The Lord’s Tender Comfort
We are in a series on the book of Isaiah and today are looking at chapters 39 and 40. These chapters are distinct sections of the book of Isaiah. The first 39 chapters of Isaiah focus on the problem of threats, particularly threats from nations like Assyria and God using them to bring judgement on his people because they were not following him. Chapters 1-39 focus on rebellion and threats. Chapters 40+ focus on God’s promise of future peace.
These sections are so different that some commentators have said Isaiah could not have written these and they must have come from different authors. Well, sometimes sequels are different from the original, and certainly as God dealt with his people in different situations then it can be expected that there are different instructions, emphasis, even different expressions of himself. So don’t get tripped up over that. But what I want to do today is look at how the first section closes and the next opens in a way most of us might not expect. We are going to look at that transition.
We saw last week that the Israelite people were miraculously delivered from the threat of the invading Assyrian King Sennacherib and his commander the Rabshakeh. God miraculously delivered the people and destroyed the Assyrian general Senacherub in 701 BC.
These invasions and deliverances from Assyria were meant to teach the people to turn to God with all their hearts. But as is so often the case the people did not change. Despite seeing the miracles, the nation will continue on and continue in its rebellion and half-hearted service to God. It will continue for another 90 years and eventually fall to the nation of Babylon in 586.
Chapter 39 ends with an ominous message. King Hezekiah who has been told to trust God him and not to trust other nations, and has seen God deliver him miraculously, is back to the same old things, but with a different nation- Babylon. Sometimes the things you buy own you, and that’s the problem here.
At that time Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered. 2 And Hezekiah welcomed them gladly. And he showed them his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them. 3 Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say? And from where did they come to you?” Hezekiah said, “They have come to me from a far country, from Babylon.” 4 He said, “What have they seen in your house?” Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house. There is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.” 5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: 6 Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. 7 And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” 8 Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my days.” (Isaiah 39:1-8 ESV)
- Compromise for Security.
He shows them everything in his house. The Longing for Security. Bad Attempt for Security.
When people come with a birthday present, you don’t usually show them your safe, bank account, pantry and what you have in your bank account. Hezekiah does this. shows off all his gold, silver, everything of importance. The only reason you do that is if you are trying to buy something of great value. You buy a house, they look at your bank accounts, income, and your last two pay stubs. Well, Hezekiah is trying to secure something here.
During the reign of Senacherub, Hezekiah stripped the temple of gold to pay Tribute to Assyria so they would not attack. Showing the leaders of Babylon all his gold, silver, spices, storehouses is a way to make sure they know he can pay them. Paying tribute (taxes) was a way to form treaties. It was what a king of God’s people would do when he is not trusting God. God said trust me and follow me and everything will be ok. Hezekiah is looking for the easy way, to buy a friendship, an alliance with Babylon. Old habits die hard!
Also, note that he left Isaiah, his foremost advisor, out of the meeting. Isaiah, God’s prophet, the one who God used to deliver a message in the time of national crises. He does not know who these people are, where they are from, or what they have seen. Hezekiah goes to Isaiah in time of need but pushes him aside in time of sin. When you push aside people who know the Lord, then it is probably a sign you are doing something wrong and or something bad is going to happen. The worst decisions are the ones that you don’t involve the people you trust the most.
He believes it is good that all his stuff and even his sons will be taken to Babylon.
We are not clear on the motives and thinking of Hezekiah, but he is thinking shortsightedly and selfishly. Two things that will ruin you. He is told everything he has will be taken to Babylon. He is also told that some of his future descendants will be eunuchs in the king’s service. Babylon will rule and control. It’s not good. But Hezekiah says it is good, there will be peace in “his lifetime.” Emphasis on his not theirs!
- This act will lead to the fall of the entire nation.
The nation of Israel will fall to Babylon in the year 586 and everything of value in Jerusalem will be taken to Babylon. Even the people. They will destroy Jerusalem, tear down the temple, put out the eyes of Hezekiah’s great grandson and deport him to Babylon. This passage is filled with devastating irony. God’s people continued turning from him and suffered for it.
This ends the first book of Isaiah. Pregnant with suspense, and doom. This is the act that sets Israel on a course for doom and destruction. They will not change from it. Hezekiah makes a huge mistake. The people make a huge mistake.
- So how do you expect the next chapter to begin?
What would your next words be to Hezekiah. What would God’s next encounter with his people be like? What do you expect to hear from God?
- Give them a lesson they never forget.
- Set them straight.
- Fire and brimstone.
- Get your act together.
- Give them a piece of your mind.
- Guilt trip: how could you do that? How could you be so dumb???
