Isaiah 40:1
"Comfort, comfort My people," says your God.
Sermons
A Comforting MessageJ. A. Alexander, D. D.Isaiah 40:1
A Divine ArtF. B. Meyer, B. A.Isaiah 40:1
A Storehouse of Divine PromiseJ. R. Macduff, D. D.Isaiah 40:1
And the Redeemer Shall Come unto Zion, and unto Them that TurnHugh BinningIsaiah 40:1
Comfort for EnglandJ. Watson, M. A.Isaiah 40:1
Comfort for God's PeopleJ. H. Evans, M. A.Isaiah 40:1
Comfort for God's PeopleC. Stanford, D. D.Isaiah 40:1
Comfort for ZionG. Norcross, D. D.Isaiah 40:1
Comfort ProclaimedIsaiah 40:1
Comfort Ye My PeopleT. Allen, D. D.Isaiah 40:1
Comfort Ye, Comfort YeJ. R. Macduff, D. D.Isaiah 40:1
Comfort Ye, Comfort Ye My PeopleJ. B. Brown, B. A.Isaiah 40:1
Conviction and ComfortH. G. Guinness, D. D.Isaiah 40:1
Divine ComfortJ. N. Bennie, LL. B.Isaiah 40:1
Does Isaiah 40. Treat of the Return from BabylonJ. A. Alexander, D. D.Isaiah 40:1
God's Great ComfortJ. R. Macduff, D. D.Isaiah 40:1
God's Return to a Pardoned PeopleProf. G. A. Smith, D. D.Isaiah 40:1
Hillis -- God the Unwearied GuideVariousIsaiah 40:1
Jehovah and His ChurchJ. A. Alexander.Isaiah 40:1
My People; Your GodProf. G. A. Smith, D. D.Isaiah 40:1
Religious ComfortT. Gisborne.Isaiah 40:1
The Comfort of God's Restored FavourR. Tuck Isaiah 40:1
The ConsolationJohn Newton Isaiah 40:1
The Divine Ministry of ComfortD. Thomas, D. D.Isaiah 40:1
The Gospel of IsaiahJ. Trapp.Isaiah 40:1
The Great Prophecy of Israel's RestorationProf. S. R. Driver, D. D.Isaiah 40:1
The Lord's People ComfortedE. Cooper.Isaiah 40:1
The Trials of Business MenT. De Witt Talmage, D. D.Isaiah 40:1
This Sermon was Originally PrintedCharles Haddon Spurgeon Isaiah 40:1
Divine ConsolationsW.M. Statham Isaiah 40:1, 2
Pardon and PenaltyW. Clarkson Isaiah 40:1, 2
The Prophet's CommissionE. Johnson Isaiah 40:1-11
He is to unfold a theme of consolation, which runs through the whole of the book, introduced by this chapter. He speaks to the prophets: "Ye prophets, prophesy consolation concerning my people" (Targum of Jonathan); or, "O priests, speak to the heart of Jerusalem," according to the LXX. The former is probably correct. The prophets were numerous both in Isaiah's time (Isaiah 3:1; Isaiah 29:10, 20) and during the Babylonian exile (Jeremiah 29:1). Jehovah is now reconciled to his erring people, and calls them no longer by names expressive of rejection or contempt (as in Hosea 1:9; Isaiah 6:9), but as my people. "Israel, my people, and I their God," is the great word on which both Judaism and Christianity rest. Now the prophets are to "speak to the heart of Jerusalem." It is to be in a voice clear and distinct and penetrating. "Heart," in Hebrew use, is a comprehensive word; it stands for" intelligence, conscience, feeling," in one (cf. Genesis 34:3; Genesis 50:21, where the Hebrew is, "to their hearts"). Perhaps chiefly the latter here. The vocation of the prophet is now especially to comfort and encourage. And so ever with the preacher. We may compare with these words the scene in the synagogue at Nazareth. Christ announces himself as the Bearer of consolation to the heart of his people, to the heart of mankind, especially to the poor and the distressed and dejected. And surely the burden of every ministry may well be the "Christ of consolation."

I. THE MESSAGE TO JERUSALEM.

1. "Her warfare is fulfilled." "Warfare" standing for "enforced hardships." The metaphor "very suggestive of the peculiar troubles of military service in ancient times:" "Hath not man a warfare [hard service] on the earth?" (Job 7:1). The idea of an appointed time of service enters into the word - the discharge of a duty for which a man has been enlisted, or solemnly engaged, as that of the Levites in the tabernacle (Numbers 4:23; Numbers 8:24, 25). Life as a period of enforced service. It means for most of us, perhaps for all of us, toil, danger, suffering. From this enlistment the only discharge is by death (Job 14:14; Daniel 10:1). Our times are in the hand of God. A period is fixed to all suffering and trial. It may calm the apprehension of calamity in the most susceptible heart to see how quick a bound has been set to the utmost infliction of malice. We rapidly approach a brink over which no enemy can follow us. "Let them rave; thou art quiet in thy grave."

