141207 Isaiah 40:1-2

Last Updated on Monday, 08 December 2014 Written by Pastor Schmidt

Text: Isaiah 40:1-2
Theme: Listen to the Message of Advent!
1. It is Spoken by the LORD's Messengers
2. It is Spoken to Offer Comfort

In the sermon message last Sunday, we heard the encouragement to keep our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ. We talked about all the distractions at this time of year that our enemy Satan would love to use to have us lose focus on what is truly important. As we celebrate this Advent season, looking forward to celebrating the first time Jesus came to this earth, you and I rejoice in the grace of our Savior-God that brought us peace with the one true God. Keeping our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ, you and I listen to the message of Advent. It is a message spoken by the LORD's messengers. It is a message spoken to offer comfort. I invite you to listen again to two verses taken from our First Lesson this weekend. From the first two verses of Isaiah chapter 40, we read:


"Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins."

In chapter 39 of his prophecy, Isaiah was led by God the Holy Spirit to write about the people of Judah being taken away into captivity to the land of Babylon. Isaiah chapter 40 was written by the Lord's prophet some 200 years before the captivity in Babylon would come to an end. Yet, in this chapter, the Lord speaks of the rescue from captivity as an accomplished fact. And he sends his messenger Isaiah to proclaim a message of comfort that the people could turn to during their days in captivity. The Lord instructs his messenger Isaiah, "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem..." After all their unfaithfulness to him, after all their rebellion against him, after all their sins, yet a gracious and loving God still sees his chosen people as his own. So, in great undeserved love for them, he sends them his messenger to proclaim a message of tenderness, of comfort, of compassion. Through his messenger, the LORD reminds his people that he continues to be what he promised to be in Exodus chapter 34, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin."

Who is the Lord's messenger? Who should proclaim this message of comfort to his people? Certainly Isaiah was sent by the Lord to proclaim his Word. But Isaiah was not alone. Throughout the Old Testament, the Lord used his prophets to proclaim his message of peace and comfort. As we heard this past Wednesday evening during our first midweek Advent Service, during his three years of ministry on this earth, Jesus our Prophet proclaimed the Good News that he is the promised Savior, who has come to bring the peace only he is able to provide; the peace of the forgiveness of all sins. The Lord's Apostles such as Peter, Paul and others were messengers of the comforting Gospel.

Today the Lord wants to use you and me to share his Good News of comfort and peace. But, you and I will confess that there are times when we are like the prophet Jonah. While we may not physically try to run away from the Lord, we give into the thinking that it is someone else's job to share God's Word with people. Maybe we are afraid that we will offend someone. Maybe we give in to the thought that says we don't want to anger a relative, or friend or someone at work or school. But to refuse to be a messenger of the Lord is to disobey God. It is a sin. It is a sin that makes you and me just as guilty as the serial-killer on death row.

But, the comfort for you and me is that it is a sin which Jesus Christ came to live, suffer and die for; just as he did for the all the sins of all people. Pray that the Lord would forgive you for those times you failed to be his messenger. Rejoice in the Good News of your forgiveness. Ask the Holy Spirit to make you eager to live a life that brings praise and glory to the Lord who saved you. As Peter writes in his second letter that we heard read earlier, "What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God...dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him." It is only through the Lord Jesus Christ, our one and only Savior, that you and I are spotless, blameless and at peace with our God. Because of Jesus, you and I are able to go out and share the message of his Word; the message of his humble coming as the baby born in Bethlehem; the message of his coming again as the glorious King of kings and Lord of lords. Listen to the message of Advent! Give thanks that the Lord has entrusted you to serve as a messenger of his Word.

A young child wakes up during the middle of the night crying because of a bad dream. A parent holds the child in their arms and offers words of comfort. Someone close to us suffers a loss through the death of a loved one, or is struggling with an illness and we go to that person to offer words of comfort. As you and I listen to the message of the Advent season, and are filled with a desire to share that message with others, the Lord uses you and me as his messengers to speak his word of comfort.

The message of comfort for the Lord's chosen people was this, "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins." For God's people, the end of the Babylonian captivity would be an end of "hard service" for them. The second message of comfort is "that her sin has been paid for." The 70 years that the people of Judah spent in captivity could not begin to pay off the debt of their sins. Rather, someone would come and pay the price on their behalf. The sins of Judah and the entire world would be paid in full by the suffering and death of Jesus, as Isaiah would later write in chapter 53, "The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all." The final message of comfort for the people of Judah is that they have "received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins." As one author has written, "This underscores the grace of the Savior-God. God's blessings are abundant and go beyond expectations. The sins of the people deserved punishment, but a gracious God offered forgiveness and eternal life. What words of comfort for the people of Judah!"

What words of comfort for you and me! What comfort is yours and mine knowing that our "hard service has been completed"; that our sin "has been paid for"; that we "have received from the LORD's hand double for all our sins." As another author has written about this section of God's Word, "Sin and death forge chains of bondage for every sinner. Every sinner longs for the announcement that he or she is free from such bondage. Because Jesus has come, we are released from death. We are no longer slaves to sin. We are no longer locked in the dungeon because of God's wrath and anticipating an eternity of punishment in hell. Our hard service is completed, not because we have achieved release by our own effort or because we have done our time and satisfied the Law. Our bondage is over because God achieved our release through his Son, the promised Savior." Jesus Christ fulfilled God's promise and came as your substitute and mine. Through our Savior, the comfort you and I enjoy is the forgiveness of all of our sins and the promise of eternal life at his side in heaven. As Paul writes in Romans, chapter 5, "But where sin increased, grace increased all the more."

In just a few short weeks, you and I will celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Leading up to the celebration of our Savior's birth, we enjoy hearing the songs and hymns of Christmas. But, during these days before Christmas, also take time to listen to the message of Advent. As you listen for yourself, as you are filled with joy because of your own forgiveness and the promise of eternal life in heaven, remember that the message of Advent is spoken by you, the Lord's messengers. So, ask for the Lord's blessings as you share his Word. Be a willing messenger of the Lord as you offer to others the comfort that only comes through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As we sing in one of the hymns found in our hymnal:


"Softly from his lowly manger
Jesus calls
One and all,
'You are safe from danger.
Children, from the sins that grieve you
You are freed;
All you need
I will surely give you.'" (Christian Worship, #37 v. 5)
Amen.

 

 

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