- Passive aggressive: There is nothing left to talk about. I don’t want to see you until you get this thing fixed.
What would you say to someone who has blown it and suffered for it?
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her hard service is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.
3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:1-5)
Comfort, comfort. There, there.
But so often when people are in a place of seeming like it is game over, God provides a way for continuation. And he does that here. His grace is amazing. And if not for his grace we would have been in game over. God is doing a new work, bringing his people back, restoring them, and it starts with the spoken words of “comfort.”
Comfort, comfort. These are the first words. To console, to ease one’s burdens, to reassure, to bring cheer. This is in a section of Isaiah known as the book of consolation. God comforting his people. God’s compassion grows warm for his people.
-A mother might comfort her child (Isa 66:13).
-comfort a friend mourning the loss of a loved one.
-God who comforts his people
Those in distress need help. Those hurting need consolation. Those who are down need to be brought up. God sees his people and helps them. Puts his arm around them.
Comfort is an emotional response. It is not “here is the plan and go do this”. Comfort is coming up and putting your arm around someone in distress.
God is compassionate. He puts his arms around his people and offers hope. God does that with his people. He does that with you. Do you know him in that way?
We have seen God’s transcendent power. He is greater than anything and everything else. He is holy, holy, holy. He is a great king who will punish when people do wrong things. But he is also our loving heavenly father who comforts us in our misery. When people are stiff necked and hard-hearted God opposes. But when you are in misery because of what you have done he consoles. He draws near. As severe as his judgment, his compassion is even greater.
First year of marriage.
I remember playing my first year of little league baseball. The season was over, and they were having an event to pick the all-star team. My friends were going so I decided to go. Once we were there, I remember both my friends’ names being called out to play on the team. I was excited for them and didn’t really think I would be on it since it was my first year. But then I got sad. I was there by myself and got up. And suddenly felt a big arm around me. It was my coach. He came over and put his arm around me and said I only got two people, if I had one more you would be there. I have not had many dudes come up to me, put their arm around me, so I will never forget that.
“Let’s not dishonor God by so emphasizing his transcendence that we lose a sense of the emotional life of God of which our own emotions are an echo, even if a fallen and distorted echo. God is not the platonic idea, immovably austere and beyond the reach of meaningful human engagement.
God is a lion to the unrepentant but a lamb to the penitent.
This is not an isolated passage. It is a theme throughout Scripture.
[Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort], (2Co 1:3 ESV)
In the new heaven and new earth he will wipe away every tear from his people. That is intimacy. Awareness. Love. Closeness.
God knows the needs, hurts, and misery of his people.
I think people know the sternness of God. But they don’t know the compassion of God. Churches are often good at rebuking people. Much harder to sit with someone who is suffering. God sits with his people. He comforts them. By his spirit.
Casting all your care upon Him, because He cares about you. (1Pe 5:7 CSB)
To receive compassion you have to admit hurt. For proud people that is hard to do. We suppress our emotion. We lie and say it’s not that bad. I can get through it.
Life hurts. We enter into situations naive and like a young child full of optimism, but we get hurt, cut, knocked down, lied to, teased, rejected. We get wounded. Our own mistakes, fallen world and it’s hard. Not if but when. We seek to hide our hurts. We reject admitting, or numb and hide what is going on. End up as adults who don’t know how to speak about these, so we hide feelings, stay superficial, and cease to live fully and authentically. We have not had others there to help us and certainly don’t expect God to have compassion on us.
Suppressing emotions is like putting a kink in a hose. It may keep the water from coming out in one place, but the pressure is going to build in another, and at some point, the water is going to come out – either the way it was supposed to or some other way.
People decide they will be successful so they never have to depend on another. Checkout of relationships so you don’t have to acknowledge hurt.
Sadness is that first step toward healing from loss. it speaks to our need to grieve. Through grief we find comfort.
Everyone hurts. Not everyone finds healing. Which are you going to be?? Spend the rest of your life being hurt and being healed. It is ok to hurt. I have started saying this at every funeral I do. Not just it’s OK to cry. But you need to be strong enough to cry.
.Denial: didn’t hurt. Not that bad. Mere flesh wound. Self-pity is an attempt to make others feel sadness for us. I’m sad but unwilling to let myself feel sad, P72. –Resignation is hopelessness, attempt to escape and refuse to feel emotional and spiritual pain. No grief because nobody cares about us. A life of apathy. Sublimation: take hardship, adversity and hurt and focus on success in career to show they didn’t get us. Stay superficial and never show hurts, never go below the surface and won’t talk about it.
Never receive comfort from God or others.
Humility leads to acknowledging hurt which leads to comfort from God. Child comes to you hurt.