2. "Her guilt is paid off." For punishment is viewed as the payment of a debt, and so as the satisfaction of the demands of Divine justice. In the Law, the sword and dispersion among the heathen are threatened against the disobedient and the unreformed; but never does Jehovah forget the covenant between him and the people; he is ever ready to suspend punishment when they suspend sin. Here the people are represented "as having suffered what God had appointed them - endured the natural punishment he saw to be necessary. They had served out the long term he had appointed. Now he is satisfied, has pleasure in releasing them and restoring them to their own land." Happy that moment in the personal life when the soul can be assured that suffering has done its work, and that it may be self-forgiven, because God-forgiven.

"At the last, do as the heavens have done:
Forget your evil; with them, forgive yourself."

3. "' She hath received double for all her sins.' The expression seems to denote what is amply sufficient (cf. Jeremiah 17:18; Revelation 18:6)" (Cheyne); "As much as God judged to be sufficient" (Grotius); "Double to be received for large and abundant" (Calvin). The great law of compensation running through life, we must believe, is exact in its operation. God makes no mistakes in his reckonings. Suffering may continue long after sin has been forgiven. If the memory of guilt be still poignant, if the consequences of sin seem still "ever before us," it is as if God were saying, "Not enough hast thou suffered yet to know how precious is the peace of forgiveness." And when that blessed sense of forgiveness steals into the soul, it is the symptom that the hand of God is removed, that the cup of sorrow has been drained, that the medicine has done its work. The justice of our God will exact sufficient from us in the way of suffering; his clemency and mercy will never add a superfluous stroke from the scourge; rather he will stop short of the full exaction - thirty-nine rather than the full forty stripes.

II. THE MYSTERIOUS CALL. From what is to be believed of Jehovah, we pass to what is to be done for Jehovah. So ever does faith push on to practice. The internal act of the mind realizes itself and is made perfect in the external act of the life.

1. Mysteriously a voice bids the listening heart prepare for Jehovah. It is a "non-Divine, yet supernatural voice." The poetic effect is heightened by the mystery (cf. Isaiah 51:9; Isaiah 52:1; Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10). Similar voices are spoken of in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 1:10, 12; Revelation 4:1; Revelation 10:4, 8). There are times when the breath of coming change is felt stirring, and voices are heard calling to men to welcome it in and to help it on. Whence come they? Who knows? A spiritual world is all about us. It has music, and words; but while "this muddy vesture of decay doth grossly close us in, we cannot hear." But at times they pierce through our sensuality and break up our lethargic indolence. "Clear ye Jehovah's way in the desert." The Divine monarch is about to make a progress. Let the heart of the nation be as a highway for their God (Psalm 84:5). So the Gospels understand the cry (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4). From another point of view, the way of Jehovah through the desert is symbolic of his people's destinies. Babylon, as the scene of captivity, reminds us of the scene of captivity of yore in Egypt. When the temple was destroyed and Israel went forth, it was as if Jehovah had departed - perhaps to his sacred seat in the north, where Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:4) sees the cherubic chariot. His coming back is the people's coming back under his leadership. The imagery of clearing the way may be illustrated from the practice of Oriental princes. Diodorus tells of Semiramis that, in her march to Ecbatana, she had precipices digged down, and hollows filled up, so as to leave an everlasting memorial of herself - the "road of Semiramis' (cf. Baruch 5:7). Then the glory of Jehovah, eclipsed or hidden through his people's suffering and exile, will shine forth in its splendour, and all mankind shall look on.

2. Again the voice is heard saying, "Call!" And the prophet answers, "What shall I call?" The burden of the cry is the frailty of man, and the eternity of the truth. Homer compares the race of man to the successive generations of the leaves of the wood; the prophet to the grass and the flowers (cf. Psalm 90:5, 6). Israel and Assyria are both politically extinct, and Babylon is hurrying to its end. The thought is suggested, though not expressed, that if Israel is to rise again from its ashes, it can only be by abstaining from all attempts at secular aggrandizement. The new Israel will be, in all the circumstances of its growth, supernatural. And what is true of one people is true of all. Princes, nobles, and monarchs, armies and magistrates, are feeble like grass and will soon pass away. On the one hand, they would not be able to accomplish what was needed for the deliverance of the people; on the other, their oppressors had no power to continue their bondage, since they were like grass and must pass away. But Jehovah had all power, and was ever-enduring, and able to fulfil all his promises, especially those concerning Israel (Isaiah 44:26; Isaiah 45:19; Isaiah 52:6; Isaiah 63:1; Jeremiah 44:28, 29). And the healing results are to be known by all mankind.

