The Voice of Comfort
Dr. Joe Temple

Review

Open your Bibles, please, to Isaiah, chapter 40. We are going to begin the study of the second portion of the book of Isaiah. You will remember when we began the study of the book of Isaiah, we told you that the book of Isaiah fell naturally into two parts. Chapters 1-39 make up the first part. and chapters 40-66 make up the second part. We told you that one way to remember the two divisions of the book was to keep in mind that they are divided as our Bible is divided—the Old Testament having 39 books and the New Testament having 27 books. We told you that that would help you to remember the theme of these two divisions, because the Old Testament is characterized as the portion of the Word of God that deals with judgment, though that is not the only theme that we find there, and the New Testament is characterized as that portion of the Word of God that is dealing with grace and with comfort.

The Old Testament is that portion of the Word of God in which the Lord Jesus Christ is referred to in a cloudy way, if we may use that term, and the New Testament is that portion of the Word of God in which the Lord Jesus Christ is fully revealed. Likewise, in the book of Isaiah, we find in the first 39 chapters numerous references to the Messiah; and in the last portion of the book of Isaiah, we are going to find the Messiah fully described, so that there can be no doubt in anybody's mind as to Who He actually is.

We told you that there was such a difference between the first and the last portion of the book of Isaiah that individuals who do not believe in the inspiration of the Word of God found it necessary to find an explanation for this. They came up with a theory known as the Deutero Isaiah , which simply means “the theory of two Isaiahs.” They said that Isaiah who lived in 700 B.C. was the individual who wrote the first portion of the book, and that another man who thought that Isaiah had a pretty good name borrowed his name and wrote the second portion of the book some 200 years later.

This idea did not become really prominent until about 200 years ago, and since that time, individuals who do not believe in the inspiration of the Word of God have run into so many additional problems that the last number of Isaiahs about which I read who are credited with writing this book numbered twenty. So, it is getting worse all along.

The Accuracy of Isaiah's Prophecy

The most simple thing to do is to believe that the Holy Spirit moved Isaiah as, Peter reminded us, He moved all men of old times in the writing of the Scripture. We believe the Holy Spirit, through Isaiah, was not limited to time or space; but God, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, could pull back the veil and enable Isaiah to see things that were going to happen 200 years after he was long gone and describe them with accurate detail.

Such accuracy, as you are going to see as we go along in this section of the book of Isaiah, enabled Isaiah to prophesy that Cyrus the Persian would deliver the children of Israel from captivity in the land of Babylon. That is an astounding thing because you will remember that in chapter 39 of the book of Isaiah, Isaiah told Hezekiah that not he but his children and his grandchildren would be taken into Babylonian captivity.

They had not even been taken into captivity, and yet he said they would spend time in Babylonian captivity. He said they would be delivered by the leader of the Persian Empire, which was a ridiculous thing, because the Persian Empire had not even made its appearance on the stage of the world. The thing that made it even more ridiculous from a human standpoint was that he named the king, out of a number of kings, who would be the one who would deliver the Israelites. He said, “His name is Cyrus. He will be born 200 years from now, and he will accomplish this particular thing.” You see the reason the people who do not believe in the inspiration of the Word of God find it difficult to believe that one man could have written the entire book.

Of course, there are several reasons we know other than the fact that we believe in the inspiration of the Word of God. One of them is the fact that in the New Testament, the book of Isaiah is quoted. Portions are quoted from the first part and portions are quoted from the second part in the same passages of Scripture, and credit is given to the same man as being the author. Some people say, “So you see, it isn't a matter of whether you believe that one Isaiah or twenty Isaiahs wrote the book. What difference does it make?” It is a matter of whether you believe in the authenticity of the New Testament, and it carries you even further, for it demands that you disbelieve the Lord Jesus Christ. It demands that you brand the Lord Jesus Christ as a liar, because it was the Lord Jesus Christ who said that Isaiah wrote this book as we have it in our New Testament today.

