Comfort, O Comfort My People
August 12, 2018
Read God’s Word with Hope
Imagine it is 581 BC. King Sennacherib’s threat against Jerusalem is a distant memory. It is 100 years after Hezekiah dies. His son Manasseh is dead. Isaiah is dead and has been for decades.
Life for the Israelites is at a new low. Jerusalem is in ruins with the sanctuary burned and defiled. The Jews are in chains and captive in a foreign land. They have Babylonian names and eat unclean Babylonian food. They are no longer distinct in their clothing but wear the clothing of Babylon. The laws of the Covenant are set aside as they are forced to obey the laws of the Babylonian king. They are slaves who are all too familiar with shame and misery. The people of the other nations look upon God’s people as a laughingstock (Ps. 44:14). They weep by the rivers of Babylon with their thoughts on Mount Zion (Ps. 137:1).
Despite the atrocious conditions, God’s people are not without hope. Why? What gives them hope when they are captive in Babylon? What prevents the Israelites from calling it quits and assimilating into the Babylonian culture? Shouldn’t they assimilate? If they do, they are not different than their kin from the northern kingdom who assimilate into the Assyrian culture 100 years ago.
What prevents God’s people from thinking God has completely given up on them? How do they know God loves them even though He allows them to be delivered into Babylonian captivity? How can they say they are God’s chosen people when they live as slaves and servants? What gives them hope? What allows them to persevere and look to the future?
They persevere with hope because they know the Babylonian captivity is from the hand of God. Everything is just as Isaiah prophecies. They persevere because the prophet gave word that their captivity is only for a season.
They persevere with hope because as God’s people, they have chapters 40-66 of the book of Isaiah. The chapters are written decades before the Babylonian captivity. It is the word of God which gives them hope, comfort, and perseverance. The word tells them that God loves them and He will one day bring them home where they will live in Mount Zion in perfect peace and safety.
God’s word written by Isaiah is not only for the Israelites in captivity in Babylon, but God’s word is for us who also live in Babylon. We may not have chains around our ankles, but we live as aliens in this world. We are surrounded by the enemies of God bent on the destruction of everything we hold dear. We may look at the word of God, and also know God will one day deliver us from our modern day Babylon to live in His kingdom eternally.
Let’s read the words of Isaiah just as the people who are alive 500 years before Christ read these words. God intends these words work in us to give us the same comfort, peace, hope, and security in God’s inevitable deliverance.
Call Out: Warfare Has Ended
The Lord God, Creator of the universe, has a message for His people. He desires a messenger be sent to His people so they hear soothing and encouraging words of comfort. God says, “Comfort, O comfort My people.”
God knows His people need comfort. His people live in a world of turmoil and destruction. All around us we see everything falling apart. If it’s not falling apart, wait for a while, because it will. The world is on a road to destruction. But, God is speaking kindly to His people. He wants us to know, even though it doesn’t appear to be the situation, our warfare is ended.
Why is our warfare at an end? It is because God freely offers forgiveness of sins. God grants us double the grace and forgiveness which our iniquity brings. The warfare ends on the cross of Jesus. On the cross, our enemies see their defeat. Sin no longer holds us captive. We say to the grave, “where is your sting?” The cross of Jesus casts the great enemy of Satan forever into the pit of hell. We are forever free of battle because we are more than conquerors in Christ.
Take great comfort people of God. God brings an end to our warfare.
Call Out: Clear the Way for the Lord
Not only do we take great comfort in knowing our warfare comes to an end, but we also take great comfort in knowing we will see the revelation of the glory of God.
A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3)
The voice calling is as the voice of John the Baptist. It is the voice of God telling all people to repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. We are to throw aside all that obstacles standing in our way of seeing the glory of God in all its splendor and majesty. Put aside our sin. Be washed in the baptism of Christ. Be purified by His blood. Be sanctified by His Spirit.
Isaiah describes a great highway construction project. The illustration is that of God is building a straight and wide highway across the globe. Mountains are taken away, so the highway has no obstacle to go over or around. Rough terrain is made smooth. Valleys are raised.