III. THE INSPIRING VISION - The prophet is carried away in spirit to Palestine, and sees the fulfilment of the promise drawing near. He personifies Zion and Jerusalem, and calls upon them to lift up their voices and announce to the cities of Judah the approach of God. Perhaps he idealizes the city, or is thinking of the city out of sight - the spiritual commonwealth of which the earthly and visible one was the type. Lo! he comes! the God and Leader of the people returning to the city, the temple, the land. He will come in his might; the arm is the very symbol of his almightiness; and it rules "for him," i.e. for the peculiar people, the people of his possession. He comes to recompense his friends and to execute vengeance on his foes. The ruler of a people is fitly imaged as a shepherd, and they as his flock. And now he has sought and found his sheep again, and will once more lead them to green pastures (Jeremiah 31:10; Jeremiah 50:19; Ezekiel 34:11-16), and, as a good shepherd, will not overdrive the suckling ewes (Genesis 33:13). In the Syrian plains the frequent removal to fresh pastures is very destructive to the young, and shepherds may now be seen in the Orient carrying, on such occasions, the lambs in their bosoms. We need, by any means in our power, travel, and observation, to realize strongly the grave responsibility, the constant anxiety, the patient and unwearied tendance, connected with the shepherd's life in the East. Compare such a life with that of the hunter, who, from watching, pursuing, outwitting wild beasts, comes to partake of their fierce and cunning nature. The life of the shepherd draws upon the fund of love and tenderness in his heart; it is a humanizing life, full of a fine education; elevating by means of condescension. Then how rich a symbol is the pastoral character of the nature of the redeeming God! And how do the numerous passages in the New Testament, in which Jesus is so described, start into life and beauty, when these things are considered (John 10.; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 1 Peter 5:4)! There is an ineffable union of might with tenderness in the character of the Redeemer-God, which should in some sort be reflected in the pastoral character of Christ's servants (John 16:15-17). - J.







Comfort ye, comfort ye My people.
In passing from chaps, 36.-39, to chap. 40. we find ourselves introduced into a new world. The persons whom the prophet addresses, the people amongst whom he lives and moves, whose feelings he portrays, whose doubts he dispels, whose faith he confirms, are not the inhabitants of Jerusalem under Ahaz, or Hezekiah, or Manasseh, but the Jewish exiles in Babylonia. Jerusalem and the Temple are in ruins (Isaiah 44:10), and have been so for long (Isaiah 58:12; Isaiah 61:4 — the "old waste places"): the proud and imposing Babylonian empire is to all appearance as secure as ever; the exiles are in despair or indifferent; they think that God has forgotten them, and have ceased to expect, or desire, their release (Isaiah 40:27; Isaiah 49:14, 24). To arouse the indifferent, to reassure the wavering, to expostulate with the doubting, to announce with triumphant confidence the certainty of the approaching restoration, is the aim of the great prophecy which now occupies the last twenty-seven chapters of the Book of Isaiah.

(Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)

Here beginneth the Gospel of the prophet Isaiah, and holdeth on to the end of the book.

(J. Trapp.)

Isaiah 40treat of the return from Babylon? — The specific application of this chapter to the return from Babylon is without the least foundation in the text itself. The promise is a general one of consolation, protection, and change for the better, to be wrought by the power and wisdom of Jehovah, which are contrasted, first, with those of men, of nations, and of rulers, then with the utter impotence of idols. That the ultimate fulfilment of the promise was still distant, is implied in the exhortation to faith and patience. The reference to idolatry proves nothing with respect to the date of the prediction, although more appropriate in the writings of Isaiah than of a prophet in the Babylonish Exile. It is evidently meant, however, to condemn idolatry in general, and more particularly all the idolatrous defections of the Israelites under the old economy.

(J. A. Alexander, D. D.)

There is evident allusion to the threatening in Isaiah 39:7. Having there predicted the captivity in Babylon, as one of the successive strokes by which the fate of Israel as a nation and the total loss of its peculiar privileges should be brought about, the prophet is now sent to assure the spiritual Israel, the true people of Jehovah, that although the Jewish nation should not cease to be externally identified with the Church, the Church itself should not only continue to exist, but in a far more glorious state than ever.

(J. A. Alexander, D. D.)

The beginning of the good tidings is Israel s pardon; yet it seems not to be the people's return to Palestine which is announced in consequence of this, so much as their God's return to them. "Prepare ye the way of Jehovah, make straight a highway for our God. Behold, the Lord Jehovah will come."

(Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)

All the prophecy we are about to study may be said to hang from these pronouns. They are the hinges on which the door of this new temple of revelation swings open before the long-expectant people.

(Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)

This portion (chaps. 40.-66.) of the great prophet's writings may well be regarded as the Old Testament Store. house and Repertory of "exceeding great and precious promises," in which Jehovah would seem to anticipate His own special Gospel name as "the God of all comfort."

(J. R. Macduff, D. D.)

1. A glorious change awaits the Church, consisting in a new and gracious manifestation of Jehovah's presence, for which His people are exhorted to prepare (vers. 1-5).

2. Though one generation perish after another, this promise shall eventually be fulfilled, because it rests not upon human but Divine authority (vers. 6-8).

3. Zion may even now see Him approaching as the conqueror of His enemies, and at the same time as the Shepherd of His people (vers. 9-11).

4. The fulfilment of these pledges is insured by His infinite wisdom, His almighty power, and His independence both of individuals and nations (vers. 12-17).

5. How much more is He superior to material images, by which men represent Him or supply His place (vers. 18-25).

6. The same power which sustains the heavens is pledged for the support of Israel (vers. 26-31).

(J. A. Alexander.)

The double utterance of the "Comfort ye," is the well-known Hebrew expression of emphasis, abundance, intensity; — "Great comfort, saith your God."

