isaiah offers a second guarantee: Yahweh is also the world ruler (41:1-7), and in this capacity he is also the guardian of his own people (41:8-20).

In ch. 41-46, Isaiah seems to repeat key themes in varying ways. Then ch. 47 draws the conclusions of what has been said as regards Babylon, and ch. 48 is a call to trust and belief. The hymnic portions in 42:10-13 and 44:23 are regarded as structural indicators that bring a previous unit to a close and introduce a new one. The structure may then be 41:1-42:9; 42:10-44:22; and 44:23-47:15.


Waiting in Hope (Isaiah 40:27-31)

Both of the questions asked by the exiles have been fully answered in 40:1-26:
  • 40:1-11 answers the question, "Does God care?" (Has our sins separated us from God forever?) God will come in glory to renew the whole world (Isa 40:5).
  • 40:12-26 answers the question, "Is God able to deliver us?" (Was God not defeated by the gods of Babylon?)
How then should God's people respond? This question is answered in 40:27-31.
  1. Our despair (27).
  2. God's greatness (28).
  3. Our renewal (29-31).
In 40:27 Isaiah anticipates the attitude of the exiles. They think that they are either now outside of God's vision for them ("my way is hidden") or that God has given up on them ("my cause is disregarded"). Their complaint is that God doesn't know and/or God doesn't care.

To this Isaiah responds that to think in this way is to have too low a view of God. It is to essentially not really know who God truly is. So Isaiah reminds them of who God is in 40:28-29, dealing with the Creator's endless power and wisdom in the first verse (Isa 40:28) and his wonderful desire and ability to share that power with the "weak" and the "weary" in the second (Isa 40:29). So Isaiah speaks of both the being and the person of God.

The question in 40:28 is incredulous. How could they say such things about God when they know who he is and what he is like. God knows our situation perfectly, and he can and will do something about it. The fact is that the most vigorous things in creation ("young men") cannot keep themselves going. They are not self-generating but are dependent on outside sources for their strength. God is not like that. God is self-generating. That means that he also has abundant strength to give away to those who will wait for ("hope in") him.

The theme of trust from ch.1-39 continues in Isa 40:31. This concept of trust as waiting has already appeared three times previously (Isa 8:17; 25:9; 33:2) and will appear twice more (Isa 49:23; 64:4). To "wait" on God is not simply to mark time. Rather, it is to live in confident expectation of his action on our behalf. It is to refuse to run ahead of him in trying to solve our problems for ourselves.

Just as Isaiah called on the people of his own day to trust God to solve their problems, he calls on the exiles a century or so later to do the same thing. If they are worn out and weary, hardly daring to believe that there is any future for them, the God of all strength can give them exactly what they need at the right time, whether or "soar," "run," or "walk" (Isa 40:31).


The Incomparable God (Isaiah 40:12-26)

Isaiah 40 (Oswalt):
  1. God's promised deliverance (1-11).
  2. God's ability to deliver his people (12-26).
  3. Waiting in hope (27-31).
(Ray Ortland, Jr):
  1. God's glory, our comfort (1-11).
  2. God's uniqueness, our assurance (12-26).
  3. God's greatness, our renewal (27-31).
After expressing the tenderness of Yahweh's shepherding care (1-11) Isaiah sets the magnificence of his sovereign power and executive rule as Creator (12-26). The former expresses the attractiveness and delightfulness of his promises; the latter his irresistible power to keep what he has promised.


The God of Comfort (Isaiah 40:1-11)

God is undefeated even by our most grievous sin. The Sovereign God is never more sovereign than in the work of mercy and salvation. 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. They know for sure to be the lambs of his flock.

Isaiah 40 answers the question, "Who is your God?" God is:
  1. The God of Comfort (1-11).
  2. The Incomparable God (12-26).
  3. The God Who Makes Man Fly (27-31).


