Lesson 14
Part II: Historical Narrative Completed
Isaiah's Cure and the Babylonian Embassy: Chapters 38-39
Part III: Prophecies of Consolation (Chapters 40-66)
Consolation of Israel: Chapter 40

Holy Lord,

When tragedy or hard times befall us, our response can tell us much about our spiritual condition. Do we blame You for our misfortune, or do we petition You for strength in the midst of our adversity? In today's lesson, King Hezekiah's response to his illness is a lesson in faith and humility for all of us. Whatever adversities we face in life, it is important to keep those events in perspective. If we love You and are called according to Your purpose (Rom 8:28), we know that this life is not the end. We have the hope and the promise of a glorious future beyond our earthly struggles. Give us the strength and the faith, Lord, to turn our sufferings over to You and to trust in Your divine plan for our lives. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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For Hezekiah did what is pleasing to the Lord and was steadfast in the ways of David his father, enjoined on him by the prophet Isaiah, a great man trustworthy in his vision. In his days the sun moved back; he prolonged the life of the king. In the power of the spirit he saw the last things, he comforted the mourners of Zion, he revealed the future to the end of time, and hidden things long before they happened.
Sirach 48 22-25 (or 25-28)

Chapter 38: Hezekiah's Illness and Cure

Isaiah 38:1-6 ~ Hezekiah's Illness
1 About then, Hezekiah fell ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, "Yahweh says this, Put your affairs in order, for you are going to die, you will not live.'" 2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and addressed this prayer to Yahweh, 3 "Ah, Yahweh, remember, I beg you, that I have behaved faithfully and with sincerity of heart in your presence and done what you regard as right." And Hezekiah shed many tears. 4 Then the word of Yahweh came to Isaiah, 5 "Go and say to Hezekiah, Yahweh, the God of your ancestor David, says this: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I shall cure you: in three days' time you will go up to the Temple of Yahweh. I shall add fifteen years to your life. 6 I shall save you and this city from the king of Assyria's clutches and defend this city for my sake and my servant David's sake.'"

See the parallel passages in 2 Chronicles 32:24 and 2 Kings 20:1-11. Bible scholars suggest that this episode took place before Sennacherib's siege of Jerusalem in 701 BC. The date proposed for this episode is 703 BC. Verse 6 seems to suggest that the siege had not taken place and there is an additional problem with the event referred to in 39:1-4 where Merodach-Baladan of Babylon sent emissaries to Hezekiah in Judah that appears to have taken place before Sennacherib's invasion and siege of Jerusalem in 701.(1)

Hezekiah was ill. Isaiah brought him Yahweh's message that he was not going to recover and was going to die. After Isaiah left, Hezekiah offered his prayer to Yahweh. 2 Kings 20:4-5 includes the information: Isaiah had not left the middle court, before the word of Yahweh came to him, "Go back and say to Hezekiah, prince of my people, Yahweh, the God of your ancestor David, says this: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I shall cure you: in three days' time you will go up to the Temple of Yahweh. Isaiah was either returning to the Temple and had only reached the middle Court of the Women or the middle court of the palace when God sent him back to the king with the news that his life had been spared.

Question: Instead of begging that his life be spared, what did Hezekiah do? What was the result and why?
Answer: He prayed that God would remember his faithfulness and then submitted himself to God's will. God sent word to Hezekiah that his life would be spared for 15 years for the sake of God's covenant with David, and in 3 days he would be well enough to attend the Temple liturgy.

Did God change His mind about Hezekiah's death? God has the power over life and death and He responds to our humble prayers for our salvation from physical illness. Sometimes illness will cause us to be angry with God. For others it becomes an opportunity to take into account the possibility of the end of life and the condition of one' relationship with God that leads to repentance and conversion, or trust and a renewed commitment, as in Hezekiah's case (CCC 1500-02). It isn't that God changed His mind; it is that Hezekiah responded to God's call for humility and trust in God's plan for his life "it was an experience of spiritual growth for the king. It was because of Hezekiah's response, prompted by the threat to his life, that God prolonged his life, but from the beginning of the episode, God knew what would happen.