The way is clear so that the going is made easy for people to travel and stand beside the highway. The endless mountain peaks are no longer an obstacle. The rough ground is easily traversed. The Highway of Holiness is trodden with ease. The way of God is not difficult for His heavenly hosts to lead the great procession of the King of kings.
On this highway, the Lord will travel, and every man, woman, and child will see the glory of the Lord pass before their eyes. It will not be like when Moses had to hide in the cleft of a rock while the glory of God passes in front of him. Instead, God’s glory will be visible for every eye to behold.
As God passes by, everyone will see the beauty, and radiance of God’s glory. We will be spell-bound. It will be like nothing we have ever seen. It will be a sight greater than the anything creation has to offer. If we think gazing on creation is beautiful, imagine gazing upon God. We will see the Creator of the Milky Way, the Maker of Mount Everest, and the Almighty One who fashions every colorful bird and flower.
When Moses is in the cleft of the rock, God describes to him what he might see if he could see. But, on that glorious day when God’s glory is revealed to all flesh, every eye will see the radiance of the one who sits on the throne of heaven.
Eyes will behold, the LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth. We will drink in the goodness of Him who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin. We will see Him who judges evil and will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. (Exodus 34:6-7)
We will tremble with fear and adoration as a wave of joy envelops our soul. We will shout with gladness as we gaze upon our Savior. As God passes by, His hand wipes the tears from our eyes, and He lifts sorrow from our hearts.
Call Out: The Word of Our God Stands Forever
A voice says, “Call out.” Then he answered, “What shall I call out?” All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. (Isaiah 40:6)
When we see the glory of God and His almighty power and eternal nature, we will know we are but flesh. We are created beings just as grass and flowers. Should the breath of God blow upon us, we will wither and fade as grass and flowers.
The greatest act God may do for us is to reveal the truth of our fleeting, weak nature. God serves us best by revealing Himself, so we become humble. How comforting to know that God is the center of the universe and man is not the measure of all things.
Take comfort in knowing there is much more besides us. We are weak and frail. We don’t’ look to one another as the source of eternal life. Our work and labor amount to nothing compared to God’s eternal purposes and plans. God’s labor is to be the Provident source of all that is good and right. Take heart, life does not depend upon us but depends upon God.
Only God is eternal. Only God is all-powerful.
The voice calls out to let us know that, although we wither and fade, God’s word stands forever. We have the testimony of this truth in God’s word breathed out through the prophet Isaiah. Here we are, over 2700 years after Isaiah writes these words, holding God’s word in our hand. God’s word is still breathing life into dead souls. God’s word is bringing comfort to God’s people century after century. Throughout all eternity, we don’t wither or fade away because God’s word gives us life and everything we need for holiness and godliness.
Over 2000 years ago, God’s word came and dwelt among men in the form of human flesh. God’s servant, the Apostle John gives us these great words of comfort.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him, nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. (John 1:1-4)
It is through God’s word we are born-again by faith and placed in union with Christ. God’s word tells us we are together alive, risen, and seated with Christ in the heavenly places.
We find our strength, comfort, peace, and assurance in the word of God which stands forever. As we live as aliens in Babylon, we know we belong to Christ because His word is given to us. In His great Priestly prayer, Jesus tells the Father that those that belong to Him are those who have kept God’s word. We have come to know that everything about Jesus because Jesus gives us God’s word, and we receive and understand, and believe God sent Jesus to save our soul. (John 17:6-8)
We are weak and frail and wither and fade like grass. Take comfort in knowing we may trust God’s word to give us everlasting life, peace, and happiness.
Call Out: “Here is Your God”
The children of God are the most privileged of all people. Our privilege is not because we are deserving. We are privileged as a gift of God. What makes us privileged is that God’s mercy removes the blinders from our eyes so that we may behold His beauty. We see dimly now. Our sinful flesh and the world in which we live obscures our vision. But, although we see dimly, what we do see is beautiful.
We have the privilege of not just gazing upon the perfection of God’s glory, but we have the privilege of being partakers of His glory. God opens our minds to the glory of truth. He washes us with the glory of forgiveness. He saturates us with the glory of His love. God is changing us from one degree of glory to another.
