Isaiah is a mini-Bible in itself; made up of 66 chapters, 39 focus on the sin of Israel and God’s judgment and 27 of them, starting with Isaiah 40, focus on God’s great rescue plan through the Suffering Servant, the Messiah. Isaiah 40 contains a whole plethora of questions which all concentrate the mind and refocus our attention on who God is.
The cumulative effect of all these questions is rather like the pounding tenacity of waves at the seaside. We are forced to see that no one can compare to God and that He is completely different to anyone or anything we could ever know. The power, majesty and might of God are reinforced throughout this chapter, with Isaiah asking, ‘With whom, then, will you compare God? To what image will you liken him?’ (Is 40:18)
God ‘sits enthroned above the circle of the earth.’ (Is 40:22) To Him, people are like grasshoppers: small, insignificant, puny. (Is 40:22) God is so great that He made the heavens like a canopy (Is 40:22). He is the One who is the Lord, raising up rulers and bringing them down as He sees fit. (Is 40:23) We might well feel intimidated by those in power, those with authority over us. We might feel insignificant and worthless in comparison to them, but to God, they are no more important than anyone else: ‘no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.’ (Is 40:24) If we can grasp the fact that the Lord is the Maker of heaven and earth and that He is on the throne, our perspective on life will be altered and so many of our anxieties reduced.
Is 40:25-26 remind us that God is the Creator and there is no one like Him. But even if our heads accept this, we can still feel unsure about how this affects us personally:
‘Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”?’ (Isaiah 40:28)
We can never really understand what God is doing if we only see things through the lens of our time, our history. We need an eternal perspective (2 Cor 4:16-18), and this is what Isaiah gives to the complaining, troubled people of God. The Lord is the everlasting God. He is the Creator of the ends of the earth. Because of this, ‘he will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.’ (Is 40:28) God is able to give strength to the weary and to increase the power of the weak. (Is 40:29) These promises are not simply theoretical; they are the source of hope and strength to every believer.