Question: Why did God say Hezekiah's life would be spared for the sake God and His servant David? What was the promise of the Davidic covenant? How long was Hezekiah's life extended? How old was his heir, Manasseh, when he became king and what is the significance of the 15 years? See 2 Sam 7:16; 23:5; 2 Kng 21:12 2 Chr 32:33-33:1.
Answer: Yahweh promised David that his lineage and his throne would endure forever and therefore God had the promise of a covenant commitment to preserve the lives of the Davidic heirs. Hezekiah's life was extended for 15 years, and his son Manasseh was only 12 years old when he became king. Therefore, at the time of Hezekiah's illness, he did not have a living male heir. Manasseh was born during those 15 extended years.

Isaiah 38:7-8 ~ Hezekiah's Cure
7a /21-22* "Bring me a fig poultice," Isaiah said, "apply it to the ulcer and he will recover." Hezekiah said, "What is the sign to tell me that I shall be going up to the Temple of Yahweh?" 7b"Here", Isaiah replied, "is the sign from Yahweh that he will do what he has said. 8 Look, I shall make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the steps "the steps to Ahaz's roof-room "go back ten steps." And the sun went back the ten steps by which it had declined.
After giving the king the news of his recovery, Isaiah asked for the materials to make a poultice for the king. It appears that Isaiah was applying a remedy, perhaps at God's command, to draw out the infection from the king's ulcer and to save the king's life.

Hezekiah said to Isaiah, "What is the sign to tell me that Yahweh will cure me and that I shall be going up to the Temple of Yahweh in three days' time?"
Hezekiah wanted confirmation of his healing and asked for a "sign", unlike his father who had refused to ask for a "sign" in Isaiah 7:10-12. Isaiah asked him if he wanted the sun to advance or go backward ten steps. Hezekiah asked that the sun reverse in its path by "ten steps." What is being referred to apparently in verse11 is some kind of a sundial from the time of King Ahaz that displayed the passing of time in a series of steps set into a wall: ten on the left side to show the shadow of the ascending sun and ten on the right side for the descending sun. A similar device has been discovered in Egypt.

Question: Why did he ask for this sign and what did the miracle represent?
Answer: It is easy for a shadow to incline down then steps since it would be the natural course of the shadow in the progression of the sun in its path across the sky; therefore, Hezekiah chooses the miraculous reversal of the progress of the shadow that becomes a symbol for the reversal of his imminent death.

The miracle is a reminder that God is the Master of Creation and all of Creation is subject to Him.
Question: When was a similar "sun" miracle employed for a leader of the covenant people? See Josh 10:12-15.
Answer: Joshua needed more time to defeat Israel's Amorite enemies; therefore he prayed for God to stop the sun and moon from moving their orbits to delay the end of the day: And the sun stood still, and the moon halted, until the people had taken vengeance on their enemies (Josh 10:13).

Isaiah 38:9-20 ~ Hezekiah's Canticle of Thanksgiving
9 Canticle of Hezekiah king of Judah after his illness and recovery. 10 I thought [I said]: In the noon of my life I am to depart. At the gates of Sheol I shall be held for the rest of my days. 11 I thought [I said]: I shall never see Yahweh again in the land of the living, I shall never see again a single one of those who live on earth. 12 My home has been pulled up, and thrown away like a shepherd's tent; like a weaver, I have rolled up my life, he has cut me from the loom. 13 From dawn to dark, you have been making an end of me; till daybreak, I cried for help; like a lion, he has cursed all my bones, from dawn to dark, you have been making an end of me. 14 I twitter like a swallow, I moan like a dove, my eyes have grown dim from looking up. 15 Lord, I am overwhelmed, come to my help. How can I speak and what can I say to him? He is the one to act. I must eke out the rest of my years in bitterness of soul. 16 The Lord is over them; they live, and everything in them lives by his spirit. You will cure me. Restore me to life. 17 At once, my bitterness turns to well-being. For you have preserved my soul from the pit of nothingness, you have thrust all my sins behind you. 18 For Sheol cannot praise you, nor Death celebrate you; those who go down to the pit can hope no longer in your constancy. 19 The living, the living are the ones who praise you, as I do today. Fathers tell their sons about your constancy. 20 Yahweh, come to my help and we will make our harps resound all the days of our life in the Temple of Yahweh.

