“Comfort My People” | Isaiah
Luccas Rodor: Happy Sabbath, friends. It is such a privilege and a blessing to be with you here this morning. I’d like to welcome everyone that is here locally in the Granite Bay Adventist– Hilltop Seventh-day Adventist Church, and it’s so nice to see you. Also those that are watching online, thank you so much for being with us, and I hope that you have a blessed study with us. We’re having a beautiful day here today after a week of rain, so that’s– it’s a blessing to have some sunshine, right?
We have a really interesting study today of lesson number eight. It’s called “Comfort My People,” and this is where we, kind of, get into the gospel portion of Isaiah, so I am very excited for this lesson.
Before we get into the lesson I’d like to tell you that we do have a free offer, which is called “Is It Easier to be Saved or Lost?” And so, if you’d like a physical copy and you’re here in the– in North America, here in the United States or in Canada, then you could call 866-788-3966. Now, if you’re outside of the– of North America and you’d still like a digital copy, you can go to study.aftv.org/sh039, and we’d be happy to send you this free offer called “Is It Easier to be Saved or Lost?”
I’d like to welcome our trio from Weimar called Every Breath, and I know that they’re going to bless us right now with their praise.
Be still, my soul. The Lord is on thy side.
With patience bear thy cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide.
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul.
Thy heavenly friend will lead to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul.
Thy God doth undertake
to guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake.
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul.
When change and tears are past, we shall meet at last.
Luccas: Before Pastor Ross comes out to teach us lesson eight, I’d like to say a word of prayer, asking for him and for our experience right now here at church. Dear Father, thank You so much for allowing us to be at Your place, at Your home today, Lord, at Your house. Thank You so much for touching us with such beautiful praise, Lord, and for touching us with the joy of coming together in fellowship and learning from You, Father, and hearing of Your Word. And as that Word is opened today in power and strength and wisdom and discernment please bless Pastor Ross as he teaches, Lord. Imbue him with Your Spirit and allow him to teach words that come from the throne of heaven. And I thank You for the Bible. I thank You for the book of Isaiah from which we will learn today. I ask these things, in the name of Jesus, amen.
May God bless Pastor Ross as he teaches.
Jëan Ross: Thank you, Pastor Luccas. And good morning, everyone, and happy Sabbath to those who are joining us. We’d like to welcome our extended “Sabbath School” members wherever you might be. We’re glad that you’re a part of our study time together.
As Pastor Luccas mentioned, we have a very exciting lesson today. It’s one of three hinges that you find in the book of Isaiah. You might be wondering, “A hinge? Well, wait a minute.” The book is divided into three portions, and we’ll get to this a little bit in our lesson, but Isaiah chapter 40, which is the chapter we’re going to be studying today, is one of those hinges that shift an emphasis, or a focus, in the book of Isaiah. It’s just a great chapter, and very appropriate our special music this morning. “Be still and know.” That goes right along with the message of Isaiah that we find here in Isaiah chapter 40.
Now, there’s a lot of great themes and great passages of Scripture that springboard out from Isaiah chapter 40, so to try and help keep us at pace of everything that’s going to be happening in the time that we have allotted to try and go through as much of chapter 40 as possible, I have prepared some slides that’s got the verses on there, so you’ll be able to, hopefully, follow along as we go through this important study for today. So, we’re going to begin.
Our lesson again, as mentioned, is “Comfort My People.” It’s lesson number eight. The passage of Scripture we’re looking at is almost exclusively Isaiah chapter 40. The writers of our lesson correctly felt that this was such an important chapter they dedicated an entire week, one lesson of 13 on the book of Isaiah, to chapter 40, and there’s a great number of truths that we find there. Little bit of an introduction to chapter 40. “Isaiah 40 begins the third and the last section of the book of Isaiah and in many ways chapter 40-66,” there’s 66 chapters in Isaiah, “constitute the most important part of Isaiah’s prophecy, giving Isaiah the nickname of the “gospel prophet.” Maybe you’ve heard that before.
The book of Isaiah is sometimes referred to as the gospel prophet. The first two divisions of Isaiah is from chapter 1 through to chapter 35, and it deals primarily with warnings and judgments. And then, the second part is chapter 36 through to 39, and this is a recital of Sennacherib’s vision, or invasion, I should say. Do you remember who Sennacherib was? He was the king of the Assyrians, and he came up against Judah, encampest around them, and God gave a great deliverance for the Israelites during that time.
