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COMFORT YE MY PEOPLE
LESSON XIII., MARCH 27, ISA. 40:1-10
Golden Text—”The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together”
Although the seed of Abraham according to the flesh has always been a rebellious house, yet God has covenanted, as we have seen in preceding lessons, that he will yet again bless them wonderfully with his favor and use them as a blessing to others. The special blessing will come through the spiritual Israel (Christ and his little flock) upon representatives of the fleshly seed, who at that time will be in favor again, and more ready than others for the blessings and terms of the New Covenant, then to be thrown open to all mankind. These, receiving the favor first, will become the mouthpieces and channels of that New Covenant blessing to others.
For centuries fleshly Israel has been desolate and without divine favor—ever since their rejection of Messiah, when he said, “Your house is left unto you desolate.” Their career previously had been a period of favor; for though they had suffered much and often for sins, God cared for them and heard their repentant cry and brought them back again to the land of promise. Their chastisement with favor lasted from the death of Jacob, where their national history began, for 1845 years, until our Lord in A.D. 33 pronounced their sentence. And this lesson (Isa. 40:1,2) with other prophecies tells us that when a like period of 1845 years chastisement without favor shall have passed, Israel will be restored to divine favor.
The standpoint of Isaiah’s prophecy in our lesson is the year 1878, just where the 1845 years of disfavor ceased, 1845 years after A.D. 33; and his words are—
Verses 1 and 2, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye [the Church] comfortably to Jerusalem [the natural seed], and cry unto her that her appointed time [margin] is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, for she hath received at the Lord’s hand double [literally, the other half or second half] for all her sins.”
The exact turning-point of Israel’s favor is clearly marked by Scripture (Zech. 9:9-12). The Prophet, after describing our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem on the ass the very day he said, “Your house is left unto you desolate,” says: “Even to-day do I declare that I will render double [Hebrew, mishneh, a second portion, a repetition] unto thee.”
The Prophet Jeremiah had also predicted the same thing, and described it as a season of unmingled disfavor, as it surely has been ever since their rejection of Messiah. He said, “Therefore will I cast you out of this land, into a land that ye know not, NEITHER
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YE NOR YOUR FATHERS [Europe—their fathers had been in Egypt and in Babylon, but never in Europe], and there shall ye serve other gods [Rulers] day and night where I will not show you favor.” (Jer. 16:13.) The next four verses show that they will not forever remain cast off, but that they shall be regathered and blessed; but he adds: “First,
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I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double.”—Verse 18.
And now the Prophet Isaiah (40:1,2), taking the standpoint of the end of this “appointed time,” says, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her appointed time is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double [she has completed the second portion of her punishment] for all her sins.”
Thus we find Jeremiah from the standpoint of the past predicting this “appointed time” of chastisement and promising deliverance at its close; Zechariah pointing out the very day when it began; and Isaiah giving the comforting message to be delivered at its close. For fuller treatment of this subject see Millennial Dawn, Vol. II., Chap. viii.
But who is to deliver these comforting words? Verse 3 shows that it is one like unto John the Baptist, and like unto Elias—”The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness.” That John the Baptist, who cried in the wilderness of Judea and introduced Christ at his first advent, was only a partial fulfilment of this prophecy is clearly shown by our Lord’s reply to the inquiry in many minds whether John were the Elias that should come before the great and notable day of the Lord, or not. Jesus said, “If ye will receive it, this is Elias [the one who was to come ‘in the spirit and power of Elias,’ according to Luke 1:17] which was to come.” (Matt. 11:14.) But Israel did not receive John the Baptist as the Elias, nor did they receive the Messiah, who then offered himself to them as their King, whose presence John heralded. And therefore their unrecognized and rejected King departed and their house was “left desolate” until he should come again in glory and power, when again his presence must be heralded by another who shall come in the spirit and power of Elias—another “Voice” crying in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
That the time for this message to go forth has already come is clearly shown in Millennial Dawn, Vol. II., The Time Is At Hand; and a class of earnest Christians, in the spirit and power of Elias—an uncompromising and fearless spirit, and armed, like Elias, with the power of divine truth—are now crying in the wilderness (for all such are in the wilderness condition, separate from the world and the worldly minded nominal Christians), “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” And all who have this spirit of Elias, and who have also the power of present truth concerning the proximity and glorious character of the Kingdom of God and of the presence of Jehovah’s Anointed who is even now setting up his Kingdom—all such constitute the Elias that was to come—the Voice in the wilderness, whether uttered audibly or through the printed page declaring God’s wonderful plan of the ages and announcing Messiah’s second presence.