Hezekiah wrote a poem of thanksgiving after his recovery, and Isaiah included it in his book. The poem can be divided into two sections:

  1. Hezekiah's thoughts concerning his anguish over the Lord's decree that he would die (38:9-15)
  2. Hezekiah's reflection on the grace God has extended to him and the lessons he learned through his anguish (38:16-20)

Verses 10 and 11 both literally begin with the words "I said." In poetic verses these words usually introduce thoughts and feelings the writer had that turned out to be wrong (i.e., see Is 49:4a; Ps 30:6; Eccl 2:1; 7:23). Hezekiah is recalling the painful thoughts and feelings he had before God's promise to prolong his life.

I thought: In the noon of my life I am to depart. In verses 10-12, he bemoaned the brevity of life, but in verses 13-15 he resigns himself humbly to God's purpose. That Hezekiah considered himself to be midway through his life gives the date of 715 BC when he became king at age 25 and he reigned for 29 years (2 Kng 18:1-2; 2 Chr 29:1). With a relatively firm date of 701 BC for Sennacherib's invasion of Judah, Hezekiah would have been about 39 years old at the time of the invasion and presumably this event took place just prior to the invasion. Since the Lord gave him 15 more years, he would have lived to complete his reign when he was 54 years old, which agrees with the record in Scripture that he came to the throne at age 25 and reigned 29 years (25 + 29 = 54 when he died, " 15 more years after his illness = 39 at the time of his illness).

In verses 16-20 of his hymn of thanksgiving, Hezekiah reflects on the lessons he has learned in his encounter with Yahweh through the prophet Isaiah:

Chapter 39: The Babylonian Embassy to Jerusalem

See the same account in 2 Kings 20:12-19.
Isaiah 39:1-2 ~ Hezekiah receives the Babylonian Embassy
1 At that time, the king of Babylon, Merodach-Baladan son of Baladan, sent letters and a gift to Hezekiah, for he had heard of his illness and his recovery. 2 Hezekiah was delighted at this and showed the ambassadors his entire treasury, the silver, gold, spices, precious oil, his armory too, and everything to be seen in his storehouses. There was nothing in his palace or in his whole domain that Hezekiah did not show them.

Most scholars believe this event happened prior to Sennacherib's siege of Jerusalem. According to the text, the visit of the king of Babylonian's ambassadors occurred after the Babylonians heard of Hezekiah's illness and recovery. They arrived with a letter from King Merodach-Baladan and a gift. Hezekiah, the king of a relatively small kingdom, was flattered by the attention of the Babylonian king. Since Merodach-Baladan was also in rebellion against the Assyrians, he was probably seeking an alliance with Judah. He ruled as king of Babylon from 721-710 BC before being deposed by the Assyrians. When Sargon II died and Sennacherib assumed the throne of Assyria in 705, he led another successful revolt and was king of Babylon again in 703 BC. This may be the year of his ambassadors' visit. Hezekiah was so intent on impressing his visitors that he foolishly showed them all his nation's treasures.

Isaiah 39:3-8 ~ Isaiah rebukes Hezekiah
3 The prophet Isaiah then came to king Hezekiah and asked him, "What have these men said, and where have them come to you from?" Hezekiah answered, "They have come from a distant country, from Babylon." 4 Isaiah said, "What have they seen in your palace?" "They have seen everything in my palace," Hezekiah answered. "There is nothing in my store houses that I have not shown them." 5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, "Listen to the word of Yahweh Sabaoth, 6 The days are coming when everything in your palace, everything that your ancestors have amassed until now, will be carried off to Babylon. Not a thing will be left,' Yahweh says. 7 Sons sprung from you, sons begotten by you will be abducted to be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.'" 8 Hezekiah said to Isaiah, "This word of Yahweh that you announced is reassuring," for he was thinking, "There is going to be peace and security during my lifetime."

The prophet has already warned against forming foreign alliances (Is 30:1-2; 31:1). Now he confronts the king who admits what he has done.

Question: What two warnings does Isaiah give the king from Yahweh? See 39:5-7.

  1. Someday Babylon will become the dominant regional power and when it does, it will remember all the riches of Judah.
  2. They will return and some of Hezekiah's own descendants will pay the price of exile to Babylon.

Hezekiah's response in verse 8 sounds selfish, but it is also likely that he recognizes that what God has pronounced will happen, and he is grateful that God will delay the Babylonian conquest until after his death. Actually, God will delay the Babylonian conquest for over a century.