Then, of course, you are all familiar with the Dead Sea Scrolls . The Dead Sea Scrolls contain the entire book of Isaiah in all their manuscripts that we have had up to this point. These manuscripts found in the Dead Sea Scrolls date back to the first century B.C., which makes them older than anything that we have ever had; and the amazing thing about it is that the first line of Isaiah, chapter 40, is the last line of Isaiah, chapter 39 in those manuscripts. Of course, you know there were no chapter divisions in the manuscripts at that time as there are today.

The reason that I call your attention to that particular item is that it proves that as far back as the first century before Christ, they looked upon it as one complete book, written by one complete author.

We have reviewed this because you are going to face these things, especially if you are forced, as some of you will be if you go off to secular schools, to sit under tutelage of teachers who are teaching the Bible and don't believe it. You will be faced with this thing, and it is possible for you to think that this individual who seems so important in the way that he presents things knows so much more than poor, ignorant, fundamental, conservative believers. We would like for you to know that we know what he knows, but we have rejected it, because it does not have its roots in accuracy.

The Natural Divisions of the Section

I think it would be well for us to recognize that this second half of the book of Isaiah falls into natural divisions. We pointed out to you that every book in the Bible has its own natural outline and its own natural divisions. This section is so different from the first that we might almost consider it a book by itself. We find that it falls naturally into three divisions of nine chapters each, the first two divisions ending with the same refrain. Of course, the last divsion ends the book, so there is no need for the refrain at all.

You might look over to the end of chapter 48, and notice the last verse of the chapter, where we read:

Isaiah 48

22There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked.

“God's people have peace, but not the people who are without God.” Then look at chapter 57, verse 21, where we read the same phrase:

Isaiah 57

21There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.

Again we repeat: “There is peace for the people of God, but there is no peace for those who do not know Him.” Then the remaining nine chapters take you to the end of the book.

Isaiah's Second Call

I would now like for us to go back to chapter 40 and begin to look at it, recognizing that we have what might be termed Isaiah's recommission , or Isaiah's second call . In chapter 6 of the book of Isaiah, you will remember, is recorded Isaiah's call to service. It was a call to be a minister of judgment. God said to Isaiah, “Preach; cry out doom; cry out woe; cry out judgment.” Isaiah said, “How long, Lord?” God said, “Until judgment falls. These people are not going to be afraid of what you say. They are not going to repent. They are going to go right on in the old way, doing their own things, ignoring God.”

If we come to the second portion of the book of Isaiah and his message is going to be different, it would follow that he would need, for want of a better term, what we are going to call, a recommission . When he heard his original commission, he heard only one voice, but when his recommission is given here in chapter 40, he hears not one voice, but four voices. It is not a commission to judgment, but is a commission to comfort and to console, and what a difference there is going to be.

Four Voices That Isaiah Heard

When I say he hears four voices, I don't mean that he is ready for the psychiatrist. I mean that he hears God speaking to him in relation to four distinct things. I would like to point those four voices out to you, though we will not have time to cover them all, but you can be thinking about them between now and the next time that we are able, by the goodness of God, to look at this passage of Scripture again.

The first voice, and the one that we are going to consider in this lesson, is the voice of comfort, and it is found in verses 1-2. The next voice is the voice of the coming of the Savior the first time, and you find that voice in verses 3-5. The third voice is the voice of certainty, and you find that voice in verses 6-8. The fourth voice is the voice of the coming Sovereign King, the Lord of Lords, and you find that voice in verses 9-11.

A Ministry of Comfort to Israel

Let's look at the first voice in this lesson. Notice how it begins:

Isaiah 40

1Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
2Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD's hand double for all her sins.

This, of course, lends the keynote to the entire portion, because the entire portion is going to be related to a ministry of comfort on the part of Isaiah. When he says, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God,” he means exactly what the words suggest. “Comfort them; console them; encourage them. They have been through a lot. Comfort them.”

Who are his people? Someone says, “The Church, the Christian.” Thank God, we are the people of God, but let's remember where we are in the Scripture, and let's remember that the terms that we find in the Word of God must always be interpreted in the light of the immediate context. My people is not the Church. My people , here, is the nation of Israel. “Comfort My people. Comfort the nation of Israel,” he said.