(J. R. Macduff, D. D.)

At the close of the prophecy, the prophet tells us what the strength and abundance of that comfort is. Earth's best picture of strong consolation is that of the mother bending over the couch of her suffering and sorrowing child (Isaiah 66:13).

(J. R. Macduff, D. D.)

When the soul is in the period of its exile and bitter pain, it should do three things.

I. LOOK OUT FOR COMFORT.

1. It will come certainly. Wherever the nettle grows, beside it grows the dock-leaf; and wherever there is severe trial, there is, somewhere at hand, a sufficient store of comfort, though our eyes, like Hagar's, are often holden that we cannot see it. It is as sure as the faithfulness of God. "I never had," says Bunyan, writing of his twelve years' imprisonment, "in all my life, so great an insight into the Word of God as now; insomuch that I have often said, Were it lawful, I could pray for greater trouble, for the greater comforts' sake." God cannot forget His child.

2. It will come proportionately. Thy Father holds a pair of scales. This on the right is called As, and is for thine afflictions; this on the left is called So, and is for thy comforts. And the beam is always kept level The more thy trial, the more thy comfort. As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth through Christ.

3. It will come Divinely. God reserves to Himself the prerogative of comfort. It is a Divine art.

4. It will come mediately. What the prophet was as the spokesman of Jehovah, uttering to the people in human tones the inspirations that came to him from God, so to us is the great prophet, whose shoe-latchet the noblest of the prophetic band was not worthy to unloose; and our comfort is the sweeter because it reaches us through Him.

5. It will come variously. Sometimes by the coming of a beloved Titus; a bouquet; a bunch of grapes; a letter; a message; a card. There are many strings in the dulcimer of consolation. In sore sorrow it is not what a friend says, but what he is, that helps us. He comforts best who says least, but simply draws near, takes the sufferer's hand, and sits silent in his sympathy. This is God's method.

II. STORE UP COMFORT. This was the prophet's mission. He had to receive before he could impart. Thy own life becomes the hospital ward where thou art taught the Divine art of comfort. Thou art wounded, that in the binding up of thy wounds by the Great Physician thou mayest learn how to render first-aid to the wounded everywhere.

III. PASS ON COMFORT.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

There are ministries in the world.

1. There is the Divine ministry of instruction. In this ministry nature, history, and the Bible are constantly employed.

2. There is the Divine ministry of Justice. Nemesis is always and everywhere at work, treading on the heels of wrong, and inflicting penalties.

3. In the text we have the Divine ministry of comfort. The words suggest three thoughts concerning this ministry.

I. It implies the existence of DISTRESS. Bright and fair as the material world often appears, a sea of sorrow rolls through human souls The distress is of various kinds.

1. Physical suffering.

2. Social bereavement.

3. Secular anxieties.

4. Moral compunction.

II. It implies the existence of SPECIAL MEANS. All this distress is an abnormal state of things. Misery is not an institution of nature, and the creation of God, but the production of the creature. To meet this abnormal state something more than natural instrumentality is required.

1. There must be special provisions. Those provisions are to be found in the Gospel. To the physically afflicted there are presented considerations fitted to energise the soul, endow it with magnanimity, fill it with sentiments and hopes that will raise it, if not above the sense of physical suffering, above its depressing influence. To the socially, bereaved it brings the glorious doctrine of a future life. To the secularly distressed it unfolds the doctrine of eternal providence. In secular disappointments and anxieties it says, "Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things."

2. There must be special agency. A physician may know the disease of his patient, but if he does not know the precise mode of application he will not succeed. So it is with the Gospel. A man to give comfort to another requires a special qualification. The comforting elements must be administered —

(1)Not officially, but humanly.

(2)Not verbosely, but sympathetically.

III. It implies a LIMITED SPHERE. "My people." The whole human family is in distress, but there is only a certain class qualified to receive comfort, those who are here called God's "people," and who are they? Those who have surrendered themselves to His will, yielded to His claims, and dedicated themselves to His service.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

I. THE SPEAKER. It is the God of comfort, the God of all comfort that here speaks comfortably to His people. There is a danger of our thinking too much of comfort, and one may only value the word preached as it administers comfort; this is a great error, because all Scripture is profitable for doctrine, and reproof, as well as for comfort. One great end which even the Scriptures have in view, is not only to lead us to patience in suffering, but to comfort us under suffering. It is one thing for man to speak comfort, it is another thing for God to speak comfort.

II. THE PERSONS THAT ARE HERE SPOKEN TO. "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people."

1. The Lord has a people upon earth — He has never been without a people.

2. The Lord has a people; and if He has a people He will try them, and they shall not be found summer flies just resting on the surface of things, but they shall be found to be those that know the truth in the power of it, and they shall be made to feel and experience the worth of it. It shall not be enough for them to say, I am a sinner, but they shall feel the wretchedness of being a sinner, they shall not only confess that Christ is precious, but they shall be placed where they shall know Him to be precious.

3. The Lord has a people; and it is a most blessed consideration to reflect that while He has a people, He is their God. Talk not of your wretchedness and your poverty and your disease, of your weakness; if God be your God, not only heaven is your home, but you have that without which heaven would not be worth the having.

