Isaiah 40:1, 2
Comfort you, comfort you my people, said your God.
Israel is to be comforted by her teachers and pastors, because the time of her exile, which is the period of the Divine sentence, has nearly expired, and the hour of her redemption is consequently nigh. If we ask what ground of comfort we find here for the Christian Church, or for the chastened human soul, we have to reply -
I. THAT COMFORT IS NOT TO BE FOUND IN THE SUPPOSED LENIENCY OF GOD. No thought can be more perilously false than the imagination that God is too great to concern himself with our misdeeds, or too "good" to take offence with our shortcoming. Scripture, providence, and a sound philosophy alike protest against that ruinous doctrine. Sin is clearly a most serious thing, a heinous and terrible departure in the sight of God. Let no man comfort his soul with the hope that "le ben Dieu" will overlook his life of impiety or his various acts of iniquity. God does, indeed, pardon sin on man's penitence and faith; but even then pardon does not absolutely exclude penalty. We may not press into our service here the word "pardoned" (ver. 2), as it may perhaps there signify expiated; but elsewhere the redemption of Israel is treated as an act of Divine mercy. Yet here we have judgment and mercy blended. The guilty nation is not to be restored until "her warfare" (the time of her service) has been "accomplished," until she has received at the Lord's hand "double" (full and ample chastisement) for all her sins. And the fact is, as we find in our daily experience, that when God now pardons and restores, he lets his reconciled children feel the effects of their past folly and sin. The consequences of a vicious youth go far on into even Christian manhood. The penalties of an unwise and irreverent fatherhood follow the parent to the very foot of the grave. God's mercy does not immediately arrest the tide of suffering and sorrow which flows from a long course of wrong-doing. The man "bears his penalty until his warfare" (his time of servitude) "is accomplished;" and that is often a long time, covering many years, extending over whole periods of human life.
II. THAT COMFORT IS TO BE FOUND IN THE FACT OF A REAL RESTORATION to the love and favour of God. In a very true sense, when a man repents and seeks the Divine mercy in Christ Jesus, he is one of God's "people" (ver. 1); God is his God, as he was not before (ver. 1). And the ills that he now suffers lose their stern aspect; penalty becomes discipline - it is no longer the sentence of the Judge, it is the correction of the Father.
III. THAT COMFORT IS TO BE FOUND IN THE RELEASE OF DEATH and the free(loin of the heavenly country. When the end of life's hard service comes, and the note of the soul's return shall be sounded, then shall there be a glorious deliverance from evil, and entrance on the highest good. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.