Pride leads to denial, which leads to isolation.
Many only know God as a lawgiver, they don’t expect compassion, so they hide. The wound festers inside.
His compassion heals us. His compassion restores. We certainly get more action telling people get it together or the wrath of God awaits you. That is true. But Jesus didn’t come just to threaten us. He came to heal us. Compassion heals us and makes us compassionate.
Want to see the compassion of our God. He sent his son into the world to be a friend of sinners. He loved them, ate with them, cried with them, suffered with them. He is not indifferent.
Application: God is our example in life. Yes, at times we need to rebuke people. Stand firm on God’s law. But there are times our spouse, our kids, our friends need comfort, consolation, tenderness, interest and attention, a hug. Do you know the Father of compassion?? If not, I bet you are unable to connect with people. You hide your hurts and push people out of your way. Busy yourself with more stuff rather than look yourself in the mirror.
Speak Tenderly. One person says it is not just expressing comfort and kindness but is seeking to persuade, inviting to respond to love. Literally, “Speak to her heart.” Like a couple on a date night speaking tenderly, lovingly, sharing and receiving with deep care.
Punishment for sin.
Mercy for misery.
her hard service has been completed, (Isa 40:2 NIV)
There are times of hard service. Times God puts us in a place maybe we don’t like.
Received from the Lord’s hands double for all her sins. Unsure what exactly this means. Could press it very literally. May mean something like enough is enough. Discipline kids. It’s hard but you know it is good for them. God has done that for his people. Once they were not his people. Now they are. Lamentations after fall of Jerusalem. At the time there was no comfort. But now, in the right time, God comforts his people.
- “My people.”
God calls them “my people.” They are his. It’s not like the teenager at school that doesn’t talk to their mom when she shows up to school with the backpack – they hide. God calls them my people.
-New born baby. That’s my son.
-Your school wins the tournament. Thats my team. Not embarrassed.
-Thats my wife. She belongs to me. I love her and love saying she is mine. How does God treat you when you mess up? Out of here. He calls these people my people. Not those people. Mine.
Who are these people around you? They are God’s people. Are they your people? Will the church own its people? The ones who are messed up, shortsighted, waiver in trust, and might hurt you. Like family- that’s my brother, don’t mess with him.
56 percent of Christians tell Barna that their spiritual life is entirely private. No connection to others. How can you know God, know his compassion, and be so hard hearted to not share it with others. To not even be close enough with others to know when they need a hug, to know they are hurting. People want to experience God’s compassion. But often you experience it in giving it to others. To really know something is to share it. To advocate for it. Because of you, do people know there is a community of believers bearing the name of Jesus who care about them. Do they know they can be included in this people. Called God’s people, my people.
This is the remnant community.
This is the church. It is the people of God’s word, and his word should be shaping them. We should be in a community that we are hearing the word taught and are in process of being shaped by that. Too many people pull themselves out of that community. Church is just a Sunday activity and there is no relational connection beyond that. It is like a fish taking itself out of water.
Of all that is going on in the world his people are his central concern.
- Iniquity is Pardoned.
Sin is forgiven. All their mess ups are pardoned. When you are in an argument and mad at someone there is no forgiveness. But when you work through things, you understand them, they understand you, and you own your mistakes. I m sorry for … will you forgive me. Wrongs are pardoned. Peace comes.
All their mess ups. What Hezekiah did. What you did. There is pardon. Healing happens then. Jesus has made it possible to know forgiveness and to extend forgiveness to others. There is peace with God. If I have peace with God, I can have peace in any situation.
Jesus came to heal the sick. Spiritually sick. When you go to the doctor and he asks, where does it hurt? It’s up to you to take ownership and tell him what is going on. If you say it’s no big deal, he will never be able to help you. In the same way if you don’t take ownership of your spiritual and emotional hurts and say where it hurts, you will not experience healing.
We’ve been in a hard season. There are huge divisions in our country. Look at the different sides. What do people on each side have in common. They have been hurt. People you are mad at, might be reacting to what others have done. They need healing. They need compassion. It is in Jesus. He can restore you. Make you feel again.
- Where have you been hurt? What have you lost?
- What has kept you away from the Lord, from others?
- What do you need to lay at the altar?
I want to give you a chance to respond. Come forward and pray. Come forward and lay down what you have. Share it with someone. Receive prayer.
- What did Hezkiah do that was wrong? What should he have done?
- How does chapter 40 begin? Is this what you would expect after chapter 39 ended the way it did? What does that tell you about when you mess up?
- Have you ever had a hard time and someone came and comforted you? What does it mean to be comforted by God?