God’s People Are Comforted…
“When belief in God becomes difficult, the tendency is to turn away from Him; but in heaven’s name to what?”
— G. K. Chesterton
What Does History Prove?
David Hume, the Scottish skeptic, defended his skepticism quite dramatically.
He wrote: “Were a stranger to drop suddenly into this world, I would show him a specimen of its ills—a hospital full of diseases, a prison crowded with malefactors and debtors, a field strewn with carcasses, a fleet floundering in the ocean, a nation languishing under tyranny, famine, or pestilence.
Honestly, I don’t see how you can possibly square [that] with an ultimate purpose of love”
(quoted by Zacharias, p. 63).
Israel stood on Hume’s side. Jerusalem was destroyed.
The majority of the Jewish population lived in exile in Babylon.
Yahweh, the God of Israel, appeared to have gone down to defeat by the Babylonian army and their gods.
What hope did Jews have?
Time to forget God and get on with life the best they could.
But God was not finished. He had a message for exiled Babylon, a message from the prophet of old.
This message featured a courtroom confrontation between Yahweh of Israel and the images of Babylon.
Who was the true God?
Yahweh set the agenda—show what you are doing in history and what is going to happen in history.
Or at least show that you control history because you created the universe.
Babylon’s gods remained silent. They had no power of speech, much less power to control history.
You can list with David Hume the problems you face and the insurmountable difficulties that blight your life.
You need a word from God to show that He is still your God and that He will lead you to a new life with new hope.
This lesson should help you learn to wait in hope for God the comforter.
Isaiah 40:31 explained:
Judgment was not God’s last word for His people.
Having laid out the reason for judgment and exile, He came to them with a word of comfort, calling them to prepare to leave exile in Babylon, march with Him on a highway through the wilderness back to Jerusalem.
To convince them to make the journey, He set up a court trial against the gods of Babylon and showed they were false, mere creations of human craftsmen, unable to predict anything about history or do anything in history.
The true God announced the coming of Cyrus to defeat Babylonia and send exiled Judah home.
The Comforter and Creator Comes to Court
The historical focus changes dramatically with chapter 40.
We begin to breathe the air of 545 B.C. Cyrus of Persia occupies center stage politically (41:2; 45:1,13; 48:14-15).
Israel was living in Babylon, not Jerusalem (42:24; 47:1).
The prophet’s declarations of disaster disappear.
Only hope from heaven appears.
The whole section is a call of comfort to the captives, joined with arguments trying to convince them to accept the comfort that God has offered.
The prophet had spent the first thirty-nine chapters of the book preparing for life in Babylonian exile.
Now he turned the corner to show the way of escape from such exile.
Unlike many of the oracles in chapters 1-39, these messages of hope and comfort do not give us clues about the time and place where the prophet delivered them.
However Israel’s Shepherd, the only God and Creator, cares for, comforts, and acts to save His people.
The Call to Comfort (40:1-11)
Military chain of command:
The divine Shepherd reveals His glory by fulfilling the promises of His eternal Word and comforting His people.
Isaiah’s call to condemn his people appears in chapter 6.
By contrast, chapter 40 is a call to comfort.
This call appears like a military order passed through the troops, occurring in four stages:
1. The command apparently began in the heavenly council (see ch. 6) with a call to its members to go to the aid of my people. As in chapter 6, so here, the prophet was present in the council.
2. The prophet reported to the people in verse 3, relaying the call to action from our God.
3. The prophet continued to report in verse 6, but then realized that the new command was no longer in the plural to the people but in the singular, addressing him personally. He reacted with a question, expressing his inability to fulfill the assignment, as occurred so frequently in the prophetic experiences (6:5). His complaint received a blunt answer (v. 8).
4. The prophet relayed the message to Jerusalem—that is, to the people of Judah now in exile in Babylon but claiming Jerusalem as their hometown.
Jerusalem was to become an army messenger bringing the news of victory back to the towns of Judah (v. 9).
