“Comfort, yes, comfort my people!”
The 40th chapter of Isaiah starts with a very well-known plea: “Comfort, yes, comfort my people!” The following verses make it clear that it is Jerusalem and the Jewish people who God calls “my people”.
This passage should be a reminder to us that we do have something to say to Jerusalem. Our message to Israel, in the midst of her troubles, is found right here in Isaiah 40. It is a message of comfort, vital for the hour. Just to make sure that we don’t forget it, the Lord even repeats the word comfort in this verse: “Comfort ye, Comfort ye My people, says your God.”
The Calling to Comfort People of Israel
Almost 40 years ago we helped to establish a ministry to reach out to the Jewish people. Two decades ago, the Lord clearly gave me and many others a specific calling to reach out to the people of Jerusalem.
There is a very important aspect of our ministry that has become crucial in the recent years. It is the calling of bringing comfort to the Jewish people. In Isaiah 40, we read:
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.
A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain. (1-4)
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint. (28-31)
While chapters 1-39 are filled with words of judgment upon God’s people, from chapter 40 onward there is an emphasis on their restoration and salvation. In chapter 40 in particular, the Lord reminds the Jewish people that they are “MY people.” He himself will deliver them from the gentile nations who will seek their destruction.
Real Comfort to the People of Israel
A friend of ours has a real gift of hospitality, and the Lord has given her a ministry to wounded soldiers in the Israeli army. She told us how just the other week she gave out nearly 30 worship recordings to soldiers lying in hospital beds in Haifa. Practically all of those soldiers gladly received her gifts of love, even though they knew that she was a believer in Yeshua.
This woman is one of many in our congregation who is involved in ministering comfort to the Jewish people. Others visit Holocaust victims. Some deliver food parcels to the poor and needy in Jerusalem. And some actually live in the home of an elderly, to assist them every day.
I commend also the dozens (maybe hundreds) of others who make this comfort possible by doing other jobs. Whether it is behind-the-scenes office work, material gifts or even writing the appeal letters— all vital and necessary to the ministry of comfort.
Strategic Role of the Chosen Nation
Some people abhor the idea that God has actually chosen a special people distinct from all the other nations. They say it sounds unfair. But along with Israel’s awesome privilege came an awesome responsibility. God chose Israel to be the messenger to reveal the One true God among the multiplicity of the pagan gods.
The Jewish people were not only to declare this truth, but to live this truth by obeying the laws of their One True God. And in so doing prove how blessed it is for a nation to serve this God. Israel, then, is chosen and very special, but it is still merely a servant messenger. And the fact is, people often like to shoot the messenger.
Not only is Israel a servant, but many times is treated like one, too. Israel has been the doormat of the nations. God placed Israel in a strategic place—at the convergence of three continents, on a major trade and communication route.
Israel as the Servant Messenger
While this was a perfect place from which Israel could spread the word about their One True God, it was also a place coveted by other nations. Meaning, nations who wanted to control the Middle East and have profound influence over the rest of the world. And so, history has shown that Israel has been a virtual doormat trampled underfoot time and time again.
Yet God works all these things together for good. The pressure and trials and suffering have served to test Israel’s faith. And in Israel’s tests, Her God has sustained and preserved Her in a miraculous way. And even today, we can see a modern-day miracle where God is bringing Israel’s exiles back home after nearly 2 millennia of dispersion.
God will use Israel again as a servant-messenger. And when Israel is finally restored and saved once and for all it will hit the headlines. In Israel last great trial God will demonstrate in the most powerful way yet how he can take pint-size nation and through his mercy make her mighty. Only this time, the whole world will get to see it!
Comforting People of Jerusalem
In Isaiah 40, we see that the Lord has given specific instructions concerning the various ways we are called to speak comfort to Jerusalem. But first, let’s understand the background of this 40th chapter in the book of Isaiah.
Some scholars believe this chapter is the beginning of a new section written by another author altogether. I don’t believe this simply because Yeshua himself quotes verses from this chapter and says that Isaiah wrote these words.
Up until chapter 40, God spoke about the many woes of Israel’s captivity in Assyria. And they are spoken as if they had already happened. But the prophecies concerning Judah and Jerusalem are spoken of as if they are yet to come.
