The Voice of Certainty
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Isaiah, chapter 40. We will begin our reading with verse 1:

Isaiah 40

1Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
2Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD's hand double for all her sins.
3The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
5And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
6The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
7The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.
8The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
9O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
10Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
11He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

You will remember that with chapter 40 we are beginning a second section in the book, so different from the first that some people who do not believe in the inspiration of the Word of God believe that there must have been more than one Isaiah. They believe that one Isaiah could not have possibly written both sections of the book. Because we believe in the inspiration of the Word of God and believe that men were inspired to write many things which they did not understand, we see no problem in one man writing both sections of the book.

The sections of the book are as different as daylight is from dark in that the first section is dealing with judgment and the second section of the book is dealing with comfort and mercy. You will remember that in the first section of the book Isaiah was commissioned to bring the message of judgment. That commission is recorded in chapter 6, where there is a reference only to one voice, as God spoke to Isaiah and said:

Isaiah 6

8…Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I [Isaiah] , Here am I; send me.

As we have come to chapter 40 of the book of Isaiah, we are noticing Isaiah's recommission. He was commissioned the first time to bring a message of judgment, and he was recommissioned the second time to bring a message of mercy and of comfort. As there was one voice related to the commission of Isaiah in chapter 6, we discover that there are four voices related to the recommission of Isaiah in chapter 40.

The first voice was a voice of comfort , as it was presented in verses 1-2. Notice in verse 2 the words, “speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem.” We pointed out that that meant, “speak tenderly to her. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem.”

The second voice was presented in verses 3-5. We said that it was the voice of the coming Savior Sovereign, because it was the voice of him who was preparing the way in the wilderness for the coming of the Savior and eventually the coming of the King.

The Third Voice

That brings us to the third voice. This voice is described in verses 6-8. Please notice the words again:

Isaiah 40

6The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
7The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.
8The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

The voice from Heaven, if you will notice in verse 6, said, “Cry; proclaim; give a message. Here is another message to deliver.” The next statement says, “And he said, ‘What shall I cry'?”

When we read that statement, “he said,” quite naturally we wonder who is speaking. Of course, we feel that the context would demand that Isaiah would be the one who would say, “What shall I cry?”

It is an interesting thing that the Dead Sea Scrolls , which contain all of the book of Isaiah, which were translated from older manuscripts than the King James version is translated, changes the pronoun he to I . The passage of Scripture would read, “The voice said, Cry. And I said, What shall I cry?” We know that Isaiah very definitely, as the context indicates, would be the one who is asking God, “What shall I cry?”

Of course, if you are wondering why there could be a difference in these manuscripts, keep in mind that I have said to you before that the Hebrew language is a very meticulous language. The Lord Jesus Christ referred to its meticulousness by referring to jots and tittles . Jots and tittles are little marks of accent that are determined by the direction in which they go, and this determines the very meaning of the word. The word could be spelled exactly the same way, and the jot or the tittle would make the difference, and sometimes in the process of copying, the jot and the tittle were left out or were put a different way, and so the meaning would be changed just a little. Do keep in mind that the change is really not vital. It does no violence to the truth of the Scripture at all. I have already pointed out to you that the context would demand that Isaiah would be the speaker.

It is comforting to my heart to know that the further back we go in antiquity, the older manuscripts which are discovered by the grace of God verify to the very minutest detail the translation that we hold in our hand. That is an encouraging thing when we think about the authenticity of the Word of God.

Isaiah's Message to Israel

When Isaiah heard the voice, “Cry; proclaim; give a message, Isaiah,” he answered and said, “What shall I cry?” I am going to suggest to you what the answer was, and then we are going to think about the message that Isaiah was to proclaim.

God said first to Isaiah, “Proclaim the frailty of the flesh. Second, proclaim the futility of its efforts. Proclaim, thirdly, the fierceness of the wind, and proclaim, lastly the finality of the Word of God.” That was the message that Isaiah was instructed to proclaim to the nation of Israel.

Keep in mind as we pursue this thought that I have planted in your mind that chapter 40 of the book of Isaiah is God's plan for your witness to the nation of Israel. If you will follow this plan, then you can get a ready ear from the Hebrew. You can get a ready ear from an individual who has turned a deaf ear to the pleas of Christianity, because persecution for him, in the name of Christ, has been so very great.

The Frailty of the Flesh

What do I mean when I speak of the frailty of flesh? Notice in verse 6, the statement, “All flesh is as grass.” Flesh, of course, as we have learned in other studies, is representative of man, and the word flesh is often used in connection with human-beings. If you will glance at the very last statement in verse 7, you will see that the flesh is representative of the human race, because we read:

Isaiah 40

7…surely the people is grass.