You also have the story of Hezekiah’s illness and recovery, and these are things that we’ve already studied in our lesson, as well as the visit of the Babylonians. “Chapter 40-66,” which is what we’re studying today, “the prophet’s mind goes forward to a time when God will grant His people the blessings of righteousness and peace. In some of the most beautiful language found anywhere in Scripture, Isaiah sets forth the grace and the forgiveness of God, the ministry of the Messiah, the ingathering of the Gentiles, victory over sin and Satan, the establishment of God’s eternal kingdom, and the earth recreated at the end of the millennium.” If you like, it’s sort of a synopsis of the great controversy that you find from chapter 40 through to the end of the book.
Now, obviously, we’re not going to be able to cover all of these themes that’s introduced, but we’ll see a number of these themes introduced right here in Isaiah chapter 40. So, we begin with verse 1. Isaiah 40, verse 1, “‘Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ Saith your God. ‘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 of her sins.'”
So, the book of Isaiah opens with a message of rebuke to Jerusalem because of her wickedness, and you find that in the first few chapters of Isaiah. But now Isaiah looks forward, and he talks of a time when her warfare is ended. She has forgiveness. She has restoration and peace. Now, even though the Babylonian captivity was yet some 100 years in the future from the time when Isaiah was writing this portion of Scripture, he envisioned, viewed them, coming back from their Babylonian captivity and being settled in the Promised Land. It’s also a symbol not only of literal Israel but even more so of spiritual Israel and the eternal home of the redeemed in the New Jerusalem at the end of the 1,000 years. And we’ll get to that a little later in our study as we work our way through the chapter.
All right, verse 3 and 4. “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked place shall be made straight and the rough places smooth.”
Now, following the Babylonian captivity, which was 605 B.C.– the Babylonians were taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, and then some 70 years after that, they were allowed to come back and restore and rebuild Jerusalem. We have a very significant date, 457 B.C., when the decree was given. This is during the time of Artaxerxes, when the Jews could not only go back to Jerusalem but actually rebuild the city, the temple as well. The work, then, that Israel was to do from that point onwards was preparation for the coming of the Messiah. That was the focus, so some 400 years before Jesus would come, 450 years.
When Isaiah wrote these words, it was some 700 years before Christ. The Babylonian captivity was some 600 years before Christ. The return and the reestablishment of the city of Jerusalem: 450 years before Christ, when all of that came together. So, here you get an idea that even though there are still some very significant things that is to happen in Jerusalem, to the Jews, like the Babylonian captivity, Isaiah is looking even past that to the coming of the Messiah, not only in the First Coming of the Messiah but also the Second Coming of the Messiah, and we’ll see some verses a little later in our study.
Now, he talks about preparation for the coming of the Messiah, and in Matthew chapter 3 we hear about John the Baptist. It says, “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!'” You’ll notice those are the same words that Jesus said when He started His earthly ministry. “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Now, there are different phases of the Kingdom of heaven. There is the phase called the Kingdom of grace. And the Kingdom of grace was established at the coming of Christ in a very powerful way, and that was the Kingdom that John the Baptist was referring to, and the Kingdom that Jesus was referring to when He said, “Repent, the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But there is a second aspect of the Kingdom of heaven, and that is the Kingdom of glory. And the Kingdom of glory comes when Jesus comes the second time, and that’s something that Isaiah also refers to in this chapter, but here he’s referring to this First Coming of Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of grace.
And then, Matthew, who wrote these words, Matthew chapter 3, he says, “For this is he who– of whom it was spoken by the prophet Isaiah, saying: ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.”‘”
So, Matthew recognized that that prophecy in Isaiah chapter 40 was really a reference to John the Baptist in preparing for the coming of Jesus. Not only was that a reference to John the Baptist, who came to prepare for Jesus, but in a very real sense it is also a prophecy with reference to God’s end-time people, who like Israel of old, is to be preparing the world now for the Second Coming of Christ. Israel was to prepare the world for the First Coming. God’s people today are to prepare the world for the Second Coming of Christ, and we, like John the Baptist, have a message that has to go to the world, a message that will prepare people for the Second Coming of Christ.
