Our Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 40:21-31 and is part of the larger narrative of chapter 40 which first addresses this question of God, “Will you save us?” (40:1-11) and then approaches the question of, “Can you save us?” (40:11-31). Of course, as we have learned to expect from Isaiah, the answer is, “Yes!” He answers the questions by first showing and discussing the LORD’s power. Reed Lessing outlines this second portion as follows:

12-17: Yahweh’s transcendence over the nations.
18-20: Yahweh’s transcendence over idols.
21-24 Yahweh’s transcendence over rulers. (Our text for today.)
25-26: Yahweh is the transcendent Creator.
27-31: Yahweh wields His transcendent power for the sake of His people.

These words from Isaiah come back to the people of Israel as they later struggle through their exile in Babylon and they provide great comfort. Even though it may appear otherwise, the LORD has power over all things, Heaven and Earth, and He has and will use that power to save His people. The LORD will use His power to bring His people home to the Promised Land of Israel. In fact, as we move into chapter 41 and beyond, we hear more about His saving power as we hear of the One whom He will send to save the people—the Suffering Servant. It is also of interest to note how Isaiah also tells of another anointed one who will be His instrument in returning the people from exile—his name is Cyrus the Great (chapter 45). So great is the power of the LORD that He can and He does use foreign and pagan rulers to accomplish His purposes. None can stand up to Him. None can overcome the transcendence of Yahweh!

+None can stand up to Him. None can overcome the transcendence of Yahweh!

Lessing’s commentary on Isaiah 40-55 in the Concordia Commentary Series has proven quite helpful in the preparation of this text.

40:21 Isaiah begins this verse with four interrogatives: Do you not know...? Do you not hear...? Has it not been declared...? Have you not understood...? The assumption is the people being addressed have faith and must answer, “YES!” to the questions even as they struggle with their current issues (Great sermon stuff!). Note the words: ידע (yaw-dah) and שׁמע (shaw-mah) “to know” and “to hear.” These are covenantal relationship words addressed to believers.

מוֹסְדוֹת (mos-Dot) “foundation”

40:22 הַיֹּשֵׁב (hai-yo-Shev) root: ישׁב (yaw-shab) Qal, participle use as a noun: “he who sits; he who dwells”

חוּג (chug) “circle; vault”

כַּחֲגָבִים (ka-cha-ga-Vim) from: חָגָב (khaw-gawb) “locust; grasshopper”

כַדֹּק (chad-Dok) from: דֹּק (doke) A rare word (hapax legomena) with uncertain meaning but use with מתח (maw-thakh) (Qal: “to spread out”) most likely means “curtain; thin veil”

40:23 רוֹזְנִים (roz-Nim) root: רזן (raw-zan) Qal, participle used as a noun: “ruler; dignitary; to be weighty; to be judicious or commanding”

40:24 אַף בַּל (af bal) (3X) “hardly; scarcely”

נִטָּעוּ (nit-Ta-u) root: נטע (naw-tah) Niphil: “to be transplanted; to be planted”

זֹרָעוּ (zo-Ra-u) root: זרע (zaw-rah) Pual: “to be sown”

שֹׁרֵשׁ (sho-Resh) root: שׁרשׁ (shaw-rash) Poel: “to take root”

וַיִּבָשׁוּ (vai-yi-Va-shu) root: יבשׁ (yaw-bashe) Qal: “to wither”

40:25 תְדַמְּיוּנִי (te-dam-me-Yu-ni) root: דמה (daw-maw) Piel: “to compare; to liken”

וְאֶשְׁוֶה (ve-esh-Veh) root: שׁוה (shaw-vaw) Qal: “to be/become the same; to be like”

Note: Who is like the LORD? None can compare and none should be even considered in the same category.

40:26 נֶעְדָּר (ne-Dar) root: עדר (aw-dar) Niphil: “to be missing; to be lacking”

As Lessing notes, we have both the creating (originating) and sustaining (continuing) work of the LORD referenced here.

40:27 נִסְתְּרָה (nis-te-Rah) root: סתר (saw-thar) Niphil: “to be hidden; to be concealed”

40:28 Here we see a partial repetition of verse 21.

40:29 לַיָּעֵף (lai-ya) “weary; faint”

עָצְמָה (a-tze-Mah) “power; strength; might”

40:30 וְיִעֲפוּ (ve-yi-a-Fu) root: יעף (yaw-af) Qal: “to grow weary; to be weary”

וּבַחוּרִים (u-va-chu-Rim) “young man” as one who is fully grown but not yet married and vigorous.

כָּשׁוֹל (ka-Shol) root: כשׁל (kaw-shal) Niphil: “to stumble; to fall; to stagger”

40:31 וְקוֹיֵ (ve-ko-Ye) root: קוה (kaw-vaw) Qal: “to await; to hope; to wait in anticipation; to wait for”

יַחֲלִיפוּ (ya-cha-Li-fu) root: חלף (khaw-laf) Hiphil: “to renew; to change; to cause to succeed”

יַעֲלוּ (ya-a-Lu) root: עלה (aw-law) Qal or Hiphil: Qal: “they will rise up by means of...” Hiphil: “they will lift up their...”

Note the contrast set up between verse 31 and verse 30. The difference is the LORD!


Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Isaiah 40:21-31.

Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Isaiah 40:21-31.

Lectionary Podcast- Prof. Ryan Tietz of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Isaiah 40:21-31.