So why is it that in this section of Isaiah's book that the events do not unfold in a chronological order with the story of Hezekiah's illness and the visit of the Babylonian delegation told after the Assyrian invasion when it seems clear that those events happened prior to the invasion and siege of Jerusalem? Perhaps it is intentional on Isaiah's part to have Part II of his book, that began in Part I with the Assyrian threat that became an invasion, but through the mercy of God the salvation of the king and his people from exile in Part II, now come to an end by looking ahead to the Babylonian conquest that will lead to exile and seemingly to the end of the Davidic kings with the promise of a return in Part III.

With the defeat of the Assyrian Empire by the Babylonians in 605 BC and the supremacy of the Babylonians over the region, Judah and her king will have to face the same questions they faced during the years of the Assyrians' dominance: Should they fight the Babylonians? Should they make peace with them? Should they form an alliance with Egypt and other nations? Or should they trust in the Lord Yahweh and be obedient to His voice through the mouths of His prophets? Isaiah's prophecy at the end of chapter 39 sets the stage for Part III of Isaiah's book. Babylon will become the dominant regional power, and Judah will be sent into exile, but God will not forget His people, and they will come home again as He promised in Isaiah chapter 14. In chapters 40-66, Isaiah consoles God's people and announces that the day will come when Judah will return and God will bless His covenant people beyond their wildest expectations.

Part III: Prophecies of Consolation (Chapters 40-66)
1. Prophecies of Israel's Deliverance (Chapters 40-48)

The title "the Book of Consolation" is commonly given to this third part of the Book of Isaiah.
The title is based on the opening verses of chapter 40. Consolation is the main theme of these chapters in contrast to the generally foreboding prophecies of Isaiah Part I in chapters 1 — 35. Some Bible scholars assign this part of the Book of Isaiah to another, unknown prophet they refer to as "Second Isaiah," but other scholars believe the entire book was written by the one prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. In the New Testament Jesus and the New Testament writers assign the writing from the Book of Isaiah, including from these last sections, to one Isaiah and to no other prophet.

This third part of the Book of Isaiah focuses on three major themes:

  1. God's covenant people have been sent into exile in Babylon because of their sins.
  2. Their captivity in Babylon proves God's God’s omniscience and sovereignty over the history of mankind because He predicted it through His prophet Isaiah.
  3. God promises to redeem His people through a man named Cyrus and other mighty works.

The first two themes appear more often in the earlier chapters and the third appears throughout.

Chapters 40-66 can also be divided into three sections:

  1. Prophecies of Israel's Deliverance (40:1-48:22)
  2. Prophecies of Israel's Promised Redeemer-Messiah (49:1-57:21)
  3. Prophecies of Israel's Restoration and the Glorious Future in God's Divine Plan (58:1-66:24)

Chapter 40: Isaiah Predicts Deliverance

Isaiah 40:1-11 ~ Yahweh's Promise of Deliverance for His Covenant People
1 Console my people, console them, says your God. 2 "Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and cry to her that her period of service is ended, that her guilt has been atoned for, that, from the hand of Yahweh, she has received double punishment for all her sins." 3 A voice cries, "Prepare in the desert a way for Yahweh. Make a straight highway for our God across the wastelands. 4 Let every mountain and hill be levelled, every cliff become a plateau, every escarpment a plain; 5 then the glory of Yahweh will be revealed and all humanity will see it together, for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken. 6 A voice said, "Cry aloud!' and I said, "What shall I cry?" ""All humanity is grass and all its beauty like the wildflower's. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of Yahweh blows on them. (The grass is surely the people). 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God remains forever." 9 Go up on a high mountain, messenger of Zion. Shout as loud as you can, messenger of Jerusalem! Shout fearlessly, say to the towns of Judah, "Here is your God." 10 Here is Lord Yahweh coming with power, his arm maintains his authority, his reward is with him and his prize precedes him. 11 He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast and leading to their rest the mother ewes.

Isaiah chapter 40 can be divided into two major parts:

  1. Isaiah announces the good news that God will redeem His people and lead them back home (verses 1-11).
  2. Isaiah proclaims God's sovereignty and His power to do what He promised in verses 1-11 (verses 12-31).

