“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” (Isaiah 40:1-5).
The prophet Isaiah had been given a message from God. It was to be a message of hope and comfort. It was to be a message of good news and good cheer. Not always had Isaiah been able to comfort the people for he was burdened with the thankless task of reminding the nations of Judah and Israel that God will not be mocked. Sin brings Divine discipline. Sin violates the moral order of the Universe. God will not wait until eternity to judge evil. Nations rise and fall. Individuals know immediately the consequences of evil.
While justice is not exact in a fallen world, there is an attempt to distinguish right from wrong, truth from falsehood, and individuals are held accountable for their actions. Isaiah attached the social ills of his day. He saw them as symptoms of spiritual declension, and he was right. Pornography, excessive violence, profanity, stealing, lying, cheating, and all the rest reflect that man is not right with God.
When a society becomes saturated with sin, God will judge. The ultimate form of Divine Discipline is the disintegration of the government and foreign conquest.
In the year 721 B.C. God used the Assyrian Empire as a rod of Discipline against His people.
Isaiah predicted it would happen and it did. There was bloodshed and violence in Palestine. War and famine raged through the land. Hatred placed all love and the thirst for revenge was acute. Children were slaughtered. Men were literally skinned alive. Women were abused.
Finally, the nightmare ended. Israel had enough. The Southern Kingdom of Judah could have learned from the history of Northern Israel. Unfortunately, as the Bible records, Judah did not learn and so she was destined for destruction as well. In the year 586 B.C. God would use the nation of Babylon to deal with Judah.
Chapter 40 becomes a significant dividing point in the prophetic work of Isaiah. The nation Israel consisting of ten tribes is out from under the smarting rod. She will hear a message of comfort after the condemnation. The nation of Judah consisting of two tribes is threatened with the same judgment though precious promises will be given for their support and their comfort in time of trouble.
Then the Word of the Lord came to Isaiah. Twice he was commanded to comfort God’s people. The command is given twice because sometimes the souls of God’s people refuse to be comforted. Like a little child needing constant reassurance, the people of God needed to hear Isaiah say, “It is going to be all right. The hurting will stop. God will be gracious. Life will go on. There is hope for the future.”
Isaiah did not mind repeating such a message. No Pastor ever does. The great joy of the ministry is to offer salvation to sinners weary of sin, and to announce assurance of salvation to the soul seeking Christ.
In the Divine economy, God decreed that Israel had enough. In the midst of His wrath, God remembered to have mercy. So, cry Isaiah. Cry loudly. Cry long. Let all hear the news as clearly as possible. The comfort of God is not for the few but for the many in the day of grace. In the day of grace, the warfare is accomplished. The Bible presents two types of warfare. John Bunyan wrote of the Holy War. There is also an unholy war. First, there is the sinner against the Sovereign. The natural man is born into the Kingdom of this world, and is enlisted to fight on the side of Satan.
The Lord Jesus is opposed.
The Doctrines of Sovereign Grace are rejected.
Ministers of righteousness are hated.
The saints are persecuted.
Saul of Tarsus reflects the natural warfare of man against God.
Saul of Tarsus was a worthy foe; he was a formidable warrior against Christ and His anointed for many years. But then one day the Lord changed Saul. He laid down his carnal weapons of warfare to pick up his spiritual weapons. Saul never ceased to be a warrior, he only changed sides. He, who once fought against the Lord, began to fight for Him and instructed others to “put on the whole armor of God.”
It is always a blessed time when warfare is accomplished when the fighting is over, especially when the warfare was all so senseless. There are those who remember when the warfare in Europe was over in 1945, and a few months later the war ended in the Far East. There was dancing in the streets.
In 1973 President Nixon announced that American involvement in Vietnam was over; millions rejoiced.
In September, 2021, the United States ended its military mission in Afghanistan after 20 years, the longest war in American history.
The greatest joy comes when people stop fighting God. Sin is pardoned. Love is free to flow. Today, we want the message of comfort to be heard again. We want God’s people to know that the Lord is ready and willing to visit His people afresh, but there must be a measure of preparation as per vs. 3.
Spiritual preparation consists of repentance and faith. That is exactly what John the Baptist proclaimed to the people of his day as he quoted the prophet Isaiah. (Matthew 3:2-5, Luke 1:17). The gospel duties have not changed. God still demands that His people turn from evil and turn to Him in righteousness.
As Matthew Henry wrote, “We must get into such a frame of spirit as will dispose us to receive Christ and His gospel.” Obedience to gospel duty brings personal and corporate delight when Christ comes to His people in all of His splendor and glory. By repentance, by faith, by obedience, let us prepare to meet the King. Here-in is comfort for the children of God. Christ is coming our way.
Those that are hindered from comfort in Christ by their dejections and despondencies are the valleys that must be exalted. Those that are hindered from comfort in Christ by a proud conceit of their own merit and worth are the mountains and hills that must be made low. Those that have entertained prejudice against the Word and ways of God, that are intractable and disposed to thwart and contradict even that which is plain and easy because it agrees not with their corrupt inclinations and secular interests, are the crooked that must be made straight and the rough places that must be made plain.