Then you will notice the first part of verse 2, where he says, “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem.” This word comfortably is not a happy translation, because you might be led to think that it is a translation of the same words that you find in verse 1, but that isn't true. The word comfortably, in verse 2, is the translation of the Hebrew word leb . It is a word that is nearly everywhere in the Old Testament translated by our English word heart . So, what is he saying? “Speak you to the heart of Jerusalem. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.”

May I pause long enough in our discussion of this immediate subject to say to you, Beloved, that that ought to be the way we speak to every wayfaring man, to every man who is away from God. We will never be able to win him to Christ, we will never be able to prove to him that God loves him if we don't learn to speak to his heart, if we don't learn to speak tenderly to him.

Winning Jews to Christ

Do you believe in Jewish evangelism? You should. Do you believe that the Jews need to be won to Christ? You should. That is the reason that I couldn't sit on the same platform in a public worship service with a Rabbi. I might like him personally, but I couldn't enter into a service with somebody who denied my Lord. I would have to make an effort to lead that Rabbi to Jesus Christ, because he needs Him.

Somebody says, “Now, come; you know there are three great religious bodies in our nation. There are Catholics, there are Protestants, and there are Jews, and we must all learn to work together.” That is not what the Bible says. The Bible says that if you are going to do anything with a Jew, you win him. But how are you going to win him? Are you going to win him by persecuting him? You know that the greatest persecution that the Jews have suffered is at the hands of those who call themselves by the name of Christ.

I am not talking about people who are genuinely born again. I am talking about individuals who call themselves Christian . So, how are you going to win that Jew? The only way that you can win him is to speak tenderly to him. The only way you are going to win him is to speak to his heart. The only way you are going to win him is to let him know that you are interested in him.

How are you going to comfort the Jew? How was Isaiah going to comfort Jerusalem? The comfort that he was to minister to them was based upon three things. I hope you will listen carefully to what I am going to say. I believe that if you are successful in winning a Jew to Christ, you are not going to find that success by merely walking up to that Jew, and saying, “Will you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior?” I believe you will win him when you let him know what God's plan is for him and be able to show him from the Word of God what His plan is.

Do you know that God isn't interested in a Jew becoming a Protestant? He is interested in the Jew recognizing that Jesus of Nazareth was his Messiah, because when the New Testament was written there was no such thing as a Protestant; there were simply Christians, and that was a nickname.

The Message of Comfort

Notice that upon which the message of comfort is to be based. Look at verse 2:

Isaiah 40

2Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, [number 1] that her warfare is accomplished, [number 2] that her iniquity is pardoned: [number 3] for she hath received of the LORD's hand double for all her sins.

We could stop there, and if a Jew said, “What does that mean?”, we would be able to tell him, but it wouldn't do you much good to tell him that. I think it would be wise for us to stop and examine what these phrases mean.

The word warfare here comes from the Hebrew word tsaba , and this word is translated in the book of Job, chapter 14, verse 14, by an entirely different word than the word warfare . Notice, as we read:

Job 14

14If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.

Notice the words appointed time . Those words are the translation of the Hebrew word tsaba , which is translated “warfare.” What are we reading? We could be reading, “your warfare is accomplished,” because warfare could be included, but warfare is not the only meaning of the word. We could read, “Your appointed time is accomplished.” They might say, “What do you mean by that?” So you might need to give them another suggestion. Turn to the book of Numbers, chapter 4, verse 35, and you will find another translation of this Hebrew word tsaba . We will read beginning with verse 34:

Numbers 4

34And Moses and Aaron and the chief of the congregation numbered the sons of the Kohathites after their families, and after the house of their fathers,
35From thirty years old and upward even unto fifty years old, every one that entereth [notice] into the service, for the work in the tabernacle of the congregation:

You notice the word service . It is the translation of this very same Hebrew word. So what are you saying to the Jews? You are saying to them, “Your warfare is accomplished. Your appointed time for suffering is accomplished. Your service is accomplished.” What do we mean by the word accomplished ? We would remind you that the word accomplished comes from the Hebrew word male , and one of the most interesting translations of this word male is found in the book of Genesis, chapter 29, where we notice the experience in Jacob's life which was a rather unhappy one. You will keep in mind that Jacob had made a bargain about a wife, and things began to happen in relation to his accomplishment of obtaining a wife. Notice verse 26:

Genesis 29

26And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.
27Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.
28And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also.

