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January 3, 2022 3:00 am
Happy new year from all of us your Truth for Life beginning of a new year brings with it excitement and uncertainty. What will 2022. Bring today we launch a new series titled, behold, your God, Alastair Begg reminds us that regardless of where we been or what will face God's message to us is a message of comfort and joy and I invite you to turn with me in the Bible to the prophecy of Isaiah and to the 40th chapter Isaiah chapter 40 and we are going to read just the first five verses Isaiah chapter 49 reading from verse one comfort comfort my people, says your God speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cried to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins.
A voice cries in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low, the uneven ground shall become level and the rough places plain, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. This is the word of the Lord, thanks be to God. Father, thank you for the wonder of these truths, and is returned to the Bible. Now help us both to speak and to listen to understand to believe the trust for your glory and for our salvation, for we pray in Christ's name. Amen. Well, if you care to turn back to Isaiah chapter 40 you are at our text for this morning. You may come to this and say it's a strange text for the Sunday after Christmas and I hope by the time we finished, it will not appear to be so strange. It was a text that came to my mind is really quite out of the blue as I was thinking about this Sunday and the title for our study this morning comes from the lien of further refrain of one of the earliest carols that I don't think we ever sing here and that is our God rest Ye Merry gentlemen and let nothing you dismay remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day to save us all from Satan's power when we had gone astray old tidings of comfort and joy old tidings of comfort and joy, and it is that phrase comfort and joy or tidings of comfort and joy that is are heading for this morning. the callous I say has been around for a long time in Charles Dickens day is the 19th century, Dickens. I think died in about 1870 it was it was known even then. And those of you who are Dickens funds will no dad to add that particular cattle finds its way into Dickens novel, a Christmas Carol, and it is mentioned because not everybody regarded as their favorite Carol and will in the in the book it. It reads as follows.
At the first sound of God rest you Merry gentlemen, Scrooge sees our ruler with such energy that the singer fled in terror cell.
Have Scrooge of course was screws, but he was not a fan of that.
Interestingly, as Scrooge's year was not open to the message of the angel message of salvation, but his ear was open to the message of a ghost Marley's ghost and the ghost in the novel informs him. You will get no good news for me.
Says Marley's ghost.
I have none to give. It comes from other regions of Ebenezer Scrooge and is conveyed by other ministers while I think that is very helpful.
He could preach from not entirely if you will not listen to the message of salvation that comes via the angel then you're going to have to listen to some other story and you will find yourself a ghost might sound a little cold. The fact is, the alternatives are just as*no long before the novel long before the Carol and assignment was given by God to the messengers and the assignment was very straightforward and you have it there in the verses before you comfort, comfort my people are comfort.
He comfort ye in the King James version and those of you.
Perhaps this Christmas have been enjoying again listening to the Messiah that the message of comfort is extended to those people of God who find themselves in the doldrums. The short background to it because we come to the 40th chapter with 49 chapters preceding it. So other context is really fairly straightforward. God's people were in exile. They were isolated they were oppressed and they were despondent and the reason they found themselves in that position was essentially because they had stopped listening to God. They had stopped listening to his servants. They had stopped trusting the word that they brought and instead of obeying him. They decided that they would try it on their own and instead of acknowledging him. They rebelled against it and in the middle of all of that finding themselves in this predicament. He began to suggest that it was not the problem did not lie in the fight that they were giving up on God.
But no, no, no, they said, God must be giving up on RS and you see that's the significance of verse 27 of your Bible is open why do you sail Jacob and Spiegel, Israel, what is it other people are saying the same. My way is hidden from the Lord. My right is disregarded by my God. That's what I find people say to me all the time so you know as far as I can make out goddess forgotten me. It doesn't seem to pay attention to me at all and never once it never once enters their heads that it may actually be the other way around that they are the deserters that they are the rebels that they are the ones who are interested in listening to everyone and everything else except the true word of the living God. Why do you say that why do you say God doesn't hear while the story is of course that God has not given up on them and that is the basis of the comfort note. I have four points in their these first of all, proclamation, proclamation, you will see in your text there in verse two.
The verb that is used is the verb to cry in the NIV, which I've spent most of my time since the conditions worsen in the verb is proclaimed.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaimed to her claim to her.
