A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord ; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord , or instruct the Lord as his counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding? – Isaiah 40:3-14
This passage of Isaiah is quoted by John the Baptist in the Gospels (Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:3, Luke 3:4, John 1:23). Finally a truly familiar stretch of river here in the old testament! John was of course describing his role in ushering in the coming Messiah, Jesus. The portion of Isaiah quoted does not include the sentence “And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together”. This is the first time I can remember such an overt reference to God’s kingdom being extended beyond the people of Israel.
“All people” would seem to include all those willing to see God and the grace He extends. This passage seems to remove all distinctions between people here on earth. We are all “like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” We all are born of dust and return to dust in the end. It is the word of God (Jesus) that endures and only through Him can we find eternal life beyond this land of oblivion.
This prophetic description of the coming “good news to Jerusalem” is far more compelling that I realized from the portion quoted in the gospels. This is the first clear point in my float through the bible where I can remember the grace of God being referred to as “good news” for all people. “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young”. God wants to carry all of us like a son or daughter — we are all God’s sheep, Jew and gentile alike.
God also says “his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.” When I first read this I was a bit confused. What would constitute a “reward” for God? How could He bring it with Him? What kind of a reward was Jesus given as he was nailed to a cross? Then it hit me like a two-by-four — the reward was us! All those who choose to faithfully follow God (accompany God) as a result of His coming are His reward. How amazing is that! We are God’s reward. This passage is a hidden well to be sure.
The One who “has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand” and “held the dust of the earth in a basket” chose to come for us. Isaiah poses the question “Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord”. The incredible message of the Gospel of Jesus is that the answer is we can. God has given us the incredible gift of knowing Him in an intimate way that is truly something new. Our limited earthly bodies and minds cannot fathom how, or even why, God chose to come and sacrifice Himself, but we have been shown the “the path of understanding” and it is the Way of Jesus.
Prayer: God thank You for coming to be our Shepard so that we can follow Your way and become Your reward.