Sunday, October 16, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 110

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 110

We concluded Chapter 39 with the fearsome prophecy of Babylon someday coming to loot the nation and take its people captive. King Hezekiah was informed that even the royal family will be dragged into exile in a foreign land and Jerusalem will be destroyed. But as is Isaiah's habit, he follows bad news with good.

The Lord says to him, "Comfort, comfort My people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins." (Isaiah 40:1-2) Many scholars consider the book of Isaiah to be divided into three sections, with the first being prophetic, the second being historic, and the third being messianic. We are now entering the messianic portion. When Isaiah says Jerusalem's hard service is completed, he is speaking of a day in the distant future. Jerusalem has been attacked, besieged, and even razed to the ground probably more times than any city on earth and in Isaiah's day most of this destruction was still to come. He's not saying that Jerusalem has already suffered all she is going to suffer. Even after her return from exile in Babylon, her hard service is not completed. Many nations over the centuries will attack and overthrow Jerusalem. Even in our times the city is divided and the area of the Temple Mount hotly contested until the "times of the Gentiles are fulfilled". (Luke 21:24) 

The hard service of Jerusalem is not what is going to save her, for no man or woman is saved by works or even by his or her own suffering. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith---and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8) God is going to provide the sacrifice for His people's sins, a sacrifice so pure that it is able to satisfy His requirements for holiness. Bible scholar J. Alec Motyer, whose works on Isaiah are highly respected, says, "Here is the element of justice that lies behind the word of comfort. How can the God of judgment become the God of pardon? Not just by saying so---for that would be to treat His holiness as negotiable and sin as negligible. The verb 'paid for' (raza, 'to be favorable') is used of the Lord's 'pleasure' and particularly of the acceptance the Lord accords to atoning sacrifices. It stresses, therefore, not so much that the sacrifice offered is sufficient to cover the sin committed (though that has to be true also) but that it satisfies the requirements of a holy God." 

In other words, it is the Lord's pleasure to offer us a means of redemption. He desires to show us favor. In our sins He can't show us this favor but if He can somehow provide a means of atonement, then God is able to love and bless us in the way He has always wanted. In order to satisfy His holiness, and in order to make us acceptable in His sight, there had to be a sacrifice capable of making us perfect forever. (Hebrews 10:14) The Lord had to offer a solution that solves the following two problems: 1. We are sinners and the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23), and 2. Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22) The only solution in heaven or on earth or under the earth or in all the universe was this: "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!...Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one Man the many will be made righteous." (Romans 5:12,15b,18-19)

The first man, Adam, sinned and fell from grace. Every man and woman since the creation of the world has sinned except for one: the Son of God, the spotless Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. In Adam we all became sinners. But in Christ we can all become righteous. 

During the remaining years of King Hezekiah's reign, during the reigns of the final seven kings of Judah, and during the seventy years of captivity in Babylon, the people of Jerusalem must have studied Isaiah's scroll and marveled that he could proclaim a day of comfort for them. They must have wondered how their revival and redemption would come about. What can wash away their sins? Who is going to pay for them? In our third and final section of the book of Isaiah, the messianic portion, we will read of the Suffering Servant. We will see Isaiah accurately describe the details of the crucifixion seven centuries before it takes place. We will also learn that the Suffering Servant is the Righteous Servant, the Man whose sacrifice will "justify many" because He will "bear their iniquities" and "make intercession for the transgressors". What better comfort is there than this? What more can God say to us? What more can He do for us? Jesus Christ the Messiah, the holy Son of God, the perfect Lamb, paid it all. He took the stripes that heal us. He was pierced for our transgressions. He tasted death and punishment in our place, literally becoming sin in the sight of God, so that the wrath of God could be satisfied. The wrath of God that we deserved fell on Him instead so that someday we can stand in our Creator's presence and be told, "Be comforted, My child. Your sin has been paid for." 

If you don't know the Lord Jesus, and if you don't have the comfort of knowing you have been made righteous in the eyes of God through Christ the Lord, there is no better day than today to have this wonderful assurance. It is God's good pleasure to be able to show you this favor through His Son. He desires to be gracious to you. You can confess your faults and failures to Him, admitting you need a Savior, and you can become a child of the living God. Today is the day of salvation. "For He says, 'In the time of My favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.' I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2) 

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