Jesus reminds us to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” With that admonition in mind, we can be certain that God will treat us in the very best possible way. Although the world is often discouraging, deplorable, and depressing we know that the sufferings of this present world are worthy to be compared with the glory reserved for God’s people. The book of Isaiah shows us that God has done everything possible to bless His people. Although we do suffer for sins, we also know that He has taken our sins and punishment away.
GOD’S CARE FOR HEZEKIAH
With the Assyrian armies surrounding Jerusalem, Hezekiah prays for assistance (Is. 37:15). The Lord answered the King’s prayer and “the angel of the Lord went forth and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses” (Is. 37:36).
When illness befell Hezekiah, Isaiah told him to “set thine house in order: for thou shalt die and not live” (Is. 38:1). Hezekiah prayed again. God answered again. Isaiah came again with a tremendous message, “Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years. And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city” (Is. 38:5-6). As proof God caused the sun-dial to regress 10 degrees! Hezekiah said, “thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind my back” (Is. 38:17).
Hezekiah was certainly blessed, and we are too. Let us never forget God’s infinite power, love, and mercy which yields the great power of prayer. Remember, “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16 ESV). 1 Peter 5:7 reminds us that we are to be “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (NKJV).
John Bunyan said, “you can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” Perhaps we will all be surprised in Heaven with the discovery of God’s list of blessings we could have enjoyed if only we had prayed.
Perhaps, Hezekiah’s surplus of blessings led to a negligence in humility. Merodachbaladan, son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah for his recovery. Hezekiah showed the envoys all the treasures of his palace and kingdom. Isaiah returned again. This time it was a message of doom and not of an answered prayer. Isaiah said that the Babylonians would conquer the kingdom, take all the treasures for themselves, and exile Hezekiah’s children (Is. 39:5-7). With this terrible news, Hezekiah only responded this way, “Good is the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken. He thought moreover, ‘for there shall be peace and truth in my days'” (Is. 39:8).
The prophecy began to find fulfillment in the carrying away of Manasseh (2 Chron. 33:11) and was completed during the reign of Zedekiah (2 Chron. 36:18). It is important to remember that during the days of this prophecy Babylon was not a powerful nation. Babylon was seeking Hezekiah’s help against the Assyrians at this time. Human wisdom would have predicted an Assyrian captivity for Judah, but God knew the future and his purposes for the Babylonian captivity.
Hezekiah’s response could be one of humility as he accepted the decree of the Almighty. However, with the previous messages of doom, Hezekiah responded with prayer. However, this time there is no entreaty. Why? Where was his concern for the kingdom’s future? Where was his concern for his own children and family? Where was his confidence in prayer? Where was the champion of faith who saw history altered by simply requesting that the LORD move his hand?
A mistake by a leader and the transgressions of a people led to the destruction of all they held dear. Yet God still offered hope. The book of Isaiah shifts at chapter 40 to focus on the comfort found in Messianic hope.
GOD’S COMFORTING CHRIST
Despite the announcement of coming captivity, there is a clarion call of comfort for those who wait upon the Lord. Isaiah 40:1-2 beautifully says, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak 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.” The “prophetic past tense” is used to describe some event in the future that is pronounced with such certainty that it is as if it has already occurred.
The comfort did not come during the Babylonian captivity, but Israel waited for the one who would announce the coming of comfort. He would cry out, “Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God….And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it” (Is. 40:3-5). This is of course a prophecy of John’s work as Christ’s forerunner (see Luke 3:4-6).
The comfort would not be limited to physical blessings. The true comfort of God is spiritual in focus. The Israelites often did and we continue today to cry out against the transient nature of life “all flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field” (Is. 40:6). However, the comfort of Jehovah is in the Spiritual blessings of eternal significance.
Jehovah answers: “the grass withers the flower fades: but the word of our God shall stand forever” (Is. 40:8). The “word of our God” would most definitely refer to the very words God chose to reveal His thoughts to us (Matt. 5:18). But we must also understand “the word of our God” refers to the purpose of God wrought in Christ (John 1:1-4). The great comfort we find in Christ will not pass away. God’s purpose of redemption worked in Christ will not pass away. We will find great assurance in the work of our God.
With this comfort of Christianity promised, we can better understand and apply the following words of comfort promised by God. First, let us hold the powerful arm of our God. “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.” Next, let us hold to the powerful relationship we have with God. He said, “But thou Israel art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away. Fear not I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness….For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee” (Is. 41:8-13).
Let us not only take comfort in the fact that Christ came, established his church, and won victory over sin and the grace. Let us also rejoice by, preparation and steadfastness, in the earnest expectation of His return when all will vindicated.