The Comfort

Introduction:

God communicates to us in various ways. Throughout the Bible we find God guiding and leading his people. Sometimes God even pronounces harsh punishments and corrects his children. You see, God does everything in love, so there is always hope and comfort in God’s words. In a comfortless world, the comfort of God is the only relief and soothing to our soul.

This morning we are going to see the message of comfort God spoke through Isaiah.

Isaiah lived in the city of Jerusalem over 700 years before Christ. The people of Israel were in bad ways – spiritually and morally. These were days of great idolatry and wickedness. There were a series of wicked kings and these were dark days.

Isaiah’s heart was hurt. Isaiah 6:5 “How terrible it is for me!” I cried out. “I’m about to be destroyed! My mouth speaks sinful words. And I live among people who speak sinful words. People committed sin and the first part of the book of Isaiah, the first 39 chapters are filled with prophesies of God’s judgement.

1. GOD JUDGES SIN.

Make no mistake about it. Sin must be answered for, so Isaiah penned words of judgement. There were great prophesies of glory which came through from time to time in the first 39 chapters. But in those chapters Isaiah preached more about sin and he compared the sins of the people to wounds, cuts, and open sores. Isaiah 1:6 From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness—only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with olive oil. There isn’t a healthy spot on your body from the bottom of your feet to the top of your head. There are only wounds, cuts and open sores. They haven’t been cleaned up or bandaged or treated with olive oil.

God was longsuffering and patient but the people continued to commit sin. In chapter 39 of Isaiah, something interesting happens with connection to King Hezekiah. Hezekiah had become sick and he was about to die but he did not want to die. As a matter of fact no one wants to die but Hezekiah was really worried over the fact that he was dying. So he was praying and pleading with God to extend his life. God granted him some more years of his life.

2. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU PRAY FOR.

We need to be sure that we are praying in the will of God. The Bible teaches us that God sometimes grants our request but it can accompany some problems alongside. Psalm 106:15 NKJV And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul. This was the case to some degree with King Hezekiah. His request was granted, but Oh! It was not a great time for the king.

We find in chapter 39 that the king of Babylon had sent letters to Hezekiah. We can call them get well cards in the present day. The King of Babylon sent an emissary and Hezekiah who had been promised these extra years invited the Babylonian emissaries and showed them all of his wealth. He took them into his own personal treasures and armoury. He showed them his intercontinental missiles and nuclear warheads. Here Hezekiah was forgetting that he did not pile up all of these treasures and blessings. He was forgetting the source of the blessings. These things have been provided by God. It is only by God’s blessings that we have the prosperity which we enjoy.

Hezekiah was rebuked by God. Isaiah 39:5-6 5Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: 6‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the LORD.

That is a devastating message from the Lord. God is saying, “Oh! Hezekiah, the day is coming when all these treasures that you showed with a heart with some pride to the enemy, all of these things are going to be plundered from your kingdom. Your kingdom is going to be conquered.” The Lord is pronouncing more. Isaiah 39:7 And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. God is telling people also will be taking captive along with their treasures.

Naturally anyone would think Hezekiah’s heart would be crushed. You may think that now he would be in tears before God like Hezekiah was when he knew he would die and pleaded for his life, but that was not the case.

See his response: Isaiah 39:8 So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “At least there will be peace and truth in my days.” He was not concerned about the judgement. He was satisfied that his days would be happy. I will be able to die in peace, forget about my sons and grandchildren. Oh! What a picture of self-centeredness and selfishness. This is the mindset of the people even in our generation. There is no concern about the children, no mind about the future, just living for the moment, squandering all what God has given.

On the other side, the King of Babylon was mocking them. He looked at all the wealth of Judah and a day was coming when he was going to take all of that. Now these are God’s special chosen people but now they are full of sin. Sin had to be judged. God told them that he was going to punish them, take them into Babylonian captivity, their children are going to die, and their city and wealth destroyed. What a sad and awful situation for God’s people.

Now that ends the first division of Isaiah, the first 39 chapters of judgement. That is a bleak picture but that is not the end of the story. From chapter 40, the tone of Isaiah change. See the very next verse – God is speaking words of comfort.

3. GOD COMFORTS HIS PEOPLE.

Isaiah 40:1-2 1“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God. 2“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.”

God judges but God also comforts. This is the nature of God. Today maybe you would have done something wrong and you are suffering the consequences of that, maybe you are facing defeat all over, may be this was the toughest year of your life, but God is reaching out to you with words of comfort. Child of God, God loves you. You are going to receive double for all your trouble.

Now, receiving double for the sins is not speaking of judgement. Yes the judgement is going to come but after that they are going to experience God’s wonderful grace, God’s comfort. God is saying, “When my comfort comes you will receive a double for all your troubles.”

