Isaiah 40-42
(Run and Not Grow Weary)
July 26th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength,

they will soar on eagles’ wings;

They will run and not grow weary,

walk and not grow faint.

- Isaiah 40:31 (NAB)

Summary of Chapters

This trio of chapters kicks off the second part of Isaiah, which is sometimes referred to as the "Book of Consolation" because it was intended to offer hope to the people of Judah who were living in exile in Babylon.

As recorded in earlier books, the people of the Southern Kingdom of Israel were spared conquest by Assyria, but Babylon eventually became the regional power. The Babylonians picked up where the Assyrians left off and conquered the Southern Kingdom of Judah several generations after the reign of Hezekiah. Survivors were exiled to Babylon as prophesized in the book of Isaiah. None would return until after seventy years.

Some sources question whether Isaiah was the author of this section or whether it was an unnamed prophet, while others firmly believe that Isaiah wrote this section and all the other sections in this book.

Chapter 40 begins with words of reassurance: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God (Is 40:1 - KJV).” The author tells the reader to get ready for the arrival of the LORD. He reminds the people that generations of men (and nations) come and go, but “the word of our God stands forever (Isa 40:8 - NIV).”

Later in the chapter, Isaiah emphasizes the ultimate power and wisdom of the LORD by using a familiar sounding series of rhetorical questions. For example, “Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the knowledge or showed him to the path of understanding (Isa 40:14 -NIV).” This statement is a re-emphasis of a line from Job’s speech in Job 20:22.

The prophet continues with a long series of these types of questions, some of which re-assert verses from the book of Psalms. After completing the questions, the author reminds the people that

Chapter 41 describes “The Helper of Israel,” who presumably is Cyrus, the ruler of Persia who conquers Babylon and eventually gives permission for the remnant of Israelite people to go home. This chapter also includes an address of encouragement to the people of Israel. God says not to fear as he will eliminate their enemies. “Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel (Isa 41:14 - NIV).”

The prophet than reports how God had addressed the false idols, challenging them to prophesize or intervene with their power. “Good or bad—whatever. Can you hurt us or help us? Do we need to be afraid?' They say nothing, because they are nothing— sham gods, no-gods, fool-making gods. (Isa 41:24 - NIV).”

In chapter 42, the LORD introduces his servant who will receive the Spirit. He will be a gentle servant who delivers justice. The LORD tells the people to sing songs of praise because of this new servant, for his quiet period has ended and he is about to take action in which he will turn “darkness into light (Isa 42:16 - NIV).” We will read more about this servant in future days.

Reflection and Application

The Jewish theologian Abraham Heschel wrote that the second part of Isaiah is a timeless prophesy and is set apart from anything else ever written:

Although the prophecy could be considered timeless, the historical context and sequence of events is important to understand in order to appreciate the context of these chapters. It’s also helpful to know the actual author, but that’s not required for us to take these chapters to heart.

Sometimes we are tempted to believe that we are responsible for our own success and are independent of God. Other times we hold God responsible for all that is wrong and may even question his motives or timing. The series of questions presented in Isaiah 40 is a good litmus test to remind us of our relative position in the universe. These questions also address our concerns recorded in yesterday's study regarding the absence of God amidst our tragedies.

Who alone has the power to create and destroy at will? Given the scientific developments of the past century we might be tempted to believe that man can control both of those actions – we can create new life through cloning and can destroy cities and countries with powerful bombs. Yet we often find ourselves powerless to control natural disasters and create our own accidental disasters.

A favorite verse of faithful runners can be found in today's reading, “they shall run and not grow weary (40:31).” This verse is also quoted in Hebrews 12:1-3, in the Letters of the New Testament. What does it mean to run and not grow weary? Runners who can maximize their lung power, as measured by VO2 max and lactate threshold can go further than the rest of us without getting tired. Runners from Kenya who live and train in high altitude areas build up these attributes and seem to run with relative ease compared to the rest of us.

It seems reasonable to use this verse for inspiration when running, but, of course, the prophet is not talking about jogging around the neighborhood or completing the NYC marathon for a personal challenge. He is referring to the daily grind of staying faithful and serving one another.

Man creates idols, but only God can create unique life and intervene at will in any aspect of that life. He is the real thing and is the everlasting God

The suffering servant introduced in chapter 42 is also discussed in chapters 49, 50, 52, and 53. The interpretation of the identity of this servant may depend on the bias or beliefs of the reader. For Christian readers, the description of this servant aligns with the character and experience of Jesus. However, for the Jewish reader, the identity is subject to debate. He may be the author of this part of Isaiah, or a contemporary of his, or all of Israel, or an imaginary figure.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

Related Questions
  1. What is the farthest that you have run without growing weary?
  2. How do we prepare ourselves to run the race that God intends for us in life?
  3. Who can you console today?
Recommended Prayer
Father in heaven, we know that you have the power to lift us up. Help us to trust in you.

Suggested Prayer Concerns
People who are chronically fatigued - may they find strength in God


(1) Heschel, Abraham Joshua, The Prophets, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2001, New York (originally published by Harper & Row in 1962) p.185

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow's reading: Isaiah 43-45 (Grace Abounds)

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