Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the LORD’S hand
double for all her sins.
In this passage, we read of God’s directive to his prophet and by extension to his ministers to comfort his people for he knows that they very much need it. And in the matter of giving comfort, as in everything else which God bestows for our good, our God is not stingy but very generous. Thus, in this passage we learn that there is in our God an abundance of comfort, which consists of rest and pardon.
Isaiah here is prophesying to God’s people (Israel or Judah) who will someday be exiled to Babylon as punishment for their sins. Although God will discipline them, still he intends to bring them back to their homeland. Hence, the Lord instructs his messengers to comfort his people. There are spiritual truths here however that extend far beyond the particular case of the Babylonian exiles.
Why does God give this directive that his people be comforted? Because such is his nature. As our loving, merciful, and compassionate God and Father, he yearns to comfort his people. He is, after all, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction. Whatever comfort we receive in our times of trouble, whether it be the kind words of a friend, the companionship of a loved one, the prayers of the church, or the generous support or financial help of people who care, these all have their source and origin in God (2 Cor. 1:3-4)
THE MANNER OF GOD’S COMFORT
Verse 2 says, Speak TENDERLY to Jerusalem. The resources I consulted say that in the original Hebrew this verse reads “Speak to the heart of Jerusalem.” Here Jerusalem is personified as a woman. That suggests to me the picture of a loving husband consoling his grieving wife. And here we learn that the manner of God’s comfort to his people is one of extreme tenderness, such as that given by a man for a woman he loves. It is not for nothing that verse 1 repeats the word “Comfort” twice. God’s comfort is not merely a fact, a thought, or an idea, but a deep spiritual and even emotional reality. This is God’s heart reaching out to touch your heart, to let you know that he feels your pain, that is not unaware of your grief, that believe it or not, he weeps with you, that if your heart is broken, so is his! And that is why he will move heaven and earth to comfort you.
When Jesus wept over the grave of Lazarus, he was filled not merely with sorrow but with anger and fierce determination. This is someone I love. I will not lose him. I will lose no one of those whom the Father has given me. Lazarus arise! And death had no choice but to give him up. And thus Mary and Martha were comforted in the most powerful and wonderful way possible. And brethren, that was just the beginning. The best is yet to come.
But not only is the comfort that God gives characterized by tenderness, it is also characterized by unmistakeable emphasis. Verse 2 says, “Cry to her that her warfare is ended!” Cry. Shout it out! Let there be no mistake, comfort is coming, comfort so great and wondrous, and overwhelming, that none of your pain will survive! All tears, all afflictions, all suffering, will be swallowed up the victorious love of God when the Bridegroom returns for his bride! Do not merely comfort my beloved! Cry out to her! Make it clear to her in the strongest manner possible. Your warfare – the sufferings of this present time – will soon end. They are not worth comparing to the consolation, the comfort, the glory which will be revealed in and to us when the Bridegroom returns to claim his bride.
THE BASIS OF GOD’S COMFORT
What is the basis of this comfort? The fact that we are his people and he is our God. We are his people, his bride, his wife, his body. We are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. He cannot leave us or forsake us. No part of the body can be hurt without the head feeling the pain. Eph. 5:28-30 teaches that a husband who loves his wife loves himself. “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” And that explains why God in Christ is so tender towards us and committed to us. That is why he pours out on us this abundance of comfort. And even if he allows us to go through grief and trouble, it is not because he loves us not, but because he does! He knows that our momentary affliction is producing in us an incomparable weight of glory. The sufferings we undergo at present are merely the temporary and necessary purification process that will result in us shining gloriously, blameless and faultless for all eternity, when our wedding day arrives.
Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people. There is comfort for God’s people. But how about you? Are you someone to whom this comfort belongs? Are you one of his people, one of his sheep? Do you know that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for the sins of sinners like you and me, so that we, if we trust in him, might not only have comfort, but pardon, peace, joy, and everlasting life? Do you know that it is only those who have received by faith the forgiveness that Christ offers in and through cross have the right to be called the people of God. Eph. 1:7 says, “In him we redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Then Hebrews 8:12 says, “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” And the same chapter, this time verse 10, says, “And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”
The people of God are those who have received forgiveness of sins through faith in the Savior who died on the cross and shed his blood for them. It is they whom the Lord had in mind when he said, “Comfort ye, comfort ye, MY PEOPLE.”
THE ELEMENTS OF GOD’S COMFORT
The life of man on earth is a warfare (Job 7:1 DRB). We have physical struggles (against poverty, people, sickness) as well as spiritual (against depression, against sin and lust and temptation, against evil spirits). In this tent we groan. Like Paul, we cry, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
In Christ, however our warfare is already ended. In him there is rest. He has already overcome the world, even though we will still have tribulation in it. He has already removed death’s sting, even though, unless we are still alive when Christ returns, we still have to go through it.
Ironically, death in Christ brings release from this warfare called life. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, where we shall no longer groan or grieve.
“If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my warfare would I wait, till my release should come. “(Job 14:14 ERB)
This then is part of God’s comfort to his children, that Christ has already won the war against sin and death, and in due time we will enter into the rest that he has procured for us. In fact, by faith we can even now enter into his rest, although the full enjoyment of that rest will have to wait for the consummation of all things.
“Come to me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!” (Matthew 11:28)
Of all troubles, guilt might be the worse because it troubles our conscience and fills it with fear and doubt and regret. But here is God’s comfort for us, that in Christ everything is forgiven and forgotten. The blood of Christ cleanses us from ALL sin, including the most heinous (Isa. 1:18). And yes, everything is forgotten as far as the east is from the west. “Thy sins and iniquities I will remember no more.”
What is the basis of this forgiveness? Jesus Christ bore our penalty and has fully satisfied the justice of God. He in our behalf received double for our sins, which is a way of saying that Jesus Christ paid it all. He paid an infinite price for our sins, a price so precious, our debts, immense though they may be, are no match for it! Eternal life paid for Eternal Death and cancelled all our debts on the cross.
In the midst of grief over death, those who are in Christ find abundant comfort, abundant rest, and abundant pardon. That is why to the amazement of non-believers we are able not only to be at peace but even to rejoice exceedingly, for the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glorious comfort and consolation which is ours in Christ Jesus.