Book of Comfort
We serve a God of miracles, a God who listens and a God who makes Himself known. This is plainly shown in this week's story of King Hezekiah. After receiving the shocking news that he would soon die from an illness, the king earnestly prayed to God to extend his life. God answered and gave him another 15 years.
This brief story of grace and mercy is what Isaiah uses to help bridge the first half of his book to the second half. The first half, which focuses on prophetic judgments and woes against Israel and the nations around it, is sometimes known as the "Book of Judgment." The second half, which we will focus on here, is sometimes called the "Book of Comfort."
While we don't have the space to cover all the heady ideas and weighty truths in this beautiful book of poetic prophecy, let's focus on three main concepts in Isaiah's "Book of Comfort." This minimal summary is what was set on my heart as I read and studied this week's readings. Keep these themes in mind as you wade through some of the more challenging passages this week:
I. God is the PROTAGONIST
Isaiah makes it crystal clear that God is the main character in the story of the world -- the only one worthy of worship and adoration. God teaches (Isa. 48:17) and sustains us (Isa. 46:4). He is in complete control (Isa. 43:13) and doesn't hide from us (Isa. 45:19). He is incomparable (Isa. 40:25) and wise (Isa. 55:9). He is responsible for shaping history (Isa. 41:4), and His purpose in doing so will be achieved in full (Isa. 55:11).
II. God's Glory is the PURPOSE
Why is God doing what He's doing? Why is He bothering with shepherds and kings, sinners and saints, commandments and covenants, temples and tabernacles? The answer is simple. It is all for His glory, an ideal that God is fiercely protective of: "For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another" (Isa. 48:11). A few chapters prior, in Isaiah 40:5, we read, "And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together." And what will happen when God's glory is fully revealed? "'From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me,' says the Lord" (Isa. 66:23).
III. God's PROVIDENCE
As we finish reading Isaiah, we can see just how in sin the Pharisees and Jewish leaders must have been to condemn Jesus and miss one of the main signposts revealed within this book of the Bible: that Israel would be used to be a light for the Gentiles (non-Jews) and all nations (Isa. 42:6). Had they taken to heart the lessons written in this book about 700 years before Jesus was born, they would have remembered that saving the chosen in Israel was too small of a goal (Isa. 49:6). God has always had a global goal of salvation (Isa. 56:1-8) that would use a suffering servant to die for "the sin of many" (Isa. 52:13-53:12).
It is fitting that a book of prophecy like Isaiah reminds us that time is of essence when it comes to our salvation. God will not always be available for us to find Him (Isa. 55:6), and judgment is coming (Isa. 65:6). We need to "pursue righteousness and seek the Lord" (Isa. 51:1). However, the "Book of Comfort" also reminds us that if we do so, we need not worry: For if we find the Lord, our salvation is completely assured (Isa. 51:6,8). What Truth provides greater comfort than that?