Faithlife Sermons

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Isaiah 40:1-5
Comfort for the Lord’s People
 
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.
A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
[1]
 
The need for a message of comfort for God’s chosen seed, Israel, becomes most apparent as we follow the story of the life of the people of God through the eyes of Isaiah.
In earlier chapters, God had warned the Hebrew nation of impending and calamitous judgement.
In the midst of these chapters is a portion of the book which has come to be called the “Book of Woe.”  *Isaiah 28:1* begins, Woe[2] [y~/h].
Woe[3] [y~/h] is the word which begins *Isaiah 29:1*.
The same holds true for *Isaiah 30:1*.
Then, we read in *Isaiah 30:27, 28**a*, Behold, the name of the Lord comes from far, burning with his anger, and in thick rising smoke; his lips are full of fury, and his tongue is like a devouring fire; his breath is like an overflowing stream that reaches up to the neck…  *Isaiah 33:1* repeats the tragic cry, Woe[4] [y~/h].
At last, we read Isaiah’s tragic pronouncement to Hezekiah in *Isaiah 39:6, 7*.
Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon.
Nothing shall be left, says the Lord.
And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.
That awful prophecy came to pass, as do all the prophetic words of our God.
The nation was destroyed; the Temple left lying in ruins.
The people were carried far away into slavery in a foreign land.
There, in despair and recognition that grows out of the knowledge of their own sinful actions, the people wailed out the cry which is recorded in *Isaiah 40:27*.
My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God.
They believed God has forgotten them, becoming indifferent to their plight.
God had not forgotten His chosen people.
No more has God forgotten His holy people in this day.
God had acted as He always acts—with a nation, with a people, with a church, with a home, with an individual.
The soul that sins shall die.
The nation that forgets God shall be turned into hell.
Sin always brings divine judgement.
Just so, judgement fell upon the people of God—they lost their holy city, their beautiful Temple, their freedom.
Judgement of sin sent them into slavery, and they sat by the rivers of Babylon and wept.
To those broken, hopeless people, the prophet lifts up his voice and cries out a message of comfort and assurance.
God still cares for His own.
In the same way, at this time as Christians face a great, unknown future, God has a message of comfort and assurance for His own.
That message can serve to encourage each of us as we worship the Son of God during this holy season and as we advance confidently into the coming days, serving Christ and seeking His glory in all things.
Comfort, The Great Need of All People — We all need this message of comfort and assurance with which God begins this message.
Especially do we who are Christians require such a message of comfort.
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.
[*Isaiah 40:1, 2*]
 
This is the message the entire world needs.
If you have not required comfort to his point, there is coming a time when you will seek divine comfort with all your heart.
Despite the social conditioning we may have received as Canadians, our world is not composed of strong people who need to be beaten and conquered.
Our world is made up of weak people, broken people, people who need to be forgiven, saved and redeemed.
We live among broken and wounded people, and we ourselves are numbered among them.
We groan because of the wickedness about us and because we ourselves are assailed and assaulted by wicked people determined to exalt evil and denounce good.
Who among us has not identified with the words of the Psalmist as recorded in *Psalm 44:22*?
For your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
Increasingly I witness a world which has gone mad and it is Christians who bear the brunt of irrational anger of a sin-sick world.
People are slain by the hundreds in Indonesia, because they are Christians.
Adults and children are beaten and left for dead, shot and burned alive in India, because they are Christians.
Deep thinkers, thoughtful and considerate citizens of Canada and the United States are censured, ridiculed and marginalised, solely because they are Christians.
All the while, our Canadian political system collapses into the rubble of irrelevancy and our courts expose themselves as the epitome of folly.
Conscientious citizens, and especially the most honest and honourable among the populace, those who are Christians, grieve and are astonished at the rage of the wicked.
How we long for comfort, both as a people and as Christians!
May I speak candidly of the struggle I face week-by-week.
I struggle to know how to prepare the message which will be delivered before the congregation.
I know that in the congregation are people who must be confronted in their lost condition.
They are sinners without hope and without God in the world.
They do not need religion; they need a Saviour who will deliver them from condemnation and give them an inheritance among the redeemed.
They need to submit to Christ the Master, believing that He died because of their sin and that He was raised to declare them free of all guilt before God.
I know that in the same congregation are yet others, who though saved, live lives which are indistinguishable from the inhabitants of the world about them.
I know that they need to be confronted with the harm they do to themselves and hurt to the cause of Christ.
I know that their sin needs to be exposed so that they will forsake the evil they do and seek restoration to a secure position with the faithful in the work of Christ.
I know that there are still others who struggle mightily against the downward drag of this world; they long to honour God.
In their weariness, they feel as though they are failures and that they have disgraced Christ the Lord.
They love God and they want to honour Him in all things, yet they believe they have failed Him and His people.
Always, regardless of the message which I have planned to deliver on a given day, I know that seated before me are people leading lives of quiet desperation who desperately long for comfort in their trials.
Whether unconscious in their lost condition, or whether struggling to honour God in the morass of sin which characterises this fallen world, all alike seek comfort when we come to the service of worship.
I know that divine comfort is available to those who are lost sinners, but I also know that the needed comfort will be found only in repentance and faith.
Therefore, I am compelled to confront the lost in their sin, calling them to turn from their wickedness and to turn in faith to the Risen Son of God.
Comfort lies in the forgiveness of sin and in the presence of the Spirit of Christ among those who are redeemed.
I know that the comfort which is available to those who though they are believers have nevertheless surrendered themselves to complacency in the world lies in a return to righteousness.
I know that backsliders must become uncomfortable with the life they have embraced, rejecting it to again live powerfully and wholly for the cause of Christ.
Therefore, I am compelled to address the wayward saints, calling them to again live godly and holy lives which reveal the powerful presence of God’s Holy Spirit in them.
I know that comfort for saints striving to honour God comes through the preached Word of God as the Spirit of God bears witness with their spirits.
They need sound biblical teaching that will remind them that they are not failures, yet encourage them to continue in their struggle against wickedness.
To such saints, I am impelled to speak, urging them to stand firm in their faith and to resist compromise with evil.
Therefore, week-by-week, I prepare the message which I believe the Spirit of God would have me deliver.
Ever and always, that message will conclude with a plea to believe the Saviour, for some among us have yet to receive the forgiveness of sin which is offered to each one through His grace.
Always, the message of the day will confront the complacent and the careless in their frowardness, identifying the wickedness of their actions as sin.
Always, the message I seek to deliver will plead with the weary saint to persevere in the conflict with sin.
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