(vv. 1-2) The prophetic task has now changed from the hardening of God’s people (ch. 6) to comforting them.
Such comfort was God’s reaction to the lamentations of His people, who had cried that they had no comforter (Lam. 2:13).
Human strength could provide no comfort.
The people were reminded that your God—not Babylon’s god, but Yahweh, the God of Israel—could provide comfort.
The content of such comfort became clear. Her “period of service” (NJB), hard service (NIV), “warfare” (NASB), “term of bondage” (REB) had ended.
The captivity in Babylon was interpreted as work that a prisoner of war had to do for his captor.
God announced unexpectedly that the prisoner had been pardoned.
Outwardly, Judah appeared to be a captive of Babylonia because she was the weaker party militarily.
Seen from a higher perspective, she was Yahweh’s prisoner because she had sinned against Him.
Yahweh was ready to release Judah.
Babylonia was not.
Yahweh proclaimed that Judah had taken double punishment from the hand of Yahweh.
This was in line with the Israelite law that required reimbursement plus payment for damages in certain crimes (Exod. 22:1,7,9).
As Israel first experienced salvation by escape into the wilderness, God planned a new wilderness experience.
To prepare for this, He called for a highway to be built.
This imitated Babylonian practices in which a highway was built for the great religious festivals so the images of the gods could be paraded before the people.
Yahweh’s highway was not to show off His beautiful artwork and clothing. It was to deliver His people in a moment of historical crisis.
Such a highway was to be level so God’s people would have no trouble crossing it as they followed their God to freedom.
This historical act would reveal the true glory of God to the entire world, because God would accomplish what Babylonia was not ready to do.
God would show His historical power over the majestic kingdom of Babylonia.
Such news seemed unbelievable to a people so far from home.
The prophet said it was certain to happen, because its Source was God Himself.
(vv. 6-9) Even with such assurance, Isaiah was taken by surprise.
He sounded the common complaint of his people.
Humanity had lost its meaning, being no more significant than grass, which springs up only to be mowed down.
The sense of the Hebrew of verse 6 is not conveyed by “beauty” (NLT, NJB) or “constancy” (NRSV) or glory (NIV) or “goodliness” (KJV), or “loveliness” (NKJV, NASB), but no other English word is better.
The original expression (Hb. chesed) is often used for the grace or steadfast love of God to human beings (e.g., Exod. 20:6) and of the devotion people should show to God and to one another (Hos. 2:19; 6:4).
In this text, the term apparently indicates all the grace and graces of humanity. It is that for which people may be trusted and relied upon.
God’s breath (which could also be translated “wind” or “spirit”) had destroyed all that humanity had to offer.
So the prophet complained, Why preach to people whose reactions are meaningless?
God answered! Comfort comes not from mankind but from God.
His word is reliable, and He promised comfort.
The prophet finally fulfilled his mission, calling upon Jerusalem to take up her high mountain watchpost and relay the news of victory.
Victory was won because Here is your God.
The coming of God is the content of comfort!
God is coming with power. No one can stand against His arm.
He comes not in vengeance (34:8) but with a reward for His people, probably reflecting the practice of bringing spoils of war and tribute back to the people.
Israel does not have to rely on their military trophies. God brings all they need.
But He comes to His people not as a military warrior but as a caring shepherd, often an image for a king.
He knows those with special needs and treats them as a new mother and her baby.
He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.
This is the comfort we need.
The holy, eternal Creator is the One, unique God who brings renewed strength to His people.
(vv. 12-17) The prophet took his audience to court and brought legal arguments to prove the incomparable nature of the God of Israel over against the claims of all other gods, especially those of Babylonia.
Only the Creator knows the earth’s measurements.
His Spirit, not the counselor of the Babylonian king, has all wisdom and knowledge.
In His measuring scales, the heavyweights among the nations weigh no more than the dust that collects on scales.
