The Prophets Speaks Comfort to God’s People

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No evidence, however, is more conclusive than Jesus’ own postresurrection teachings. For forty days he appeared to his disciples, “speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1: 3). Surely the apostles would have had many questions after such in-depth teaching, yet the singular question that gets recorded is “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (v. 6). If Jesus was introducing a nonethnic, spiritualized kingdom, it seems he was a fairly obtuse teacher.  Again, if it cannot be said clearly in forty days, then it probably ought not to be said. But Jesus did say it, and he confirmed it by saying, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority” (v. 7).  The Israelitic-messianic kingdom would come, and its timing was “fixed,” or “set” (Gk. tithēmi), by the Father. Before that day, though, the disciples would receive power from the Holy Spirit to be “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (v. 8).  

Therefore it is this hope in the Israelitic, messianic kingdom which the early church consistently proclaimed (Acts 8: 12; 14: 22; 20: 25; 28: 31)— that is, the “same hope” (24: 15, NIV) as the unbelieving Jews (cf. 26: 7), only the church sought to attain it by faith in an atonemental interpretation of Jesus’ death (cf. Rom. 9: 30— 10: 4; Gal. 3: 21– 29; Phil. 3: 8– 8– 11). Thus Paul clearly maintains Jewish preeminence in the administration of “the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Rom. 2: 5). – John P. Harrigan, The Gospel of Christ Crucified: A Theology of Suffering before Glory

Judah’s faithful God hastens beforehand to assure the exiles that He will not forget nor lose sight of them…

 “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1-2 NKJV).

The Assyrian struggle is over.  The Prophet has accepted into the depths of his spirit God’s announcement that the true spoiler, “the rod of His Anger, and the staff of His Indignation,” is no more Assyria, but rather Babylon.  The Prophet has accepted the sentence that his people, because of their refusal to repent of sin, are to go into captivity.

There is great symbolism in this Passage.  If a Jew went bankrupt, he was to list all his indebtedness on a skin and nail it in a public place where it could be seen by all.  At times, a benefactor would stand good for the entirety of the debt, take down the skin, double it over (“double”), and write his name on the front, meaning that he would pay all indebtedness.  When the Messiah Jesus died at Calvary, He took the penalty for sin upon Himself, and then doubled over the account.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3-5 NKJV).

The “voice” described in this Passage was partially fulfilled in John the Baptist in the Messiah’s First Advent.  In His Second Advent, this Passage will be totally fulfilled by the “voice” proclaiming His immediate Return.  The “wilderness” and “desert” represent the world, as well, as Israel, who has lost her way.  But there is the Promise for Restoration, which will take place at the Second Coming.  Only the Messiah can make the “crooked straight” and the “rough places smooth.”

The voice said, “Cry out!” And he said, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:6-8 NKJV).

The Truth and Love which tells man of his moral ruin also reveal to him an ever-living Savior Whose Word is infallible and eternal.

O Zion, you who bring good tidings, get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, you who bring good tidings, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” 10 Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. 11 He will feed His flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young (Isaiah 40:9-11 NKJV).

“His arm shall rule for Him” means that the Messiah Jesus will not need to lean on another’s arm for governmental powers.  And when He comes, He will “reward” His People and recompense His enemies.

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, measured heaven with a span and calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? 13 Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has taught Him? 14 With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding? (Isaiah 40:12-14 NKJV).

The Greatness of God is contrasted with the weakness of man and the futility of idols.  God instructs, directs, commands, and counsels.  He cannot be instructed or taught or certainly not commanded to act at man’s will.

Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales; look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing. 16 And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering. 17 All nations before Him are as nothing, and they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless (Isaiah 40:15-17 NKJV).

As He weighs mountains and hill in His balance, so He can take up in His Own Hands “nations” and lands with all their inhabitants.  They are no burden to Him.

To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him? 19 The workman molds an image, the goldsmith overspreads it with gold, and the silversmith casts silver chains. 20 Whoever is too impoverished for such a contribution chooses a tree that will not rot; he seeks for himself a skillful workman to prepare a carved image that will not totter (Isaiah 40:18-20 NKJV).

Ridicule is employed here.  The first ground of God’s ridicule is the formation of an image.  It is made by man himself out of known material substance.  How can such a thing be comparable to God?

Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. 23 He brings the princes to nothing; he makes the judges of the earth useless (Isaiah 40:21-23 NKJV).

Man has no excuse for the worship of idols because God has revealed Himself in His Word.  All of man’s efforts, no matter how powerful he may think he is, in his compromise and outright opposition to God, sow the seed of his own destruction.

Scarcely shall they be planted, scarcely shall they be sown, scarcely shall their stock take root in the earth, when He will also blow on them, and they will wither, and the whirlwind will take them away like stubble. 25 “To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; he calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing (Isaiah 40:24-26 NKJV).

If God is paramount over idol, over all of creation, including humanity, to whom can He be likened?   Is He not altogether unique and incomparable?

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over by my God”? 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.29 He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, 31 But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:27-31 NKJV).

The LORD tells Israel that He never fails or wearies in upholding the feeblest of His People, nor does He ever tire or grow uninterested.  The word “wait” in Hebrew means “to bind together by twisting.”  If we really “wait on the LORD,” we remain bound together with His Word, desirous of His Truth.

Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the Children of God.  For we know that the whole Creation groans and travails in pain together until now.  And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the Firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the Adoption, to wit, the Redemption of our body.  For we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man sees, why does he yet hope for?  But if we hope for that we see not do we with patience wait for it.  Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered (Rom 8:22-26 KJV).

For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.  We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)  And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words (Roms 8:22-26 NLT).