Isaiah 40 is a chapter to become very familiar with. You should become so acquainted with it that you can see how it connects to other parts of the Bible. Let the words dwell with you day by day. If you know this chapter well, you will know theology enough to be sound in the faith.

The context of this chapter is God’s word to rebellious people in a desolate land. The word is the gospel of Christ. It’s a word of comfort, of mercy to sinners (verses 1-2). We noted verses 3-5 point to John the Baptist, whose ministry was to warn of the coming judgment of God and the need of sinners to repent.

Now Isaiah (verses 6-8) speaks of God’s Spirit imparting the wisdom or light necessary to see the need of repentance and the salvation of Christ. You and I must have this light, or we are lost. There is implied here that God will enable those blinded by sin to see the light of Christ.

First, they will see their poverty of spirit. Verse 6 reads, “All flesh is grass and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.” “All flesh” mean all men. The word for “beauty” is elsewhere used of God’s faithfulness to his promises, of God’s righteousness, integrity, holiness. Here it is comparing the glory of God to that of sinful men.

This is a statement of the lack of moral rectitude in men in comparison to God’s standard. They fall short of the glory of God, not meaning they strive and come close, but meaning all their righteousness has no substance at all; at best it has the outward appearance of good. God will expose it for what it is in reality. He compares it to grass or the beauty of flowers because its end is nigh.

This doesn’t deny the influence of God’s common grace in this fallen world. We can be thankful for men who keep their word, are productive, responsible, and do good deeds. But this isn’t righteousness (even if practiced by Christians) than can meet God’s standard of righteousness. Only the Lord Jesus ever met that standard.

Those who embrace him are those who have been shown their poverty of righteousness. They would admit of nothing in themselves to commend them to God; they look instead to Christ given for them. Those God means to comfort, he afflicts first. Those he will justify, he first shows their just condemnation. It is the poor in spirt that inherit the kingdom of God.

The metaphor of grass is also used in verse 7 to point to the judgment of God: “The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it.” For those God enlightens, they flee to Christ knowing the just judgment of God hangs over them and this whole world. Those who remain in darkness are like flowers shriveling unto death, yet boasting of their beauty.

Men intoxicate themselves with false confidence and think themselves wise in the midst of death and signs of judgment.  Their culpability is increased by the rejection of the light and salvation of God in Christ. All men have to appear before the Lord.

We read that the Lord “breathes” on them. The Lord breathes life into men, and he also takes it away. He made the heaven and earth, and he can unmake them. Moses prayed that the Lord would enable him to number his days, so he might gain a heart of wisdom. He knew the Lord had set the iniquities and secret sins of men in his light (Psalm 90).

Moses was humble before the Lord. He wasn’t born that way. He became that way from the Lord’s grace. We need that same grace. You need to pray as Moses prayed. The Lord delights in mercy. He has bound himself by his own word to impart mercy to those who cry out for it to him. But we must admit of our blindness before we can see. God directs us away from ourselves to him for salvation.

The last phrase in verse 8 is one to memorize and never forget: “The word of our God will stand forever.” There are none who belong to Christ who do not believe this. What was the test of a true prophet of the Lord? He had to be 100% accurate. Why? Because he was speaking God’s word. Heaven and earth may fade away, but the word of the Lord will endure forever. His words here are truth.