In Isaiah chapter 13, God has warned the people of Judah that their future enemy will be the Babylonians who, as God's instrument of judgment against a sinful covenant people, will conquer Judah and take the people into exile.(2) But in chapter 14 God also promised through His prophet that He would take pity on His people and would redeem them and escort them home (14:1-2). Then, at the end of chapter 39, Isaiah told King Hezekiah that the Babylonians he so unwisely entertained would in the future come against Judah to carry off everything to Babylon and "Not a thing will be left..." (39:5-8). Now the third part of the book opens with an announcement that one day the nation's servitude will be over and a new Exodus will begin under God's leadership.

1 Console my people, console them, says your God. The double use of the words "console, console" constitute a double imperative. The imperatives are in the plural (Beyer, page 164). The repetition emphasizes the urgency of the command and the plural may indicate that God is calling upon Isaiah and His heavenly court or upon Isiah and all who are in a position to give comfort to God's people "priests, prophets, elders and other leaders.

2 "Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and cry to her that her period of service is ended, that her guilt has been atoned for, that, from the hand of Yahweh, she has received double punishment for all her sins."
The same expression "speak to the heart" occurs elsewhere in Scripture to denote gentle, loving words (Ruth 2:13; Hosea 2:16/14). In verse 2 we hear that God's covenant people have paid for their offenses twice over. Perhaps they have paid double for their sins like the punishment for a thief under the Law (see Ex 22:6). But the "double" payment can also have the sense of completeness. Because they have fully atoned for their sins, it is now time for God's promised redemption.

In verses 3-11, God will show His glory by preparing a way for His peoples' return. An unidentified prophetic voice will proclaim the return of the covenant people, not just to the Promised Land but to a renewed relationship with God. In the New Testament Sts. Matthew, Mark, and John quote Isaiah 40:3 from the Septuagint.

Question: Who do Sts. Matthew, Mark, and John identify as the prophetic voice and what is it that he announces? See Mt 3:1-3; Mk 1:1-8; and Jn 1:19-23.
Answer: We learn that St. John the Baptist is the mysterious, unidentified prophetic voice from the prophecy of the 8th century BC prophet Isaiah. His is the voice that announces the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah and His Kingdom among His people. John also tells the people of the wondrous, all-encompassing change the Lord's coming will have on the world when all obstacles will be set aside and nothing will hinder the Messiah's coming or the message of His gift of salvation to all mankind.

3 A voice cries, "Prepare in the desert a way for Yahweh. Make a straight highway for our God across the wastelands. 4 Let every mountain and hill be levelled, every cliff become a plateau, every escarpment a plain.
This is a good description of the land around Jerusalem. The rugged Judean Mountains and hills with narrow valleys extended from Jerusalem, c. 2,500 feet above sea level, down to Jericho and the Jordan River Valley that was below sea-level "from the Jordan River to Jerusalem was approximately a climb of 3,100 feet. But God promises it will not be a difficult journey because He will be with them to make the journey possible. Not only will He be with them on the journey, He will also reveal His glory to them: 5 then the glory of Yahweh will be revealed and all humanity will see it together, for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken.

The "straight highway for our God" in verse 3b recalls the prophecy of the Sacred Way in Isaiah 35:8, And through it will run a road for them and a highway which will be called the Sacred Way; the unclean will not be allowed to use it; He [God] will be the one to use this road... Using poetic language, Isaiah describes a triumphal procession of the people on the "highway for our God" in 40:3-5. It is the road by which Yahweh will lead his people through the wastelands on a new Exodus just as He led the children of Israel on the journey through the desert wilderness to the Promise Land. And like the procession of the children of Israel in the wilderness journey, all the other nations will witness the journey of God's people in their return to their homeland. Jesus' last journey to Jerusalem and His Passion was from Jericho to Jerusalem.

Isaiah already wrote about comparisons with the wonders of the Exodus journey in an allusion to the Glory Cloud in 4:5-6, the miracle of the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea) crossing in 10:25-27, and he will continue to compare the promised return to the first Exodus journey:

Other prophets will elaborate on this same theme, making the connection between the first Exodus journey and the journey of the covenant people back to their homeland after the Babylonian exile. For a few examples see:

In verses 6-8 God promises to encourage the discouraged: 6 A voice said, "Cry aloud!' and I said, "What shall I cry?" ""All humanity is grass and all its beauty like the wildflowers. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of Yahweh blows on them. (The grass is surely the people). 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God remains forever."
This is the prophetic voice's second announcement; he tells Isaiah to give a message to humanity.
Question: What comparison is Isaiah told to make between humanity and God?
Answer: Humanity is fragile and impermanent, but God is eternal; He has power over life and death, and the people can rely on His word because it remains forever.

