Isaiah 40 • The Arm of the Lord


The context for reading chapter 40 should be the preceding section involving condemnation. Surely, for their apostasy, Judah and Jerusalem will come under God’s judgment at the hands of the Babylonian Empire. Though judgment awaits in the future, so does hope. Therefore, God speaks to His beaten and rejected people with the words, “Comfort, O comfort My people.” The foreshadowing for God’s rescue and comfort of His people is found in the concept of the “remnant.” God will preserve the Holy Seed through the remnant that He Himself will protect, and through this remnant God will carry out His plan to bring lasting peace and righteousness on the earth.

“Now in that day the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.

A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.

For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea,

Only a remnant within them will return;

A destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness.”

— Isaiah 10:20-22

Read verses 1-2

Q: Why is “Jerusalem” named (say, instead of Samaria or Israel), and to whom does this refer?

A: Jerusalem is the holy city, the city of Zion, God’s capital for His name on the earth. Jerusalem refers to God’s people ―specifically, the Jews ―and more specifically, the remnant. (The word “Jew” is a shortened form of “Judah,” referring to those who originate in Judah. It’s easier to say “Jew” than “Judahite.”) Samaria and Israel are not named because they were the totally apostate Northern Kingdom who had been dispersed a long time before. Yet, in the providence of God, He will bring comfort even to the Dispersion.

Q: What is the good news that is being stated in verse 2?

A: That all warfare has ended, her sin has been removed, her punishment is complete. Therefore, she can look forward to peace.

Application: What lesson do we learn about God concerning His children, even when they disobey and stray?

Read verses 3-8

Q: In the NT, verse 3 was quoted to refer to whom? (See Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6; John 1:23.)

A: John the Baptist. He would “clear the way for the Lord” by announcing and introducing Him (Jesus).

Q: What is the significance of verse 4?

A: When royalty traveled in ancient times, slaves would go out ahead and make the roads smooth by leveling rough surfaces and filling in ruts and gullies. Therefore, John the Baptist would announce the arrival of a king. But there is also a dual, immediate meaning that the Lord will prepare the way for their return from Babylon to the land of Israel.

Q: To what future era in history is verse 5 referring to?

A: The Second Coming of Christ specifically, although His First Coming is alluded to here as well. The whole earth will benefit by His First Coming, but the “all flesh” can only be His Second Coming.

Q: What is the theme of verses 6-8, and how does it relate to verse 5?

A: The theme is that God’s Word will never fail. It is related to verse 5 in that “the mouth of the Lord has spoken”; therefore, what God says will happen will indeed take place. Hence there will be a time when all flesh living on the earth will see the Lord coming in glory.

Application: Relate with one another how God’s Word has changed your life.

Read verses 9-11

Q: The word “arm” is used twice in these verses. Look up and read Isaiah 53:1. To whom does the “arm of the Lord” refer, and why?

A: The “arm of the Lord” is used in Isaiah to represent the Lord’s servant who will be given power and authority to carry out His will. Arm is symbolic of strength, power, and handy work.

“Who has believed our message?

And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

― Isaiah 53:1

Q: If the “arm of the Lord” represents strength, power and authority, in what unusual way does verse 11 contrast?

A: His power and authority does not preclude His compassion and gentleness.

Application: Imagine you were one of the survivors of the deportation crossing the desert. How would these words bring comfort to you? In what way does this remind you of the Exodus? Is there anything going on in your life today that might result in this verse bringing meaning?

Read verses 12-17

Q: Why does this section gives us comfort regarding “threatening nations”? (Compare with Dan. 2:21.)

A: God is always in control, even of the bad guys.

“It is He who changes the times and the epochs;

He removes kings and establishes kings;

He gives wisdom to wise men

And knowledge to men of understanding.”

― Daniel 2:21

Q: What is the meaning of v.16? What does this teach us about the true meaning of the Old Testament system of sacrifices?

A: In reality, there’s no amount of burnt offerings that can bridge the gap with God. It shows that the sacrifices were intended as a symbol of the condition of one’s heart, not as a sufficient substitute in and of themselves. Therefore we have to conclude that it is the love and grace of God that causes the sacrifices to bridge the gap.

Read verses 18-20

Point: All other substitutes for God are a limited creation of man’s mind that cannot begin to describe the breadth and character of God as provided in v.12-17. Israel’s core problem has been devotion to and worship of other gods which exist solely because human hands decided to create them. It’s a stark contrast to v.8b, “But the word of our God stands forever” versus man’s works that crumble and disappear in a single lifetime.

Application: Is your entire faith and belief system built on the Word of God or is even the smallest part a work of your own or another’s hand? How do you fix that?

Read verses 21-26

Q: What are the 3 classes of earthly people mentioned in v.21-23? To what does this allude?

A: Inhabitants, rulers, and judges. It alludes to man’s creation of a duplicate heavenly structure on earth, but instead of the Godhead man has substituted others as ruler and judge.

Q: What is the common problem for each of these classes?

A: Each has forgotten Who is really in charge, that God is the Ruler, Creator, and Judge.

Q: According to v.24-25, what should we keep in mind concerning earthly structures and organizations?

A: They’re temporary. We’re supposed to keep a focus beyond them to the eternal.

Q: In v.26, what is the comfort the remnant going to Babylon should derive from this verse?

A: The fact that the uncountable number of stars are each known by name to God and 100% accounted for reaffirms that He knows each member of the remnant and fully accounts for them; none of them will go missing.

Point: God is in complete, eternal control over and above what temporarily exists on earth, yet He knows and accounts for us individually by name. God’s grand eternal work incorporates us individually by name!

Read verses 27-31

Q: How do you suppose this applies to Israelites dispersed outside of the land of Israel?

A: Regardless of temporary, present conditions, God’s hope is strength for endurance to realize reconciliation and return to Him.

Q: How would you summarize the main teaching of this passage?

A: God’s strength sustains us as we wait on Him to work everything out.

Application: How does this speak to you in the things you’re going through right now? How about for the immediate future? For all of life?