COMFORT FOR ZION DERIVES FROM THE SALVATION AND GOVERNING BLESSINGS ASSOCIATED WITH THE PROMISED COMING OF MESSIAH
Overview of Isaiah in Review – handout
Motyer: No sooner the message of disaster (39:5-7) than the message of comfort (40:1-2)!
You can’t appreciate the message of comfort unless you can identify with the depths of darkness of the misery and bondage of the Babylonian Captivity – 2 Chron. 36:15-21
God’s message of comfort comes to a people who had not yet experienced the hardship of the Babylonian Slaughter and Captivity – all of this blessed revelation given in anticipation of the upcoming events
Oswalt: Chapters 40-48 particularly address the questions concerning God’s ability and desire to deliver that the exile would pose. This focus is evident immediately in ch.40. Would not the exile prove that God had either forsaken his people or was not the Lord of history? Would it not mean that he had been unable to defend his people from the pagan nations or that he had been defeated by his people’s pernicious sinfulness? Isaiah’s answer to both questions is a resounding no! . . . The exile would give God an even greater opportunity to show his sovereignty and his trustworthiness.
COMFORT FOR ZION DERIVES FROM THE SALVATION AND GOVERNING BLESSINGS ASSOCIATED WITH THE PROMISED COMING OF MESSIAH
4 MESSAGES OF COMFORT:
I. (:1-2) THE COMFORT OF SALVATION NOW REPLACES THE WARNINGS OF FUTURE JUDGMENT —
The Heart of the Gospel Message: “the gospel of Isaiah”
A. A Message of Encouragement to God’s Covenant People
1. Word of Comfort
“’Comfort, O comfort My people,’ says your God.”
Young: true comfort consists in setting forth the entire truth concerning the people’s tragic condition and in causing them to see God as their only hope. When the heinousness of sin is faced, then the announcement of deliverance may be made. For the reception of these words of grace the people have already been prepared through the earlier announcement of judgment to come. . . The people belong to God, for He has chosen them. Hence, even though they may forsake Him, He will not abandon them. It was necessary that He punish them through the judgment of the exile, for Israel must learn humility. At the same time God does not forsake His own.
Commission service for God’s prophets – but contrasted with stern commissioning given to Isaiah in chap. 6
2. Word of Kindness
“Speak kindly to Jerusalem;”
1:1 “vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem”
Borgman: tells them how to bring comfort – “speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call out to her” – the manner of the preaching and the effects of the preaching; speak in such a way that you persuade the heart; Gen. 50:21; heart to heart talk to them designed to persuade them emotionally; Hos. 2:14; 2 Cor. 5:11; mouth opened wide because heart was opened wide; looking for more than a cognitive effect from preaching; should impact the whole person; we need both conviction of God (to keep us from presumption) and comfort of God (to keep us from despair); need both dynamics in balance; passion in preaching; Spurgeon: “I set myself on fire and people come to watch me burn;”
Should we speak kindly of Jerusalem today?
Constable: This is the language of covenant (37:35; cf. Exod. 6:7; 2 Sam. 10:2; Jer. 16:7). We may imagine a heavenly court scene in which God issued this command (cf. 1 Kings 22:19). The double imperative “Comfort” suggests emotional intensity. “Keeps saying” is a better translation than “says” and stresses the importance of this message.
This message of comfort will have multiple layers of application as we have seen in our studies of Isaiah:
– Immediate context: deliverance from bondage in Babylon as the Persian king Cyrus defeats Babylon and Jews are able to return to Promised Land to build the second temple
– The Coming of the Messiah in the future – two comings rolled up into one; but ultimate fulfillment at the second coming when all of Israel will be saved and the blessings of the millennial kingdom introduced and the Lord Jesus seen in His glory
B. A Message of Salvation for God’s Covenant People
1. A Message of Peace and Deliverance from Bondage
“And call out to her, that her warfare has ended,”
Young: a period of hardship and misery generally (Num. 4:23; Job 7:1; 14:14; Dan. 10:1).
2. A Message of Forgiveness and Reconciliation
“That her iniquity has been removed,”
If you feel the weight of your sin – how comforting!
No reconciliation possible without removal of sins
No self atonement – no way to pay ourselves for the removal of our own iniquities
Is. 53 will address this issue more fully
Motyer: “to accept punishment for iniquity.” The passive, as used in Isaiah, means “the punishment of their iniquity has been accepted as satisfactory,” i.e. by God, for the passive of the verb is used only of God’s acceptance of the levitical offerings. The only cases of this passive usage are Leviticus 1:4; 7:18; 19:7; 22:23, 25, 27, which are all concerned with the offering of blood sacrifice.