So, today there is a work, similar to that of John the Baptist, in preparing the world for the Second Coming of Christ. This end-time work of preparation is represented by the three angels’ messages of Revelation chapter 14.”
Now, for those of you who have heard me speak or preach before, you know that one of my favorite areas of study is the book of Revelation. And I don’t think I can preach a whole sermon without somehow quoting or referring to some passage from Revelation, so here we go. Studying Isaiah, but we’ve got to talk about Revelation chapter 14. This is God’s end-time message that goes to the world to prepare people for the Second Coming of Christ. “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell upon the earth–to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people–”
Why does the everlasting gospel have to go to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people? Because the Second Coming of Christ is going to affect every nation, tribe, tongue, and people. It goes to all the world. The message is saying with a loud voice, the first angel’s message, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come.” John the Baptist’s message was, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Our message is, “Repent, fear God, give Him glory, for the hour of His judgment has come.”
John the Baptist was saying, “The Kingdom is at hand,” so there is a similarity in the message John the Baptist was giving to the message that we are called to give in these last moments of Earth’s history. We are to call people to worship God as the Creator, and we need to remember the hour of His judgment has come and soon the Kingdom of glory will come when Jesus comes the second time. “‘Worship Him that made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and the springs of water.’ And another angel followed, saying, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink the wine of the wrath of her fornication.'”
Remember, in Bible prophecy a woman represents a church, and in Revelation we have a description of two women: The first in Revelation chapter 12 represents God’s true church. It is a woman clothed with the sun, standing upon the moon. She has a crown of 12 stars. Represents God’s church during the Christian era, but in Revelation chapter 17, you have another woman, and it says that she has on her forehead a name written “Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots, the Abominations to the Earth.”
So, this woman of Revelation chapter 17 that has the name Babylon represents those religious institutions, or those churches, that have fallen from the truth of God’s Word. The Bible describes them as fallen. That’s why Babylon is fallen, is fallen. Incidentally, there are two falls. There is the fall of the mother church, and then there is the fall of the daughter churches. The mother church is Rome. The daughter churches are those Protestant churches that are holding to the doctrines and the teachings of the mother church, so that’s why Babylon falls twice.
And then, it goes on and say she made all nations drink the wine of the wrath of her fornication; that is, her false doctrine that is being pushed on the world through this power, Babylon. “Then the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast or his image, or receives his mark in his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receives the mark of his name.'”
The most fearful warning that you can find anywhere in the Bible is right here. Don’t worship the beast. Don’t receive his mark. You see, at the end of time, there are going to be two groups: those who have the seal of God, those who are worshiping God and keeping His commandments, sealed with the Holy Spirit, and those who are worshiping the beast’s power of Revelation chapter 13, those who have received the mark of the beast of Revelation chapter 13. Two distinct groups.
Now, this third angel’s message makes it very clear that if we are amongst those who are worshiping the beast and if we have the mark of the beast, we will receive the wrath of God. Now, you might be wondering, “What is the wrath of God?” Well, Revelation tells us what that is. It’s the outpouring of the seven last plagues. Just before Jesus comes there is the outpouring of the seven last plagues. Those who have the seal of God, they are protected at this time of judgment. Those who have the mark of the beast, they don’t have any rest day or night, and that’s this warning that we find in Scripture.
And then, the final verse here, verse 12, talking about those who have the seal of God. “Here is the patience,” or the endurance, “of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God, and they have the faith of Jesus.”
What kind of people is Jesus looking for in the last days? Those who love Him, those who have faith in Him, those who keep His commandments, for it was Jesus that said, “If you love Me,” do what? “Keep My commandments.”
So, here we find in Isaiah chapter 40 a reference to the herald John the Baptist preparing the way for the First Coming of Christ, but it’s also clear from Isaiah 40 that there is a broader, fuller application of this in God’s people proclaiming a end-time warning message before Jesus comes again. And that brings us into focus as God’s people in the last days.
We have a message to take to the world. You find this quote in “Testimonies, Volume 7,” page 19. “In a special sense Seventh-day Adventists have been set in the world as watchmen and light bearers. To them has been entrusted the last warning for a perishing world. On them is shining wonderful light from the Word of God. They have been given a work of the most solemn import– the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels’ message. There is no other work of so great importance. They are to allow nothing else to absorb their attention.”
