comfort ye My people, saith your God. 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.” (Isa. 40:1,2).
This wonderful, precious promise
was initially given to Israel in 722 BC. It immediately follows the capture and
disappearance of the northern tribes of Israel. They had lived in the land God
gave them for the relationship He had with their father, Abraham. And they were given the choicest lands because Joseph’s character had perfectly honored Christ. Living closer
to the Fertile Crescent, they were given the best of the Promised Land.
“Joseph is a
fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the
have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him:
But his bow
abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of
the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel:)
Even by the God
of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee
with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under,
blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:
of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the
utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and
on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.” (Gen.
them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as
Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh.” (Gen. 48:20).
tribes knew the greatest abundance from heaven, as their lands plentifully prospered with
constant fruitful harvests. However, the Canaanites also enjoyed the abundance, and Canaanite influence
infected the northern Hebrews’ obedience to the true God. Thus, the house of Israel eventually became as evil as the
rest of the world that Satan controlled. The northern Israelites did this while keeping God’s name of
blessing to Jacob, Israel “He who wrestles with God and overcomes rules with God.”
Doing all their perversity in the sacred name of God’s salvation was the greatest
insult to Him. So, they couldn’t remain in God’s land. If they had read Moses’ and the prophets’ writings they would have known that the Lord was not pleased with them. They had no excuse or alibi. Therefore, after generations of warnings God raised up
Assyria, which came down and removed the blasphemous nation from God’s home.
The beautiful promise of
Isaiah 40 was for Jerusalem, as verse 2 shows. But, it was also for the northern
tribes, by its context with the two preceding chapters. It would be for Jerusalem
also because Jerusalem had always been accepted as the original capital of the two
brother nations that King David established. They had been brethren for 700 years already prior to King David, a millennium of brotherhood. But, the Lord’s punishing warfare was against Jerusalem also because they
were following the evil practices of their northern brethren. Read the first 10 chapters of Isaiah and some of the minor prophets, and this becomes apparent.
“The LORD said
also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which
backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under
every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. And I said after she had
done all these things, Turn thou unto Me. But she returned not. And her
treacherous sister Judah saw it. And I saw, when for all the causes whereby
backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill
of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played
the harlot also.” (Jer. 3:6-8).
“I have seen an
horrible thing in the house of Israel: there is the whoredom of Ephraim, Israel
is defiled. Also, O Judah, He hath set an harvest for thee, when I returned the
captivity of My people.” (Hos. 6:10,11).
The wonderful promise of Isaiah 40 is
about comfort. The comfort was needed for the discomfort they had under the yoke of
captivity. They had received of the Lord’s hand a double punishment. But, now the Lord declared that His
wrath was past; their warfare was finalized.
“Come, and let
us return unto the LORD: for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath
smitten, and He will bind us up. After two days will He revive us: in the third
day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight…. O Ephraim, what shall
I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a
morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.” (Hos. 6:1,2,4).
“Then the angel
of the LORD answered and said, O LORD of hosts, how long wilt Thou not have
mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which Thou hast had
indignation these threescore and ten years?
And the LORD
answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words.
So the angel
that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the LORD of
hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.
And I am very
sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease….
saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: My house shall be
built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon
saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be
spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose
Jerusalem.” (Zech. 1:12-15,16,17).
“For I was but
a little displeased, and [the heathen] helped forward the affliction.” (Zech. 1:15).
The Lord had given the Gentiles providential opportunity to conquer Israel and Judah. But, they had gone farther than He had wanted. Satan was in control of them and he lusted for the total annihilation of the people who might have the possibility of a tiny remaining root of loyalty to Jehovah. Do we go too far when presenting the truth to others? Do we help forward the affliction that they suffer for their disobedience to God’s laws, or do we look for their tiny root of loyalty to God? Do we “preach Christ...of envy and strife” (Phil. 1:15)? We need more sweetness of the original gospel. Added to their sorrow for sin during the 70 year captivity, the gentleness of the gospel presented by the teaching pastor, Ezra, led to a great repentance and reformation among the returned Jews.
“Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.” (Neh. 8:9). The people wept because the scriptures that Ezra so aptly and lovingly taught them was so much more
beautiful than they or their forefathers had ever realized. During the long, pagan captivity they had longed for the comfort of the precious words from their God. Repentance to God made that day holy and beautiful in His sight. Through a tragic captivity, He had done for them, in the way of genuine repentance, what they couldn’t accomplish for themselves.
“Then [Ezra] said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Neh. 8:10). There is an end of genuine repenting. It’s not healthy to spend our whole lives repenting for our past sins and mistakes. Overmuch sorrow saps the bones and nerves, and robs our brains of vitality and a long, healthy lifespan. Our Creator knows this and sends word for it to cease; there must also be joy in Him and calm hope for the future.
But, before He speaks the word of pardon He will make sure He has removed all of our self-made, empty, faked repentance. He will make us
genuinely sorry for our sins, and we will be very sorry. Through Jeremiah,
the Lord had informed them of the coming harsh conditions under foreign captivity due to their deeply rooted, almost incurable rebellion.