God's "word" refers to His creative acts "what God speaks comes about in human history. God has kept His word of judgment and they can also count on Him to keep His word of redemption and salvation.

9 Go up on a high mountain, messenger of Zion. Shout as loud as you can, messenger of Jerusalem! Shout fearlessly, say to the towns of Judah, "Here is your God." 10 Here is Lord Yahweh coming with power, his arm maintains his authority, his reward is with him and his prize precedes him. 11 He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast and leading to their rest the mother ewes.
Isaiah, God's messenger to Zion (the covenant people) is to announce the coming of God. It will be a new theophany, like the theophany of God on the holy mountain of Mt. Sinai in Exodus chapter 20, but this time the theophany will be on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem.
Question: What announcement does Jesus make in Jerusalem to the covenant people in John chapter 10 that is the fulfillment of the prophecy of the 6th century prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 34:11-16, 23-24; also see Mt 1:1 and Lk 1:32-33.
Answer: Jesus, the descendant of the great King David, will tell His disciples that He is the Good Shepherd who has come to redeem the "lost sheep" of the house of Israel.

Isaiah 40:12-17 ~ The Majesty and Wisdom of God the Creator
12 Who was it measured the water of the sea in the hollow of his hand and calculated the heavens to the nearest inch, gauged the dust of the earth to the nearest bushel, weighed the mountains in scales, the hills in a balance? 13 Who directed the spirit of Yahweh, what counselor could have instructed him? 14 Whom has he consulted to enlighten him, to instruct him in the path of judgment, to teach him knowledge and show him how to understand? 15 See, the nations are like a drop in a bucket, they count as a grain of dust on the scales. 16 See, coasts and inlands weigh no more than fine powder. The Lebanon is not enough for the burning fires nor its animals enough for the burnt offering. 17 All the nations are as nothing before him, for him they count as nothingness and emptiness.

Isaiah 40:12-31 provides a broader view of God, giving a description of God's wisdom and power. God is a wise creator, as the people can see on the earth over which God exercises His sovereignty. And God is all powerful. He is the source of His people's strength and His has the power to determine their destiny.

In verses 12-14 Isaiah contrasts God's creative power and wisdom with mankind's inability to contribute anything to God's awesome work of creation.
Question: How many rhetorical questions does he ask to make his point?
Answer: He asks ten questions:

  1. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand?
  2. Who marked off the heavens to the nearest inch?
  3. Who has gaged the dust of the earth to the nearest bushel?
  4. Who has weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?
  5. Who has understood the spirit of the Lord?
  6. Who instructed the Lord as his counselor?
  7. Whom did the Lord consult to teach Him wisdom?
  8. Who taught the Lord about justice?
  9. Who taught the Lord knowledge?
  10. Who showed the Lord the path of understanding?

Question: What is the answer to Isaiah's first four questions? What is the answer to his last six questions?
Answer: The answer to Isaiah's first four questions is "God." The answer to the last six questions is "No one."

One only needs to read Genesis chapters 1-2 to see that God has a plan and knew exactly what He was doing from the first moment of Creation.

Isaiah 40:18-20 ~ God cannot be compared to Created Things
18 To whom can you compare God? What image can you contrive of him? 19 The craftsman casts an idol, a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts silver chains for it. 20 Someone too poor to afford a sacrifice chooses a piece of wood that will not rot; he then seeks out a skilled craftsman to set up an idol that will not totter.

Isaiah challenges the people to find a created thing that can compare to God (verse 18). Later in 41:21-29 Isaiah will challenge the gods of the pagan nations to demonstrate their power compared to Yahweh's power, and, of course, they can't. People are foolish to put their faith in created things, as were the Israelites of the Exodus generation in the rebellion of the Golden Calf (Ex 32).

Question: How do people today make the same mistake of putting their faith in the material instead of in the God of Creation?
Answer: Today's idols are money and status. These things gives a false sense of protection and cannot save one's soul or offer the kind of peace one's relationship with God can offer.

