1 “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Isaiah 40:1a NKJV
God’s heart is full of love for His people. That includes you and me. But God is also holy and cannot tolerate the presence of sin. He hates the sin but loves the sinner – and that includes both you and me, as well.
The Old Testament unveils both the Lord’s great love for His people and the glorious purity of His law. Recognizing the conflict, He also made provision for human failures that violate His law – a heartfelt repentance and holy ritual sacrifice.
But the historical record in the scriptures also documents mankind’s failure to stick with His plan. We get tired of “being good” and eventually turn away from Him to follow after other gods or idols that don’t interfere so much with our own pleasures.
A new plan was required – one that had, in fact, been established since the beginnings of creation.
John the Baptist was sent by God to be the herald of His new plan – a salvation by grace made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Isaiah and the other prophets had been given several visions and words of knowledge by the Holy Spirit that outlined various pieces of the plan. But they themselves only had a partial understanding of what its fulfillment would look like, and even John the Baptist did not have the complete picture until it was fully revealed through Jesus’ ministry.
Isaiah had been Judah’s chief prophet, serving under multiple kings from Uzziah through Hezekiah. Besides presenting them and us with several key aspects of the future Messiah, he also helped these kings to call upon God during several of their serious challenges. He also brought them many messages from God full of hope, deliverance, and love.
The next king, Manasseh, was about to take center stage in Judah and would lead the nation down the path of blatant idolatry and disobedience. His evil fifty-five-year reign helped to solidify their faithless ways and bring them closer to an ultimate defeat by Nebuchadnezzar and exile to Babylon.
Yet, even before all this happened, Isaiah saw beyond it to a new day when Messiah would come in holiness and purity to assume the throne in Jerusalem. God revealed to Isaiah that this Divine Ruler will one day reign over the entire world, bringing in an eternal era of peace, justice, and joy.
Isaiah also foretold that first a messenger would come in the spirit of Elijah to make the people ready for this coming King. We now know that John the Baptist would be that messenger. He came to stir up the peoples’ hearts to be open and hungry for the imminent coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The gospel writer Luke says this about John:
3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying:
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough ways smooth;
6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” Luke 3:3-6 NKJV
This new message is one of tender comfort and grace from the heart of God. Though we as a race have tried and failed miserably to live up to His holy standards, the Lord Himself would come as the Lamb of God. His loving sacrifice would be sufficient take away all the sins of the world and to allow an intimate fellowship between a holy God and all believers who come to Him in repentance.
When a king would visit an area in Isaiah’s time, the residents did not want to be remembered for their rough, uncomfortable roads. They would work to smooth out the bumps, level the high spots, straighten sharp curves, and fill in the potholes.
Similarly, when the King of Kings visits, it is our rough hearts that need to be smoothed out and prepared. We need to recognize our own moral failures, sins, and the hurts we have inflicted on others.
Ready for a change, multitudes of people were baptized by John in the Jordan River. Having received this washing of their spiritual dirt, they were now ready to see, hear and receive their coming King, Jesus Christ.
God is sending each one of us a message of grace and comfort today. He is here in the Presence of Jesus Christ. He wants to fill our hearts with the fullness of His love, and to receive us in warm fellowship. He will wash all of our spiritual dirt away and hold us close, never letting us go or forsaking us.
Lord, I have been a failure in keeping Your law and commandments. Wash me clean right now through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I turn to You now – draw me close and never let me go! In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.