If we are talking about flesh, we're talking about people. The first thing that is brought to our attention is the frailty of human beings, because twice repeated is the statement, “All flesh is as grass.” You will notice the statement in verse 6 and again in verse 7. This simple statement is made because grass is so far from being permanent.

Look again at verse 6, and notice again the statement:

Isaiah 40

6…All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
7The grass withereth, the flower fadeth…

Turn to Psalm 90, as we ask a question that may be in your minds; and that is, “Why, out of all the objects of nature, would God select grass as an illustration of the frailty of human flesh?” Notice verse 1:

Psalm 90

1Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
2Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.
3Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.
4For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.

May I pause long enough to suggest, Beloved, that you keep that in mind when you become impatient with God, when you wonder why God is so slow in His working, when you wonder why it is that the Lord Jesus Christ tarries in His coming, what is recorded in verse 4? “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday…” Can you conceive of a thousand years? How long is it? As far as God is concerned, it is no more than yesterday. Look at verse 5:

Psalm 90

5Thou carriest them away as with a flood [that is, the human-race] ; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.
6In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.

Do you see now why God was pleased to use grass as an illustration of the frailty of the human flesh?

Go back to Isaiah, chapter 40, as I remind you of something that you well know. We do put a great deal of emphasis upon this brief span of life, don't we? We do give a great deal of attention to the flesh, don't we? Yet God says that the flesh is so frail. It is as frail as the grass that is beautiful and lush in the morning, but by nightfall can be withered, dried, and unlovely. That is how frail you are.

God remembers, of course, that you and I are frail, as we are going to see before we are through, but we are prone to forget it. Many times we attempt things in the frailty of the flesh that are utterly impossible, and we wonder why we fail. Israel did, and that is the reason that when Isaiah was to bring the message of comfort to their hearts, God said to him, “Isaiah, the first thing that I want you to do is to remind the nation of Israel how frail it is. Remind them how frail the flesh actually is.”

The Futility of Efforts of the Flesh

Then notice, in chapter 40, that not only was Isaiah to speak of the frailty of the flesh, but he was to speak of the futility of its efforts, and the futility of its good deeds. Look down at verse 6, and notice:

Isaiah 40

6The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:

The first thing he was to cry was that all flesh is grass. The second thing was that all the goodliness of the flesh is as the flower of the field. So, of course, there are two comparisons. The flesh is compared to the grass; the goodliness of the flesh is compared to the flower of the field, and one is no more lasting than the other.

What do we mean by its goodliness ? May I remind you that the word goodliness comes from the Hebrew word checed . It has a number of translations other than the translation “goodliness.” One of them is found in Proverbs, chapter 31. Keep in mind that in the very last portion of Proverbs, chapter 31, is described the woman whose price is far above rubies, and some of her characteristics are presented as is suggested in verse 26:

Proverbs 31

26She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

That word kindness is the translation of the Hebrew word checed , which is translated “goodliness” in Isaiah, chapter 40. When we talk about the goodliness of the flesh, we are talking about good deeds of the flesh, because this word literally means “good deeds,” “kindness,” and “mercy,” and here in Proverbs, chapter 31, it is translated “kindness.”

Would you not consider kindness a good deed? Would you not consider kindness a good word? Would you not consider an individual who manifests acts of kindness as manifesting good deeds to other people, or good works? Would you not consider that they were performing works of righteousness? Turn to Proverbs, chapter 14, verse 21, and notice:

Proverbs 14

21He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.

Notice the last part of that statement: “he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.” The word mercy is a translation of our Hebrew word checed , which is translated “goodliness,” and which is translated “kindness.” What is Isaiah to say? “Isaiah, you speak to the nation of Israel, and you remind them of the futility of their good works. You remind them that their good works will last no longer in the sight of God than the beauty of the flowers of the field.”

This isn't the first time that Isaiah used this comparison. Perhaps some of you remember when he used it before, but in case you don't, turn to chapter 28 of the book of Isaiah, and notice what Isaiah had to say to the ten tribes of the nation of Israel:

Isaiah 28

1Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, [notice] whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!

Now look down at verse 4:

Isaiah 28

4And the glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be a fading flower…

Good works are described in terms of glory, in terms of beauty, in acts of mercy, and in acts of kindness. What does God say? “Isaiah, tell the nation of Israel that they are frail within themselves, and tell them that their good works will last no longer than the flower that fades when the fierceness of the wind blows upon it.”

