When this ministry works to awaken the church we are working to prepare the way of the Lord. Many are familiar with the phrase as it appears in all four Gospels. It is attributed to John the Baptist as he was the one to go before Jesus and prepare Israel for their Messiah. Many may not be aware of it but the passages in the Gospels quote this passage from the Old Testament Book of Isaiah.
“Comfort, yes, comfort my people!” says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isa. 40: 1, 3, 5 NKJV)
What many also do not realize is that this famous prophecy has an initial fulfillment in the days of John the Baptist and a final fulfillment in our day!
Please notice that the passage says “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together!” That will only happen upon the coming of Jesus on the Clouds. We discussed this in the post THE SEVENTH SIGNPOST: THE SECOND COMING. Now that we know this prophecy is for our day as well as John the Baptist’s, let’s carefully examine it to see what it has to do with our ministry.
Comfort My People
Immediately we notice that God is commanding us to comfort his people. When we think about awakening the Church to the reality that Jesus is going to return soon and we need to prepare, comfort isn’t the first thought that enters your mind. Fear is probably the thought that enters the minds of most believers when they learn that Jesus is returning soon. This week I was discussing our Messiah’s soon return with a believer and immediately I could see the apprehension in her eyes. She wasn’t fearful for her salvation, she was fearful because suddenly she was aware that everything has changed. God’s prophetic countdown has begun and what she had imagined as the rest of her earthly life might be significantly different than what she imagined. The dreams and goals she has had for her earthly life might not ever be realized. She might not see her children marry and she might not see her grandchildren born. And then, of course, there is the fear of pain, death and persecution.
“Comfort” therefore, is a most important word for our ministry. Believers need to have their fears comforted. God says this in a most emphatic way, repeating his command, “Comfort, YES! Comfort my people!” God knows his followers. He knows that we have been asleep (see the Parable of the Ten Virgins in THE PRICE OF OIL.) He knows we need to be awakened gently. Nothing could be more important for those participating in this ministry. We need to speak the truth to the Church. We need to awaken them, but we need to do it in a way that comforts God’s children.
Fortunately this entire chapter discusses how we are to comfort God’s people. The comfort begins and ends with Jesus, who is our comfort. In verse 2 we learn that upon his return the warfare Satan has waged on us will end and our iniquity will be pardoned. Rather than focusing on the tribulation we will face we need to focus on seeing Jesus’ face for eternity. The momentary problems are nothing in the light of a forever without sin or the challenges Satan creates.
God’s word emphasizes this in verse 6. The voice of one crying in the wilderness is told what to cry out.
The voice said, “Cry out!” and he said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades but the word of our God stands forever. (Isa. 40:6-8 NKJV)
We are to help the Church focus on what endures: The Word of our God, who is Jesus.
Next the Word of the Lord stresses that it is good news that we bring:
O Zion, bearer of good news, lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” Behold, the Lord God will come with might with His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him and His recompense before Him. Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs. (Isa. 40: 9-11 NKJV)
Jesus is coming with might to rule. Prior to his coming he will hold us in his arms like lambs. We have nothing to fear. He is our victory. When we consider the Antichrist, the Beast, and his followers they are nothing compared to our God.
Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust. Even Lebanon is not enough to burn or its beastsenough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless. (Isa. 40:15-17 NKJV)
Wings Like Eagles
We need to convey to those we awaken to trust the awesome power of our God. Fear and faith do not mix. God will give us strength to endure the moment so we might enjoy his everlasting presence! Chapter 40 concludes with this famous passage of encouragement. This is his message to the Church. It is his message to those of us in this ministry as well.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weary (Isa. 40:28-31 NKJV)
As we prepare the way of the Lord, comforting God’s people and accepting his comfort for ourselves is one of our primary tasks.