He deserves sacrifices and offerings beyond measure.
The famous forests and grazing hills of Lebanon could not provide enough firewood or enough sacrificial animals to give God what He deserves.
Isaiah declared that God is beyond compare.
The other gods are images, only creations of human hands; they did not create the universe.
Exactly how Isaiah described this is questionable, since the Hebrew text of 19b-20a is almost impossible to read.
The main concern of the builder of an idol is not whether it is a god who can deliver on promises but whether the image will topple.
The god does not have power even to stand on his own two feet.
News about God’s power is not new. It has been available since the earth was founded.
Earthly rulers and kings are grasshoppers when viewed from God’s heavenly throne.
They are weak plants which God’s whirlwind blows away.
Yes, He is beyond compare. He has no equal.
God is so powerful that He created the hosts of heaven and so intelligent that He knows each by name.
Isaiah describes God’s power to create, His provision to sustain, and His presence to help.
God is almighty and all-powerful; but even so, He cares generously for everything and everyone.
“No person or thing can be compared to God” (40:25).
We describe God as best we can with our limited knowledge and language, but we only limit our understanding of Him and His power when we compare Him to what we experience on earth.
This passage is similar to Job 38:1–41:34.
When we feel overwhelmed by life’s struggles, these bold statements about our Creator God can remind us that He is in control and that His loving rule will ultimately prevail.
He guides and sustains the universe and the circumstances of our daily lives.
We can rest in the knowledge of that truth and find peace.
Don’t limit God’s work in your life by underestimating Him.
(vv. 29-31) Even the strongest people get tired at times, but God’s power and strength never diminish.
He is never too tired or too busy to help and listen.
His strength is our source of strength.
When you feel life crushing you and you cannot go another step, remember that you can call upon God to renew your strength.
Part of trusting in the Lord is expecting that His promise of strength will help us to rise above life’s distractions and difficulties.
Do you believe God loves you and wants the best for you?
Can you relax, confident that His purposes are right?
Are you convinced that He has the power to control all of life—and your life as well?
Though your faith may be struggling or weak, hold on tightly to it, and you will begin to experience the strength you need.
From Max Lucado’s LifeLessons:
God promised to remain faithful to His people.
The Jews felt that God had ignored them, but God would rescue them from captivity.
Because He is perfect, all-powerful, and knows everything, God transcends nature.
Mysteriously, though, He still concerns Himself with our lives.
“To whom then will you liken God?” the prophet invites (Isaiah 40:18).
To whom indeed?
“Human hands can’t serve His needs—for He has no needs” (Acts 17:25 NLT).
You and I start our days needy.
Indeed, basic needs prompt us to climb out of bed.
Uncreated and self-sustaining, He depends on nothing and no one.
Never taken a nap or a breath.
Needs no food, counsel, or physician.
“The Father has life in Himself” (John 5:26).
Life is to God what wetness is to water and air is to wind.
He is not just alive but life itself.
God is, without help. Hence, He always is.
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (Psalm 90:2).
God never began and will never cease.
He exists endlessly, always.
“The number of His years is unsearchable” (Job 36:26 NASB).
Even so, let’s try to search them.
Let every speck of sand, from the Sahara to South Beach, represent a billion years of God’s existence.
With some super vacuum, suck and then blow all the particles into a mountain, and count how many you have.
Multiply your total by a billion and listen as God reminds:
“They don’t represent a fraction of my existence.”
(From 3:16 by Max Lucado)
Is anything in your life guaranteed? Is your career unshakable, your family immortal, your money eternal?
Do not base your comfort and enjoyment on what could be gone tomorrow.
Only God and His Word will last for ever—let these be the basis of everything in your life.
Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)
Friday, July 08
WHY ARE WE TOLD TO WAIT ON THE LORD?
Waiting can sometimes mean protection.
by Lauren McKeithen
Isaiah tells us,
“But those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary.”
