All four Gospels refer to Isaiah chapter 40 in connection with John the Baptist who is identified as the “voice crying in the wilderness,” so clearly all four writers saw this passage as significant. However, only the Gospel of John has his namesake identifying himself as the voice. There must have been a reason why John felt it important to include this detail. One has to remember that when a Jewish rabbi in Jesus’ day quoted from Scripture he was not just citing the words or phrase used but also the rest of the passage. Therefore, we need to look at a larger section that that quoted. One also has to remember that there were no divisions into chapters and verses till long after the first century. The previous chapter had referred to the envoys from Babylon who came in King Hezekiah’s time and after which Isaiah prophesied that Israel would be taken captive by Babylon. So when at the beginning of chapter 40 when it talks about Judah’s sin being paid for it appears to refer to the return to the land of Israel after the exile. Then in verse 3 the quote we are familiar with occurs, though I note that the quote by Luke reads like a paraphrase than a direct quote presumably because he was using the early Greek translation. Therefore the phrase “and all mankind will see God’s salvation,” used by Luke, in Isaiah itself says in verse 5 “And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind will see it. The next few verses speak of the frailty of man v. 8 “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands for ever,” An echo of John chapter 1. Verse 9 begins with “You who bring good tidings to Zion,” ends with “say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”” Thus when we read the account in John chapter 1 when John is asked by the Jewish authorities as to who he is, he points to Isaiah chapter 40 he was partly referring to his calling the people to repentance but also to the nature of the one who was to follow him, i,e, that he would be of a divine nature. After Jesus baptism in verses 32-4:- “Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him except that the one who sent me to baptise with water told me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit and remain is he who will baptise with the Holy Spirit,” I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.'” Isaiah 40 verse 10 echoes this when it starts by saying, “See the Sovereign Lord comes with power.” Another connection with John’s Gospel is contained in the next verse “He tends his flock like a shepherd,” seems to point to john chapter 10 where states that He is the God Shepherd. The use of Isaiah chapter 40 by the Gospel writers was not just to indicate John’s role or mission but also to the nature of the one he was foretelling, that Jesus was to more than just a good man but the God-man.
David Rose, 2015.