Isaiah shared a prophecy that was intended as a means of support and comfort the Jewish people in their time of trouble. Which was soon to come, when Jerusalem would be destroyed by Nebuchadezar’s armies. And the people of Judah are carried off into Babylonian captivity.
In Desperate Need of Comfort
You see, the Jews would find themselves captives, sitting and weeping by the rivers of Babylon. They wept over the ruined condition of Jerusalem and over the punishment they were enduring because of their sinful idolatry.
It says of Jerusalem in v. 2: “For she has received from the LORD’s hand Double for all her sins.”
While this prophecy does not speak directly to the circumstances of the Jewish people in our day, surely its message needs to be heard by the Jewish people now more than ever.
For indeed Zechariah declares that a time is coming when all the nations of the world will come against the Jewish people and their most holy city, Jerusalem.
The Bearers of Good News
Then what will we, the bearers of the Good News, tell God’s special people? Especially in the event of these terrible days, leading up to the final battle for Jerusalem?
Indeed, if the Spirit of God is upon us as it was upon the Messiah, then we will do what He did! And the prophet Isaiah also clarifies it, specifically in chapter 61.
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor… And the day of vengeance of our God. To comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion…. (Isaiah 61:1-3)
Our words of comfort, if they are from the Spirit—the Spirit of all comfort, will be tender words. V. 2 says, “speak tenderly to Jerusalem” or literally “speak to the heart.” We should speak as a lover might comfort his beloved bride.
Comfort Israel with Tender Words of Mercy
Romans 11:28 says that the Jewish people are still “beloved for the sake of the Patriarchs.” Is that the way we speak to Israelis – as if we are speaking to someone beloved… or do we talk fighting words? Romans 11:31 says that “through your (Christians) mercy, they shall receive mercy.” Do we speak tender words of mercy or words of condemnation?
So now that we know how, let’s ask ourselves another question. What will we say to bring comfort to the Jewish people and Jerusalem in the coming times of trouble? Isaiah 40 also gives us the content of our message of comfort.
We comfort Israel with the fact that Yeshua has pardoned her iniquity and paid for her sins.It says in verse 2, “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned. For she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.”
The Blood of the Lamb
This must be the center of our message of comfort to Israel. God has finished with sin, He made atonement and reconciled us to Himself. He has provided this atonement through the death of His own Son, Yeshua of Nazareth.
Yeshua has died and paid the price of humanity’s – including Israel’s – salvation. Yes, Israel must apply the blood of his sacrifice on the cross to their hearts, just as the children of Israel had to apply the blood of the Passover lamb. They added it to the doorposts of their homes, by faith, to be saved from the angel of death.
But the provision for their salvation and “the end of sins” was already made through the shedding of the blood of the lamb. In a real sense, Yeshua took the place of Israel and all mankind on the cross.
So, when Isaiah writes, “for she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins,” this is not only a reference to Israel’s captivity for 70 years. Because no one can atone for their own sins. But Yeshua, by taking our place on the cross, had the potential to release Israel (along with all nations) from every sin—even idolatry.
The Greatest Message of Comfort
The greatest message of comfort and peace is to tell someone about the awesome salvation Yeshua provided on the cross—that He has already paid the penalty for our sin. In the words of the Psalmist:
“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven; whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity” (Psalm 32:1-2)
Some may wonder why Israel will ever have another chance at salvation. Surely Israel is beyond hope. But weren’t many of us beyond hope? 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 says:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
God of Second Chances
God wants to give a second chance to Israel in the same way He gave a chance to all of us, gentiles. And then we have this profound promise made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah in the Book of Jeremiah 31:
Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah… I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jeremiah 31:31,33)
And one day soon all Israel will be saved, and Jerusalem will finally be comforted. We read in Zephaniah 3:
Sing, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away your judgments, He has cast out your enemy. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; You shall see disaster no more…
The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:14-15,17)
Bring Spiritual Transformation to Lives in Israel
Are you looking to make a difference in Israel, and help bring the true comfort of knowing Jesus? You’re invited to join in the story of God’s plan for his people!
The Tribe is a passionate and faithful group of monthly donors on a mission to transform lives in Israel through the love of Jesus. Join the Tribe today: www.firmisrael.org/thetribe