Intro to the Prophets | Isaiah 40

Defining the Gospel, Pt 3

Intro to the Prophets

First, a quick intro to the Prophets. Considering the canon as a whole, the Prophets carry out an essential function, bridging the gap between the present exile and the future return, between Israel’s unfaithfulness and God’s faithfulness.

God’s promises for Israel, humanity, and the world remain, and he will act in his faithfulness.

Amid all these eschatological hopes for Israel, we encounter the word group euaggelion in climactic texts. Whenever we exegete the meaning of a ‘gospel’, we need to keep this whole mosaic of eschatological hopes in mind. The first of these gospel texts is found in Isaiah 40.

Isaiah 40

Vv. 1–2: Comfort

The chapter begins with the notion of ‘comfort’ (cf. Isa 12:1). This must be seen in view of the mourning of the Jews who were exiled to Babylon. They wept over the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and their removal from the land (e.g., Psa 137). But, Isaiah is saying, now the time of sorrow is over. God is still their God; they are still his people (v. 1), and he is now acting to fulfill his promises for them.

The people can only return from exile once God’s wrath over their transgressions has been dealt with.

Vv. 3–5: Prepare

Then an unidentified voice calls the people to prepare the way for YHWH. This refers to the visit of a royal figure. God is their king and he will return to them, to liberate them and judge their enemies. In this way, he will show his majestic and powerful presence, in other words, his glory (v. 5). This will happen in such a way that all the earth will be able to see it and praise him for it. Somehow, though that is not drawn out in this chapter, the nations will be part of the new exodus.

Vv. 6–8: Grass

Then another unknown voice cries out, perhaps to the prophet himself (cf. v. 6), recounting that everything human is perishable (see below on vv. 12–31). YHWH, however, is eternal, unchanging, unwavering amidst the storms of history. The people are grass, but his covenantal promises to them stand forever. This is what comforts them.

Vv. 9–11: Gospel

Then the writer calls on Jerusalem to announce the euaggelion to the cities of Judah: “Your God is coming!” (NLT). This is a proclamation of victory. God is coming to Israel and brings victory over their enemies. He will bring them back from exile and establish his kingdom in the land. That is the good news for his mourning people: God’s kingdom is at hand, and he brings his ‘reward’ from battle, namely salvation (cf. Isa 62:11).

This is the good news for his people in exile: God’s kingdom is at hand.

Vv. 12–31

The remainder of this chapter serves primarily to undergird the good news of God’s kingdom by recounting God’s incomparable kingship and majesty. This passage is one long celebration of creational monotheism: there is only King in this world, the Creator-God of Israel, YHWH.


In Isaiah 40, the euaggelion is the proclamation to Israel that their covenant God returns to them to bring them out of exile, to establish his rule in the land, and to dwell among them.



Thoughts on Pauline theology and the Christian life

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