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comforting a friend July 20 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Isaiah 51, 52, 53, 54, 55

Comfort for the Afflicted

What do you say when someone is afflicted with problems that were self-induced? “You got what you deserved?” No, that won’t bring much comfort. Should we deny that their own poor actions caused their problems? No, there is no reason to lie to them; they probably know the truth. Should we lecture them? No, those who are being punished do not need lectures. Those who are afflicted need hope. Some people look for comfort in a bar, but God can give true comfort and hope for the afflicted.

Isaiah 40-66 gives hope for those Israelites who were or would soon be conquered and exiled from their homeland. They were being punished for their unrelenting sins of gross wickedness and idolatry.

In today’s reading Isaiah first directs his attention to the righteous Jews. Unfortunately, when some people make poor choices, the innocent also suffer. The northern kingdom of Israel had already been taken away into exile. Judah would soon follow. They would cower before their capturers and live in constant terror of the wrath of their oppressors (51:13-14). God, in his anger over their national sins, had cast them away from the land. Figuratively, in their sufferings they would drink the cup of God’s wrath. God would temporarily divorce them, suspending his covenant until they repented (note: divorces in American society are not like the divorce God executed upon the Jews, for it was more like a punitive separation than a divorce (Isaiah 54:5-8)).

Before or during their exile some Jews would repent and seek the LORD. What hope would there be for them? They were to remember that they were descendants of Abraham, children of promise. The promises given to Abraham were land, seed, and blessing (Genesis 17:1-10). Amazingly, God said those ancient promises would still be fulfilled, though their land was in ruins and they were in exile. About 150 years after Isaiah wrote this prophecy, under God’s Sovereign hand he would move King Cyrus of Persia to allow as many Jews as desired to return to their land and rebuild their temple. For a short while they would obey God. Once again, however, they would lose their land to foreign invaders and be dispersed across the world. In a future day, when God’s judgment on the Jews is complete, God will have compassion, will forgive them, and they will be forever restored to their land. Isaiah 51:11-12a says,

The ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

“I [God], even I, am he who comforts you.” (NIV)

In future days, even though the earth will be destroyed in the seven year Tribulation Period, the Jews will be saved (Romans 11:26; Revelation 14:1-3). Then Jesus will return to rule and reign in Jerusalem for 1,000 years and afterward continue his reign forever on a newly rejuvenated earth (Revelation 20:6; 21:1-7, 10-27).

Are you a child of God - meaning, do you have a special relationship with him through his Son Jesus Christ? We may not be Jews, but God has given us promises as well. The Apostle Peter gives a promise to those who are being afflicted, not for their own sins but because of their Christian testimony. 1Peter 5:10 says, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast,” (NIV). Jesus said to suffering Christians,

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10, NIV)

The Apostle Paul instructed Christians to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer,” (Romans 12:12, NIV).

Christ, God’s Son and perfect servant, gives comfort in times of affliction. Do you know him? Do you know he also suffered unjustly? Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed,” (NIV). Isaiah’s prophecy said this suffering servant would do this for Israel’s transgressions. He also extended his salvation to us (John 1:12). Have you trusted him to save you, forgive you and heal your soul? All of us need his forgiveness (more...).

As we learned in the book of Hosea, God will call Israel, whom he called his wife, back into a relationship with himself. And though she would return to a desolate land, in future years (the Millennium) she will not be able to hold all of those who inhabit her borders. The fulfillment of God’s Abrahamic blessings on Israel will be seen by all. She will be rich, not just with people, but with jewels and precious metals - all evidence of God’s blessings. If we repent, we, too, can be restored and blessed. God does not hold our past sins against us. He can restore the land the locusts have eaten (the results of punishment for our sins) and he can restore the land of blessing in our lives (though he does not promise material riches).

God defends the righteous but punishes the wicked. Although Israel would be restored to the land after the exile, once again she would fall into sin. In a future day Israel will be saved and God will defend her against all attacks (Isaiah 55:15-17). The Psalmist said, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” (Psalm 28:7, NIV). Is the LORD your strength and shield?

An invitation was extended to Israel and the same is extended to us: Come, seek the LORD while you have opportunity, and find joy and peace. You will find mercy and pardon. You do not need money to bribe your way out of trouble. Just come to Jesus, and let him forgive you of your sin and help you straighten out any messes you have made in your life. Let him give you his everlasting love. Let him restore you. Seek him while he may be found. God’s promises are true; you can trust him to deliver. You can once again live a life of freedom and joy (Isaiah 55). Come to Jesus.

Lessons to live by: (Comfort in Affliction)

  • Christ, God’s Son and perfect servant, gives comfort in times of affliction. He also suffered unjustly for our redemption.
  • God defends the righteous but punishes the wicked.
  • If we repent, we, too, can be restored and blessed. God does not hold our past sins against us.
  • Come to Jesus, and let him forgive you of your sin and help you straighten out any messes you have made in your life. (more...)

Today’s Bible memory verse: Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer,” (NIV).

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