Summary: Comfort for those who pursue God is real; however, it is not comfort as we seek in the world.
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins.
Contemporary Christians seem often to exhibit a flaccid faith. They believe the primary job of the preacher they have hired is to make them comfortable. Perhaps they would even appeal to the words of our text to support a distorted view of the preacher’s role. Isaiah, speaking on behalf of God, is commanded to comfort the LORD’s people. However, there is nothing to make those receiving the message feel comfortable, though there is great comfort in what he writes. Let’s examine the text to discover real comfort for God’s people.
COMFORT ARISES FROM PEACE — “her warfare is ended.” Let’s get a little perspective of Isaiah’s reference. He is writing to the remnant of God’s people in Babylonian captivity. Though at the time he was writing, the fall of Jerusalem had not yet occurred, it was certain. Therefore, what Isaiah wrote in this text would at a point in the future be read and understood as a reference to God’s eternal love. God knew that the captives would be discouraged and dejected. They would be defeated in battle and humbled by a ferocious enemy. Under such conditions, it would be nearly impossible for the survivors not to focus on their sad situation; and focused on what was happening, they would be depressed, dismayed, disheartened.
It is not enough to say to those who are being disciplined that they brought judgement upon themselves. Though discipline is the result of our own foolish choices, we seldom need to inform those who are undergoing discipline of the reason for their particular situation. Christians may moan and whine, plaintively bleating out a familiar refrain, “Why did this happen to me?” However, it is unfailingly true that when we are disciplined, we know the reason for our distress. Unlike some strange situations that may be evident in our fallen world, our Father does not injure us capriciously. If we are disciplined, we know why it is happening. Those who whine and moan are either deliberately ignorant of their sin or they have no relationship to the Father of life.
If we belong to the Lord God, we can anticipate His discipline. God does not discipline the devil’s children. Moreover, when He disciplines His own child, that child will know the reason for the discipline. Perhaps we need to review again the words of the author to the Hebrew Letter, who writes, “Have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.’
“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” [HEBREWS 12:5-11].
The people of God had racked up an incredible list of charges brought by God’s prophets. Throughout the land was evidence of the guilt of the people—idolatry, injustice, immorality and insensitivity to God’s messengers. The people of Israel not only engaged in these grave offences against Holy God, but they also justified their actions and minimised their guilt by appealing to the fact that they continued to maintain the religious practises instituted by Moses.
Though this rampant wickedness was addressed repeatedly by numerous prophets, Jeremiah especially brings the evil to the fore. On one particular day, Jeremiah received a command from the LORD. “Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’
“For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever” [JEREMIAH 7:2-7].