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Discover Him and Find His Healing Touch

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Isaiah 40:1-5

An Empty Room

Isaiah 40:3-4

The Bible Teaching Commentary

Paul J. Bucknell

Isaiah 40:1-5 Intro | Isaiah 40:1-2 | Isaiah 40:3-4 | Isaiah 40:5
Isaiah 40:1-5 Study Questions

Book of Isaiah: Overview, Chronology and Ouline


Isaiah 40:3-4, An Empty Room, is the second of three points to view the journey of discipleship that our LORD takes His people on in Isaiah 40:1-5. God's purpose is to make room for Himself in our lives. He does this through lifting the valleys and lowering the mountains.

Sanctification: B. An Empty Room  (Isaiah 40:3-4)


God helps us make room for Him in our lives. This is sanctification - setting apart to Himself. He does this in two chief ways:

(1) He helps us overcome the lack of faith where we have given up hope, and

(2) He helps us get rid of different manifestations of pride and self-confidence.

The more we understand God's plan,
the easier and quicker it is to make progress

Text: Isaiah 40:3-4

”A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. “Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley.” (Isaiah 40:3-4, NASB).

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The LORD in Isaiah 40:1-5 highlights the overall means by which He redeems and uses His people. These three stages perfectly correspond with the three New Testament teachings of Christian living. The Lord justifies, sanctifies and glorifies His people. Isaiah 40:3-4 emphasizes the process of sanctification.

B. An Empty Room (Isaiah 40:3-4)

Sanctification: B. An Empty Room  (Isaiah 40:3-4)Every major construction effort requires a lot of planning. Fortunately, God has done this behind the scenes of each of our lives, as local churches, families and individuals. We should realize that the plans are done very carefully in love with the express purpose that we can share in His inheritance. These sanctification plans, though, require a lot of work in our lives and therefore a lot of inconveniences.

The goal is always the same: "Clear the way for the LORD." Jehovah Himself desires to live out His glorious self in our lives. The goal is not to just fill in the valleys and tear down the hills. The long term construction equipment and mess from this work might make us feel this, but it is not. Our lives are being transformed for the purpose of making room for the Lord. In essence then, this step can be summarized by a reshaping of our lives.

God works on two major projects as noted below. After this, there is always a long series of minor work characterized by the first two but on a much smaller scale. This work is never comfortable but always necessary. The goal for all projects will be to let God live out His glory in our lives.

Goal: Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.

Major Project #1

Major Project #2

Minor Projects

The lack of faith is doubt in God's work and words.

Let every valley be lifted up

Misdirected faith is faith in the wrong thing or person!And every mountain and hill be made low
Isaiah 40  rough ground become a plain

And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley.

The Lord heals our wounds.

These are sins of deficiencies stemming from doubt in God and His good purposes for our lives. Some of these are: worry, stress, fears, indecision, self-hatred, depression, and suicide.

The Lord eliminates our pride.

Self-confidence is the belief that one can manipulate circumstances to gain what we want. Some of the sins of self-confidence are: pride, anger, bitterness, looking down upon, immorality, stealing and lying.

Minor work is always needed. Discipleship is for life. The minor work is characterized by holes and ruts or rocks and obstructions. This rough ground still needs to be worked on as the major projects. God's work on our lives make us smoother and smoother.

Humility of soul and dependence upon God are constantly needed to be God's effective servant.

Before this work is discussed in more detail, we need to understand that we are not spiritualizing these words. Instead we are applying these words to clear New Testament instructions. This theme is more pronounced than most of us realize.

John the Baptist clearly was the voice crying out in the wilderness (Isaiah 40:3). Jesus Christ was the glory of God that was proclaimed. Jesus "manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him." (John 2:11). The importance and priority of this work is seen in how Isaiah 40:3 is quoted in each Gospel.

Matthew 3:3

For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet, saying, “THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!’”




as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT.



This prophecy was fulfilled by Christ's coming. God's glory was fully revealed in Christ (cf. John 1:14-18). It was fulfilled in the sense that John the Baptist preached repentance and forgiveness and the people found their ways to the waters of the Jordan seeking baptism. He knew he was not the Way. He only made a way for the Lord.

”It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” (John 1:27).

”This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ (John 1:30).

This goal has not changed. We are to make a way for Christ by preaching the gospel of the kingdom. We are first to be affected by repentance and then call others to be follow Christ. This is exactly what we see in the synoptic gospels. The preparation comes by rightly responding to God in our lives and then encouraging others to do so. Let's read the way the synoptic gospels summarize the Great Commission.

"And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20).

"And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. (Mark 16:15)

"And that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem." (Luke 24:47)

Like John we are to humble ourselves to God's standards, be baptized and preach the Gospel of repentance. The message of repentance must first affect our own lives. We have to be ready to admit where we have failed and turn to Christ for forgiveness and imitate His life. This humbling of heart is to be permanent. Many Christians think that it is but during the point one is saved. Maturity in Christ comes as we regularly and continually recognize our emptiness and making room for Christ to fill us all and all.

John the Baptist preached repentance. This repentance speaks of sins that we need to turn away from. They all hold back God's glorious work in our lives. Forgiveness is available through Christ for all of these sins.

