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the book of comfort

In our reading we have completed the first section of Isaiah's writing, along with the historical interlude of chapters 36 to 39.  Chapter 40 begins what is called "the Book of Comfort" with the words, "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God" (40:1)  See also Isa. 49:13; 51:3, 12; 54:11; 57:18; 61:2; 66:13.   The days of Jerusalem's judgment and exile will come to an end, and God's people shall return and be gathered once more to worship and enjoy him.   

Again and again, Isaiah speaks against the folly and vanity of idols and the false gods which cannot save, and that certain and lasting judgment will come upon all idolaters and those who trust false gods.  Only the Lord is God: "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me" (46:9).  Some of the most powerful statements of biblical monotheism are found in these chapters.  He alone guides history.  He alone is Savior.   

This section also includes the "Servant Psalms", also called the "Songs of the Servant", contained in chapters 42, 49, 50, and 53.  The Lord through Isaiah speaks of One who is called "my Servant, Israel," and yet this is not the sinful nation to whom Isaiah has been writing, nor even a group of people.  This Servant is an individual who possesses the righteousness -- and what beautiful righteousness -- that the nation of Israel never achieved, who also bears upon himself the guilt and shame of God's people.  He suffers as dies as a criminal.

And yet Isaiah says the story of this suffering Servant does not end at the grave, but "...he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.  Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.  Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong..." (53:10-12 ESV)   These Servant psalms give a stunning portrait of the character and ministry of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, eight centuries before his birth in Bethlehem.  

In the Old Testament the book of Isaiah is like the mighty Himalaya mountains, and surely, this Book of Comfort with the Songs of the Servant, about the One who is to come, is the Mount Everest of Old Testament prophecy. 





Photo above of Mount Everest, east face, as seen from the air.  From commons.wikimedia.org.

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