The Fierceness of the Wind

Of course, grass does not wither, just generally speaking, nor do flowers fade on a moment's notice. There is always something that causes the grass to wither and the flower to fade. If you will turn back to Isaiah, chapter 40, you will see what it is that causes the grass to wither and the flower to fade, and you will recognize the third thing that I suggested to you that we would be thinking about in this lesson. I suggested we would think about the frailty of the flesh, the futility of good works, and about the fierceness of the wind. Look at verse 6:

Isaiah 40

6The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
7The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: [why?] because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.

Listen carefully to what I say. I want to suggest to you an alternate translation to this particular one that is in our text. Alternate —notice the word I am using. This alternate translation says: “The wind of the LORD bloweth upon it.” Why do I say that? Because the word that is translated spirit in our translation, comes from the Hebrew word ruwach , and that very same Hebrew word, elsewhere, is translated “wind.”

A Reference to the Holy Spirit

When we are speaking of matters physical, the word ruwach is translated “wind,” and when we are speaking of matters spiritual, it is translated by the word spirit , and is very definitely a reference to the Holy Spirit of God. Turn to Psalm 103 and notice the paragraph which begins with verse 10:

Psalm 103

10He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities [aren't you thankful for that?] .
11For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
12As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

If I had no other message for you today than this that is found in these few verses, you could rejoice, because they are precious verses indeed.

May I ask you a question? Are you rejoicing in these verses? Are you rejoicing in the fact that God has not dealt with you according to your sins and your iniquities? Are you rejoicing in the fact that God has removed your transgressions from you as far as the east is from the west? I hope you are rejoicing, but may I suggest to you, if for some reason you are not, if you believe the simple Gospel story that you have heard many, many times, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture, and as many as receive the Lord Jesus Christ, to them gives He the authority and the right to be called the Children of God,” then accept that, and your sins, your guilt and your transgressions will be removed as far away from you as the east is from the west. That is pretty far, isn't it?

Look at verse 13. This has always been a very precious verse to my heart:

Psalm 103

13Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.
14For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

There is no more beautiful picture of God in all the Scripture than that. Do you pity your children? Of course, this word pity today has come to have some connotations that the scriptural translation does not have. Usually we say, “I don't want a person to pity me.” We feel like they are looking down on us, but that is not what this means. It means “an understanding.” A father understands his child. He may not approve all that he does. He may not condone his weaknesses and his mistakes, but he understands, and he understands that his frame is made out of dust.

That is the reason that so many of us as parents excuse our children. We find it hard to believe something about them because we pity them. We love them, and we want to understand them. I suppose that any honest parent, and I am afriad that some of us are not as honest as we should be, would be more understanding of our children if we recognize that some of the things that present a problem to us are the things that they have inherited from us. We see in them the things that are related to us, and we have never liked them about ourselves, so we find it very difficult to like it in them, particularly when we see a little replica of ourselves. When the parent can remember that his child is but dust, he is on the way to understanding.

The Result of the Fierce Wind

Look at verse 15. You will see this illustration used again, and realize that this is used many times over in the Scriptures:

Psalm 103

15As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
16For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.

Look at the word wind in verse 16. It is the same Hebrew word ruwach , that is translated spirit in Isaiah, chapter 40. What does the wind do when it blows with a gusty, hot blast over the grass? The grass withers. When it blows with a gusty, hot blast over the flowers, what happens? The flowers fade.

Folk here in West Texas ought to be able to understand that better than a lot of folk. I had to learn that when I came here. I planted flowers, and they wouldn't flourish. Then somebody said, “Too much wind.” You built a wind break, and planted the flowers, and then they flourished. We should understand this. The wind blowing over the grass, and the flowers caused them to wither and to fade.

We will go back to Isaiah, chapter 40, and you will remember that I was offering you an alternate translation. When I speak of an alternate translation, I am suggesting that both of the translations are true. You use one in one connection, and you use the other in the other connection. When you are speaking about grass and flowers, you use the word wind , as the translation of this word, as we have endeavored to show you. But, when you are talking about people, and are talking about flesh and the souls of men, you use the word spirit .

