This Isaiah passage has been quoted often—many times by my dad before he left this planet! Isaiah 40 was one of his favorites. My dad heard it from his mom, my grandma. I’ve read and quoted it many times along with other pastors who have preached Isaiah’s words from God as comfort in hard times of waiting. Why? Because Isaiah tells us the rewards of waiting, the very thing we try to avoid because we don’t like to wait!
Isaiah 40, The Message
Prepare for God’s Arrival
1-2 “Comfort, oh comfort my people,”
says your God.
“Speak softly and tenderly to Jerusalem,
but also make it very clear
That she has served her sentence,
that her sin is taken care of—forgiven!
She’s been punished enough and more than enough,
and now it’s over and done with.”
3-5 Thunder in the desert!
“Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road straight and smooth,
a highway fit for our God.
Fill in the valleys,
level off the hills,
Smooth out the ruts,
clear out the rocks.
Then God’s bright glory will shine
and everyone will see it.
Yes. Just as God has said.”
6-8 A voice says, “Shout!”
I said, “What shall I shout?”
“These people are nothing but grass,
their love fragile as wildflowers.
The grass withers, the wildflowers fade,
if God so much as puffs on them.
Aren’t these people just so much grass?
True, the grass withers and the wildflowers fade,
but our God’s Word stands firm and forever.”
9-11 Climb a high mountain, Zion.
You’re the preacher of good news.
Raise your voice. Make it good and loud, Jerusalem.
You’re the preacher of good news.
Speak loud and clear. Don’t be timid!
Tell the cities of Judah,
“Look! Your God!”
Look at him! God, the Master, comes in power,
ready to go into action.
He is going to pay back his enemies
and reward those who have loved him.
Like a shepherd, he will care for his flock,
gathering the lambs in his arms,
Hugging them as he carries them,
leading the nursing ewes to good pasture.
The Creator of All You Can See or Imagine
12-17 Who has scooped up the ocean
in his two hands,
or measured the sky between his thumb and little finger,
Who has put all the earth’s dirt in one of his baskets,
weighed each mountain and hill?
Who could ever have told God what to do
or taught him his business?
What expert would he have gone to for advice,
what school would he attend to learn justice?
What god do you suppose might have taught him what he knows,
showed him how things work?
Why, the nations are but a drop in a bucket,
a mere smudge on a window.
Watch him sweep up the islands
like so much dust off the floor!
There aren’t enough trees in Lebanon
nor enough animals in those vast forests
to furnish adequate fuel and offerings for his worship.
All the nations add up to simply nothing before him—
less than nothing is more like it. A minus.
18-20 So who even comes close to being like God?
To whom or what can you compare him?
Some no-god idol? Ridiculous!
It’s made in a workshop, cast in bronze,
Given a thin veneer of gold,
and draped with silver filigree.
Or, perhaps someone will select a fine wood—
olive wood, say—that won’t rot,
Then hire a woodcarver to make a no-god,
giving special care to its base so it won’t tip over!
21-24 Have you not been paying attention?
Have you not been listening?
Haven’t you heard these stories all your life?
Don’t you understand the foundation of all things?
God sits high above the round ball of earth.
The people look like mere ants.
He stretches out the skies like a canvas—
yes, like a tent canvas to live under.
He ignores what all the princes say and do.
The rulers of the earth count for nothing.
Princes and rulers don’t amount to much.
Like seeds barely rooted, just sprouted,
They shrivel when God blows on them.
Like flecks of chaff, they’re gone with the wind.
25-26 “So—who is like me?
Who holds a candle to me?” says The Holy.
Look at the night skies:
Who do you think made all this?
Who marches this army of stars out each night,
counts them off, calls each by name
—so magnificent! so powerful!—
and never overlooks a single one?
27-31 Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
they walk and don’t lag behind.
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
Isaiah tells us the benefits of waiting on the Lord. Let’s zero in on this waiting thing. Waiting magnifies the power of God living in us and renews our strength with fresh resolve!
Because God never gets tired, we can run with Him as we do His work with Him and “never grow weary” as another translation expresses this truth. This is so phenomenal! When I am working closely with God, it seems He gives me multiple things to do because it generally involves people. But God was in it and in control. God gives me exactly what He knows fits me. Friends, “the work” I was doing was so enjoyable and productive that it actually gave me more energy as I worked. More than once, people come to me and say, “Susan, you’re doing too much, you must be exhausted!” My response? “When God is directing and doing it through you, energy begats more energy!”
“They will run and don’t get tired.” Wow. Granted we get tired IN the work but never tire OF the work God has given us to be and do. Spiritual tiredness comes from doing life on your own. Strength and energy beyond our abilities comes from following God’s will with His confidence placed in us to do what He says.
“They walk and don’t lag behind.” This miracle is God’s strength and energy that never runs out on us because He never runs too far ahead of us. God never stops working. Ever. He never runs out on us, either.
Can we agree? There is no one like our God who knows us, teaches us, guides us, pulls us over the hurdles and runs right along beside us, behind us and in front of us—cheering us on! How great is our God! He is greater than we have words to describe—but Isaiah tries to do just that.
You are God. We are not. We are fallible, mere mortals, changeable, always transforming as learn from mistakes and in need of our forgiveness often. You love us, care for us, comfort us, pick us up and dust us off, then send us out again. You are amazing and relentless. You are always on our side. You never leave us. You are unchanging in your love, mercy, and grace. I am grateful to be your child. To you be all glory, honor, and praise! May others see you in me.
In Jesus Name, Amen