When God’s glory works in us, we align ourselves with God’s purpose. God’s glory is not to be hidden under a bushel. The light of God’ glory is to be shown as a mighty beacon of hope.
When we are touched by God’s glory we find ourselves at new heights. We get ourselves upon a high mountain as the bearers of good news, the gospel of salvation. We lift up our voice without fear and declare to the cities of the world, “Here is your God!” (Isaiah 40:9)
We boldly lift our voice on the mountaintop because this is the news the world needs to hear. Turn down the network news. Shut down the news from the internet. Lower the radio dial. Put down the newspaper and periodical. Listen and hear. There is no greater news than the news of God’s love. Nothing is as profound nor significant than the gospel. It is pure truth. It is of more value than gold or silver.
We lift our voice with no fear because there is that may separate us from the glory of God’s love and grace. We are secure in the palm of His hand, and no one and nothing may snatch us away. We are bold in our proclamation because there is no safer place we may be than declaring the glory of God’s salvation. The only unsafe place to be is not being part of God’s purpose and plan. Those who are willing to share the good news of the gospel are smack-dab in the middle of God’s will. They are not ashamed of the Gospel. They do not fear men. They are deeply touched by God’s glory.
Call out, “Look, neighbor, here is your God. Friends, loved ones, behold the glory of your God. Worship Him. Be satisfied with His love. Drink in His beauty. Find peace in His bosom for He conquers your enemies. Treasure the richness of salvation offered by His Son.”
We have the best news on earth. There is comfort for the weary soul. Warfare is at an end. Conflict, destruction or turmoil are over. Everlasting peace is at hand. Turn swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Stop striving and find rest. Drink from the well of living water and eat the bread which satisfies the deepest of hunger.
God is here, and He is not in hiding. God is alive and not dead. God is good and holy, and He is not evil. Behold, “Here is your God!”
Behold the Lord
Behold, the Lord God will come with might. On the day of God’s choosing, the preparations for the revealing of the glory of God will be complete. The mountains and hills will be low, and the valleys lifted. The rough places are completely smooth and plain.
A highway beginning in heaven will convey the procession of the Lord. It is a mighty procession of which there is no equal. The heavens open and a white horse descends. He who sits on the white horse is called Faithful and True. Following Him are all the armies of heaven on white horses. They are clothed in fine white, and pure linen and they are eager to do His bidding for He is their Captain.
In righteousness, He judges and wages war. He is against those who fail to heed the warning to clear the way for the Lord. His enemies are those who do not want His glory seen. They ignore the call to repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. His recompense is with Him. Those who oppose His glory will rightly tremble in fear.
What they see when the Lord appears are eyes of a flame of fire. They will see the many diadems on His head and that He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood. From His mouth comes a sharp sword to strike down the nations, and rule them with a rod of iron. He treads the winepress of the fierce wrath of the Almighty God. On His robe and on His thigh, He has a name written, "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." (Revelation 19:11-16)
Behold the Lord coming with might.
But, those who desire to see His glory will see the Lord with different eyes. They will not see the eyes that are a flame of fire or the sharp sword from His mouth. Those who repent and believe in Him will see Him as a great Shepherd. He comes to tend to His flock and gather the lambs to His bosom. To them who are called by His name, He is the great Shepherd of the sheep who leads them beside the still waters and comforts them with His staff.
They behold the Lord as the Shepherd who lays down His life for them. At His right hand, they find pleasure and they are clothed with joy and gladness. His reward to them is the opposite of His wrath. It is His unending devotion and love. He is their protector and provider and His kingdom is forevermore.
Take comfort all ye who live as aliens in Babylon. Know that our travail is for a season. Take solace from the sure Word of God. Rest knowing the warfare is ended. God says to you, be comforted.
Go to the mountaintop and boldly proclaim the good news that the glory of the Lord is about to be revealed to all flesh. Be a voice calling out in the wilderness telling people to clear the way for the Lord.
Find comfort in the proclamation of the good news of the glory of the Lord’s salvation.
NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." This manuscript is provided as a courtesy and is not intended for publication. The recorded audio/video message differs from the manuscript. Thanks for understanding.