Wednesday, 24 June 2020
Isaiah 40:1-2 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.
Who is being comforted here and why? Is God speaking here to all His people or to a particular subset? Who are 'My people'? The second verse tells us: Jerusalem - a symbol for the Jewish people, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Jewish people are being comforted and being told that their warfare - at the time, the ravages of successive waves of the Assyrians and the Babylonians - is at an end. Isaiah speaks first of all about the return and forgiveness of the Jewish people from their exile in Babylon. Because God's word applies through history, however, we can also see that God is comforting the Jewish people that the centuries of persecution, anti-Semitism and strife among the nations - often, sadly, at the hands of the confessing church - is at an end. Certainly the Jewish people have received double for all their sins.
But now, the prophet says, that will change. God is going to visit His people, to restore them to their land, to forgive their sin and restablish His covenant relationship (which has never been broken) with them. We can see that this has started; the founding of the State of Israel - imperfect as it is - was a key milestone. The coming of Jewish people to faith in Messiah, as a trickle through history but now as a steady stream, is another. The restoration of the church of the circumcision - Jewish believers in Messiah who look and live Jewish, moving seamelessly in the Jewish people and milieu - is yet another. We will yet see the desert bloom and the flower of salvation, Jewish salvation, sprout forth from the root of Jesse!