Comfort in Isaiah

I’ve finished the book of Isaiah and started Jeremiah. Finishing Isaiah leaves me feeling a bit sad, like saying goodbye to a dear friend at a train station, when you remember all the fun and delightful fellowship you had. Yes, fun and gaiety, even from the prophet of Isaiah, who you may only think of in terms of prophesying gloom and doom. Certainly there is enough warning of impending devastation, but it is the fullness of glory that impresses itself on me.

There is so much wonderful and magnificent material in Isaiah it is difficult to write briefly. But it is the closing chapters that are so full of encouragement, staring with the beginning of chapter 40 where the Lord cries, “Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your God. Speak kindly to Jerusalem; And call out to her, that her warfare has ended, That her iniquity has been removed, . . . Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, And all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” God’s main desire is in comforting His people. While describing the glory of the new creation detailed in a number of locations in Isaiah, particularly chapter 25, we read such comforting words,

“The LORD of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, And refined, aged wine. And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, Even the veil which is stretched over all nations. He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken.” Now that is a party!

This time of comfort is also detailed a little differently in chapter 11 where another perspective is taken,

And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze, Their young will lie down together, And the lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea. Is. 6-9

Very comforting words considering the polar opposite word they were experiencing in war-torn Judah. But these descriptions of a world filled with the glory of the Lord should have stimulated His people to yearn for Him. Instead the opposite occurred. This would be really discouraging for a prophet but Isaiah was told this would be the case. His prophesying would not result in a Great Awakening. Instead, when God calls his to service in chapter 6, the opposite is revealed:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’ “Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed.” Then I said, “Lord, how long?” And He answered, “Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, Houses are without people And the land is utterly desolate . . . . Is 6:8-11

Surprisingly a promise of negative results is forecast. Not that individuals could not be turned but the nation itself was on an irreversible slide downward. But that isn’t the whole story, as we see above. God will ultimately fill the earth with His brilliance: “No longer will you have the sun for light by day, Nor for brightness will the moon give you light; But you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And your God for your glory. Is. 60:19

But it is the amazing descriptions from chapter 53 onward that I find most comforting, as they detail the hope of the coming of the Christ who will be exalted and brought low at the same time, the mystery that was still hundreds of years in the future to Isaiah and his people. There are amazing verses herein. All 12 verses of chapter 53. Like verses 3-5:

He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.

Or verses 10 and 11:

But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities . . . .

Or Isaiah 54:7, “For a brief moment I forsook you, But with great compassion I will gather you. “In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,” Says the LORD your Redeemer.

Or chapter 54:13, 14 “All your sons will be taught of the LORD; And the well-being of your sons will be great. “In righteousness you will be established; You will be far from oppression, for you will not fear; And from terror, for it will not come near you.

Or chapter 55:1-3:

“Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. “Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, According to the faithful mercies shown to David.

And so forth, chapter after chapter His comfort is declared. All the way to chapter 66, where we read of the ultimate comfort,

“Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her; Be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her, That you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts, That you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom.” For thus says the LORD, “Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; And you will be nursed, you will be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees. “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; And you will be comforted in Jerusalem.” Is. 66:10-13

If you are in need of comforting in this weary, bleary world of woe, it pays well to feast your spirit in the book of Isaiah to be encouraged excessively.

Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]

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