4. God has a people; no wonder then He comforts them — His eye is upon them from the beginning to the end of the year. They are the salt of the earth to Him, and he that touches them touches the apple of His eye.

III. THE LORD'S MESSAGE UNTO HIS MINISTERS. "Comfort ye," etc. The-great cause of comfort to a child of God may be summed up in a little sentence — through eternity he never shall come to the close of it. Let me point out some few of those great mercies that flow to a child of God in consequence of his having Christ as his portion.

1. He has that which made David glad (Psalm 32:1, 2). The great contest Satan has with our consciences is about the pardon of our sins. Well might the people of God then be comforted by this truth, that their sins have all been blotted out as a cloud.

2. Do you ask for another ground of comfort? See it in a covenant, ordered in all things (2 Samuel 23:5).

3. But the Psalmist found another source of comfort. "It is good for me to draw near to God" (Psalm 73.). There is no mercy on earth greater than to have a God in heaven, to have an Intercessor at the right hand; to have the heart of God; to have the promise of God: to have Jehovah Himself as my portion.

4. One comfort more is the bright prospect that is before the child of God.

(J. H. Evans, M. A.)

It was once said by Vinet, that the three great objects of the preacher were the illumination, consolation, and regeneration of men. The work of comforting is surely an important one, but it is God's people .whom we are to comfort. We are not to say, Peace, peace! where there is no peace. Stoical indifference is not real comfort, but peace alone is found in God.

I. Notice what a discovery is made in the text of GOD'S NATURE. He has not hidden away from men; He is not asleep or tied down by law, but His tender mercies are over all His works. He is near to every one of us, seeking our love and confidence.

II. HUMAN SOULS NEED COMFORT. Constitutional characteristics render us susceptible to consolatory truths. Even those hardened in sin have been melted by a woman's tears, or have yielded to the persuasiveness of a child.

III. Look at the GROUNDS ON WHICH THIS COMFORT IS ADMINISTERED. Not those of philosophy. When the Greeks, under Xenophon, caught sight of the Euxine, they jubilantly cried, "The sea, the sea!" The discoveries of Divine grace — a sea without a bottom or a shore — elicit profounder joy.

(G. Norcross, D. D.)

The words of this passage (1-11) look on to the captivity. The people, afflicted, chastened, broken in spirit, are called upon to listen to the strains of consolation which God had breathed for them in His word. I venture to think that they were laden with a richer consolation in that they came down a vista of nearly two hundred years. Old words are precious to mourners. That which is spoken at the moment is apt to be coloured by the thoughts and the doubts of the moment; an old word spoken out of the region of these present sorrows has double force. It seems to bring that which is absolute and universal to bear on that which is present and passing. This is why the Scripture is so precious to mourners. It belongs to all time. And these words rule all its declarations. It is comfort throughout and to the end. The mercies of judgment is a subject we too little study. Yet mercy is the deepest element in every judgment with which God afflicts mankind. Stern, hard, unfaltering to the eye, but full of rich mercy to the heart. It was in tender mercy that man, the sinner, was sent forth to labour. In society we see on a large scale how God's judgments are blessings in disguise. Great epidemics are healing ordinances. They purify the vital springs. They leave a purer, stronger health when their dread shadow has passed by. Catastrophes in history are like thunderstorms; they leave a fresher, brighter atmosphere. Reigns of terror are the gates through which man passes out into a wider world. May we pray, then, in calamities for deliverance, when they are so likely to be blessings? Yes, for prayer is the blessed refuge of our ignorance and dread. But Isaiah had the profoundest right to speak of comfort, because he could speak of the advent of the Redeemer to the world. He not only preaches comfort, but discloses the source from which it springs — "Emmanuel, God with us."

(J. B. Brown, B. A.)

1. Living in the midst of sorrow, and himself personally its victim, the Christian has need of comfort. Whatever form the affliction may take, it is hard for flesh and blood to bear; it runs contrary to all the tastes and desires of the natural man. Often under its pressure, especially when long continued and severe, is he tempted to faint and despond; it may be, even to repine and murmur; to doubt the faith. fulness of God; to ask, in bitterness of heart, why such woe is appointed to man?

2. With what power, then, do words like these reach him in the midst of his sorrow, coming from God Himself, "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people!" No sooner are they heard than hope revives, and the assurance of Divine sympathy at once soothes his trouble, and allays his fears.(1) Here is the first light from heaven which breaks upon human sorrow, and which removes from it, for the Christian, its keenest sting. God knows your suffering and thinks of it, and seeks to comfort you under it. You are not the sport of inexorable fate, or blind and reckless chance; still less are your afflictions proof that God has abandoned you in wrath.(2) How sweet is the solace of human sympathy! But here we have Divine sympathy; sympathy from One both able and willing to deliver, — from the God of all comfort.(3) Not afar off, does the voice of God reach us, from an inaccessible heaven, telling us we are His people and that He cares for us. He has come and made us His people, by taking our nature, and being born and living as a man.

(J. N. Bennie, LL. B.)