Now you see what what is happening here is God is not speaking is at work directly to the people he is speaking through his messengers and comfort comfort is a plural as a hands in the King James comfort ye are all you all you messengers all the messengers have the same responsibility to proclaim God's good news. Now as you can see in verse five the real messengers. Of course the Lord himself the mouth of the Lord has spoken so that you have this strange duality. This is a wonderful reality that the message comes from God. Ultimately, the messenger is God.
And yet God chooses to convey his message through human instruments and you'll see that all the way through this in verse three of voice cries in verse six of voice cries in verse nine.
It is the herald of good news. Now we recognize the stone we that the real issue is the message that is conveyed, not the messengers, even when we come to John the Baptist in a moment or two. When they asked John the Baptist, who are you, what is your significance.
He actually says I am a voice I am a voice because the true messenger of God recognizes the privilege that he or she is given to convey the message but it is the message itself is significant. What is it that is to be conveyed.
That is the basis of the comfort while you can see it here. Tell her that her warfare or her hard service is ended, or is completed, that her iniquity or her sin is pardoned and that she has received from the Lord's hand. All the suffering that is necessary.
In other words, what God is saying is this exile wondering this exile reality.
This sense of failure and disappointment and despondency that has come about as a result of your attitude towards me.
God says that is going on long enough.
Now this is a prophetic word and a reality of it still lies in the future. They had sin they had suffered for it. But that is not the end of the story element is poison the fermented and say let's personalize this because some of us will be here on the final Sunday of this year and if the truth were told of us. It's time for us to come home that our lives have been marked by patterns that are not pleasing to God. We have found ourselves and perhaps God has disregarded me. Perhaps he's taken me off his list.
Is it where and what is the message of God to the person who comes to that kind of conclusion I have sinned I have suffered for it is but is not the end of the story because as you read, for example, around this section in Isaiah.
The message comes again and again, this is chapter 43 in verse 25 God says I am he who blots out your transgression for my own sake and I will not remember your sins and 44. Same thing every of 4422 I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like a mess.
Now, of course, how is this to work. How do we understand such a statement in these chapters in the 40s of Isaiah. The answer is we understand them in light of what is about to come in the 53rd chapter.
How is it that God would then forgive sin. How is it that the guard would no longer remember his people's rebellion against him, and so on. And that is because there was one who was coming. The one who has borne our sins and carried our sorrows, the one who in himself is the basis of comfort and joy while we can spend much longer than that, but we want that is essentially what is being to be conveyed what is to be proclaimed is just that. How is it to be proclaimed well look at how it's to be proclaimed. There is to be a tenderness in the tone comfort comfort my people, says God speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
What is a need to speak to a city know Jerusalem personifies the people of God in the same reasons is that I came to speak to Cleveland over human history to grave and stand in front of the terminal tire and say hello. Cleveland now we understand so comfort my people speak tenderly to that because it is important that they hear this message especially because there in exile, especially because they're beginning to feel that there at the end of the line. Note let's not misunderstand this comfort, comfort what what what is that make you feel like I tell you what immediately when it when I read that comfort, comfort I said to myself there. There was a wooden the world is there. There you know you you you fall in an end. Skin your knee and your grandmother picks you up and says to their their their their insight you got there, there, and you've got it. My my you've got well well and we got now now he really knows what all itself is about, but comfort comfort we can get comfort discouraged by our enemies, ashamed of our rebellions tempted to believe that we passed the point of no return and God sends his messengers out and he says is what I want you to say to my people say comfort them comfort done over the wonderful love. He is promised promise to you and to me it's an important thing to remember that God's kindness does not lead us to indulgence, but leads us to repentance. The fact that he is kind and when we deserve punishment, he extends comfort should not cause the person addressed with the Garden City vasculature just as bad as I possibly can. After all, he's such a comforting God know when the comfort of God is made available to us. It doesn't create indulgence calls us to say sorry wealth there you have it. That's the first point proclamation speak to them prior to them proclaimed to them and then the next part is that the task of preparation now.
One of these resident messengers voices is now aired verse three of voice clients. One of the messengers in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord know it wasn't so much that these people were in the wilderness as it was that their life had actually become a barren landscape he could almost say that they were they were themselves the wilderness where there were the shoots and death and and and twigs and beauty of God's endearing love towards them, had no soda begun to fade and fall the messengers, and now to speak, to prepare away know you will notice I hope you do that their pathway is not a pathway for them to go out but it is a pathway for God to come in in the wilderness of your life's prepare the way for the Lord make straight in the desert a highway for our God is very very important. I think it be very possible for us to misunderstand this entirely and we say only as I see what it was a person trying get out of our problem trying get out of here take away to get out. Cut through the jungle and the and the underbrush of all our rebellion in our stupidity.
