4 As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
1901 ASV Translation:
4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ye ready the way of the Lord, Make his paths straight.
I. The type of meaning found in Isaiah's words.
A. For us to understand that John is the "Fulfillment" of the Isaiah text, the "meaning" of that text must be clear to us.
1. Luke's "quote" of Isaiah is faithful to the Septuagint translation, but it does not follow the Hebrew text as closely.
2. If the "quote" is "paraphrastic", the "meaning" needs to be clear so that we can see what is truly meant.
B. Thus, the quote is set in the midst of three major conceptual issues [the voice that cries in 40:3 is preceded by the "cry" to Jerusalem in 40:2 and followed by the "cry" of 40:6 regarding the grass/flower condition of all flesh, which, in turn, is followed by another cry, either to or by, Jerusalem ("lift up thy voice with strength") of 40:9].
1. The 40:1-2 text: a presentation of Israel's release from Justice.
a. The first "comforting" thought is that the "struggle" (my translation of the term 'warfare' derived from Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament's article on the word in our text) is over.
1) The "bottom line" in every "struggle" is the competition for mastery.
2) The issue in the text is both God's and Babylon's "mastery" over Judah and Judah's deep-seated resentment and frustration over being "mastered".
3) The "end" of the struggle has to do with God's accomplishment of His "struggle" with Judah and the consequent end of Babylon's dominion (which has slipped, historically, into Media's dominion under Darius and into Persia's dominion under Cyrus and, ultimately, Artaxerxes).
a) God's "struggle" with Judah has to do with Judah's refusal to honor the terms of his covenant with Yahweh in particular reference to the requirement that "Sabbath" be kept for the "land" every seventh year (see 2 Chronicles 36:20-21). The 490 years of refusal to allow the land to rest added up to 70 years of captivity in Babylon to address the failure.
b) The text claims that the failure of Judah has been responded to Yahweh by the imposition of a "double" penalty (i.e., 140 years) which has brought Judah's experience down to sometime after 465 B.C.
b. The second "comforting" thought is that the "payment for the iniquity" has been "accepted" (the word translated "pardon" is used 57 times in the Old Testament and is translated "pardoned" only one time so my conclusion is that the translators missed seeing "iniquity" as a figure of speech -- metonomy -- in which the "cause" is used to represent the "result" -- i.e., the "iniquity" is "accepted" in the sense that the penalty paid for the iniquity has been accepted).
c. The major conceptual issue here is that "Justice" has been addressed and fulfilled.
d. But, in technical terms, true "Justice" has not really been "met" by human suffering of a penalty because it cannot be met that way: thus, the need for the Redeemer whom John is preceding and announcing.