Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).
1. Isaiah hears a voice issue the command, “Prepare the way for Jehovah!” and make the promise, “The glory of Jehovah will be revealed, and all mankind—all those who are flesh—shall see it together.” Upon hearing this, what protest is raised by a second voice? See Isaiah 40:6b-7 (printed below)
Then came the response, Why should I proclaim it? After all, all men—made of flesh—are like grass; and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. (7) The grass withers, the flower fades; because the breath of Jehovah blows upon it. Surely, the people are like grass. (Isaiah 40:3-7)
Isaiah hears a second voice respond to the first, “Why should I proclaim it? You say that all flesh together shall see the glory of the Lord. But I tell you that all flesh is like the grass: it withers away before the scorching wind of the Lord.” What this second voice is saying is, “In the light of the hard realities of this present world, I find it hard to accept what you are saying when you tell me that all mankind—who are subject to death and decay—shall together behold the glory of the Lord.” Like that second voice, we, too, when confronted by the hard realities of this present world, find it difficult to accept God’s Word.
2. How does the first voice respond to the protest raised by the second voice? See Isaiah 40:8 (printed below)
Yes, the grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God stands forever! (Isaiah 40:8)
That first voice fully acknowledges the hard realities of this present world: Yes, indeed, “the grass withers, the flower fades” (verse 8a). But then that voice goes on to remind us of the all-powerful and ever dependable Word of God: “but the word of our God stands forever” (verse 8b).
3. How is the Lord, Jehovah, described in Isaiah 40:22-23 (printed below?)
It is Jehovah who is enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers. It is he who stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent in which to live. (23) It is he who reduces rulers to nothing, and makes the judges of the world meaningless. (Isaiah 40:22-23)
The Lord is described as the Sovereign God. It is Jehovah who is “enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers” (verse 22a). It is Jehovah who “stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent in which to live” (verse 22b). It is Jehovah who “reduces rulers to nothing, and makes the judges of the world meaningless” (verse 23).
4. What challenge does the Lord issue to the world in Isaiah 40:25-26 (printed below?)
To whom, then, will you compare me, to whom am I equal? inquires the Holy One. (26) Lift up your eyes to the heavens and observe. Who has created all these? Who brings out the starry host one by one? He calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. (Isaiah 40:25-26)
The Lord challenges the whole world to produce someone who is equal to Him, “the Holy One”—the One who is separate, distinct, and high above all of His creation (verse 25). The Lord commands us to gaze upon the starry heavens and consider, “Who has created all these?” That is to say, we are to consider how great and awesome their Creator is: each night He brings out the stars just like a shepherd leads forth his flock (verse 26).
5. What images are used to illustrate the strength experienced by those who wait upon Jehovah, relying upon Him and His empowering grace? See Isaiah 40:31 (printed below)
But those who wait for Jehovah will renew their strength—they will soar with wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not become faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
Three images are employed to illustrate the strength experienced by those who wait upon Jehovah, relying upon Him and His empowering grace. First, the eagle ascending to the heights of the heavens and effortlessly soaring through the sky. Second, the spiritual “long distance runner” who is enabled to finish the race. Third, the man who sets out on a long journey and is enabled to reach his final destination. The key to receiving this spiritual strength and refreshment is for the Christian to wait upon the Lord. They who wait upon the Lord cease to resemble man in his frailty (verse 30) and come to resemble their God in His strength (verse 28), by having that divine strength imparted to them by grace.