The Messiah would be preceded by a messenger

Bible passage: Isaiah 40:1-9
Prophet: Isaiah
Written: Between 701-681 BC

This article is contributed by Ray Konig, the author of Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Prophet, Jesus the Miracle Worker, and 100 Fulfilled Bible Prophecies.

By Ray Konig
Published: June 19, 2001
Updated: May 1, 2024

Some 2,700 years ago, the prophet Isaiah predicted destruction and exile for the land and people of northern Israel (Isaiah 7:7-8), and for the land and people of southern Israel (Isaiah 39:1-8).

For many centuries during and after the time of Isaiah, the whole of the land of Israel was being punished for having turned away from God (Isaiah 6:8-13).

But, in Isaiah 40, the prophet looks past that predicted time of punishment and foretells a time of great healing, forgiveness and revelation:

“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. 2 “Speak comfortably to Jerusalem; and call out to her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received of Yahweh’s hand double for all her sins.”

3 The voice of one who calls out, “Prepare the way of Yahweh in the wilderness! Make a level highway in the desert for our God.

4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The uneven shall be made level, and the rough places a plain.

5 Yahweh’s glory shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken it.”

6 The voice of one saying, “Cry!” One said, “What shall I cry?”

“All flesh is like grass, and all its glory is like the flower of the field.

7 The grass withers, the flower fades, because Yahweh’s breath blows on it. Surely the people are like grass.

8 The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God stands forever.”

9 You who tell good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who tell good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with strength! Lift it up! Don’t be afraid! Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold, your God!” (Isaiah 40:1-9, WEB)

This prophecy begins with a voice of one and culminates with the promise that all flesh, meaning everyone, will see the glory of God. This is a promise of a worldwide spiritual impact that begins in a humble way.

This prophecy also speaks of Zion, which is another name for Jerusalem, which is where the Messiah is to reign as king.

Isaiah gave this prophecy about 2,700 years ago. A few centuries later, the prophet Zechariah revisits key points of Isaiah’s prophecy in Zechariah 9:9-11, where he also speaks of Zion, announces that the Messiah will arrive humbly, and have a worldwide dominion, and achieve a worldwide spiritual impact. These concepts are introduced and further explained in the book Jesus the Messiah, by Ray Konig.

Many commentaries about Isaiah 40:1-9 overlook these key points and fail to recognize the connections that Isaiah 40:1-9 shares with other Messianic prophecies, including Job 19:25-27, Daniel 7:13-14, Daniel 12:1-2, Micah 5:1-4 and Zechariah 9:9-11 in speaking of a worldwide spiritual impact in which all flesh shall see it together.

With his prophecy in Isaiah 40:1-9, Isaiah is announcing that even though the people had turned away from God, God would still restore them to their land. He still had plans for his people, from whom he would bring forth the promised savior of the world -- the Messiah. And the arrival of the Messiah would be announced by a forerunner, a voice in the wilderness.

This Messiah would be the answer to the hundreds of promises from the Old Testament prophets, from Moses (about 3,400 years ago) through Malachi (about 2,400 years ago). For about 1,000 years, these and other prophets, including Isaiah, wrote down prophecies about the promised Messiah. With Isaiah’s prophecy, it was revealed that the Messiah would arrive after a time of punishment in which the Assyrians would destroy northern Israel (about 2,700 years ago) and the Babylonians would destroy southern Israel (about 2,600 years ago).

About 2,000 years ago, long after the time of the empire-building Assyrians and Babylonians, the land of Israel had largely recovered from the destructions. Jerusalem and other places throughout Israel had been rebuilt and repopulated.

In fact, by the time John the Baptist began his public ministry, perhaps in about AD 25, King Herod the Great was completing an extensive remodeling project of the Second Temple, which replaced the first Temple, which had been destroyed earlier by the Babylonians. Herod’s remodeling project lasted for decades and transformed the Temple into the crown jewel of Jerusalem.

The Gospels of the New Testament portray John the Baptist as a preacher in the wilderness of Judea, who wore camel-hair clothing and ate wild locusts. He preached a message of repentance, announced that the Kingdom of God was near, and proclaimed that someone greater than him was about to arrive.