This voice calls upon all who hear it to make ready in heart and life for the new order of things to be established under the Kingdom of God, which it describes, saying—
Verse 4. “Every valley [the meek and humble] shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill [present great ones of earth] shall be made low: and the crooked [the crooked ruts in which the present evil order of things are running] shall be made straight, and the rough places [the errors, inconsistencies, false doctrines and stumbling-stones of a perverted public sentiment, shall be made] plain.”
Verse 5. “And the glory of the Lord [the glory of his righteous character, and of his government and power and wisdom and love] shall be revealed [then], and all flesh shall see [appreciate] it together; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” Glorious message! let all who hear it take part in sounding it abroad; for the time is at hand.
But only the few are ready for this great change of dispensation: the majority fancy that all things shall continue as they are. Especially do the great ones in politics and theology and finance feel strong and confident that the valleys and hills of society will never come to a level. To this end combinations and trusts are being formed; but the Lord sends them another message, as follows—
Verses 6-8. “A voice saith, Proclaim; and he saith, What shall I proclaim? [The answer is, Proclaim that] All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the
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field. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; because the breath of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God will stand firm forever.”
It will require only a breath from the Lord to scatter all the might and glory and power of earthly institutions. His word therefore will be fulfilled; and all who oppose his plan will fade in the great day of wrath which shall burn as an oven, and in which all the proud and all that do wickedly shall be as stubble.—Malachi 4:1.
Next, verses 9-11, the message changes to one of encouragement to God’s people during that period of trouble. (Psa. 46.) They need not be afraid. When men’s hearts are failing them for fear and for looking forward to those things coming upon the earth [society], these may rejoice and lift up their heads, knowing that their redemption at the same time is drawing nigh. (Luke 21:26.) In that day while the trouble draws on the Lord will feed his people with present truth.
Verse 9. “O Zion, that bringest good tidings [the one Church, represented by its last living members, the Elias class, the only ones who know and can proclaim the good tidings of restitution, etc.], get thee up into the high mountain. [Let the Church be glorified as God’s Kingdom or mountain; let the dead in Christ awake in his glorious likeness, and let those who are alive and remain be changed in the moment of their dying and not sleep as have others; and thus let the promise be fulfilled—’Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth.’—Rev. 14:13.] O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength. [After the Church, the bride, has been glorified with the Lord, the faithful ones of the fleshly seed of Abraham will begin to come into prominence before the world by reason of the leaders whom God will then raise up for them]. Lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah [all who shall then be in covenant relationship with God] Behold! Your God is here!” [Thus the message now given by “the feet” of Christ—that the Millennial kingdom is already beginning its rule, Isa. 52:7—will be taken up by the earthly class when the “feet of Him” have passed beyond the vail.]
Verses 10 and 11 go back and connect with verse 2, saying, “Behold, the Lord God will come against the strong one [Satan], and his arm [Christ] shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him and his recompense for work, before him. He shall feed his flock [the ‘little flock’—all that follow him—not Babylon] like a shepherd: he shall gather his lambs with his arm [helping even the weakest of his true sheep], and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that give suck.” Those who give suck represent teachers and evangelists among the Lord’s sheep. This day of the Lord is to be a time of special trial to such (Matt. 24:19); but all such who are true sheep will be very tenderly and carefully led along into the present truth by the great Shepherd.
For a fuller statement of the matters here briefly mentioned see Millennial Dawn, Vol. II., Chap. vii. and viii.
— March 1, 1892 —