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Bible: What Do Isaiah 40-43 Teach Us About the "Forerunner of the LORD" and the "Servant of the LORD"?

Updated on October 3, 2016

John the Baptizer


The Eternal Word


The Gentle Pastor


Isaiah 40

John the Baptist Foretold

After having experienced warfare and judgment because of her sins, Jerusalem now hears Yahweh say, "Be comforted" (vv. 1-2).

The LORD will one day send to her a prophet who will prepare the people for the kingdom of the Messiah.

Verses 3-5 speak figuratively and prophetically of John the Baptist (cf. Matthew 3:3).

As the forerunner of Jesus, he would deliver a message of repentance to Israel, calling them to return to righteousness in preparation for the earthly reign of the LORD.

Question: What does receiving “double for all her sins” mean?

Man is Mortal; God's Word is Eternal

The LORD commands Isaiah to proclaim both man's mortality (vv. 6-7) and the eternality of God's word (v. 8).

No matter what man becomes or does, all “things” pertaining to his work will pass away; God's truth, however, will stand the test of time and endure forever.

The prophet exhorts Jerusalem's "evangelists" to command Judah to look to their majestic God (v. 9).

He then describes both the triumphal coming (v. 10) and the gentle, pastoral care of the LORD (v. 11).

Yahweh is Awesome

Through a series of rhetorical questions, Isaiah proceeds to encourage (comfort) his people, teaching them about the awesome wisdom, knowledge, and power of their God (vv. 12-14).

He compares Yahweh's power to that of the mighty nations of the day; needless to say, the latter do not fare well in the comparison (vv. 15-17).

Idols deserve and receive no respect whatever, because they are mere, lifeless images of non-existent deities that human beings create from their own imagination (vv. 18-20).

Isaiah chides Israel, surprised that she needed a fresh reminder about Yahweh’s greatness and the worthlessness of the mighty ones of the world (vv. 21-24).

The LORD is the omniscient, omnipotent Creator of the starry universe to Whom any so-called god could not compare itself; even if it could try, it shouldn’t make the effort (vv. 25-26).

Israel thinks that Isaiah's God does not know about her ways (v. 27), but the man of God quickly dismisses that fallacy by again asserting the LORD's omniscience (v. 28).

To acquire abundant strength for the trials of life, the prophet advises believers to "Wait on the LORD" (vv. 29-31).

Northern Conqueror

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Isaiah 41

Renew Your Strength

A connection and a contrast exist between the end of chapter forty and the opening verses of this chapter in the words "renew their strength" (v. 1; cf. 40:31).

As the coastland peoples prepare to fight against the divinely-appointed conqueror from the East (vv. 2-4), they "renew their strength" by banding together to repair their idols (vv. 5-7).

On the other hand, believing Israel (who renews its strength by waiting on the LORD, [cf. Is. 40:29-31]) God commands, "Do not fear."

Yahweh will help and sustain the nation, because he is His chosen servant (vv. 8-10).

Question: Who are these “coastland peoples”?

Israel's adversaries will suffer divine judgment. As a man employs a tool to accomplish a task, so God will use His people to judge her enemies (vv. 11-16).

In addition, He will miraculously supply her needs in barren places, so that she would know for certain that only God could have provided her needs (vv. 17-20).

Acting as the Judge in a courtroom-type confrontation, Yahweh turns His gaze upon the idol-makers and challenges their "gods" to predict the future (vv. 21-24).

The LORD foretells the coming of one from the north (namely, Cyrus the Persian) who will serve as His appointed conqueror (v. 25).

No false religious leader has even attempted to predict such an event by consulting idols (vv. 26-29).

The Identity of the Servant

Who is the Servant of the LORD in this context?

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Isaiah 42

The Servant of the LORD

Isaiah introduces the Servant of the LORD: one who may be identified with "Israel, My servant" (41:8), but who is also an Individual.

God upholds Him (cf. 41:10), chooses Him (cf. 41:8, 9), delights in Him, and puts His Spirit upon Him.

The Servant's being Spirit-anointed directly contributes to His winning justice for the Gentiles (v. 1).

Comment: By repeating key words, Isaiah emphasizes the theme of securing a just order (vv. 3-4).

Accordingly, the Servant's method of accomplishing this objective is not through brute force, but through the power of meekness and gentleness (vv. 2-3).

Proclaiming His sovereign control over the destiny of all humanity (v. 5),

God the Creator calls the Servant, promising to encourage and protect Him in His mission of releasing prisoners—both the covenant people and the Gentiles (v. 6)—from spiritual darkness (v. 7; cf. Matt.12:15-21).

Yahweh asserts His abhorrence of idolatry, because the practice robs Him of due praise (v. 8); He is zealous to protect His Name/reputation.

By revealing His knowledge of the future, the LORD again seeks to demonstrate His worthiness to receive worship (v. 9).

In a spontaneous moment, the prophet breaks in with a "new song" of praise to the LORD, exhorting all creation to give glory to Him who will triumph against all His enemies (vv. 10-13; cf. Ps. 96, 98).

Then Yahweh resumes His discourse, revealing that, after long forbearance, His time to act has come (vv. 14-17).

He chooses destruction and drought as the particular judgments He will use to deal with idolaters (vv. 15, 17), but the "blind" He promises to lead and protect (v. 16).

Israel is God's servant now, though she is blind and deaf; that is, she is unable to understand God's ways or obey His laws (vv. 18-20; cf. v. 24).

Compare Paul's words concerning Israel in Acts 28:26-27.

Even though Israel disobeys torah, becomes a robbed and plundered people, and experiences God's wrath because of her willfulness, she does not tarnish the glory of the law of God (vv. 21-25).

Behold! The Power of God


Isaiah 43

Yahweh, the Creator Of Israel

Yahweh, asserting His role as Creator of Israel (v. 1; cf. 42:6), commands His elect not to fear difficult, dangerous trials, because He has redeemed, called, and saved them (vv. 1-3).

He promises to be with them through all their ordeals, to protect them, and substitute the lives of other peoples for their sake (v. 4).

Again, He commands them not to fear, for He is with them (v. 5). From universal dispersion, the LORD will gather His own (vv. 5-7).

Comment: Verse seven includes more designations of the chosen nation's destiny and position in God's sight.

Only Yahweh Knows and Controls the Future

Calling all unbelieving peoples to assemble, Yahweh challenges anyone among them to testify to any other god who can "show us former things" (vv. 8-9).

God's chosen servant, Israel, stands ready as His witness--ready to declare Him as Savior and the only Sovereign (vv. 10-13).

As proof of this claim to Lordship, Yahweh declares that He will bring down the Chaldeans as fugitives (v. 14).

God continually identifies Himself with sovereign titles to assure Israel of His presence (v. 15), and He promises to bring Babylon to nothing (vv. 16-17).

His divine plan revolves around preparing the way for Israel's return to the Land (vv. 18-21).

Nevertheless, the nation is determined to ignore God's call, to neglect sacrifice, and to continue sinning despite His willingness to forgive them (vv. 22-25).

Because they repeatedly disobey Him, God resolves to "give Jacob to the curse and Israel to reproaches" (vv. 26-28).

© 2012 glynch1


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