Comfort, yes comfort my people. This is not something we deserve. We are not worthy of comfort, but God does not let that stop Him from comforting us. There is not a day goes by, where we do not prove our unworthiness – in our thoughts, – words – deeds. Yet for all that, God is just as urgent and generous to give us comfort.
This is quite a staggering proclamation. But it is wonderful to meditate upon. Here we are. We are so far from being perfect. We have lived in neglect of God. He is not in all our thoughts – yet God commands us to be comforted. Some could argue, it is impossible for Him to be in all our thoughts. We have so many other things demanding our attention.
And that may be so, but when He is in so few of our thoughts, and our attention is often given to frivolous and worthless things; and God being so Almighty, All-powerful – so full of majesty and so adored by the mightiest beings in the Universe – who vastly outnumber us; Yet God as it were, stops all He is doing, and gives this command – “comfort, yes comfort My people.” The fact that He would stoop to consider folk such as us, who have been careless & indifferent, and speak to us so tenderly – this is something quite beyond what words can describe.
This is what we have been studying – The Comfort of God. We have examined the foundation of our comfort – the Scriptures announce God as the “God of all Comfort.” We have answered some of the hindrances we face when it comes to receiving comfort – I would like us to spend a little time focusing on the positive side, of what will help us to believe in the comfort of God.
He doubles up on the word “comfort.” Then follows it up with – “speak tenderly to Jerusalem” – lit – ‘speak to the heart of Jerusalem.” The Bible uses the phrase – “precept upon precept, line upon line.” This is how God instructed Isaiah to address His ancient people. They had become dull in their listening. This was the only way God could speak to them. “Precept upon…!
I don’t want to unnecessarily offend you, but it may offend you – It may shock you, if I said, many of you will sit here today, and listen to this message, and in half and in hour, after you walk out that door, you will not remember anything. Well, you are not the first to be like that. And for all that, God is merciful, and is still prepared to give you these things, “line upon line” – God says, “comfort, yes comfort my people’ – it is spelled out very simply – line upon line; God will you to know His comfort.
You might think we are taking this very slowly – and you would not be wrong. I would be a poor pastor and teacher, not to respect the fact that God knows this about us. We are naturally dull. Now that is not very comforting to be told that, but think of how many times Jesus had need to say to His disciples – “let these things sink into your hearts – he that has ears let him hear” – take heed how you hear.” And in the last book of the Bible, Jesus says, “he that has an ear, let him hear.” And if you add to this disability of dullness, the fact that our minds are bombarded today, by so many things; by entertainment and news reports & sport & business, there is a special need not to rush something as important as this subject of comfort.
In the ancient times when God first addressed these words, the Jews had many depraved thoughts about God. And these thoughts had to be corrected by the prophets. The same is true for us. If we can remove the ignorance, and errors & wrong thoughts of God from our minds, we are well on our way to enjoying a most wonderful benefit. So let me pave the way by mentioning 3 things that will help us in believing in the comfort of God.
Jesus said – “I am with you always.” He could say that of course, because He is God, and God is omnipresent. But He also says it, by way of personal involvement. ‘If I am with anybody, I am particularly with you.” – “It is my determined purpose to be with you always.”
But that is not so with us. We have the limitation of being created – we are creatures; we are finite, and unless we develop the habit of thinking often upon God, He will not be in our thoughts.
David said in Psa.139 – “When I awake, I am still with you.” That has always intrigued me. He had developed the habit of thinking upon God. As if he had said, ‘I was asleep, but the moment I wake up, You are there to give me Your immediate attention.” I often wake up in the night, and this verse often strikes me – and it comforts me. I went to sleep speaking to God, and when I awake I am still with you. God did not take His eyes off me.
One day, I or my wife will be left alone. – Not a nice thought, I know, but that is the sad result of every happy marriage. One day, one of us will wake up in the night and we will be alone in the bed. Several of you I know, are already at that stage in life. If that time comes for me, I pray that the power of these words from Psa.139 will come to me with even greater power.
We must endeavour to keep thoughts of God close to our hearts. When the devil suggests dark thoughts, correct them with bright thoughts of God. If we don’t, the devil will always make God appear to be terrible & threatening. This is why I keep reminding you to learn doctrine. Learn the catechism – basic teaching of the doctrine of God.
If we do, God will never be a dark shadow – He will be the ‘Father of Lights’; We will know Him as ‘our Father who is in heaven.’ So we must develop this habit of keeping thoughts of God in our minds. Think of His character, and all the doctrine of His nature and power. That is the 1st help, in believing & receiving the comfort of God.
The more we do so, the greater will be our comfort. Everywhere in Scripture He is represented to us as a large-hearted God. He has no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but would rather the sinner turn from his iniquity and live. He says, ‘Open your mouth wide and I will fill it’; ‘the sins and iniquities of My people I Will remember no more.’