Now, could you imagine John the Baptist, preparing for the coming of Christ the first time, being distracted and preaching on other things other than what it was God had called him to preach, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand”?
So, today, we have been given a message that needs to go to all the world, a message that prepares people for the Second Coming of Christ. We are not to allow anything else to distract us from the preaching of the everlasting gospel, amen? That is the mission that God has given to us. Back to Isaiah. Isaiah 40, verse 5 says, “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
There are three phases, or parts, to the glory of the Lord, that’s been referred to here in Isaiah. The first is the glory of the Lord revealed in the life of Jesus. Secondly, the glory of the Lord revealed in the life of the believer, in you and I. Thirdly, the glory of the Lord revealed at the Second Coming of Christ. And here are the verses talking about the glory revealed in the life of Christ. John 1:14, it says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Notice what is the glory revealed in Christ? John says it is grace and truth. What is to be revealed in the life of the believer? Grace and truth. Paul says, Colossians 1:27, “To them–” that is, to the unbeliever–“God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of the mystery amongst the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
What was it that Jesus revealed to the world? Grace, truth. What is it that we are to reveal to the world? Grace and truth. What is the church to reveal to the world? Grace and truth.
And thirdly, we have the great manifestation of God’s glory at the Second Coming. Matthew 25:31, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.” So, Jesus comes again in His own glory. He comes with the glory of the Kingdom, for He’s seated upon the throne. All the angels come with Jesus. They have their glory.
It will be a glorious event when Jesus comes. It’s going to affect every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, and that’s why the three angels’ message goes to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. Verse 6 through 8, “The voice saying, ‘Cry out!’ And he said, ‘What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all of its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever.'”
You’ve probably heard that verse before. Now you know where it is: Isaiah chapter 40, verse 8. The Word of the Lord stands forever. So, here Isaiah is making the point that “apart from God all that man does will eventually fade away, but the one who does the will of God, he will endure forever.” Even though his life might end here on the earth, we have the promise that when Jesus comes again, the dead in Christ shall be raised incorruptible, and eternal life shall be the reward of the redeemed. You see, God is the same today– yesterday, today, and forever, and His Word, God’s promises, are as eternal as His throne. God’s Word will never fail. I like this verse in Psalms 119, verse 89. It says, “Forever, O Lord, your Word is settled in heaven.”
Now, the Hebrew there, translated “Word,” is interesting. It’s Your decree, Your law, Your promises. You can apply all of those three to the word here in Hebrew translated “Your Word,” so God’s law is settled in heaven. His promises are settled in heaven. There might be dispute upon the earth concerning the law of God. There might be dispute in our own hearts concerning the promises of God, but in heaven there is no question as to God’s law. There is no question in heaven’s eyes as to the faithfulness of God’s promises, amen? We can put our trust in Him.
Verse 9 says, “O Zion, You who bring good tidings, get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, you who bring good tidings, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; Say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!'”
Now, you’ll find the phrase there “O Zion,” and then the next phrase says “O Jerusalem,” or Jerusalem. Zion was the name of the old– or the hill, upon which the old Jebusite fortress was built that David conquered and renamed the City of David and eventually Jerusalem. And when the temple of the Ark of the Covenant was brought into Jerusalem and the temple was built, Mount Zion, or Jerusalem, became known as the dwelling place of God. Jerusalem, the name of the city, also represents God’s people.
There are two cities in the Bible representing two opposing forces. You have Jerusalem representing truth, representing salvation, representing God, and you have Babylon, which represents the enemy of God’s people, false doctrine, and confusion.
So, two opposing views, two different cities, and God is calling Jerusalem, or He’s calling His church today, to proclaim good news, to proclaim an everlasting gospel that has to go to all the world, preparing people for the Second Coming of Christ. Verse 10 says, “Behold, the Lord God will come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him; Behold, His reward is with Him, and His work is before Him.”
Isaiah here predicts the– or pictures, I should say, the Second Coming of Jesus. The arm of the Lord is extended in mercy to the righteous, but it comes in judgment to the wicked. Isaiah 51, little further in our study, verse 5, “My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth, And My arms will judge the people; The coastlines will wait upon Me, And on My arm they will trust.”