There are two specific areas that God targets in a person's life that we must repent from. We might think of them as one time areas of construction, but it seems that God more regularly does bits at a time. Perhaps this has to do more with our ignorance or stubbornness than the preferable way of doing most of it at one time.

These two areas are related around our faith or belief. This is the same word in the original Greek. Christ in us brings humbling or healing. Two ways to keep us for effective service. Faith or belief are key issues of discipleship that affect us life long.

1) Lifting up the valleys - Lack of Faith: Healing and Rebuilding of our Trust

God's work of healing precedes the work of humbling. Healing is needed for spiritual wounds that have their source in doubt. Trust or faith must be rebuilt. Many of course fail in this because they rebuild self-confidence rather than God-confidence. This is a curse of our modern educational instruction. WE teach everything but how to learn from God. That is ridiculed.

Doubt fills the empty hole of lack of faith just like rain fills an empty hole.Doubts lead to all kinds of fears, stress and anxiety which in turn take a great toll on our bodies. These doubts then rule our lives rather than confidence in Christ. The typical fear or worry has a person scurrying from here to there for some kind of confidence only later to be dashed.

These are the people who have been abused, manipulated, lust-driven, oppressed, addicted or victimized. They have wounds that can lead to complete hopelessness and suicide. These people might have low self-esteem but it is better to say that they have no hope or faith in God. God brings comfort by lifting the valley.

The first step though is repentance. We might feel terrible for these people but they have not put their trust in God. They have given up and evil spirits accompany their unbelief so they soul feels dark and empty. They are very prone to accusations that they are no good. The modern preacher wrongly suggests that he is good! The scriptures point to repenting from fears and doubts. It is at this point God does a special work of renewal.

God fills in the valley. He rebuilds our hope not in ourselves but in Christ. This condition of low self-esteem is corrected on its own as people get God's perspective of their lives. The gospel is good news for these broken people. Once they can accept their fallenness, they can welcome the Lord into their lives to fill them with His own companionship, acceptance love and hope. The Gospel promises comfort, strength and hope for all our broken aspects of our sin.

Summary: Doubt is the lack of confidence or faith in God. It breeds brokenness by having fears, lusts, desires, situations and people rule over their lives. By confessing their sin and repenting from obedience to these things, they can find forgiveness and freedom in Christ.

2) Removing the Mountains - Misdirected Faith: Humbling and Redirecting of our Trust

The second major construction work takes place when God takes down the mountains and hills in our lives. Where the first group had a major problem of doubt or lack of faith, these have problems with trust in the wrong thing. They have a misdirected faith. Indeed, we acknowledge that their 'faith' does keep them from the sins mentioned above, they are nevertheless horribly sinful and selfish.

Confidence can be in a number of areas including religion, philosophy, experience or self. In every case pride is associated with this confidence. Their pride gives them the feeling that they are right and do not need to subject what they believe to cross examination. Pride blinds themselves to certain areas of life and therefore is the opposite to humbling. A humble person admits they were wrong and is very open to God's solution.

Self-confidence is the sin of our modern society and is filled with fame, success, wealth building, degree getting, etc. Those who are famous are not necessarily sinful, but those that are continually drag people's adoration toward themselves and their accomplishments.

The problem is not confidence but mid-directed confidence. God wants us to have confidence or faith in Him and His promises. Instead of thinking we can handle problems, we ought to trust God to work out solutions to our problems by simply obeying Him in everything.

"He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He does not take pleasure in the legs of a man. The LORD favors those who fear Him, those who wait for His lovingkindness." (Psalms 147:10,11).

The hill has to be flattened out because there is no room for the glory of God as long as man seeks honor for himself. Removing mountains is hard work. Did you every see those earth-moving tractors?! We have a hard time facing our mountains but when we realize that something greater is to come, we are willing to be broken. When we see that our pride has messed up our lives and the lives of others close to us, we seek His presence.

Sancification is loving God and othersThere is plenty of hope for our areas of defeat and healing for our anger and pride. My son once asked when we were traveling the hilly roads of West Virginia, "Why is it that they need bridges in the mountains?" I pointed out the goal. If you are here and you want to travel there, what is the best way? If you do not have a bridge, how are you going to get there? You have to go up and down those steep slopes. Isn't it much better, I explained, that there is a bridge that makes everything flat and smooth?!

There is a third construction. It is not major but minor. However, this minor construction is ongoing. He doesn't speak of deep valleys or deep mountains but things that get in the way. They characterize problems and temptations that we will face all our lives. Examples including wasting time and money on self, willingness for interpersonal relationships to be troubled, and plain old laziness. God works on these areas too!

”And let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; (Isaiah 40:4b).


God will be disrupting the lives of His people until Christ returns. This is what He is doing. We need to understand what work He is doing in our lives so that we can work along with Him. Some people because they do not understand this, remain stubborn so their lives need to go through bigger and more troublesome construction.

In all of this, we need to carefully distinguish the reason God is doing these things. God has a goal higher than making us feel troubled. This is discussed further in the third point.

Discipleship level 1Isaiah 40:3-4 well describes the second level of discipleship where God chiefly reshapes the loves of man and makes room for Himself.

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Discipleship Level 2