How much more generous is God than man. You cannot compare the two. Let me quote from Jer.3:6-7. “The LORD said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: “Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot. And I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’
– and some husband found his wife had been sleeping with other men, and after she had gone off to be with her lovers, he followed her, and said, “come back to me, please” – you would think, this person is as weak as water. He is not behaving like a man. And the amazing thing is, God is aware of this. God actually said earlier, if this sort of thing really happened in a country, the land would be polluted. Yet for all that, God says, “I cannot hide my love; I cannot hide what I feel – I cannot deny My intentions – God said, ‘Return to Me.’
His generosity is totality beyond anything we know, or can compare. Listen to the Lord – look with me to V.18 – “To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him?” Any attempt to create a likeness of God, is an idol. Look again to V.25 – “To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?” There is no power that can compare to God – but neither is there any affection – as God goes on to say in V.27.
“Show me your glory.” We might think such a request was answered with some bright dazzling light – but it was answered with a doctrine/teaching; God is ‘long-suffering, plenteous in goodness and mercy.’
The father receives the son who had wounded him – trodden on his honour; and he received him as he was, in all his rags and ruin. He does not reproach him, but restores him to favour, and clothes him in the best robe, and kills the fatted calf for him.
Take Craig & Michael for example. They are two very generous guys. I am pleased to know them, and to have them as Deacons. I want to ask them for a big favour…..
Down the road from us, we have a very rich neighbour – who happens to be very generous. I don’t think I have met anyone who is more generous. If someone could go to Heaven for generosity, he would be in a first class seat. I knew he had a mobile fence post remover …! Because I know he is generous, I did not hesitate to ask him for help. That is what you do.
Dear friends – there is no one more generous than God. There is no heart more feeling. And let this thought comfort you. There is not one niggard word about God in all the Bible. You will be sure to get from Him, simply because He is what He is, whatever He has promised to bestow He will give. Now think about it – and apply this; this is God. Do you believe in this God?
And if God be generous, He will communicate His generosity. God is not Content with simply having His goodness, and keeping it to Himself. “He that spared not His only Son, but freely gave Him up for us all; and how shall He not with Him also freely give, us all things?”
He is generous. Abundant in goodness. Therefore, wherever you are; whatever you have done – if you turn to Him, and confess your need; and like the Prodigal, confess you were wrong; you are not worthy; cry out to Him, and He will communicate Himself to you; and what He communicates must be Himself, must be like Himself, and therefore it must be good; it will be the giving of Himself to you as you are, and with your particular need.
“Our Father, who art in Heaven.” God being who He is, He will be to us better than ever any earthly father has been to a son or a daughter.
If any of us who are older, and have experienced the trials and struggles of life, were told that our father had risen from the dead, and he had a 1,000 times more love than he ever had to us when he was alive, (this may not be a good illustration for some of you, but try to enter into it) – but along with this multiplied love, he had plenty of wealth so he could easily demonstrate this love, and he had incredible wisdom which would effectively prevent him making any mistake, – there is no doubt, that such a discovery would give us wonderful comfort, no matter what trouble we were going through at the moment.
But we have something better. We have a Father in heaven; and there is no way that any earthly parent can come near all the care and affection & feeling that God has for His children.
Comfort yourself, then, with the thought that God is the One you cannot avoid. The Bible says, He is the One “with whom you have to do.” And this One, with whom you have to do, is your Heavenly Father. If your Father will not comfort you, who will? He is the most likely person to get comfort from; therefore the proper person to go to for it.
And because He is a Father you may expect tenderness. As He says here in Isa.40:1-2 “Comfort my people – speak tenderly to Jerusalem – speak to the heart. He is the God of tender mercy. Paul says – “Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.”
God says, “Comfort my people.” To offer comfort to others, is to be like the false prophets. God gives generously, but this is not comfort given out carelessly. We don’t cry comfort just for the sake of sounding nice & friendly.
Non-Christians are not God’s people. God commands comfort for His people, and no others. There is one message to others – not comfort. It is the message of repentance and faith. Jesus said – “Repent and believe the gospel.” Paul preached in Athens and said, “God commands all men everywhere to repent.”
“They cried peace, peace when there was no peace.” They told lies to people, just to make them feel happy, and make themselves popular. God’s “comfort” is not for everyone. The focus of His comfort is only for those He calls “My people”.
You can answer that for yourself. You have just heard all about who God is – you have heard what kind of heart He has – you have heard “He did not spare His own Son, but….!”
Do you believe it? Have you turned to Him – do you confess your sins to Him, and believe He is faithful and just to forgive you of your sins, and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Then how can you be anything other, than His people? He has called you to this – now enter into His comfort that He freely offers you.