I. GOD HAS A PEOPLE IN THE WORLD.

II. I proceed TO COMPLY WITH THE INJUNCTION IN THE TEXT. To this end, I will endeavour to obviate some few of the most common causes of that want of comfort to which the people of God are liable.

1. One cause is their misunderstanding the nature and extent of that pardon of sin, which the Gospel provides.

2. Another cause arises from their seeking comfort where it is not to be found. You can never find it from poring into your own hearts. Look in faith to Jesus Christ — His glorious person and gracious offices, etc.

3. Another cause arises from their mistaking the proofs and marks of a really religious state. They suppose that it consists in warm and rapturous feelings. Your salvation is grounded on the faithfulness of Him who cannot lie.

(E. Cooper.)

These words came to the prophet in the olden time, but they come just as forcibly to any man who stands to-day in any one of the pulpits of our great cities. A preacher has no more right to ignore commercial sorrows than any other kind of sorrow.

I. A great many of our business men feel ruinous trials and temptations coming to them FROM SMALL AND LIMITED CAPITAL IN BUSINESS. This temptation of limited capital has ruined men in two ways. Despondency has blasted them. Others have said, "Here I have been trudging along. I have been trying, to be honest all these years. I find it is of no use. Now it is make or break.

II. A great many of our business men are tempted to OVER-ANXIETY AND CARE. God manages all the affairs of your life, and He manages them for the best.

III. Many of our business men are tempted TO NEGLECT THEIR HOME DUTIES. How often it is that the store and the home seem to clash, but there ought not to be any collision. If you want to keep your children away from places of sin, you can only do it by making your home attractive. We need more happy, consecrated, cheerful Christian homes.

IV. A great many of our business men are tempted to PUT THE ATTAINMENT OF MONEY ABOVE THE VALUE OF THE SOUL. The more money you get, the better if it come honestly and go usefully. But money cannot satisfy a man's soul; it cannot glitter in the dark valley; it cannot pay our fare across the Jordan of death; it cannot unlock the gate of heaven. Treasures in heaven are the only uncorruptible treasures. Have you ever ciphered out in the rule of Loss and Gain the sum, "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?" Seek after God; find His righteousness, and all shall be well here and hereafter.

(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

I. SHOW WHAT THE COMFORT IS which the Gospel of our Lord conveys to mankind. Whenever we speak of comforting another, the very expression implies that he is in tribulation and distress. Without the Gospel of Christ the condition of men must be wretched.

II. DESCRIBE THE PERSONS WHO ARE AUTHORISED TO TAKE THAT COMFORT TO THEMSELVES. Evangelical obedience is to be the foundation of evangelical comfort.

(T. Gisborne.)

"Comfort ye My people" —

1. By reminding them that I am their God.

2. By reminding them that their captivity in this world is nearly over, and that they will soon be home.

3. The Saviour is coming to this world, and is on His way to show His glory here. He will come and fill the world with His victories.

(C. Stanford, D. D.)

What a sweet title: "My people!" What a cheering revelation: "Your God!" How much of meaning is couched in those two words, "My people!" Here is speciality. The whole world is God's. But He saith of a certain number, "My people." While nations and kindreds are passed by as being simply nations, He says of them. "My people." In this word there is the idea of proprietorship. In some special manner the "Lord's portion Is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance." He has done more for them than others; He has brought them nigh to Himself. How careful God is of His people; mark how anxious He is concerning them, not only for their life, but for their comfort. He would not only have us His living people, His preserved people, but He would have us be His happy people too. He likes His people to be fed, but what is more, He likes to give them "wines on the lees well refined," to make glad their hearts.

I. TO WHOM IS THIS COMMAND ADDRESSED? The Holy Spirit is the great Comforter, and He it is who alone can solace the saints; but He uses instruments to relieve His children in their distress and to lift up their hearts from desperation. To whom, then, is this command addressed?

1. To angels, first of all. You often talk about the insinuations of the devil. Allow me to remind you that there is another side of that question, for if evil spirits assault us, doubtless good spirits guard us. It is my firm belief that angels are often employed by God to throw into the hearts of His people comforting thoughts.

2. But on earth this is more especially addressed to the Lord's ministers. The minister should ask of God the Spirit, that he may be filled with His influence as a comforter.

3. But do not support your ministers as an excuse for the discharge of your own duties; many do so. When God said, "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people," He spake to all His people to comfort one another.

II. WHAT ARE THE REASONS FOR THIS COMMAND?

1. Because God loves to see His people look happy. The Roman Catholic supposes that God is pleased with a man if he whips himself, walks barefooted for many miles, and torments his body. When I am by the seaside, and the tide is coming in, I see what appears to be a little fringe, looking almost like a mist; and I ask a fisherman what it is. He tells me there is no mist there; and that what I see are all little shrimps dancing in ecstasy, throwing themselves in convulsions and contortions of delight. I think within myself, "Does God make those creatures happy, and did He make me to be miserable? Can it ever be a religious thing to be unhappy?" No; true religion is in harmony with the whole world; it is in harmony with the whole sun and moon and stars, and the sun shines and the stars twinkle; the world has flowers in it and leaping hills and carolling birds; it has joys in it; and I hold it to be an irreligious thing to go moping miserably through God's creation.

