For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody. — Isaiah 51:3
The life of my grandmother was marked by tragedy. When she was eighteen years old, two of her sisters and her mother acquired tuberculosis. It fell on my grandma to take care of them. In those days, tuberculosis was so prevalent that afflicted people were quarantined at home. So the porch was enclosed, and it was my grandmother’s job to crawl through the window into that porch and nurse them. One at a time, all three of the invalids died.
Not long after they died, my grandmother found she had tuberculosis. By then she was married and expecting a child. She called for the ministers to pray for her, and God healed her. She was concerned that the baby would have tuberculosis when it was born, but it did not.
Years later, it appeared that my grandfather was about to pass away. While my grandma was caring for him, their forty-five-year-old daughter died suddenly. A year later, they buried their thirty-two-year-old son, and the next year my grandfather passed away. Yet when we would talk about these things, Grandma always said, “I have so much to be thankful for.” The difficulties and tragedies were not the hallmark of my grandmother’s life. The hallmark of her life was her thankfulness. She loved to sing and to play church songs on the piano. My grandmother had learned to lean upon the Lord, and He had comforted her. He gave her joy and gladness because she chose to focus on Him, and consequently those around her benefited from her attitude.
Perhaps today you are facing situations that seem like “waste places,” a “wilderness,” or a “desert.” Look to God, and He can help you to have joy and thanksgiving in spite of the circumstances. The Lord would have us not only receive His comfort and help, but also extend it to others. Will we do that today?
The Prophet Isaiah lived at a time when Assyria was the world power. Her many successful military campaigns had catapulted her to dominance and established her as an imperial power. In the face of such a threat, the people of Judah were beginning to consider a self-designed practical solution of their own. This was to form alliances with other nations in the region. They would depend upon such alliances for their preservation, rather than upon a theocratic system, where God Himself was their defender. During the time of King Ahaz, Judah was completely pro-Assyria in an effort for self-preservation.
Today’s passage could be divided into two parts. The first part is Isaiah 50, which opened with a rhetorical question that God posed to the people of Judah, because they had forsaken Him: “Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away?” This was followed by an even sharper question: “Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver?” The Lord gave Judah a quick lesson in how He created the world with all her majestic wonders. The point was that Judah was very little when compared to God’s vast creation. How, then, would God not be able to defend her? By forsaking God and running for cover elsewhere, Judah, in a senseless bid for security, had sold herself.
Amidst this flurry of questions to Judah, the magnificent voice of Christ as the Messenger of God comes upon the scene. Christ revealed Himself as One who is totally dependent on God the Father. He opened His dialogue with, “The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season . . .” and cited many instances of how God would help Him in His redemptive mission. He concluded by pronouncing a condemnation on the people who would trust in their own efforts rather than God’s.
The second part is chapter 51, where the prophet exhorted the upright to righteousness. He admonished the righteous in Judah to follow after the pattern of Abraham. He reminded them that it was God who had dried the sea so the people could pass over. He promised that Judah also would go into exile but they would return with joy and gladness, and those who afflicted Judah would be punished.
Judah forsook the Lord because she paid undue attention to her adversaries. The Lord’s challenge to Christians today is the same as it was to Judah: “Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings” (Isaiah 51:7).
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
IV. The message of consolation: The Holy One of Israel comforting, redeeming and enriching
B. The person of the deliverer (redemption)
2. The submission of the servant (50:1-11)
a. The bill of divorcement (50:1-3)
b. The humiliation and suffering of the servant (50:4-11)
3. The consolation of the servant (51:1-16)
a. The exhortation to the nation (51:1-11)
b. The comfort for the nation (51:12-16)
4. The exhortation to return to the Lord
a. The cessation of Jerusalem’s oppressors (51:17-20)
b. The judgment upon Jerusalem’s oppressors (51:21-23)
Try being extra thankful today, and see what attitude of heart the Lord will give you.