Isaiah 40:21-26 ~ God is Sovereign
21 Did you not know, had you not heard? Was it not told you from the beginning? Have you not understood how the earth was set on its foundations? 22 He who sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, the inhabitants of which are like grasshoppers, stretches out the heavens like a cloth, spreads them out like a tent to live in. 23 He reduces princes to nothing, the rulers of the world to mere emptiness. 24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the soil, then he blows on them and they wither and the storm carries them away like chaff. 25 "To whom can you compare me, or who is my equal?" says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look: he who created these things leads out their army in order, summoning each of them by name. So mighty is his power, so great his strength, that not one fails to answer.

In these verses, Isaiah gives an awe-inspiring description of God.
Question: How many rhetorical questions does Isaiah ask and what is the answer?
Answer: He asks four questions. The answer to the first three questions in verse 21 is "Yes," and the answer to the fourth question in verse 25 is "No one."

God has told us from the beginning in the Book of Genesis how the earth was formed. God has displayed His glory through the workings of the cosmos, the change of seasons, and the creatures of the earth. In contrast the inhabitants of the earth are like "grasshoppers" that only live for a season and then pass away. He even determines the lifespans of the rich and powerful and directs the successes or failures of their activities. Therefore, the answer to the fourth question in verse 25 where God challenges the people to find any one equal to Him in any way is that no one can be compared to the eternal God, who has the power to create and give of life, and the power to judge and destroy.

Isaiah 40:27-31 ~ God is His People's Source of Strength
27 How can you say, Jacob, how can you repeat, Israel, "My way is hidden from Yahweh, my rights are ignored by my God"? 28 Did you not know? Had you not heard? Yahweh is the everlasting God, he created the remotest parts of the earth. He does not grow tired or weary, his understanding is beyond fathoming. 29 He gives strength to the weary, he strengthens the powerless. 30 Youths grow tired and weary, the young stumble and fall, 31 but those who hope in Yahweh will regain their strength, they will sprout wings like eagles, though they run they will not grow weary, through the walk they will never tire.

Isaiah now presents an argument from the greater to the lesser. His question in verse 27 essentially asks: "If God has done all of these amazing things, how could anyone think He could not do something as simple as bringing His covenant people back from exile? How could they believe that a just and all powerful God could not see the justice of their cause and remember His covenant with them?"

Then in verse 28 Isaiah brings this part of his message to a climax by asking two more rhetorical questions: "Do you not know? Have you not heard?" The answer is "Of course!", the people should have understood the nature of God, His goodness, and His acts of mercy. Isaiah contrasts the normally strong of the covenant people "the physically strong young of Israelite society, with those who hope in Yahweh. Physical endurance only lasts so long, even in the young and strong. But those who put their hope in the Lord will find the strength they will need because He will not let them falter.

Question for reflection or group discussion:
Sin is still part of the world we live in and will remain so until Christ returns in glory to create a new Heaven and a new earth. In the meantime, we must be aware of living with the consequences of sin in the world and the suffering sin brings not only to those who fall prey to sin or embrace it but to the innocent who can also suffer as a consequence of sin. What steps would you take within your family or within your community to respond to events of tragedy and senseless violence? Why does God allow these events to happen? What promise does St. Paul make to all Christians in Romans 8:28-30 and what does he mean? See CCC 313, 395, and 2012.

1. In 714-13 BC an anti-Assyrian rebellion in Ashdod was the beginning of a widespread revolt against Assyrian domination that increased as soon as Sargon II died and Sennacherib ascended the throne in 705 BC. Merodach-Baladan was an anti-Assyrian ruler who usurped the throne of Babylon twice from the Assyrians. He drove out the Assyrians and ruled in Babylon from 721-710 until he was in turn driven out by the Assyrians. He revolted a second time after the death of Sargon II and the accession of Sennacherib in 705 BC. Merodach-Baladan managed to drive out the Assyrians and ruled Babylon for nine months in 703. It may have been sometime between 705-703 BC that he tried to make Hezekiah his ally when Hezekiah was also making his own preparations for revolt. In 703 Sennacherib took his army to Babylon and successfully quelled the rebellion. Before the year 700 BC was over, Sennacherib's army had put down the Babylonian revolt, and Merodach-Baladan fled into Elam for the last time.
2. The Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the people took place in 587/6 BC. The events are described at the end of the books of 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and the Book of Jeremiah.

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Catechism references: Is 38 (CCC 1500-1502)