What a promise. Those who put their trust in God, they shall not be ashamed. We can trust on His arm. Why His arm? Notice how many times it refers to the arm of God. The arm of God, or the arm, is a symbol of God’s deliverance and God’s strength, God’s power. It’s God’s promises. We can put our trust in the promises of God. We can rest in His arm, so to speak, and He will bring deliverance.
Revelation 22, verse 12, “And behold, I’m coming quickly,” Jesus says. “My reward is with Me, to give to every man according to his works.” That happens when Jesus comes the second time. Isaiah 40, verse 11, “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm. He’ll carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” “The care of Christ for His church, for His people, is often likened to the work of a shepherd. As a good shepherd gently leads his sheep and carries the weak and the young, so Christ will provide strength and comfort for His people.”
Probably one of the most well-known psalms is about Jesus the Good Shepherd. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.”
Couple things I want you to notice: Before Jesus leads us through the valley of the shadow of death, which we get to later in the verse, He first makes us lie down by still waters and in green pastures. Before trials and difficulties come in our life, God wants us to receive the rest and the peace that only He can give. God worked for six days, and then He rested on the seventh day. But at the end of the sixth day God created Adam and Eve, and Adam and Eve rested the first day, and then they worked for the next six days, so the pattern that we see in the Bible, God works first, and then He rests. But God gives us rest first, and then He tells us to work, so the Good Shepherd gives rest to the sheep before He is getting to lead them.
And then, it goes on, says, “He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,” because we’ve received rest from the Shepherd. “For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
You might be wondering, “The rod and the staff, what’s that about?” Well, the shepherd would often have his staff, and he would have his rod. Sometimes it was the same thing. The staff is the part that has the crook, that kind of bends back to itself. The rod was more just like a stick, and the shepherd could use his stick as a staff, or he could turn around and it would be a rod. Now, the staff was used to guide the sheep, but the rod was used not on the sheep. It was used on the wolf. It was used on the enemy of the sheep, and so, yeah, David says, “The Lord guides me, and the Lord protects me. I need not fear. God will fight my battles for me.” “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Jesus, of course, refers to this in John 10. He says, “I am the good shepherd; I know My sheep, and I am known by My own.” And then, notice verse 16, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold.” Jesus is talking to the Israelites, saying there are others out there in the Gentile world. “They’re Mine.” And today Jesus is saying, “I have sheep yet in Babylon. They’re Mine.” It says, “They also I must bring, they will hear My voice; there’ll be one flock and there will be one shepherd.” So, here Jesus makes a prediction. He says, “I have sheep. They’re out there. They will hear My voice, and they will come. There’ll be one flock, one fold, one shepherd.”
Now, where’s the fulfillment of what Jesus is referring to here? The fulfillment of this prophecy made by Jesus is found in Revelation. Revelation chapter 18, we have what we call the fourth angel’s message and in verse 1 it says, “After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, the earth was illuminated with his glory. And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, ‘Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen–‘”
Of course, the second angel talks about Babel and fallen, fallen. We have a repeat of the second angel’s message in Revelation 18, and the message is given, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, has become the devil– hold of devils and foul spirits,” and so on. And after the message is given, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen,” then we find in verse 4, “And I heard another voice from heaven,” this is the voice of Jesus, “saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.'”
So, at the end of time, as God’s church is proclaiming the three angels’ messages and is preaching the truth that Babylon is fallen, is fallen, Jesus is in the work of calling His faithful people to come out of religious confusion and to make their stand with God’s Bible-believing people. But in order for Jesus to call His faithful ones to come out of religious confusion, the message must be given. The preaching of the three angels’ message needs to go to the world.
We’re looking now from verse 12 through to 17 in Isaiah 40. “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, measured the heavens with a span, calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has taught Him? With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the paths of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket–”
Have you ever heard that phrase before: “It’s a drop in the bucket”? Well, now you know where it comes from, comes from Isaiah. “The nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as small dust on scales; look, He lifted up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn,” Lebanon had a lot of trees in those days, “nor its beasts sufficient for the burnt offering. All nations before Him are as nothing, and they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless.”
In other words, Isaiah is reaffirming to Israel that they might feel overwhelmed by their enemies, but the reality is in comparison to God’s power and strength, the enemies of God’s people are as nothing. “In the days of Isaiah, the Assyrians was the greatest and most feared nation on Earth. But the Lord here reminds His people that in comparison to Himself, the nations of the earth are as nothing.
