Seven Promises of Comfort
From the Book of Isaiah: Seven Promises of Comfort
In the days of my great trials, out of all the books in the Bible, I have been been very much comforted by the Book of Isaiah. The second section of that book (chapters 40 to 66) is so very New Testament in content and expression. The section begins with the famous words, ‘Comfort, O comfort, My people’. Yes, the Lord is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, and He wants so much to comfort His people. Do you remember that lovely verse in Isaiah 66:13, ‘As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.’? Our great God and Father in heaven, who has revealed Himself to mankind through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, is the One who will wipe away all the tears from our eyes. (Revelation 21:4)
The word ‘comfort’ appears several times in the Book of Isaiah. There we see the suffering of the people of God, and it reminds us of Paul’s words in Second Corinthians, chapter one, where the Apostle speaks of how we receive divine comfort in all our afflictions so that we might obtain the experience and capacity to comfort others in their afflictions. God wants us to be ‘comforters’ in this suffering world. And to be comforters we have to go through afflictions; the more abundant our sufferings, the more abundant the comfort we receive; and the more abundant the comfort we provide. No Bible school or seminary can train us to be comforters. We may gain only head-knowledge at the expense of heart-experience. The school of Christ is the school of suffering, but it is such suffering that leads us to comfort.
There are seven promises of comfort in the second section of Isaiah, viz. Isaiah 40:1, 2; 49:13; 51:3; 51:12; 52:9; 61:2 and 66:13.
Isaiah 40:1, 2. ‘Comfort, yes, comfort My people, says your God. Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.’
‘She has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sons.’ The
inescapable fact of Christian experience is that we learn through chastening.
The seventy years of captivity in Babylon
had humbled the remnant who returned. It was a small remnant – as you will find
when you read the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. The majority stayed back in Babylon. Only a few had a concern for God’s
house; only a remnant returned to Jerusalem.
Does this not well picture the state of Christianity in the world today? Too
many are content to remain with a shallow gospel – which is not the true gospel
at all. We remember how when the gospel was preached in Acts of the Apostles,
in the early days of the church, how soon the believer got baptized. Belief in
Christ and baptism into Christ seemed to go together. Read the account of the
Ethiopian eunuch. What Philip preached to him was the Cross. And the Ethiopian
was determined to be identified with the Cross. That is what baptism means. To
be identified with the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. To come out of Adam and into Christ, 1 Corinthians 15.22. In Ezekiel 37, we read that coming
out of Babylon
was resurrection indeed. Babylon is all that is of man - the promotion of self and self-glory (Dan 4:30), beginning with the Adamic self (the old man, the natural man) and ending with a corrupt and chaotic world.
Isaiah 49:13 declares, ‘Sing O heavens, be joyful O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted His people, and will have mercy on His afflicted.’
Zion cries, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.’ How does the Lord reply? ‘Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son on her womb? Surely she may forget, yet I will not forget you! See I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.’
Oh, the depths of the cross that we go through! But there is no other way. It is only by going through sorrow that we can know joy; only by going through death that we can appreciate life; only by being in darkness can we rejoice in the light.
The Lord has inscribed us on the palms of His hands. Can we ever grasp the magnitude of the meaning of His cross? He has forever united us with Him in His death, burial and resurrection. Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord, Rom 8:39. That is the bedrock of our faith; the unfailing, inseparable, all-conquering love of God! Our love may fail; but His love will never fail.
Isaiah 51:3. ‘For the Lord will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of melody.’
God’s judgment had come upon Israel and Jerusalem. The children of God were led away into captivity. So also we believers have to go through chastening, through afflictions, through the deep trials of the cross. It seems that all our desires are dashed, our hopes doomed, and we have come to the end of ourselves. We lie buried and forgotten. We are like a wasteland – barren, neglected, forgotten. We are in the valley of dry bones. But the Lord will comfort Zion. What does Isaiah say? The desert will rejoice and blossom as the rose, Isaiah 35:1. Rivers will open in the bare heights, and streams in the desert. Our wilderness will become like the garden of Eden. Our sorrows will vanish, and there will be joy. And it will be a time of great rejoicing, with music and melody.