2. Because uncomfortable Christians dishonour religion.

3. Because a Christian in an uncomfortable state cannot work for God much. It is when the mind is happy that it can be laborious.

4. Again, "Comfort ye" God's people, because ye profess to love them.

III. God never gives His children a duty without giving them THE MEANS TO DO IT. Let me just hint at those things in the everlasting Gospel which have a tendency to comfort the saints. Whisper in the mourner's ear electing grace, and redeeming mercy, and dying love. Tell him that God watcheth the furnace as the goldsmith the refining pot. If that does not suffice, tell him of his present mercies; tell him that he has much left, though much is gone. Tell him that Jesus is above, wearing the breast-plate, or pleading his cause. Tell him that though earth's pillars shake, God is a refuge for us; tell the mourner that the everlasting God faileth not, neither is weary. Let present facts suffice thee to cheer him. But if this is not enough, tell him of the future; whisper to him that there is a heaven with pearly gates and golden streets.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

I will make one little change in the translation, taking the words of Dr. George Adam Smith, "Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem." "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God! Speak ye to the heart of England, and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished." Had the Hebrew prophets no other claim upon our regard we ought to hold them in everlasting respect for their patriotism. For Israel the prophet thought a man might well die. Israel was also God's people. The strength of Israel in every time of trouble was the Lord of hosts. And the prophet's interest was not confined to the sacrifices of the temple, nor to the coteries of pious people, but swept into its heart everything that concerned the welfare of the community.

1. Why should not our faith go farther afield and have a more generous range? We also carry in our hearts, not only as citizens, but also as Christians, this England which God gave to our fathers, and has continued in its glory unto their children. Why should we not take our courage in both our hands and, looking at the history of the past and comparing it with the history of the present, recognise in our own people another Israel called of God in a special manner, set apart by God for a special mission, and gather into our soul all the promises of God, and also make our boast in Him as the prophets did? What did they depend on, the Hebrew prophets, for this great conception that God had called the nation, and had a great work for that nation to do? They depended on the facts of history behind them creating in their soul an irresistible conviction. And I ask you whether the right arm of the Most High has not been as conspicuous in English history? From what perils in past centuries has He not delivered this country when the whole world was against us and was put to confusion! Have not we been surrounded by the sea, our national character formed, for purposes that we can recognise? What nation has ever planted so many colonies, explored so many unknown lands, made such practical contributions to civilisation, set such an illustrious example of liberty? Within our blood is the genius for government, the passion for justice, the love of adventure, and the intelligence of pure faith. Our Lord came of the Jewish stock, and therefore that people must have a lonely place, but when it comes to the carrying out of those great blessings, physical, political, social, and religious, which have been conferred upon the world by the Cross and the pierced hand of the Lord, I challenge anyone to say whether any nation has so extended them within her own borders, or been so willing to give them to the ends of the earth as God's England.

2. I do not forget England's sins, for we have sinned in our own generation by inordinate love of material possessions, by discord between the classes of the commonwealth, by a certain insolence which has offended foreign peoples, and also by hideous sins of the flesh. Our sins have been great, and it becomes us to acknowledge them. Does our sin destroy our calling? Does our sin break the Covenant which the Eternal made with our fathers? No people ever sinned against God like Israel. And between the sin of Israel and the sin of England, God's chosen people of ancient and modern times, there has been the similarity which arises from the sin of people in the same position. Both boasted themselves over-much against other peoples. Both were intoxicated with prosperity. Both depended upon it instead of utilising and conserving the favour of the Most High. When we desire to confess our sins where do we go? We go to the confessions of the Hebrew prophets. And when we ask mercy for our sins, what are the promises we plead? The great promise of mercy declared by the evangelical prophet and now sealed by the life and death and resurrection of our Lord! Because the Hebrew prophet believed that his people were God's people, he had the courage to speak plainly to them. He is not a traitor to his country who on occasions points out his country's sins. When Israel sinned there was no voice so loud as that of Isaiah or Amos, but they delighted not in the work, any more than their God delighted in judgment. If God sent them with a rod they took the rod and gave the stroke, but the stroke fell also on the prophet's own heart, and he suffered most of all the people. When the people repented and turned again to God, when they brought forth works meet for repentance and showed humility, there was no man so glad as the prophet.

3. When the prophet takes up the work of consolation he has no bounds, he makes the comfort of God to run down the streets like a river. It is not enough to say it once, but twice must he sound it, till the comfort of God shall run like lightning through Jerusalem. And when he takes to comforting he is not to be bound by theories of theology or arguments of the schools. He is not going to ask questions — whether a man can expiate his sins, or whether a nation can win repentance. He flings all this kind of argument to the wind, for he has come out from the presence of the Eternal, who does not keep accounts like that, and he cries, "Speak ye home to Jerusalem; her warfare is accomplished." Accomplished! More than that! God hath now repented! It was His people repented first, now He is repenting. They repented of their sins; behold, God has begun to repent of His judgment! "I have," he makes the Eternal say — "I have been over-hard with these people, and I have punished them more than they have deserved. Go and comfort them. Comfort them royally. Give it out with a lavish hand — they have received double for all their sins." When the prophet speaks in this fashion he is not referring to material prosperity, for the words were spoken to the exiles in Babylon. He comforted the exiles because they had repented and been reconciled unto God. The comfort I preach is not based on arms. It is based on the nobler spirit which God has given England during the progress of the war in South Africa. We sinned, and according to our sin was our punishment. We have repented. Through our churches and through our homes, and individually, we have laid the lessons of the Eternal to heart; and according to our repentance shall be the blessing of God.