Regardless of the plans and the purposes of men, God will ultimately bring His own plans to pass.” And we see this beautifully illustrated in the story of Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar, who just some 100 years after this came and conquered Jerusalem in 605 B.C. and took the Jews captive, through the influence of Daniel and his three friends: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Nebuchadnezzar learned something of the true God, the God of the Hebrews, and he was open to listening to what Daniel had to say. But one day, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and in his dream he saw this giant tree with lots of leaves and lots of fruit, but then he heard a call from heaven, a message from heaven, “Cut down the tree and set a band of iron and brass around the stump and leave it there for seven times,” or seven years. Nebuchadnezzar, not fully understanding what this is all about, called for Daniel. Daniel came and gave the meaning to the king, and Daniel explained that in this dream, he was represented by this giant tree that seemed to fill the whole earth and had lots of fruit and beautiful, lush trees. But the voice from heaven was a decree from God, because of his pride, that he would be cut down. Of course, he was warned by Daniel. Daniel said, “Repent,” but he didn’t.
And so, Nebuchadnezzar the king went mad. For seven years, he ran around like a wild animal. Daniel, knowing the prophecy, probably preserved the throne for Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of those seven years, his understanding returned to him, and now in Daniel chapter 4 we actually have Nebuchadnezzar writing an account of his experience. This is, or used to be, a pagan king, the king of the most powerful nation of the earth at the time, who is now acknowledging the God of heaven.
And we have good evidence to believe that Nebuchadnezzar will actually be in the Kingdom one day, and he wrote Daniel chapter 4, and this is what he says after that experience. He says, “At the end of that time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His Kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and amongst the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?'”
And verse 37, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are true, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.” So, Nebuchadnezzar came to the realization that God is ultimately in charge. Verse 18 of Isaiah 40, “To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness shall you compare Him to? The workman molds an image, the goldsmith overspreads it with gold, the silversmiths cast silver chains. Whoever is too impoverished for such a contribution chooses a tree that will not rot; he seeks for himself a skillful workman to prepare a carved image that it will not totter.”
So, at the time that Isaiah was writing this, the Hebrews had adopted many of the practices of the nations around them, including the worship of idols. Now, the Hebrews didn’t really believe that the idol was able to do things for them. They believed the idol was a representation of God, and even today there are many that bow down to idols, not believing the idol has some power but that the idol is a representation of God. And even Isaiah says that is wrong. You are not to bow down to a representation of God.
How can you try and represent God with something that you can make with your hands? The prophet points out the foolishness of thinking that an idol can represent the omnipotent, the all-powerful, God. Of course, the first angel’s message calls us to worship God as the Creator, the one who made heaven and earth. Verse 21, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? That He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.”
So, here Isaiah is saying, “Haven’t you heard God is greater in overall things?” Notice the phrase “He sits on the circle of the earth.” Now, this was written some 700 years before Christ, and Isaiah is referring to the earth as round. “He sits on the circle of the earth.”
I was doing a Bible study– just a quick story. I was doing a Bible study once with a Muslim man. It was actually somebody that we played racquetball with, and he kept asking me, he said, “I want to study the Quran with you.” I said, “Okay, we’ll have an agreement. I’ll listen to what you have to say about the Quran if you will let me tell you about what the Bible has to say.” He said, “Agreed.” So, we got together for Bible studies, and he’d have the first half an hour and he’d teach me the Quran, and then I’d have a half an hour to teach him the Bible.
Well, in our discussion we finally came to the point of, “Well, what book is more authoritative: the Quran or the Bible?” I said, “What evidence do you have to trust the Quran?” and his eyes got big. He got excited. He said, “Oh, because of the scientific statements made in the Quran that prove the Quran true.” I said, “Like what?” He says, “Well, there is this statement,” and he opened it up, and he found a verse in the Quran that says the earth is shaped like an egg. And he said, “Well, there it is. This was written, you know, 600 A.D.” And they thought the earth was flat in those days, and here the Quran says the earth is shaped like an egg.