Whoever would not fight the punishment, would be captured and become slaves. Their enslavement under
taskmasters would make them constantly preyed upon. But, at least they would live.
“And unto this
people thou shalt say, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I set before you the way of
life, and the way of death. He that abideth in this city shall die by the
sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth out, and
falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be
unto him for a prey. For I have set My face against this city for evil, and not
for good, saith the LORD: it shall be given into the hand of the king of
Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.” (Jer. 21:8-10).
The pangs of guilt and shame may seem like they will never subside. But, like Jesus taking upon Himself all of our chastisement of peace in Gethsemane carrying them to death on Golgotha, our scourging will pass. But, our harrassing “evil conscience” (Heb. 10:22) can pass only because He took our damnation ten billion times more. He knows what harrassment of mind and soul is. Every time we are forgiven by God, Jesus assumes our burden of sin. Then, as He had healed the repenting people, He will “bind us up” (Hos. 6:1) and send us His Spirit of comfort. He “forgiveth all thine iniquities” and “healeth all thy diseases.” (Ps. 103:3).
Finally, 700 years after the promise was given, it was
time to comfort Israel, having received their due punishment for serving
Satan. The Lord doesn’t punish forever. He isn’t like Satan, “who smote the
people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger.” (Isa. 14:6). No, the Lord is very different. His mercy endureth forever. He says,
“Cast ye up,
cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumblingblock out of the way of My
people. For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose
name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a
contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive
the heart of the contrite ones. For I will not contend for ever, neither will I
be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before Me, and the souls which I
have made.” (Isa. 57:14-16).
Now, the Isaiah
40 promise spoke of the wrath of God being past. His blessing was near to come.
No more pain, no more dying, no more captivity, no more tears. Those
comforting words to Zechariah by the angel, and to the people by Ezra, were what God had commanded Isaiah to say, “Comfort My people!”
Full of hope
came the promises of God. It was a refreshing from the presence of the Lord.
But, the revival and reformation by Ezra and Nehemiah, so much a blessing to the people, faded. They lost their first love. The people hadn’t remained vigilant to Satan’s wily machinations, and his agents dissolved their spirit of revival. Then, the
captivity resumed. The 70 years of captivity turned into a 600 year captivity, as
Israel never regained its sovereignty.
Really, the 70
year captivity was originally spelled out to be a 600 year captivity, as the next verses of
Isaiah 40 describe. The Lord knows His people, He knoweth that they are dust. He knows their proclivity to forgetfulness of eternal things. But, at the end of the next 450 years, then He would send someone greater than the earlier prophets; He would send His forerunner; and then He, the Sent of God, would come Himself.
Some of the Jews were
waiting for the fulfillment of that famous Isaiah 40 promise. Ichabod, the glory of Isreal had departed. How much more forgetful of the holy past could God’s holy nation get? How much worse could heathenism and idolatry take up residence within Israel? Few were waiting for the
manifestation of God’s grace to His people. “There was a man in Jerusalem, whose
name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel.” (Luke 2:25). He found that
that “consolation” would come in the form of a newborn. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” (Isa. 9:6). The “consolation of
Israel” was the “comfort for Jerusalem” from Isaiah 40. The redemption that the Messiah would accomplish for His Jewish people would give them the greatest and fullest ever pardon and comfort. But, Israel was the theater
for the whole world. Therefore, the word from heaven to them was also for all of the human race, for God so loved the whole world.
Three more decades passed after Simeon discovered the birth of the Consolation of Israel. All hope was gone. Then, John the Baptist stood up and suddenly created a stirring revival in
Israel. He bore the message of Isaiah 40.
“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. 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: 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.” (Isa. 40:3-5).
“And he came
into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the
remission of sins.” (Luke 3:3). “Saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven
is at hand.” (Matt. 3:2). “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. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be
brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall
be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:4-6).
message of comfort and consolation was the good news that Jesus preached. “Saying,
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and
believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15). Combined with the 70 week prophecy of Daniel, the Isaiah message of comfort was the good news gospel
that Jesus brought to the multitudes.
Isaiah 40 is the foundation for the New
Testament. “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God. 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.” (Isa. 40:1,2). They had received of God’s hand double for all their sins; now it
was time for reconciliation with God and their justification. Atonement was the
theme of the day; Jehovah authorized it. It was the year of acceptance from the Almighty.
“To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our
God; to comfort all that mourn.” (Isa. 61:2).
And until today, that is still the message to the world. Nothing has changed. “This gospel
of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all
nations; and then shall the end come” (Matt. 24:14).
