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Lesson 8: Comfort My People *

Introduction: The mother of one of my academy friends just died. My Mom died over twenty years ago. Long before Mom died she disappeared into the dark world of Alzheimer's. What a blessing to have a mother for an additional twenty plus years! I will never forget the love and comfort that Mom gave me. I like to avoid sick people so I will stay well. Not my Mom. When I was sick, she was there to try to make the sickness as comfortable as possible. This week God our Father, the One who has been disciplining His people, now shows us His "God our Mother" face as He turns to comfort His people. At the same time, we see the “God our Judge” face. Let's charge into our lesson!

  1.         A Call for Comfort after Punishment

  1.         Read Isaiah 40:1-2. For what reason has the time of comfort come? (God's people have finished their service of paying for their sins.)

  1.         I thought Jesus paid the price for our sins ( Hebrews 9:15). What kind of theology is this? (Our studies in Isaiah so far have shown us that the sins of God's people brought penalties. Reliance on other gods brought the Assyrians (and other countries) who defeated Israel and did a great deal of damage to Judah. Ultimately, God's people were taken into captivity by Babylon. This is the captivity which is described by Daniel.)

  1.         Read 2 Peter 2:13-15. What does this suggest about the relationship between sin and punishment? (This agrees with Isaiah that sin brings "payback.")

  1.         Have you found in your life that you have suffered because of your sins?

                        “

  1.         Notice that Isaiah 40:2 refers to receiving "double" from God’s hand. Is that punishment for sin or is that comfort coming from God?

  1.         Let’s look at some texts about punishment. Compare Leviticus 26:17-18 with Ezra 9:13. Which is it? Does God punish us multiple times for our sins? Or, does He punish us less than we deserve?

  1.         When Bible teachers promote the idea of a perpetually burning hell which eternally tortures sinners, my first reaction is that this is impossible given God's justice. Assume 70 years of sin. Is it just to "repay" that with millions of years of torture? If God is in the "multiple-payback business" could this make sense?

  1.         Read Revelation 18:4-7. Here is a specific discussion about "payback" which uses the term "double portion' at the same time referring to an equivalent punishment (“give back to her as she has given”). What understanding do you have about "double portion" here? ("Double," according to The New Bible Commentary, may simply mean "bountiful." Serious sins call for serious punishment. We recognize this idea in American law. We call it "punitive" damages. The punishment is not unfair, but rather is intended to punish the person (or entity) so that it (and others) will remember not to do this in the future.)

  1.         How many times was Jerusalem destroyed? (Twice. It is possible that "double" refers to the double destruction?)

  1.         Read Isaiah 40:2-3. I’ve taken our discussion down the punishment path. Consider this transition. Would it be a better fit to understand the “double for her sins” as the coming of Jesus who paid the penalty for our sins? Let’s discuss that next.

  1.         A Picture of Comfort

  1.         Re-read Isaiah 40:3. Of what does this text remind you? ( Matthew 3:1-3. This text refers to John the Baptist.)

  1.         What has John the Baptist to do with God's people coming out of captivity in Babylon?

  1.         Think about this a minute. God says to His people that their troubles are over, they have suffered enough. Then a voice is heard to make a highway in the wilderness. When were God's people in the wilderness? (This is a repeated theme in the history of Israel. They were punished by Egyptian slavery. They escaped through the wilderness. They were punished by Babylonian captivity. They made their way back through the "wilderness" to rebuild the temple. They were punished for the sins of Adam and Eve. John the Baptist came out of the wilderness to announce freedom and salvation through Jesus. God's people hear a call from the wilderness to return to the comfort of freedom and salvation.)

  1.         Read Isaiah 40:4-5. If you believe, based on the “prepare the way” of Isaiah 40:3, that your job is to help draw others to Jesus, what do these texts tell you to do? (Don't create barriers for those who want to come.)

  1.         What kind of barriers do we create? (For my children, worship style was a big barrier. They wanted a contemporary worship service. Ask yourself, "What would you give up for your children? Would you give up your life? If so, are you willing to give up your preferred worship style?" Because I wore a suit to court, I used to feel that I should wear a suit to church. But, one day a member suggested to me that wearing a coat and tie might be a barrier to those who did not need suits for work. I struggle with the balance between "barriers" and the proper worship of a Holy God.)

  1.         A Call to Proclaim

  1.         Read Isaiah 40:6-8. How long does grass live?        

  1.         Is hearing this a comfort?

  1.         What is compared to the short lives of humans? (The Word of God.)

  1.         Why does Isaiah compare our life span with the Word of God? Isn't this like comparing apples and oranges?

  1.         Read Isaiah 40:9. Okay. All you short-lived people, what are you called on to do? (Introduce God ("Here is your God") to others.)

  1.         Read Isaiah 40:10. Is the picture about the Word and our short lives more clear now? Why are our short lives compared with the Word of God? (There is a solution to our "short life problem." If we believe and proclaim the Word of God, He will return and reward us with eternal life!)

  1.         How does this message compare to where we started in this chapter? (We started out with a message of comfort. Judah suffered for its sins during the short time it was here on earth. However, if we trust God, as opposed to the temporary things of life, then God will reward us and comfort us with a permanent relationship.)

  1.         Read Isaiah 40:18-20. None of my neighbors has an idol in their yard which they worship. Is this a message for us today?

  1.         What is the common denominator for idols - whether created for a poor or rich person? (They are all dependent upon humans. Today, the issue is whether you depend on ideas created by man or ideas created by God. Human worship is the prevalent "religion" of the day.)

  1.         Read Isaiah 40:25-26. There have been a number of science books which have broken into the best-seller list. At one point I was reading all of them including “The Fabric of the Cosmos” by Brian Greene. Based on this slender claim to scientific knowledge, it seems to me that the "Big Bang theory" is the leading scientific explanation for (v.26) how the heavens were created. Although the "Bang" had to be just right to work (and keep working), science thinks it happened without a Master Intelligence. Who does the Bible say created the heavens?

  1.         Is this another "idol worship" issue? (The ironic thing about idol worship then and now is that the idols of Bible times were obviously made by humans. Today, some scientists attribute to chance and natural selection things that obviously could not be created by humans, much less chance. Do you see God's logic? He says "How can you believe that an idol, which you created with your hands, could create the heavens?" Today we take an equally illogical position. We claim that something that even humans could not create, created itself.)

  1.         Read Isaiah 40:27. Aside from the claim that there is no God, what is the next popular claim? (God pays no attention to me. He does not notice me.)

  1.         Read Isaiah 40:28. Again Isaiah says God is the Creator. How does he explain the charge that God does not notice our problems? (God does not lack the energy or power to help us. The reason we think God does not notice or help us is that we do not understand God's wisdom.)

  1.         Read Isaiah 40:29-31. To those of you who need comfort, to those of you discouraged by life, what does God promise you?

  1.         Friend, if you place your hope in the Lord He promises you renewed energy. He promises that you can soar. He promises you comfort. Will you put your hope in Him and not in yourself?

  1.         Next week: To Serve and to Save.
* Copr. 2021, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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