Today: [Isaiah 40] Comfort Ye My People. In Isaiah 40 we find the reference that Jesus Himself possibly alludes to when calling the Holy Spirit the Comforter in the gospel of John. The message of the chapter is not just to the individual but to the entire city of Jerusalem. We tend to read the scriptures, applying them to the individual but this chapter also speaks to the city itself and the people that make up the nation. What is the word of the Lord to your city? What is the word of the Lord to the ethnic group you are a part of? The message of chapter 40 is one of comfort in the midst of chaos and a message of strength to those that put their trust in God and forsake the icons of popular culture that constitute the idolatry of our day.
[Isa 40:1-31 KJV] 1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins. 3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see [it] together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken [it]. 6 The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh [is] grass, and all the goodliness thereof [is] as the flower of the field: 7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people [is] grass. 8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. 9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift [it] up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
In chapter 40 Isaiah begins with a Messianic declaration. The Holy Spirit is called the Comforter 4 times in the gospel of John. This is very possibly an allusion by Jesus to Isaiah 40. In reading the Old Testament we always bear in mind that Jesus was from His youth familiar with the scriptures and drew from them constantly in His earthly ministry, often not only by direct quotes, but indirect references as well. In spite of the unbelief and paganism in the history of the city of Jerusalem the heart of God was to bring comfort to the people. In verse 2 Isaiah addresses the city itself and declares that her sins are forgiven and her warfare is ended.
As modern westerners, we tend to think of spiritual matters as strictly personal and individual. Therefore, we take the tenets of scripture and almost universally apply them to ourselves on a one on one basis. This has its value but bear in mind that many times God speaks in His word to cities, people groups and nations. What do you think the word of the Lord would be to your city? To your nation? To your ethnicity as a people group? In the Great Commission, we are instructed to think bigger than just the individual:
[Mat 28:19 KJV] 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
The word “nations” in this verse is the Greek word ethnos. In ancient times nations were identified as much if not more by their monolithic, ethnic make-ups than by the borders and boundaries that defined their geography. In our day to preach a message from the pulpit with an ethnic context is very controversial. You could easily be accused of bigotry or racism. This is where we have to make a decision whether we are going to obey political correctness or the biblical mandate in the word of Jesus that we call the “Great Commission”? What is the word of the Lord then to your city, your nation, or perhaps your ethnic group? How would you expect that to be defined in the pulpit of the next church service you attend? What about a discussion at the dinner table or with your children? God has something to say to us on these levels that will comfort the comfortless and encourage the despondent. How many are despondent over their cities or frustrated deeply in regard to issues of race? The world says only politicians have the right to speak of such things. The gospel advances and puts forward another mandate. We have to decide which we will obey.
10 Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong [hand], and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward [is] with him, and his work before him. 11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry [them] in his bosom, [and] shall gently lead those that are with young. 12 Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? 13 Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or [being] his counsellor hath taught him? 14 With whom took he counsel, and [who] instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding? 15 Behold, the nations [are] as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. 16 And Lebanon [is] not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. 17 All nations before him [are] as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.
In verse 3 Isaiah predicts the coming of John the Baptist as the voice of one crying in the wilderness. John quotes this passage directly in all 4 gospels. An example of this is in John 1:23:
[Jhn 1:23 KJV] 23 He said, I [am] the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
This tells us that John as well as Jesus was conversant with the scriptures. He may have seemed outwardly to be a rugged man with rough speech but he was nonetheless a person who immersed himself in the word of God. He inquired so deeply into the teachings of the law and the prophets that he found there his personal mandate. This is an important thing to make note of. The scriptures are greatly referenced in Christian culture but seldom actually quoted, even in our pulpits. The events of the first century however, included the emergence of Jesus, validated by the preaching of John the Baptist, involved people who were deeply immersed in scripture and reverent toward its teaching and prophetic content. In our own lives we need to be advocates of scripture. We need to spend time in the scripture, exploring it at a depth that it becomes as relevant in our lives as it did to John the Baptist and Jesus Himself in their youth. We need to advocate it as a source of truth and verity to those around us no matter how greatly our friends and peers may actually marginalize it as being not relevant to their lives.
18 To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him? 19 The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains. 20 He that [is] so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree [that] will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, [that] shall not be moved. 21 Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 [It is] he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof [are] as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: 23 That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. 24 Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble. 25 To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these [things], that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that [he is] strong in power; not one faileth. 27 Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God? 28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, [that] the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? [there is] no searching of his understanding. 29 He giveth power to the faint; and to [them that have] no might he increaseth strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew [their] strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; [and] they shall walk, and not faint.
In verse 18 Isaiah speaks of the tendency of men to fashion God after their own image. In ancient times this involved erecting wooden carvings overlaid with gold and silver. In modern times idolatry is very much alive in the culture of celebrity that insinuates itself into every aspect of our lives. We are taught to seek out and esteem as larger than life men and women from the entertainment industry, from sports and politics as though they embody virtues we would do well to emulate. In so doing we buy in to the value systems of these aspects of our culture and accept a place of subservience before the icons of society that we revere. This is all intended to lull us to sleep and to make us little more than part of the unwashed masses whose meager fortunes make the obscene lifestyles of the rich and famous possible.
When Karl Marx said that religion is the opiate of the masses, he was not entirely incorrect, however that is not the God that we serve. Our God is the God who sits on the circle of the earth and spreads out the heavens like the curtain of a tent to dwell in. The earth and all creation, Isaiah declares find their origination in Him and we can never be His equal. Yet for all His strength and power He gives strength to the faint and upholds us when we are weary. For 1000’s of years men have worshipped at the altar of youth but even the youthful, even the so-called beautiful people ultimately each one fall and fail in strength, but those that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength day by day.
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