Did you notice the word fulfilled twice repeated? That is the translation of the Hebrew word male , which is translated “accomplished.” What is the message of comfort that is to be delivered to the nation of Israel? The message of comfort is, “Your warfare is fulfilled. Your appointed time of slavery is fulfilled. The time appointed for your suffering and for your tribulation is finished.”

The Suffering of Israel

Go back to Isaiah, chapter 40, and notice the second thing that we said was the basis of the message of comfort that was to be delivered to the nation of Israel. Notice verse 2:

Isaiah 40

2Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, [number 2] that her iniquity is pardoned…

Look at that word iniquity . It is in the singular; it isn't in the plural, and thus you find it throughout the Old Testament when you read of it in this relationship. Israel had many sins, but there was one great iniquity that was greater than all other sins she might have committed and that was the rejection of her Messiah.

What is it we are to say by way of comfort? “Your iniquity is pardoned.” Would they look at you a bit puzzled? Would they wonder exactly what that meant? They might be able to understand it if you were to remember that the word iniquity comes from the Hebrew word avon , which elsewhere in the Scripture is translated “punishment,” and if you would remember that the word pardon is from the Hebrew word ratsah , which is a word that describes an individual being pleased or satisfied with the thing in question.

Micah was talking to God one day in chapter 6, verse 7, of the prophecy that bears his name, and he was talking about the terrible sin of the people, and he said:

Micah 6

7Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

“God, will you be satisfied with ten thousands of rams? Will that be enough to pay for our iniquity?” That is the translation of the word satisfied of the Hebrew word ratsah . So, if you were talking to Jerusalem, you might say to them, secondly, “Not only has your warfare been accomplished, but you have suffered enough. You have suffered enough for your sin.”

We don't suffer for our sins, so why should we talk to a Jew like that? Oh, there is a sense in which we might physically suffer, because whatsoever we sow that we shall also reap. We can't deny that. For example, if I were to get drunk and go down here in the middle of the night and fall asleep on the railroad track and a train came along and injured me in some fashion, if I lived through it, I might suffer the rest of my life because of it. We do suffer for our sins in some respects, but the nation of Israel, as is indicated in the next statement, was to suffer in a special way for her iniquity. She was to suffer in a special way for her rejection of her Messiah.

What is the third thing you are to say to her by way of comfort? Look again at verse 2:

Isaiah 40

2Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD's hand double for all her sins.

I would like for you to notice that phrase, double for all her sins . That is a phrase that you find numerous times in the Old Testament in relation to the nation of Israel. It emphasizes that where God would punish a Gentile lightly for sin, He would punish the Jew severely for sin. It is an idiomatic expression that emphasizes that though God would slap the Gentile once for sin, He would slap the Jew twice for sin.

The Gentile will go to Hell if he does not receive the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, but God never said that He would scatter the Gentiles to the four corners of the world. He never said that He would lay His chastening hand upon them until in the midst of their trouble they cried, “Oh, God, have mercy,” but He did say that about the Jew. He said to the Jews, “If you go on in the way that you are going, and you insist in your final rejection of the Messiah, you are going to receive double for all of your sin, and God's hand will not be let up until that time comes.”

If you can give this message to a Jew, you will be in a position to win him to Christ, because he will be able to see what his trouble is, and you probably won't be able to win him to Christ unless he does see this. Jews who have been won to Christ without understanding their place in the plan of God are rare exceptions indeed.

