“Comfort Ye My People”

Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, says your God” (Isaiah 40).

God is “the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1), and it is His will that His people should be comforted and not distracted; this is the commission He has given to His servants. This comfort is not exactly that which a mother gives her sick or tired child, soothing it to forgetful slumber: it is more than that, it is encouragement for the discouraged, strength for the weak, and restoration for the fainting, it fills the soul with the buoyancy of hope, for it flows from the knowledge of God who is “the God of hope” and “the God of patience and consolation” (Rom. 15).

Our chapter has Jerusalem and the Jews in view at the time when the great Tribulation through which they are yet to pass for the rejection of their Messiah is drawing to its close. The heart of that ancient city is to hear the comforting news that her great iniquity is pardoned, and that God, even her God, who had never forgotten her during all the years that the Gentiles had trodden her underfoot, is about to deliver her from their power and right every wrong and make every crooked thing straight.

The Christian church is not Israel, and we shall not pass through “the great Tribulation” which is “Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7). We shall be in the glory with Christ when that hour comes upon them that dwell on the earth, yet we shall not escape tribulation. “In the world ye shall have tribulation” were among the last words of the Lord to His disciples before He suffered for us but they were not to be cast down because of that, for He added, “But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Thus He comforted them and is.

All true comfort flows from the true knowledge of God. He has revealed Himself to us in Christ in the New Testament in the fulness of His love. This was not possible in the days of the prophets, yet the fuller revelation does not cancel what went before what He was then abides, He is the same, and “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).

The first view we have of God in our chapter is as the pardoning God—“her iniquity is pardoned” (v. 2), and in the knowledge of God in this character lies the basis of all comfort, apart from this sinful men would have neither hope not comfort in time or eternity; but “David describes the blessedness of the man … whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sin is covered” (Rom. 4:6-7). This blessedness is ours who have believed. Our God is greater than our sins; and when sin abounded His grace has much more abounded. He is a just God and yet a Saviour. Eternal praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ “in Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).

Our sins being pardoned we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ—yes, peace with God! In a world of strife, peace though beset on every hand with war and rumours of war! And not only peace in the present but the future is also bound up with this priceless boon, we are forgiven that we might have inheritance among them that are sanctified (Acts 26:18). And in this we have God’s giving, which is exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think.

This first of all our blessings binds us to God with an eternal gratitude but it also gives us a deep interest in His interests and in the inheritance that is ours. We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ and we cannot be indifferent to the condition in which the inheritance is. This world is part of it and it seems to be hopelessly wrecked by sin, and Satan seems to be in full possession though it belongs to the Lord. The counsels of evil men seem to prevail they carry out their infamous plans without regard to God or man; violence, oppression and treachery wax bolder and appear to be triumphant, and the children of God, who are the heirs of the inheritance, are the first to suffer. The whole creation groans, and we ourselves groan within ourselves as we view the scene. Moreover for nearly two thousand years the cry has been going up to God “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and has received no answer as yet. Is there comfort and hope for God’s people in view of all this? Is there any rest for troubled and anxious hearts?

Yes, verily, there is; our chapter tells is that “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (v. 5). Then the crooked place shall be made straight, and the rough places plain, the high mountains of man’s pride shall be brought low, and those who have been lowly valleys shall be exalted. But how do we know this and what guarantee have we that it shall come to pass? “The mouth of the Lord has spoken it.” We rest in the immutable word of God. Herein is our comfort and hope. “The word of the Lord shall stand for ever.” Not one jot or tittle of His word shall fail. God will be faithful to His spoken word and we who believe wait with patience for its fulfilment. “Comfort ye, comfort ye, My people, says your God.” How shall we do that? By turning them afresh to the word of God in its absolute reliability.

But who will bring to pass the will of God on earth? That is the question involved in the cry “All flesh is grass, and all the godliness thereof as the flower of the grass” (v. 6). Men cannot do it; the best of men will fail. There have been great men in the past in whom the people trusted; they were but the flower of the summer cornfield, their influence was short-lived; they came and went and left the world no better than they found it. The great men of our day are no better than their forerunners, they may talk of building a better world when this war has been won by the democracies. It is vain talk. “The grass withers, the flower fades,” (v. 8), There is no permanence in the achievements of men, because God is left out of their schemes. They will not surrender the kingdoms of the world to God and His Christ. The man who proposed to do it would be in a hopeless minority, so the Spirit of the Lord blows upon their endeavours, “Surely the people is grass”.

To whom then shall we look? The answer is given in verse 9. There shall be good tidings for Jerusalem in the day of her great trouble, and there is comfort for us in these sad days. It lies in the cry, “Behold your God,” (v. 9). Turn away from all flesh, which is grass, abandon all confidence in men who fade like the flower of the field and look to God. “Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him: behold His reward is with Him, and His work before Him” (v. 10). Every evil power shall be swept from His path in the day of His vengeance against wicked men. “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

“Behold your God.” He is the mighty God, the Creator, supreme over all, He “has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out the heavens with a pan, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance.” “Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance.” “All nations, [totalitarian and democratic alike] before Him are as nothing; and they are counted to Him as less than nothing, and vanity.” How great He is. He never wearies or faints. But herein lies our comfort, His heart is as tender toward His own people as His arm is strong in creation. Behold your God, ye fearful saints, and take fresh courage. “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arms, and carry them in His bosom” (v. 11). His arm upholds creation, but His bosom is the resting place for His lambs.

And now we have no difficulty in identifying our God. It is Jesus. “All things were made by Him,” (John 1:3), and He “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:2), and He is the good Shepherd that gave His life for the sheep. His love is as great as His power and He has said, “I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand” (John 10). The hand that upholds creation and smashed the power of death holds His sheep in everlasting security. How safe are all those who are gathered with His arm, and what comfort there is for them in His bosom!

Let not one of those whom God calls “My people” say “My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God” (v. 27). The everlasting God does not change, He cares for all His own and faints not. Even the very hairs of their heads. Even the very hairs of their heads are all numbered by Him. No detail of their lives is too small for His notice. He bears with their waywardness and frailty and wearies not. If you feel your weakness and are brought to your wits’ end it is that you might prove what His power is. “He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increases strength.” Every resource that man has apart from God will fail. “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall.” “But they that wait on their Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint”. They shall rise on the strong wings of faith above the gloom of this world with its false hopes and sure disappointments and glory in the love of God which has given them a hope of which they shall never be ashamed (Rom. 5:5), they shall run the errands of the Lord, carrying messages of comfort to tried and troubled hearts, and not be weary (1 Thess. 1:8), and they shall walk worthy of God who has called them unto His Kingdom and glory, and not faint (1 Thess. 2:12).

“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord” (Ps. 27:14).

J. T. Mawson