3. A Message of Grace and Blessing
“That she has received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.”
Abounding measure of the Lord’s grace – grace that is greater than all our sin
Constable: Paying back double may be an expression indicating proportionate payment, making the punishment equivalent to the crime. I tend to believe that the meaning is that Israel will receive twice as much blessing as she had received judgment (cf. Jer. 16:18; Zech. 9:12; Rev. 18:6).
Parunak: Parallels to this mode of expression suggest two possible interpretations.
1) “Double” may refer to the intensity of Israel’s punishment: Jer. 16:18; Rev. 18:6
2) Or it may mean that she has received blessing that more than compensates for her suffering: Job 42:10-12; Is. 61:7; Zec. 9:12
I prefer the latter, for three reasons:
• The only attested meaning earlier than Isaiah is that of Job, which envisions double blessing.
• Isaiah himself clearly uses the double blessing image in 61:7.
• In the context, the other two clauses both emphasize the change in her fortunes, not the intensity of her suffering.
Beall: nice three-fold outline of the rest of the book: 40-48, deliverance from the bondage of captivity; 49-57, salvation from sin by the Servant; 58-66, abundant blessing for Israel in the future.
II. (:3-5) THE COMFORT OF THE COMING OF MESSIAH WHEN THE GLORY OF THE LORD WILL BE REVEALED
A. (:3-4) Forerunner Prepares the Way for the Coming of Messiah
“A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness;
Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.
Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low;
And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley;’”
A prophetic voice is heard calling out; this cannot be the voice of God; the people must make preparation by way of spiritual repentance so that God can come unimpeded to His people to deliver them
Beall: In the NT, this voice is clearly seen as John the Baptist (Matt 3:1-4; Mark 1:1-4; Luke 1:76-78; John 1:23). . . cf. “roll out the red carpet” . . . the ultimate fulfillment will be after the tribulation period, at the Second Coming of the Lord
Oswalt: Through the entire segment [:1-11], speech is the prominent element. Eleven words relating to speaking appear. Three times the speech of God is mentioned. Alongside God’s voice are other voices, perhaps those of angels; there is also the voice of the prophet and the voice of Jerusalem. This good news must be spoken, announced, proclaimed. God has spoken and who can keep silent?
Oswalt: Neither Israel nor any other human agency is the cause of the comfort here extended. It is the coming of God, the revelation of him in human sight.
Parunak: plain:–It is tempting at first to see this as a continuation of 3b. After all, a “highway” is a road that has been straightened out and leveled to make it easy for people to travel. Is this perhaps just a metaphor for the moral change demanded in v. 3?
Perhaps. But note the shift from imperative (command) to indicative. v. 4 is the first of a series of statements, one after another, continuing through v. 5. What is promised includes not only geographical changes, but also the universal revelation of the glory of the Lord.
The idea that the Lord’s coming will bring topological change is found elsewhere in the OT. Isaiah appears to be the original witness to these events, and we have seen this theme already:
2:2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
[Is. 13:13; Mic 1:3-4; Nah 1:5-6; Hab 3:6; Hag 2:6-7; Zech 14:1-11]
B. (:5a) Program Culmination
“Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, And all flesh will see it together;”
Motyer: The glory is the Lord’s presence (Ex. 16:10; 40:34f); the Lord revealed in some specific act (Ex. 16:7; Nu. 14:22); his repute and character (Ps. 79:9); or is his exalted state (3:8; Je. 13:16).
Oswalt: The glory of God is the manifestation of his absolute reality. The great sin of humanity is our attempt to arrogate that reality to ourselves without submitting to him.
C. (:5b) Prophetic Certainty
“For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
Parunak: Isaiah, and Malachi three centuries later, anticipates a messenger who will introduce the coming of the Lord. John the Baptist, sent by God to introduce the Lord Jesus, is such a messenger. But both texts, and others cited by the evangelists in the same context (Exod 23:20), are not exhausted by John. There will be another coming of the Lord, and aspects of the promise of the messenger are not fulfilled in the Baptist, but look forward to this future coming.
