“Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God. 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.”
My text places us in the midst of the Babylonian captivity.
Isaiah is the prophet of the Lord, and, as such, he stands in a shaft of light which enables him to see the future. At t the time of his writing there was some form of prosperity, rather than affliction for the people of God. When these words would be read in their full application, the people of God would be in Babylon, and consequently in the midst of suffering.
Yes, there was prosperity at the time of the writing of my text, but it was only outward prosperity. Spiritually it was dark. The people of God are described by him in chapter one. They are in a sorry plight: “A sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupter: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.” And as far as their subjective condition is concerned: “From the sole of their foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.”
That was the state and condition of Israel, the church of the living God.
And all they could expect was that they would be turned upside down’ and destroyed as Sodom, and burned with pitch and sulphur as Gomorrah.
There is a small remnant in Israel.
Oh that remnant!
There is a heart in the nation of God. And that heart is the work of Jehovah!
It is the shaft of light from heaven which ever shines in the very midst of Jerusalem, of Zion, of Israel-Jacob, of the Church of God.
But in spite of that remnant, rather, because of that remnant, they would be visited by Jehovah: they would be cast out of the Holy Land, and brought with great cruelty to Babylon in order to become a slave people for seventy long yearn.
And Isaiah beholds the Church in captivity, many years hence.
And he has comfortable words for that Church, for the Heart of Jerusalem.
These words of comfort comprise the chapters 40 to 66.
And my text is the very introduction of these words of comfort.
Isaiah is bidden to comfort that Heart; he is told to tell others to cry unto that Heart, for he would be long dead.
Neither is that all.
In every age and in every clime, these words of comfort are heard, and others are continually instructed to cry unto the Heart of Jerusalem, telling it to dry their tears, for God has remembered His people.
I was asked once: What really is the mandate of the ministry? Tell me, in a few words, what we have to tell the Church of the living God!
My answer was this text.
And now, after so many years, I would give the same answer: It is our mandate to ever tell the church to be comforted; to cry unto her that all her warfare is accomplished, that all her sins are pardoned, on the basis that she hath received double of the Lord’s hand for all her sins.
Comfort ye, comfort ye!
What is comfort?
To tell a man, a great number of men of God, the church of God, that their present evil and suffering is offset by a great good?
Shall we, then, tell them that the good salvation of God conquers all their evil?
What then? This is comfort: the evil which we suffer now is necessary to bring about the good. That is comfort.
I bless God that we have the text in II Corinthians 4:17: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!”
And so it is the whole of Scripture.
Attend to this: Blessed are those that hunger! Blessed are those that weep! Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord! Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake! Bless are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake!
And so it was in the case of Isaiah’s Israel.
Yes, they had to suffer; they had to be driven from the Holy land; the Temple of God and the Holy City had to be destroyed; they had to become a slave people for 70 years; they had to hang their harps on the willows in the midst thereof!
But is was all to the good of that remnant!
Here is what Jehovah would do through all this suffering: “And I will turn My hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all they tin!”
All the chastisement which the Church of God endures is unto sanctification.
It’s all to the good.
Why is this?
How is it that this thrice blessed remnant are in such a happy estate that their very affliction works unto their everlasting glory?
The answer is in the text.
They are My people!
And He that speaks this comforting message is “thy God!”
Oh yes, God has a peculiar people in this wicked world. In fact, they and they alone comprise the true world.
All the rest is dross and tin, which will be ultimately purged, separated from the remnant.
Those two phrases, “My people,” and “thy God” tell a wondrous story.
It tells of eternal love and loving-kindness.
God has chosen this remnant from all eternity. And He has looked at them from everlasting. All they are graven in the palms of His hand.
And all this remnant He has given from all eternity to His Son Jesus Christ.
And it has been His eternal purpose to glorify this remnant through Jesus Christ unto such beauty as this sorry world has never seen. They shall be as the Bride of God’s Son, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.
It has been His eternal purpose to lead that remnant through pain and trouble throughout all the weary years of history. But the end would be glory, a glory as of the First-begotten of the Father.
This remnant would be organically united with a reprobated shell of flesh, world and devils, but instead of destroying the remnant through this horrible contact, it would make them ripe for heaven’s bliss.
Afterwards, Zion would ever say: it is good for me to have been afflicted.
The deeper the misery, the higher the glory.
Be still, my heart!
I read of warfare, iniquity, and sins.
That is our portion here below, all through the weary years.
We have warfare all our days.
As soon as the shaft of God’s light strikes your heart, the warfare begins. Then it seems as though everything is against you. When the flesh, the world and the devil smell that light in you, they set themselves against you, and begin to fight you all the day long. Did you ever read Psalm 44:22, quoted by Paul in Romans and II Corinthians? Here it is: “Yea, for Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
It is all for God’s sake, or, as Paul has it in II Cor.: “We are given over unto death for Jesus’ sake,” which is the same thing.
The church always bears within itself the dying of the Lord Jesus.
The Psalms speak the same language elsewhere. Attend to Psalm 126:6: “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed (and that is Jesus), shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”
If ye were of the world the world would love its own. That’s what Jesus said. But now you are of Christ. Well, they hated Me, said Jesus, and so they will hate you.
There you have the story of the suffering of the remnant according to God’s election.But speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem. That is the way you should read the text. I will never know why our English fathers translated Isaiah 40:1, 2 the way they did. It plainly reads in Hebrew: Speak to the heart of Jerusalem.
And all the others, all the prophets, evangelists, apostles, and ministers of the Word of God must unceasingly comfort the Heart of the Church of God.
And they must tell that remnant that she has received of the hand of the Lord double for all her sins.
Furthermore, does Israel-Jacob, Jerusalem, Zion, the Church of all the ages pay for her sins, pay double for her sins, in order to go into the glorious new world?
How must that be explained? Is it then after all because of our satisfaction to God’s outraged righteousness that we are redeemed?
But here is the answer.
There is in the very heart of the Church, a Man, the only real Man, who is the Redeemer, and yes, He pays and pays and pays.
In the midst of Israel is Jehovah-Salvation, and that is Jesus.
And He is called to account for all the sins which the remnant have committed.
And He paid double for her sins.
What means that double payment? Is not God Just?
How can He ask for double payment?
Here is the answer: The form of payment which Jesus paid is double. He suffered both the wrath of God, and also the wrath of the devilish world around about Him.
And in a sense that is also true of the Church of God.
Oh we know that God has loved us from all eternity, and that we do not pay in the sense that Jesus paid, sustaining the wrath of God.
But listen to this. “For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid My face from thee a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer!” Isaiah 54:7, 8.
Be still, my heart!