Isaiah 40, The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9 and John the Baptizer
“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, That her warfare is ended, That her iniquity is pardoned; For she has received from the Lord’s hand Double for all her sins.” The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” The voice said, “Cry out!” And he said, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, Because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” O Zion, You who bring good tidings, Get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, You who bring good tidings, Lift up your voice with strength, Lift it up, be not afraid; Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, And His arm shall rule for Him; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young.
Isaiah 40 is a key OT Messianic prophecies. The NT writers draw on it repeatedly, and in what is the focus of this article, it proves critical for understanding another set of key prophecies, specifically, Daniel 9 and Romans 11:25-27. Not only that, as we shall see, John the Baptizer, as the anticipated Voice in the Wilderness is the interpretive key that unlocks our understanding of Isaiah, of Daniel 9 and Romans 11. The importance of these connections, will, hopefully, be abundantly clear as we proceed. To reveal these connections and to see the importance of Isaiah 40 for understanding Biblical eschatology, we need to look closer at what this great chapter foretold. For brevity, I will present some of the key bullet points of the prophecy in Isaiah 40.
✦ – Verses 1-2 predict the taking away of Israel’s sin, the day of her redemption.
✦ – Verses 3-5 – That day of salvation would be heralded by “The Voice of one crying in the Wilderness… make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” That day of salvation would be the manifestation of the glory of God, “all flesh shall see the glory of God.”
✦ – Verse 6 affirms the weakness of man, but, the eternal, reliable, nature of the Lord who promised the coming salvation; Man might fail, like the grass, YHVH would not fail!
✦ – Verse 9 is a reiteration of the pronouncement of the coming of salvation: Zion would be redeemed, delivered and glorified. (I cannot develop it here, but pay particular note of Hebrews 12:21f, where the writer says his audience had come to Zion. This means that the salvation of Isaiah 40 was about to be fully realized and revealed).
✦ – Verses 10-12 declare that the coming salvation would be at the coming of the Lord in the kingdom “His arm shall rule for Him”, when YHVH would render judgment and reward: “His reward is with him.”
Anyone familiar with the ministry of John the Baptizer knows that he was, by his admission and by the express statements of the NT writers, the promised Voice in the Wilderness. Read John 1:19-23f:
“Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Make straight the way of the Lord,”’as the prophet Isaiah said.”
(* – It is often claimed that John’s denial of being Elijah proves that he could not have been the fulfillment of Malachi 4 and the prediction of the coming of Elijah before the Great Day of the Lord. This is misguided. In my book, Elijah Has Come; A Solution to Romans 11:25-27, I demonstrate that if John was The Voice, as he unequivocally was, then he was also Elijah. To be sure, he was not the reincarnation of the literal Elijah, but, he was nonetheless Elijah, according to the express words of Jesus himself in Matthew 17:10f).
Notice also Mark 1:1-3:
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.” “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.’”
It is critical to see from Mark that in addition to being The Voice, John was likewise “The Messenger” foretold in Malachi 3:1-2. I will not discuss that here since it would expand this discussion too much. I do develop that concept in my book just mentioned. Understanding that John was The Messenger further corroborates the arguments presented in this article.
So, the indisputable fact is that John the Baptizer was The Voice of one crying in the wilderness. As The Voice, that means that he was to herald the coming of the Lord to take away Israel’s sin, to rule and to reward. Let me drive home these points because it is tremendously important.
The time of the taking away of Israel’s sin is the time of the coming of the kingdom – “His arm shall rule for Him.”
The time of the taking away of Israel’s sin is the time of the Lord’s coming in judgment – “His reward is with him.” This latter point is established by the language used by the prophet if we understand the language of the time.
The Voice would cry: “Prepare in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth.” Modern readers are unfortunately unaware that this is the language that carries with it the idea of an invading army!
Gregory Beale says that the Psalms of Solomon (8:17), “seems to allude to this text (Isaiah 40 DKP), when it refers to the Jewish leaders (probably literal) grading of rough roads to Jerusalem to prepare the way for the conquering Roman general Pompey to enter the city. This part of the welcome was appropriate for a king, albeit ironic because the king was a foreign invader.” (Gregory Beale, Commentary on the NT Use of the OT, (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, Apollos, 2007), 13).
Josephus tells us what happened when Vespasian invaded Galilee in his advancement through Israel during the War. Specifically, he describes Vespasian’s invasion and the siege of Jotapata. Vespasian designated one out of ten soldiers to “measure out the camp withal; and after them, such as were to make the road even and straight, and it were anywhere rough and hard pressed to be passed over, to plane it, and to cut down the woods that hindered their march, that the army might not be in distress, or tired with their march.” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Bk. 3:6:2, (645).
(One thing is certain: John the Baptizer, as The Voice, was not a literal road builder, a literal landscaper! He did not fill any literal valleys and did not blow up any literal mountains to bring them level. This gives us some excellent insight into how to interpret Bible prophecy).
The point here is that when Isaiah foretold the coming of The Voice to prepare a highway for the Lord, this meant that The Voice – John the Baptizer – was to proclaim the coming of the Lord in judgment, the time of what some scholars call the “Holy War.” This is not a prediction of the Incarnation. It is the time when He would come “and his reward is with him.” Of course, that “reward” that would be given would be the taking away of Israel’s sin! It is the redemption of Zion.
I have stated many times that John the Baptizer is, beside Jesus and Paul, the most significant eschatological figure in the NT. Yet, in many commentaries, he is almost ignored. Very few commentators even mention John and his message outside of their comments on the Gospels. Yet, John’s message truly permeates the writings of Paul, Peter and James, not to mention John in Revelation.
It should go without saying that Isaiah 40 and the reference to the Lord’s coming in judgment with his reward and His work before Him, is echoed directly by Jesus in Matthew 16:27 and in Revelation 22;12. In Matthew 16:28 we are told that the time of the Lord’s coming, in the kingdom and judgment, would be in the lifetime of his living audience. In Revelation 22, no less than six times we are told that the coming of the Lord was at hand: “Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me.” These statements of the nearness of the kingdom coming of the Lord in judgment and salvation agree completely with John’s message that the kingdom had drawn near and that the judgment was coming soon (Matthew 3:2, 7, 10-12). This reinforces the points we will be making in this two part study. Be sure to get a copy of my book: Elijah Has Come: A Solution to Romans 11:25-27 for a greater understanding of the incredible significance of John the Baptizer.