Look at the words of comfort. Isaiah 40:3-5 3The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; 5The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

God is telling that the people will be delivered from the land where they are going to be held captive. The captivity has not come yet. It is going to come because of their sins but there will be deliverance available. God is saying; when the time comes for that deliverance – The Lord will bring you back to Jerusalem, so make straight a highway for the Lord. Make a smooth way for the people who are travelling from captivity back to their land. That day, every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low. Everywhere you have been disgraced you will be honoured and exalted. Every enemy that looked like mountain will be made low for God is going to travel among you and the glory of the LORD shall be revealed and your enemies will see it.

God comforts his people. Even though he punishes he is merciful. Today you may be low, in failure, in pain but I prophesy that in 2014 God is going to be exalted. Our enemies are going to see it. God is going to deliver us from all our troubles.

a. Isaiah’s prophesy fulfilled in 70 years.

Jeremiah 25:11 And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.

After 70 years in the time of Cyrus the king, the people started coming back from captivity. People came back from captivity and the way was prepared for the Lord. The temple was rebuilt and the people were blessed. They received double for their trouble. God’s words were fulfilled.

Listen, the God who gave these words was also reaching far beyond Isaiah’s days.

b. Isaiah’s prophesy had relevance to the birth of Jesus.

God promised a deliverer for Israel. Almost 500 years had passed. By the time of Jesus, the expectation of the Messiah was at its highest. They have been treated poorly by the Romans and Herodians, and all of Judah were waiting for the promised comforter, but when Jesus actually came only a few people recognized him.

One day the angel of the Lord appeared to Mary and said: Luke 1:31 You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.
Matthew 1:20 Then the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as you wife, because what is conceived in her is with the Holy Spirit.

Mary thereafter went to the house of Zechariah the priest and his wife Elizabeth. They too received with joy the news of Jesus.

Time went on and one ordinary day as Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem for the census, Jesus was born. People were all busy with the census, all back in their hometown, talking with relatives all through the night. The common people, the scribes, and the king missed the coming of their comforter. But there were the wise men and the shepherds came and worshipped Jesus.

Then when baby Jesus was taken to the Temple, there was Simon, who was waiting for Jesus. There was Anna, the prophetess. She did not depart from the Temple, fasting and praying night and day. She gave thanks to God for Jesus and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. The whole of Israel was waiting but in reality only a few people saw Jesus as the Messiah.

After 30 years, John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Jordan, the people went after him, thinking he is the Messiah.

Matthew 3:1-3 1In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” 3For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.’” Here we read the same words of Isaiah. See what John said: Matthew 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. John the Baptist pointed people around him to Jesus and told them Jesus is the Messiah.

So that great prophesy that God gave to Isaiah of comfort fulfilled in his generation but in the long-term it was a far greater message to all of Israel and all of humanity. This was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to give humanity that comfort.

How do we get that comfort now?

Isaiah 40:3-5 3The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

John the Baptist said: “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Matthew 3:3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.’” John said, Jesus is here who will pay for our sins and bring comfort for our soul. You need to prepare his way.

How do you prepare the way of the Lord? Repent.

John the Baptist was preaching repentance. Repentance makes our heart ready and prepares the way for the Lord.

Get the picture of man’s condition. Man is wounded, bruised, and full of open sores because of sin. By birth we are sinners and sin must be judged. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” There is no hope. We are headed for judgement but then the Bible teaches us words of comfort, “but the gift of God is eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ.”  There is hope for us, there is comfort for us, we can be washed clean of our sins. There is only one way for this, that is through the Lord Jesus Christ. So, how do you prepare the way of the Lord? Prepare your heart, believe and trust Jesus as your Lord and saviour.

What happens when we prepare the way of the Lord? Isaiah 40:4-5 4Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; 5The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Every valley shall be exalted: That means the big gulf between man and God that the devil created when man sinned, that valley will be exalted, it will be made straight. When we prepare the way of the Lord, he will change our rough life without God. He will change the crooked places to smooth because the glory of the Lord is going to be revealed in our lives.

I am speaking to some today who say pastor you have no idea how great my sins are, I am a wicked person. Dear friend, prepare the way of the Lord in your heart. Jesus came to save the worst of sinners. Jesus said that he would receive all who came to him. Jesus came and took your place, died for you. If your heart is responding to that just call out to God and ask him to save you he you will receive that comfort now.

Most of you here are already children of God but you sense your life is far from God’s standards. Somewhere you have gone away from God. God is reaching out to you to make this valley straight. Come to God with repentance. God wants to straighten your valleys.

So Isaiah’s prophesy of comfort was fulfilled when Jesus came. In Luke 4, Jesus himself made reference to Isaiah. He took the scroll of Isaiah and read Isaiah 61:1-2 which spoke of the Messiah who would come. He would bind the broken hearted and set the captives free. Then Jesus said, “I will comfort all who mourn.” Jesus then in front of all rolled the scroll back and said: Luke 4:21 Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. Dear friend, the prophesy of Isaiah is fulfilled; our comfort is now available in Jesus.

Dear friend Jesus is our comforter, the true lover of our soul. Let this season of advent be a time when we prepare the way of the Lord. If there are any valleys, let’s make the way straight for the Lord. Amen.