If you will look at verse 7 again, you will see why it is perfectly proper to say, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, because the Spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it,” for Isaiah is emphasizing not the illustration, but that which is illustrated. What is he saying? He is simply saying, “Man within himself feels simply marvelous until the Holy Spirit tears away all of the covering, and leaves him open and exposed. Then he withers and shrivels up, because there is nothing to him when he sees himself as God sees him.” When man boasts about his good works, his acts of mercy, and his acts of grace, oh how good they sound, and how marvelous he feels; but when the Holy Spirit blows with the fierce blast of convicting power, all human effort fades into insignificance.

Paul's Testimony

Turn to the letter to the Philippians, and let a man give you his testimony. He was a Jew, and his message was to the Jewish nation. Will you let this man give you his testimony? He flourished as the grass, and had the glorious beauty of a flower one time to a much greater extent than many of us have ever had, or ever will. Look at Philippians, chapter 3, verse 4:

Philippians 3

4Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:

What is Paul saying to us? He is saying, “If anybody thinks he can be saved by the kind of life he lives, or if anybody thinks that he can be saved by religious observances and good deeds, then I claim that right to be saved, because I fulfill all of these various things.” Then he lists things that were related to the Jewish religion in which he fell behind in no thing.

Can you say that? Whatever faith you may happen to be following at the moment, whatever manner of life you have chosen as a manifestation of your spiritual experience, could you say that honestly? Could you say that you have been faithful in every single thing? I wonder.

The Apostle Paul said, “I was, but there came a time in my life when I realized that every thing that I was and every thing that I did was but dung. It was worthless and needed to be placed upon the trash heap of the world. Nothing that I was or did was worth while.”

When did he come to that conclusion? It happened on the road to Damascus when the Holy Spirit of God blew upon him with a furious blast, knocked him off his horse, and caused him to see himself as he was.

We might say to him, “What did you do when everything was taken away and you found that your life meant nothing, and your good deeds meant less?” He said in verse 9:

Philippians 3

9And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

“I let all that other go that I might rest in the righteousness of Christ.”

The Finality of God's Word

That leads me to speak to you about the last thing that I said was a part of Isaiah's message in chapter 40—the finality of the Word of God. Turn back to Isaiah, chapter 40, and glance at verse 8:

Isaiah 40

8The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: [notice now] but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

Yes, the grass withers, and the flower fades, but the Word of our God shall stand forever. This English word word is a translation of the Hebrew word dabar , and it is translated a number of different ways in addition to the word word that you see in your text. One of the ways that it is translated is by the word promise , and I like that, because actually, we are reading, “The promise of God stands secure.” This is particularly important to remember if we are going to be one of the voices for the nation of Israel.

Turn, please, to Psalm 105. I want to remind you now that Isaiah's message was to the nation of Israel. He was to say to them, “You are nothing, and what you have done is nothing. You will realize that when the Spirit of God opens your blinded eyes, but when you have opened your blinded eyes to the nothingness of your own self effort, then remember this: The Word of God standeth sure.” The Spirit of God wrote it in Psalm 105, verse 42:

Psalm 105

42For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham his servant.
43And he brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with gladness:
44And gave them the lands of the heathen: and they inherited the labour of the people;
45That they might observe his statutes, and keep his laws. Praise ye the LORD.

Notice verse 42 particularly:

Psalm 105

42For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham his servant.

The word promise here, is the translation of the Hebrew word dabar , which is translated Word , where the Spirit of God was ready to declare the Word of God standeth sure. The promise of God standeth sure.

I have been emphasizing that this is primarily a message to the nation of Israel, but remember every passage of Scripture has one interpretation, and then as many applications as is consistent with the rest of the Word of God.

Present Application of Truth

Peter, who was well versed in the Old Testament Scriptures, saw fit to take Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 8, and make an application of it in the first epistle which he wrote. Will you notice the paragraph which begins with verse 18 of chapter 1:

I Peter 1

18Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
19But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
20Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
21Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.
22Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:
23Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible seed.” What is that incorruptible seed? That is the Word of God, and it lives and abides forever. Then Peter quotes from Isaiah, chapter 40:

Isaiah 40

24For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
25But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. [then Peter adds these words which represents the application] And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

What is he saying? Simply this: Centuries ago Isaiah said to the nation of Israel, “The Word of God stands forever,” and I say to you now in this age of grace that the Gospel, the Word of the Good News, stands forever. Nothing will ever change it.

Conclusion

You are Gentiles, not members of the nation of Israel, so I would address these closing remarks to you. Do you believe that? Have you been born again? Is your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ because you have realized the frailty of the flesh, the futility of any good deeds that you might try to do, recognizing that it is Christ and Christ alone who can meet your needs? Have you, realizing that, trusted Him and Him alone as your Savior?


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