by Frank Luke
Theme: After times of great trial, the Lord brings blessing to His people
Sermon Introduction: Throughout the history of civilization, mankind has gone through ups and downs. Society will get better and better and then slip down. It will then begin a long climb upward, finally reaching its prior height and surpassing it. As expected, such progress takes great effort. It can be very easy to let go and slide down, but the blessings of God come after making it through the trials.
Scripture Introduction: Isaiah 40 marks a dramatic change in theme for the prophet. Where the first 39 chapters have focused on judgment, the final 27 have many prophecies of blessing. This is not a complete break. The first part also has prophecies of blessing and the second has warnings of dire judgment. But the emphasis is marked enough to notice.
1 “Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your God.
2 “Speak kindly to Jerusalem;
And call out to her, that her warfare has ended,
That her iniquity has been removed,
That she has received of the LORD’S hand
Double for all her sins.”
3 A voice is calling,
“Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness;
Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.
4 “Let every valley be lifted up,
And every mountain and hill be made low;
And let the rough ground become a plain,
And the rugged terrain a broad valley;
5 Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
And all flesh will see it together;
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
God commands comfort to His people after what they have been through. They have paid for their sins by taking the discipline God sent. They have even taken more as the punishment has paid double for their sins. This does not mean they have get get-out-of-jail-free card, but blessing is coming.
Jerusalem had a pattern of falling into sin and being punished for it. Idolatry was a very easy and obvious sin to fall into. Even in the time of Isaiah, the eight century BC, after all the trouble they had with evil kings bringing in idols and offering sacrifices on the high places to foreign gods, they went back again. Read through Kings and Chronicles to see the ups and downs of the people’s worship.
After a good king would institute reform, a bad king would come and take the kingdom back to idolatry. Even the best kings had trouble doing all they wanted. Some would eliminate Asherah poles but leave the high places intact. That foothold of idolatry let the sin come back later. One thing to be remembered with the Enemy of our souls is that given an inch, he will take a mile. Every last remnant of sin had to be eliminated.
An example of heeding the warning can be seen in 2 Chronicles 14 and 15 with King Asa, the third king of the southern kingdom. This good king was a godly man who reigned in victory for 41 years. At the beginning of his reign, he tried to eliminate all things pagan. He cut down the Asherah poles, sacred pillars, and pagan altars. He even removed his mother from the office of Queen Mother because she had a large Asherah pole. He then reigned in peace for twenty years until confronted with personal sin. In the final years of his reign, he turned from God and died.
Another example from the southern kingdom is the Babylonian Captivity. When the people did not respond to warning after warning, the southern kingdom was exiled to Babylon. But a blessing was coming after the disaster. God never sends a plague without a blessing to those who learn and reform. When the people returned from the Exile, they had learned the lesson from exile. In the years that follow, they never had a nationwide problem with idolatry.
What they had in the years that followed was a Renaissance of Hebrew literature. Before the Exile, Isaiah stood head-and-shoulders above any other poet. His poetry is beautiful and perfect Hebrew. For some time after the Exile, the poetry is very rough. But in a few generations, they are back with Micah’s poetry being just as good as Isaiah’s.
Our generation faces its own trial right now in the pandemic. While some medications are promising, nothing had been made approved for general use. We must keep our faith in God and look up even when the circumstances pull our gaze downward. In addition to the comforts offered in Isaiah, let us remember the promise in Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
In Isaiah, we have a great promise of blessing that comes after the trial. God promises comfort in the form of “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.” John the Baptist claimed this for himself. Making the way for Jesus, John proclaimed that he was the one prophesied here. The day of the Messiah had come! The comfort and blessings were poured out, running from Bethlehem to Nazareth to Golgotha’s Cross. It has come to us and can go further.
But there are still comforts and blessings to come! The final parts of Isaiah’s prophecy speak of the Messiah’s kingdom, when all comforts come! Many messianic prophecies are split, showing, in one prophecy, both comings. It is in those days that the glory of the Lord will be revealed, showing all the greatness of the Messiah.
What are you doing in these trials to proclaim the good name of the Lord? Bring comfort to those who need it. Remind them that the Messiah has come and promises blessings to those who follow him.
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