Well, I couldn’t help myself. I said, “Well, take a look at Isaiah. It was written 700 years before Christ, and here the prophet says the earth is round. It is a circle.” I asked him, I said, “Does the earth look more like an egg or a circle?” He was quiet after that. So, here we have an interesting statement made by Isaiah the prophet saying that God sits on the circle of the earth. “Here Isaiah appeals to common sense to lay– to say that idols are less valuable than the men that made them and should not be worshiped.”
And of course, we find this truth also in the New Testament, Romans. Paul says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became as fools. And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man– like birds, four-footed animals, and creeping things.”
In “The SDA Bible Commentary” we have this statement. It says, “Many who bear the name of Christian are serving other gods besides the Lord. Our Creator demands the supreme devotion of our allegiance. Anything which tends to abate our love for God, or to interfere with the service due Him, becomes thereby an idol.”
So, maybe today there are no people bowing down, at least here in North America that we see, to graven images of animals, but each of us can make an idol in our own hearts. Anything that would separate us from God can become an idol. Isaiah chapter 40, verse 23, 24 says, “He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless. Scarcely shall they be planted, scarcely shall they be sown, scarcely shall their stock take root in the earth, when He will also blow on them, and they will wither, and the whirlwind will take them away like stubble.”
In other words, what is your foundation? Jesus said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house upon a rock: the rains descended, the floods came, the winds blew and beat upon the house; and it did not fall, for it was founded upon the rock. But whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be likened to a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
You see, friends, we’re all building something, every single one of us. Might be a house out of stone or out of wood, but we’re all building character. We’re all building faith. And just as surely as what Jesus said here, that a time of a storm will come, our faith will be tested and tried. Depending upon what we’re building on will determine whether or not we stand when that time of trial comes, or where we crumble and fall. Jesus said, “Whoever does these things shall be likened unto a wise man who built upon the rock.”
Not only do we need to be hearers of the Word, we need to be doers of the Word. Isaiah 40, verse 25, “‘To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?’ saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and in the strength of His power; Not one is missing.” “When we consider the vastness of the universe or the number of the stars, and the exact positioning of our planet for life, we cannot but be impressed with the power and the glory, the majesty of God.”
Psalms 19 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament showeth forth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.” When we look at the glories of creation, we can see the power and the majesty of God.
I just want a quick illustration of this. I read somewhere that the sun releases so much energy every second that if we could harness all the energy, all the power released from the sun in one second, if we could put that in some giant battery here on Earth, there would be enough power to power everything electric on Earth for 500,000 years. That’s the energy released by the sun in one second. That’s a lot of power. Where did all that power come from? God. God made it.
Is there anything too hard for God to do? We look at the trials and difficulties in our life and, like Israel of old, we say, “Lord, where are You? Why don’t You listen? My enemy is coming up against me.” And God says, “I have it covered. Trust Me. Put Your trust in Me.” Those who trust in God’s strength will never be ashamed, amen? Isaiah 40, verse 27, it says, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over by my God’? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.”
Many in Judea felt that God had forgotten them in their time of need, but Isaiah is reminding them that God never sleeps. He never fails to consider or notice their needs. All that God does is wise, just, and good. Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? Not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are more valuable than many sparrows,” Amen?
Jesus says, “Don’t worry. I have You covered.” “He gives power to the weak, and those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, the young men shall utterly fall, but he who waits upon 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,” Amen? “God is always listening for the cry of those who feel themselves insufficient for the tasks at hand and who desire the help of heaven. It is in our weakness that God’s strength is made visible.” As Paul says, “My grace–” God said to him, “‘My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I’d rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ might rest upon me.”
I want to close with a statement from “Steps to Christ.” “Take to Him everything that perplexes your mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds,” or upholds, “worlds; He rules over the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice. There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read. There is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel. No calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escape the lips of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest. The relation between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His Son,” Amen?
The message of Isaiah is you can put your trust in God. Fear not, for He’s with you. May God bless you as you continue to study this wonderful book.
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Announcer: Amazing Facts. Changed lives.
Candice: Well, it was the year 2000. Tony and I had been wanting to go north and be near Canada where his family was, and Washington was looking awfully green and pretty. We did venture north and everything fell into place. We even got to build a home and become homeowners for the first time.