Isaiah 40 questions

  • Chs.1-39 is Trust: the Basis of Servanthood.
  • Chs. 40–55 is Grace: Motive and Means for Servanthood, for trusting God.
    • Ch. 40 is the intro.
    • Ch. 41–48 is part A, Motive.
    • Ch. 49– 55 is part B, Means.
Most students of Isaiah agree that ch. 40–55 were written to the Judeans exiled to Babylon after the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Some, doubting that Isaiah could have written this ~150 years in advance, think that an anonymous prophet, a devotee of Isaiah, wrote it about 550 B.C. The book makes no reference to this. It seems to want its readers to believe that it is all the work of Isaiah. What might be God's possible reasons for inspiring Isaiah to do this?


The Need to Train Yourself to Trust God

TRUST GOD is the main theme of Isaiah 1-39. Isaiah had only one predominant message for his people in Jerusalem and in Judah (southern Israel) (Isa 1:1). This singular message was repeatedly given over four decades during the threat of the Assyrian invasion (735 BC to 701 BC). By God's grace, West Loop has preached through this first part of Isaiah--chs. 1-39--over the past year (from early 2015) in 40 sermons.

What is the alternative to trusting in God?

It is to trust in man, who has but a breath in their nostrils (Isa 2:22). It is truly not wise to not trust God. It would ultimately be fatal and tragic. Isaiah says bluntly that that if one does not stand firm in trusting God, he or she will not stand at all (Isa 7:9b).


A Tale of Two Kings (Isaiah 7; 36-39)

  1. Who are the two kings of Judah in Isaiah (Isa 1:1)? Who was bad (2 Ki 16:2)? Who was good (2 Ki 18:3)?
  2. What was the threat facing Judah during each king's reign (Isa 7:1; 36:1)? What year were these threats?
  3. What was the common location (Isa 7:2; 36:2)? Why do you think Isaiah mentioned this location?
  4. What was the superpower nation at the time? Who was their king (2 Ki 16:7; Isa 36:1)?
  5. When threatened what was the first response of the two kings of Judah (Isa 7:2; 36:1-2, 3-4)?
  6. What was Isaiah's challenge (Isa 7:4,9; 37:5-7)?
  7. After Isaiah's challenge, how did the two kings of Judah respond (Isa 7:11-12; 37:15-20)? What was the result (Isa 7:13-14, 17; 37:36-38)?
  • What life lesson(s) can you learn from these two kings of Judah? Comments? Reflections? Questions?
  • Does this story have a happy ending (Isa 39:1-8)? Is life black and white and so clear cut? What does 39:8 tell us about Hezekiah (Isa 2:22)? Why do you think Isaiah ends the first part of his book (ch. 1-39) with this story? 






735 B.C.

701 B.C.

Judah's king



Assyrian king

Tiglath-Pileser (2 Ki 16:7)

Sennacherib (Isa 36:1)

The threat

Aram and Israel attacking Jerusalem (Isa 7:1)

Assyria attacking Jerusalem  (Isa 36:1)

The location

Aqueduct of the Upper Pool (Isa 7:3)

Aqueduct of the Upper Pool (Isa 36:2)

King's first response

Isaiah 7:2

Isaiah 37:1-2, 3-4

Isaiah's challenge

Isaiah 7:4, 9b

Isaiah 37:5-7

King's second response

Isaiah 7:11-12

Isaiah 37:15-20


Isaiah 7:13-14, 17

Isaiah 37:36-37, 38

Lesson learned

Refuse to trust God, experience judgment

Trust God, experience victory against all odds



Who Is Your God? (Isaiah 40)

Isaiah 40 (1-11, 12-26, 27-31)
  1. The God of Comfort (1-11).
  2. The Incomparable God (12-26).
  3. The God Who Makes Man Fly (27-31).
The God of Comfort (1-11)
  1. The God of Comfort and Tenderness (1-2).
  2. Prepare a Highway for God (3-5).
  3. Know What is Transient and What is Forever (6-8).
  4. The Good News: God is a Gentle Shepherd (9-11).
The Incomparable God (12-26)
  1. Compare God with the Nations (12-17).
  2. The Utter Foolishness of Idols (18-20).
  3. God Rules Over the World and the Entire Universe (21-26).
The God Who Makes Us Fly (27-31)
  1. Man's Common Complaint (27).
  2. Man's Ignorance of Who God Is (28).
  3. What God Does for the Weak and Weary (29-31).
Starting Over On A New Day (Isaiah 40).
Isa40_Ses20. John Oswalt, 2013.