III. (:6-8) THE COMFORT OF THE ETERNAL PERMANENCE OF THE WORD OF GOD – CONTRASTED WITH THE TRANSIENT GLORY OF MANKIND
A. The Transient Glory of Mankind
1. The Principle Stated – The Glory of Mankind Quickly Fades Away
a. Prophetic Voice
“A voice says, ‘Call out.’
b. Prophetic Content – The Glory of Mankind Quickly Fades Away
“Then he answered, ‘What shall I call out?’ All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.”
c. Prophetic Judgment
“The grass withers, the flower fades,
When the breath of the LORD blows upon it;”
What is so powerful about the breath of the Lord?
Young: In May, before the rainy season, the Hamsin or Sirocco blows over Palestine, having come from the hot, dry desert regions of Arabia. It is a pernicious wind and blows often for several days without intermission, filling the atmosphere with fine dust and rendering it sultry and oppressive. Possibly it is of this wind that the prophet is thinking when he speaks of the breath (ruah) of the Lord, for the wind is an elemental manifestation of the Lord’s breath.
2. The Principle Applied – The Glory of Mankind Quickly Fades Away
a. The Nature of Mankind
“Surely the people are grass.”
b. The Destiny of Mankind
“The grass withers, the flower fades,”
B. The Eternal Permanence of the Word of God
“But the word of our God stands forever.”
Parunak: Here is the ultimate value proposition for sinners. You are just grass before almighty God. He promises to come, parch you, and burn you up. Nothing can stand against his word. Your only hope is to repent and submit to him.
IV. (:9-11) THE COMFORT OF THE GOVERNING BLESSINGS ASSOCIATED WITH THE COMING OF THE LORD GOD IN GLORY
A. (:9) Announcement of the Coming of the Lord God in Glory
“Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news, Lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; Lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’”
Beall: The immediate fulfillment may be in the return from Babylon, and even in the first advent of Christ; but the ultimate fulfillment clearly awaits the Second Coming, as vv. 10-11 make plain.
Message is primarily for Israel here rather than for the Gentile nations – although they will participate in the governing blessings as well
Here is the culmination of all that has been promised to the children of Abraham down through the ages; God did not forget or omit one promise
Truly this is good news
B. (:10-11) Two Images of the Messiah King Bringing Governing Blessings
1. (:10) Governing Like a Mighty Sovereign
a. Ruling With Power
“Behold, the Lord God will come with might,
With His arm ruling for Him.”
b. Ruling With Reward – whose reward?? Belongs to God
“Behold, His reward is with Him,
And His recompense before Him.”
[Constable: These are the fruits of His victory, which He will share with His people (cf. 61:6; 66:12).]
Parunak argues the opposite view:
Invariably in the OT (and often, about 15x) a genitive after “reward” שׂכר (or “work” פעלה in the sense of payment) indicates the recipient of the payment. So “his reward” would not mean the reward that the Lord gives to others, but the one he receives for his own labor, the work described in the previous “behold.”
62:11-12 uses the same expression we have here, but goes on to describe the reward:
Behold, the LORD hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion,
Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work pay before him.
12 And they shall call them [that is, the reward], The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD:
and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.
Similarly, in our present text, this understanding merges nicely with his action in v. 11. His reward is the flock for which he so tenderly cares.
With this in mind, we can hear an echo of this principle in 53:11, He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. . .
The most common metaphor (more than 20 times9) is that God’s people are his inheritance .ðçìä
Literally, an inheritance is something you receive from your ancestors. It has been in the family for a long time. . .
Less often, we are called God’s “peculiar treasure” ñâìä . Ex. 19:5; Mal. 3:16-17
Isaiah’s image is the least common of the three. The picture of inheritance emphasizes that our relation to God is permanent. As his peculiar treasure, we are especially precious to him. By calling us God’s reward, Isaiah emphasizes the labor that God has exerted to secure us. He worked hard to deliver us from our sin. Though we belonged to him by ancient decree, he had to purchase us back, like someone who redeems a foreclosed home. His work may explain why we are so precious to him.
2. (:11) Governing Like a Tender Shepherd
“Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs,
And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.”
Motyer: The change from sovereign to shepherd is not as abrupt as it might seem as the latter is a David motif (2 Sa. 5:2; 7:7f; cf. Mi. 5:4; Ezk. 34:2ff., 23f.). This shepherd exercises general care (tends his flock), is watchful for particular needs (gathers the lambs) and identifies with concerns within the flock (those that have young).
As we anticipate all of the blessings associated with the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ, our heart should cry out, Even so, come Lord Jesus. But as long as God has determined that we remain in the hardship of this life and the struggles of living by faith, we need to remember the comfort that our God promises. Even when we lose a fellow believer in death we don’t sorrow like those who have no comfort.
2 Cor. 1:3-7