Tony: When we got to Washington, we fluttered church to church. We had gotten hurt. Some things were said. Some things were done to my son. It was really painful. And then, I started traveling, and it drove a wedge between Candice and I. I was drinking so much on the road that when I got home I would be just yelling at the top of my lungs at my kids because they didn’t do something, but yet I was hiding behind this corroded life of pure selfishness. It was killing my marriage. It was killing my kids from the inside.
Female: I remember just being– there being a lot of, like, fights and my dad getting angry. The more that my dad would leave, the harder it became.
Tony: Coming home was harder than going on the road. I was like, “I can’t wait to go back on the road again. Oh, my word. I get to do what I want, when I want, whenever I want.” I just relied on her to be the spiritual side of the family. “You pray for them. You take them for church. You teach them Jesus. You do that because I’m not. I don’t want to.”
Candice: I was a terrified person trying to find a balance to make him happy, not get angry with me and get angry with the children. For some strange reason, I don’t know how to explain it, this amazing idea drops in my heart. “I really need to find a church on Saturday, because then Saturday I can really just, like, have time with God, and then Sunday could be all about getting ready for Monday.”
A couple weeks later, this postcard comes in the mailbox. It just said “Most Amazing Prophecies,” and I looked at the postcard, and it had mostamazingprophecies.com. And I watched one after another after another. When I got to number seven it was about the Sabbath. I just got on my knees and completely rededicated my heart to Jesus, and from pretty much the middle of December to the end of January I spent Sabbath in–at home. I would turn on www.saccentral.org. I don’t know how I came across it, but I would listen to that and get out my Bible, and I was like, “This is my church.”
One of the commercials at the end of “Amazing Facts” or whatever will say “SabbathTruth.com.” And I thought, “You know, I want to check out SabbathTruth.com,” so I clicked on there. And then, off to the right-hand side there was a spot that said “How can I find a Sabbath-keeping church?” So, I clicked on it. “Hey, there is Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon’s only about 20 miles south of me. I could go there.”
So, I go inside, and I’m sitting there, and then a gentleman comes up. He’s like, “Hi, what’s your name?” He had his wife and his kids. “How did you find us?” I told him my story, and he goes, “Would you like to get baptized?” Just about a week and so later, on the 9th, I was baptized.
Tony: And you know, I’m on the road, and I’m traveling, and I’m drinking and doing the business. I’m earning money, and it’s coming home, and it’s keeping my wife at home with the kids, but our relationship was extremely strained because of the things I was being involved in on the road. This is May now, and I’m on a airplane flying home. I’ve been watching my wife. I’ve watched my son. My eight-year-old daughter at this time has already been baptized. All four of them are in this radical relationship with these people at this church, and the one thing that bugged me the most was this Sabbath thing. Like, there has to be something missing here, and so I had this list of Scriptures.
I had two Bibles with me I traveled with, and I started to read, and then it hits me. That just my eyes just opening up to discover that I had never, ever, ever honored God on His day. Oh, we went to church. We were children’s and family pastors, and here I’m in this airplane, and God’s Word is speaking to me. I came home and got on my knees and asked my wife to forgive me, and that day my life was radically changed, as the kids saw.
Female: My parents are two completely different people than they were ten years ago. When we all came together as one family, as one unit, nothing was gonna separate our family anymore. We were more close than we were before.
Tony: What Amazing Facts has done for my family, oh, my word. The fact that we’re talking like this right now is a miracle. My girls to hug me, my son to hold me, I am such a blessed man.
Announcer: Amazing Facts. Changed lives.
Female: So, my mother passed away when I was three, and my paternal grandparents decided they would care for my two older sisters and I so that my father would have time to mourn. We never really had a mother or a strong fatherly figure. And I’m not blaming my dad. I’m just saying that’s how things worked out.
When I was in high school, my oldest sister got into an argument with our father, and my sister and I decided that we would take her side, and so that caused a split in our family. For four years, we lived in the same house. We ate from the same pot. We used the same restroom. We walked by each other, but we never said anything to our father, and he never said anything to us.
A year later, I decided I would move out for college. He wasn’t very happy with that. We got booted out of the house. We went back to apologize, but we weren’t really accepted back. I have felt so alone a lot of my life. I feel like I’ve had to fend more for myself. I’ve been missing a fatherly love. I don’t have family with me. I don’t have a lot of things, but I have God, and I’ve been fulfilled. I’ve been satisfied. God has been my father.
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“Comfort My People” | Isaiah
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