(J. Watson, M. A.)

This command is adapted to the needs of the country in which we live. There is a good deal of weariness and depression in modern life. If the blessings of an advanced civilisation can make people happy, there are multitudes who ought to be enraptured, for they are surrounded by material comfort. The gospel of recreation is preached to them. Outward nature is enjoyed and reverenced. Music and painting are filling them with sensibility; literature is contributing to their intellectual gratification; and church privileges abound. Worship to-day gratifies the artistic faculty, without putting a very great strain on the spiritual nature of man. There never was so much ingenuity displayed as now in the manufacture of forms of enjoyment. People never waged such a successful war as to-day against physical and social discomfort. And yet, if you watch them closely, you can see that they are not really satisfied. Affection to-day is not at rest, intellect is not at rest, conscience is not at rest, faith is not at rest. Thank God, there is sweet satisfaction of soul to be found. "Comfort ye," etc.

I. There is a message in this text for ALL WHO ARE UNDER DISCIPLINE ON ACCOUNT OF SIN. The connection between sin and punishment is never really broken. Men were never so clever as they are to-day in the efforts they have put forth to evade the penalties of wrong-doing, and they very often succeed so far as outward effects are concerned, But the inward penalty is always sure. Loss of self-respect, loss of faculty, and deterioration of nature itself. "Thy warfare is accomplished," thy discipline may come to an end. It is the spirit of rebellion which lengthens the period of discipline. Lay down your weapons, give up fighting against God, and He will forgive you now, and the consequences of your wrongdoing shall inwardly be done away. Further, your pardon will tell at once on the outward consequences of your wrong-doing. You forfeited the confidence of your friends by your sin; that will come back to you. You damaged your health; that will improve. You injured your social position; that will be retrieved. Just as there is no decree in God's mind as to the length of time during which a man's discipline shall be continued, so there is no decree as to the amount of suffering man can endure. The suffering, like the time, may be relieved by speedy submission and penitence.

II. There is a message in this text for ALL WHO IN RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE HAVE NEVER GOT BEYOND CONVICTION. Beyond conviction there is the forgiveness of God. Beyond the sin there is purity. Beyond doubt there is faith; and beyond all this miserable weariness of spirit there is rest.

III. There is a message here, also, for ALL TIMID CHRISTIANS. They feel it would be presumption to expect conscious pardon and Christian perfection. Cultivate your capacity to take in the comfort of God.

IV. There is a message here for ALL DISCONSOLATE CHRISTIANS. You want new ideas, the old ones are about worn out. Thy warfare with weariness is accomplished.

V. There is a message here for DISCONSOLATE CHURCHES. The Jewish Church was disconsolate at the time of the captivity, and there are Churches to-day which are in a sort of captivity. They have made exceptional provision for the needs of the people, yet they are declining. The declension of Churches in great populations is due to many causes, but due to one cause that is a great deal overlooked, and that is the very peculiar temperament of the generation in which your lot has been east. Competition, in particular, has led to a vast amount of advertising. But disconsolate Churches may be comforted. We are coming out of the captivity of those habits and conditions which have come down from the restrictive ages of society. Modern evangelism has grown steadily in the elements of truth and spiritual intelligence. It is resulting to-day in the deepening of spiritual life, and in the expansion of the kingdom of God.

VI. There is a message here for THE NATION AND THE EMPIRE. The return from captivity was the beginning of a new spiritual movement, which was destined to extend over many countries. The classical period of human history was about to begin. My text is the new strain with which the prophet greets the expanding prospect. As one has said, It is the keynote of the revived and purified Israel, and the reason of the hold of Christendom on Europe and on modern times. There is a wonderful correspondence between that period and ours. England is the centre to-day. Judaism at the time referred to was rational-ised by being brought into contact with forms of Roman and Greek thought. Christianity is being rationalised by contact with natural religion. But who is the leader of the improvement of the modern world? "Who is this that cometh from Edom?" etc. (chap. 63:1). Was it some king ruling the nations with a rod of iron? No. Some soldier with a two-edged sword? No. Some philosopher ruling the intellect of the race? No. Jehovah s righteous servant and witness it was: "that speak in righteousness, mighty to save." And the Lord Christ, the Son of God, never spoke to the race as He is speaking to-day, and He needs His messengers to prepare His way.

(T. Allen, D. D.)

A quaint Scotch preacher said that the needle of the law opens the way for and carries the thread of the Gospel. I once quoted this saying in a tent-meeting, and a hearer remarked to me afterwards: "Yes, you're right; but the needle should be pulled out and not left behind."

(H. G. Guinness, D. D.)

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