John the Baptist would be the last of the pre-Messiah prophets who would speak of the first arrival of the promised Messiah:

“I indeed baptize you in water for repentance, but he who comes after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 3:11, WEB)

The ministry of John the Baptist was effective in preparing the way for Jesus’ ministry. Vast numbers of people from Jerusalem and the countryside of Judea were drawn to John the Baptist, repenting of their sins and being baptized by him in the Jordan River.

Shortly before Jesus began his public ministry, John the Baptist announced that Jesus is God’s anointed one, the Messiah, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world:

29 The next day, he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who is preferred before me, for he was before me.’ 31 I didn’t know him, but for this reason I came baptizing in water: that he would be revealed to Israel.” 32 John testified, saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending like a dove out of heaven, and it remained on him. 33 I didn’t recognize him, but he who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘On whomever you will see the Spirit descending and remaining on him is he who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29-34, WEB)

This event took place in about AD 26 and marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, which would last for an estimated three-and-a-half years, ending in about AD 30, when he was crucified by the Romans. He then was resurrected, spent 40 days giving final instructions to his apostles, and ascended into heaven.

There is a similar prophecy in Malachi 3:1, that also predicts a forerunner and that the Messiah would appear during a time when there was a Temple in Jerusalem.

John the Baptist’s ministry is described in each of the four Gospels (Matthew 3:1-17; Mark 1:1-11; Luke 3:1-22; John 1:15-36). Within the first three Gospels, he is cited as being the voice that Isaiah 40:3 predicts. In John’s Gospel, John the Baptist applies Isaiah 40:3 to himself (John 1:23).

For clarity, John the Baptist and John the Apostle, who wrote the Gospel of John, are two different people. In John 1:29-34, we learn that Jesus is anointed by the Holy Spirit of God as the Messiah and is announced by John the Baptist as the Messiah.

John the Baptist and Jesus were related to one another (Luke 1:36), perhaps as cousins. John was about six months older than Jesus (Luke 1:26-31).

The prophecy in Isaiah 40:1-9, allows for the understanding that the Messiah is divine. It includes phrases like Yahweh’s glory shall be revealed and “Behold, your God!” This is consistent with the way that the New Testament portrays Jesus, as being conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. This would mean that Jesus is both the son of God and is God incarnate as a man.

Other prophecies that indicate that the Messiah is human and divine include Psalm 2, Isaiah 7:13-14, Isaiah 9:6-7, Jeremiah 23:5-6, and Daniel 7:13-14. In Daniel’s prophecy, we learn that the Messiah, who is identified as the son of man, would have the divine ability to reign eternally. This too is discussed more in Jesus the Messiah.

Sometime in about AD 28, John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded. He had spoken out against a controversial marriage of Herod Antipas, who ruled over portions of Israel. That marriage involved Herodias, who had been the wife of Herod Philip. Antipas and Philip were brothers, sons of Herod the Great.

The death of John the Baptist is recorded in three of the Gospels (Matthew 14:1-12, Mark 6:14-29, Luke 9:1-9).

His death also is recorded by Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian, who wrote:

“Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; . . .” - Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVIII, Chapter 5.

The destruction of Herod Antipas’ army happened sometime around AD 34-36, during a battle with the Nabataeans. Incidentally, that conflict involved another controversial marriage of Herod Antipas, involving Phasaelis, the daughter of King Aretas IV Philopatris of the Nabataeans.

Today, with our own eyes, we can see the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:1-9. The highway that verse 3 predicts now extends through every continent of the world, with the spread of Christianity, the world’s largest and most widespread religion.

And we can see that the one person that John the Baptist announced as being the Messiah remains today the only person within the record of history who has ever been widely accepted as being the Messiah who was predicted by the Old Testament prophets, as well as by John the Baptist.

© Ray Konig.

Ray Konig is the author of Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Prophet, Jesus the Miracle Worker, and 100 Fulfilled Bible Prophecies.