At the very end of the age, we have again received
of the Lord’s hand double for all of our sins. Almost. His stern warfare against us
is almost accomplished. Over the past several decades we’ve been through an atheistic, loveless, Christless
time. But, we have yet a more wicked period of terror coming our way. The “little time of trouble” will not be
little or only a couple of years. Protestantism has signally failed in its protest and reforms against
the devil’s corruptions of the gospel and Law of God. We haven’t remained vigilant against Satan’s wily machinations, and his agents have stolen away the revival that came from the apostles and later from the great Reformation. And, like the Jews of Nehemiah’s day, we just let the gospel of peace and comfort slip away, without hardly a protest or a sigh and cry for the abominations sweeping the land. History has repeated itself. The wrath of God against Protestantism
around the globe, and especially against Protestant America, is soon to fall upon us. But, we are not left without hope. We “shall be saved out of it.” (Jer. 30:7).
The church in the wilderness (Revelation 12:6,13-17) has been
through the papal Dark Ages, and has lost much of what Christ taught and
showed His disciples while He was here. Yet, the same message of Isaiah 40’s pardon and hope is
for us today, and, especially will it be for us tomorrow. As the Jews went through
a 600 year punishing silence from the Lord God between the prophets to John the
Baptist, so we’ve been through our 2,000 year punishing silence
between the apostles to the final 144,000, a silence from Jesus in His Father’s heavenly sanctuary. We’ve had our 2 millennium New Covenant
inter-Testamental period, and now it’s time to bring it to a close, as John the
Baptist closed the Old Testament inter-Testamental period.
Soon Christ will raise His hand up to His Father Most High, and swear “by Him that liveth for
ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the
earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are
therein, that there should be time no longer.” (Rev. 10:6).
It’s time to
close the gap and reconnect the bookends of this New Testament Covenant
dispensation. It’s time to restore the Isaiah 40 precious promise. Those who will reconnect the gap will be called, “The repairer of
the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.” (Isa. 58:12). Their work will
involve rebuilding the apostolic church.
final visitation of God’s judgments upon the earth there will be among the
people of the Lord such a revival of primitive godliness as has not been witnessed
since apostolic times.” Great Controversy, p. 464.
“It is only as
the law of God is restored to its rightful position that there can be a revival
of primitive faith and godliness among His professed people. ‘Thus saith the
Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall
find rest for your souls.’ Jeremiah 6:16.” Great Controversy, p. 478.
shall be of thee shall build the old
waste places: thou shalt raise up
the foundations of many generations.” “They shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the
former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of
many generations.” (Isa. 58:12; Isa. 61:4).
Christ and His apostles is yet to be fulfilled. “Ye shall not have gone over
the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.” (Matt. 10:23). We have not
yet gone over all the cities of the world with the good news of Isaiah 40.
Satan succeeded in bringing the victory of the earthly kingdom of God almost to a halt
for a couple of millennia. No doubt the Lord, who had gone forth conquering,
will regain all His lost ground with a vengeance. Then He will return with both
His own and His angels’ shouts of victory over Satan, and with the trump of God.
But, how can we
get refreshed without first bowing to the authoritative Law of God? Will we go to the Spirit of Prophecy and get humbled? Really stumbled and fallen and broken? And then, as
humbled and stumbled children, will we accept Christ’s grace and get refreshed, as the people received under Ezra and Nehemiah? The refreshing comfort will start with
the commandment of God to stop laboring for our salvation and enter into His rest. “If thou turn away thy foot from
the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a
delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour Him, not doing
thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then
shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the
high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father:
for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” (Isa. 58:13,14).
In the faith
and love of Jesus, we will feel like we’re riding upon the high places of the earth. “God,
who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we
were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are
saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly
places in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:4-6).
This sealing of God’s Law in our hearts and our escalation to heavenly places with Christ are our only preparation for the difficult times ahead. Our lives will be for a prey, but we will be saved through the deeper faith and stronger dependence on Jesus, which only that time of terror can bring us. Knowing that, and having that for a purpose, will make it all doable.
“Blessed be the
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy
hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ
from the dead,
inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in
heaven for you,
Who are kept by
the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last
greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness
through manifold temptations:
That the trial
of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it
be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the
appearing of Jesus Christ:
Whom having not
seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice
with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” (1Pet. 1:3-9).
“Behold, I send
you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents,
and harmless as doves.” (Matt. 10:16).
“For then shall
be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this
time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matt. 24:21).
“But beware of
men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in
And ye shall be
brought before governors and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them
and the Gentiles.
But when they
deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be
given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
For it is not
ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
And the brother
shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the
children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to
And ye shall be
hated of all men for My name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be
But when they
persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye
shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.”
“Evil men and
seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue
thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of
whom thou hast learned them.” (2Tim. 3:13,14).
after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon
shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers
of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of
man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall
see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall
gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the
other.” (Matt. 24:29-31).
We need to trim
our lamps now, while the tumult has not yet arrived. It will come with a
vengeance, and relentless in its fury. This cannot be overemphasized. But, the joy of the Lord will be our
strength. Because our eyes and hope will be on Jesus, His words will make sense: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
hath set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on
high, because he hath known My name.
He shall call
upon Me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him,
and honour him.
With long life
will I satisfy him, and shew him My salvation.” (Ps. 91:14-16).