What am I talking about? After winter comes spring. I am talking about resurrection. God works on the principle of resurrection. He brings us to nothing, and when all hope is gone, then suddenly there is life. And our world blooms again.
Isaiah 51:12. 'I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die, and of the son of a man who will fade away like grass?'
I remember how this verse comforted me in my earliest deep trial, almost 17 years ago. I was down on my knees, filled with fear and worry. I had only recently come to the Lord, and the Lord was taking me through the experience of the cross. I opened the Bible and read Isaiah 51:12, and it was the voice of the Lord speaking to me! I could almost hear that still, small whisper. Why should we be afraid of perishing man? Men are like grass that will soon wither; the wicked are like dry stubble and fit to be burnt. Trust in the Eternal God. Be comforted by His word; be strengthened by His grace.
‘I, even I, am He who comforts you.’ Let us be clear about this. That day the Lord truly comforted me from Isaiah 51:12. His word brings deep and divine comfort. Human comfort has its limitations. But God’s comfort, the comfort that comes through the Word anointed by the Spirit, is comfort indeed. We should make it a point to comfort others with the Word of God. The Lord will bring to remembrance the right promise that will comfort those in affliction and sorrow.
Isaiah 52:9. ‘Break forth into joy! Sing together, you waste places of Jerusalem! For the LORD has comforted His people; He has redeemed Jerusalem.’
There is no greater comfort than the comfort of the gospel. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, that publishes peace…that publishes salvation…that says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’ Isaiah 52.7. The gospel declares, ‘God is on the throne; He is in full control of your life. He has chosen you in the furnace of affliction, Isaiah 48:10. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Our Lord has fought for you on the Cross and won a great victory; He has finished the work of redemption. You are forever saved and secure. That is grace – unfailing, overwhelming, irresistible grace!
The judgment of God is going to fall upon this wicked world. Therefore, flee Babylon! Flee the false churches; flee the charismatic cults. Come to Christ; come into the ark of salvation. The Lord holds His suffering children in His loving arms; He will carry them in His bosom, close to His comforting side. Isaiah 40:11.
Isaiah 61:2, 3. ‘To comfort all who mourn.’ To give to those who mourn in Zion, mourn in the church for the loss of the vision, the loss of power and life – to give to them, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.
Yes, He will use His faithful remnant, the true Church, to build up the waste places, to repair the breaches, to restore and revive the faith that has been lost to modern generations. We shall be priests of the Lord, co-workers with Christ. We shall be ruling with Him in His millennial kingdom. For all our shame, we will receive a double portion, Isaiah 61:7, even as Job received double of all that he had lost. And much more besides! Everlasting joy shall be ours.
Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are those who mourn. Beloved, do you not see that the Beatitudes were addressed, not to the majority who sought only signs and wonders, but to the few disciples, the remnant who were willing to carry the cross and follow Him? Mourning over our own depravity; mourning over the church today; mourning over perishing souls in a fallen, sin-stricken world. Blessed are those who mourn!
We all have to go through the experience of mourning, if we will have the joy of dancing and delighting ourselves in the presence of our faithful and loving Lord.
Isaiah 66:13. ‘As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.’
Jerusalem is the church, the Old Testament word for which is ‘Zion’. How wonderful to experience individual salvation; even more wonderful it is to share in the fellowship of an inexpressible love that multiplies in the ever-increasing Body of Christ. This great truth, that we are not alone, but linked with every other born-again, baptized believer in Christ, and thereby forming not just a congregation or community of believers, but becoming a part of the very Body of Christ. Beloved, we are ‘in Christ’, and the comfort and joy that you experience in the family of the saints is something wonderful. That is why all the Israelites went up thrice a year to Jerusalem for the great convocations, and they went singing the beautiful songs of Zion as they climbed the hills to the hallowed city.
When we are saved and share in the sufferings of Christ, we know that we have been brought into the very family of God, with brothers and sisters in Christ, and it is this remnant (for not all are prepared to count the cost and pray the price) which forms the radiant and lovely Bride of Christ.