Prophecies Yet to Be Fulfilled

You probably noticed in our text that all of these things are spoken of as though they have already occurred, yet I told you that Isaiah was writing about things that were going to occur two hundred years after he was gone. Turn to chapter 9 of the book of Daniel as I remind you that Isaiah, in these verses of Scripture, did not only write about things that were going to occur two hundred years after he was gone, he wrote about things that have not yet even occurred. They are still future as far as we are concerned.

You say, “Why did God write about them as though they were already completed?” If your mind serves you well, you will recall that I gave you a phrase when we began to study the book of Isaiah that you should always keep in mind, and that phrase is the prophetic perfect . It doesn't mean very much in English, but it does mean something in the Hebrew in which the Bible is written. The prophet, seeing not with human eyes, but with the eyes of God, looking into the future and recognizing not past, present, and future, but everything, one eternal present, was able to write about things which had not occurred as though they were already in existence.

I have asked you to turn to Daniel, chapter 9, in order that you can see that the things that we have been mentioning to you have not yet occurred. We are not going to go into detail in this portion of the Word of God, because we have studied the book of Daniel, and it is in print, but look at chapter 9, verse 24:

Daniel 9

24Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people…

We will stop right there. Daniel had been concerned about the seventy years captivity in Babylon. It was time for the folk to go back home and nobody was interested in it. Daniel was praying about it, and he was saying, “LORD, move these people to realize that you are dealing with them in a seventy-year period.” God sent a messenger to Daniel, in verse 24, and He said, “Daniel, I am going to let you in on a little secret. I'm not dealing with these people in a span of seventy years; I am dealing with them in a span of seventy sevens of years. The word weeks should be translated “seven.” It is like our word dozen . You use it without anything for it to modify if you so desire, because it modifies a subject of discussion, so you do not have to repeat the same thing.

If I were to walk into a donut shop and that was all they had to sell, and I said, “Give me a dozen.”, they wouldn't stand there and look at me and I wouldn't have to repeat, “Give me a dozen.” They wouldn't stand there and say, “A dozen what?” They would pack up a dozen donuts. If I were to go into a store that sold nothing but eggs, and I said, “Give me a dozen,” they wouldn't waste time saying, “What are you talking about?” They would package up a dozen eggs.

Daniel was talking to God about years, and God said to Daniel, “Daniel, it's not seventy years; it is seventy sevens of years. It is going to take 490 years for Me to do everything with the nation of Israel that I am going to do with them.”

The Return to Palestine

Look again at verse 24, and you will find five or six things, depending on the way that you divide the verse, that He was going to do. Three of the things are mentioned in the verse that we were looking at in the book of Isaiah. He said that it would take 490 years, and in verse 25, He told Daniel when those 490 years were going to begin. He said they were going to begin with the proclamation that gave the Israelites permission to return to the land of Palestine and build their temple. In verse 25, He said that those 490 years were going to begin and they are going to continue until 483 of them have elapsed, and when 483 of them have elapsed, “My Son, your Messiah, will have come to the earth, will have offered Himself to you, and will have been rejected by you. When you reject My Son, I will stop the clock.”

God stopped the clock when Jesus Christ was crucified, and like any stopwatch, time goes on, but it doesn't register on the clock. Since that watch was stopped at time 483 years, nearly 2000 years have gone by. One of these days—if we understand the Word of God correctly, it won't be too long—God is going to start the watch again, and seven years are going to go by, making a total of 490. When those seven years have gone by, everything that God said in Daniel, chapter 9, verse 24, and everything that God said in Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 2, will have been accomplished, and not before.

That was Isaiah's message when he was recommissioned. “Isaiah, give to these people a message of comfort. Tell them that there is a time coming when the warfare will be over, when their service of suffering will be done. Tell them there is a time coming when the full punishment for their iniquity has been paid, and they will have received double for all of their sins. Tell them that someday peace will be theirs.”

Conclusion

We will have to stop right there for this lesson, but in the next portion you are going to learn how this comfort is going to be a reality. I don't want to leave the impression that, though you should approach a Jew differently from the manner in which you approach a Gentile, there is a difference in the manner of their salvation. Be it Jew or Gentile, the individual concerned needs the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. There is no salvation outside of Him.


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