And if we can have her way out of it. Perhaps we can make a few New Year's resolutions and get on the nothing nothing at all. No make a way for God to come in, make a way for God to come into the sadness, to the emptiness yes to the silence.
The silence where and will be here from God is why I read the beginning from Isaiah 35 say to those with fearful hearts. Be strong. Do not fear your God will come. I can imagine people reading other day and say what will that mean that our God will come when really, how will he come. How will we know when he comes all those years generations coming generations going silence will there ever be another voice will God ever speak to us again will we ever hear from.
That's how they live their life's waiting and hoping you see it is, then and only then, that in coming to the text of the New Testament we realize what a drama is contained in the in the story that Luke records for us and how Zachariah remember his and his wife, he sold his wife's advanced in the Gabriel comes and says you know you're going to have a child and you know that story how Zachariah ends up having to write on a tablet for a while and he was completely overwhelmed by it all and the people. When the news got out to them. They wondered about what was being said and they said what what will this child be what will he be. And the reason they said that is because clearly the hand of the Lord was with him. This is, of course, John the Baptist prepare the way for God to come.
That was a message. What is John the Baptist to exactly that. He prepares the way for God to come is is is quite wonderful when you read the prophecy of his father and Zachariah about his son and everybody that as our son is as I want all my child will be but but Zacharias is blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people, and he's raised up for is a lot of salvation in the house of his servant David. He did all this preparing is by the way of the prophets, and so long and then listen speak into his own boy and you child you will be called the prophet of the most high, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins because of the tender mercy of our God and so long, that is what you're going to do you read on a couple of chapters and that is exactly what he dives people came to him from all around the region out into the place where he was reaching down in a miserable desert about 600 feet below sea level, very, very hot, very inclement, not the kind of place where you would want to go for a service and there he was, and what was he say prepare God is coming someone's aware is similarly if you look over here you will see he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We say was I going to do with me. I'll tell you what it's got to do with you and me to. There is a certain respect in which we are all in the line of John the Baptist. If you are a Christian today you are a messenger, whoever you are and wherever you are. The significance of our task is not in the significance of our person but is in the wonder of our message. Prepare to meet God is Aviva look that said, there's an old sign. You know from fundamentalist America where you're driving on the freeway associated in some of the southern states prepare to meet thy God is become a figure of fun it was to live strange is that what an unbelievable thing for people to say no know it's the right thing to say. The role that is given to the messengers proclamation comfort for those who don't deserve it and prepare to meet God. We been listening to Alister Big Horn Truth for Life in a message called tidings of comfort and joy your part two of this message tomorrow. What we're all about your Truth for Life is proclaiming the message of the gospel. Our goal is to teach the Bible in a way that is clear and relevant when the Scripture is taught. Unbelievers become committed followers of Jesus. Believers are established in their faith and pastors and members of local churches are encouraged and strengthened to proclaim the gospel message. That's our mission. And that's how God works to change the lives of those who listen all of the Bible teaching you hear a Truth for Life comes to you by way of the ongoing prayers and faithful support that comes from your fellow listeners, we call them truth partners truth partners given amount they choose each month back to their giving that makes Alister's online teaching library entirely free for anyone to access would love to have you partner with us as we begin another year of ministry. When you join the true partner team you're able to request both of the featured books we offer each month for no additional donation to our way of saying thank you for helping to make Truth for Life possible the book are recommending today is a bookable take you deeper into Isaiah chapter 40, making it the perfect complement to Alister's current series.
The book is titled the all sufficient God and contains nine sermons preached by Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones if you're not familiar with Martin Lloyd Jones.
He preached at Westminster Chapel in London for nearly 30 years.
During the 20th century.
The doctor turned preacher is known for his thorough verse by verse teaching of Scripture.
The book the all sufficient. God considers how Isaiah's Old Testament prophecy consistently points to God's wisdom and warning more Jones teaching gives a clear description of the gospel, you can request your copy when you sign up to become a true partner for life.org/partner will request the book when you give a one time donation a Truth for Life.org/donate about Lapine. There are times when good news is hard to come by. The headlines are often filled with tragedy and heartache tomorrow. Alistair Begg highlights the joy filled message that God wants all of us to hear the Bible teaching of Alister Bay is furnished by Truth for Life Learning is for Living