— Isaiah 40:31
As humans, we spend a lot of time waiting. We wait for email responses, Amazon packages, our paychecks, and many other things.
We wait on these things, but what does it mean to wait on God? What are we waiting on Him for?
Psalm 27:13-14 says,
“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
We wait on the Lord to act, save, avenge, answer our prayers, provide our needs, renew our strength, show His glory, and do what God does.
Even the young and fit will experience fatigue, and their strength will end.
Everyone needs to rely on God and wait for His help.
Isaiah 40:31 talks about waiting on the God who sits on a throne about the earth, watching us, knows the weight of all the hills, islands, and mountains, and brings out the stars every night by calling their name.
Simply put, we wait on Him because He is God. He can achieve things we can’t. We have to wait on Him because we’re helpless without Him. Here are some reasons why we’re told to wait on the Lord.
God has a different concept of time.
Waiting is only possible within the time.
God, who created time, isn’t limited by it.
While waiting for Him to act, He’s already fixed our issue.
2 Peter 3:8-9 says,
“With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, He is patient with you.”
God is always patient with us and understands waiting. His concept of time doesn’t compare to ours, but His timing is perfect.
He uses waiting to show His glory.
In John 11, we learn about Lazarus, one of Jesus’ friends.
Lazarus fell very ill and his sisters, Martha and Mary, got word to Jesus.
You would think that Jesus would drop everything to help His friend, but He delayed His arrival intentionally.
Unfortunately, Lazarus died. When Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been in the grave for four days.
Jesus planned to raise Lazarus from the dead, uncovering His glory.
Jesus knew that Lazarus would be sick before he developed symptoms.
Psalm 139:16 reminds us that our lives were ordained and recorded by God before they came to be.
Our days are numbered, just like Lazarus’.
Jesus already had a plan before Martha and Mary sent for Him, a strategy that involved making them wait.
A God who knows the name of the stars isn’t surprised by our life’s circumstances.
He knows always known. Waiting is a component of His plan for us.
Waiting can be good for us.
We tend to think of waiting as a bad thing, but waiting can be good.
If God immediately sprang into action every time we called Him, that would mean we’re in control, not Him.
We’d be the head honcho, but we don’t have His wisdom.
Waiting makes us learn to trust Him and His timing.
How good are you at waiting on God?
While you’re in the waiting room, don’t waste your time. Ask God to transform you while you wait.
You should also ask Him to give you perseverance, character, and hope and strengthen you.
Bible verses about waiting on the Lord.
While waiting for the Lord to answer your prayer, it can be good to study specific verses.
These verses can comfort you in your times of waiting and reassure you that He will answer your prayer.
Here are some Bible verses about waiting on the Lord.
“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him.”
– Lamentations 3:25
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
– Matthew 6:33
“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”
– Micah 7:7
“Show me your ways Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”
– Psalm 24:4-5
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways when they carry out their wicked schemes.”
– Psalm 37:7
“I remain confident of this; I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
– Psalm 27:13-14
Confident and patient trust in the Lord is the main idea of the appeal to waiting on the Lord.
Psalm 27 is an example of a prayer to God for help.
It shows the true meaning of waiting on the Lord.
Throughout this prayer, David shows courage and faith in God based on his expectation that God will save him when he needs Him.
Sometimes, we feel like God doesn’t hear us, and He’s purposefully not answering prayers.
We have to put our trust and faith in God in these moments.
We must wait on Him with eager anticipation and understanding that He’s in control and always with us.
He will keep His word and save us.
When we don’t feel He’s around, He’s always working for our greater good.
We can learn to wait on the Lord through active trust and prayer.
Waiting is never easy, especially when you’ve been waiting for a long time.
We’re told to wait on the Lord because He knows what’s good for us.
Even when we don’t see Him, He’s always working in His children’s lives.
Perhaps God is making us wait because He’s preparing us for something bigger. For that, we should be grateful.
Come join the Adventure!