Deliverance & Comfort
Consequences are never an enjoyable part of life. From childhood to adulthood, we face the consequences of our decisions, our words, and our actions. The only hope we have when we are lost in consequences is that we might learn and grow. A child, while not enjoying falling off the bike, can learn certain lessons from his experience. If we make bad choices, then we must learn from the consequences of those choices.
While consequences can bring us down and cause us to feel miserable, deliverance from those consequences can bring great comfort. After punishing a child for disobedience, the loving parent will take the child into his arms, reinforcing his love for the child. The child, while sadden by the punishment, receives great comfort knowing his parent still loves him greatly. From this experience the child learns to obey his parents while experiencing the reinforcement of his trust in his parent’s love.
Deliverance and comfort is a recognizable part of the history of the nation of Judah. Let us take into consideration Isaiah’s prophecy to King Hezekiah. Isaiah writes, “’Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the LORD.” (Isaiah 39:6) The Lord fulfilled this prophecy just over one hundred years later when He allowed Nebuchadnezzar to carry off the people of Judah and Benjamin into captivity. The day the Lord fulfilled this prophecy was a sad and terrible day for His people. On this day, the Lord left the holy city of Jerusalem, He left His people. Ezekiel, in prophesying regarding this terrible day wrote, “And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain, which is on the east side of the city.” (Ezekiel 11:23)
The people of Israel had left the Lord. They had rejected the Lord’s word and had walked away from Him. Not even the limited time of obedience under the leadership of Josiah was enough to remove the impending consequences of their disobedience. The writer of 2 Kings records the following:
Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him. Nevertheless the LORD did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath, with which His anger was aroused against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked Him. And the LORD said, “I will also remove Judah from My sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, ‘My name shall be there.’” (2 Kings 23:25-27)
In 586 B.C., just as the Lord had promised, Nebuchadnezzar and his fierce army carried the Israelite people to Babylon for what would be a seventy year period of captivity. Just as Ezekiel had prophesied, the glory of the Lord left Jerusalem or, more to the point, had left His people.
While the Babylonian captivity was the great consequence for their disobedience, the nation of Judah had a hope of redemption and return. This hope is seen beginning in Isaiah, chapter 40. In verse 1, Isaiah writes, “’Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ says your God.” (Isaiah 40:1) The Lord God desired His people to know there would be comfort for Jerusalem, for the people of Judah. Isaiah writes, “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.” (Isaiah 40:2) Although the Lord had once declared His departure from Jerusalem, a voice now commanded the way of His return to be prepared saying, “. . . 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.” (Isaiah 40:3-5)
Not only would the Lord return to His people, He would “feed His flock like a shepherd.” Isaiah writes, “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11) We see in this verse the promise of the great comfort which was to follow the consequences of Judah’s disobedience. However, this comfort would not come before repentance and change. The people’s return to Jerusalem under the leadership of Zerubbabel was not the beginning of their comfort. The people had to first rebuild the altar, offer sacrifices to the Lord, rebuild the temple and resume their worship of the heavenly Father. All this preparation was part of their repentant change. There was no comfort during the first sixteen years after the return because the people neglected to finish building the temple. (cf. Haggai 1) After the prophesying of Haggai and Zechariah, the people of Judah finished the temple on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. The children of Israel celebrated the dedication of the house of the Lord with great joy. The priests offered sacrifices as well as a sin offering for the people. The leaders of the people assigned the priests and the Levites to their respective divisions and tasks in serving the Lord God in Jerusalem. (cf. Ezra 6:15-18) The descendants of the captivity were now able to keep the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Ezra writes, “And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy; for the LORD made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.” (Ezra 6:22) As prophesied, the people were now enjoying the comfort of the Lord.
Under the new covenant of Jesus Christ, while there are still consequences for sin, there is also comfort found in redemption and reconciliation to God. Jesus calls all who “labor and are heavy laden.” Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) The apostle John reminds us of the importance of confessing our sins to God, saying, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) To the soul lost in sin, the apostle Peter said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) Such forgiveness of sins can only be found in Jesus Christ, the son of God. Come out from your bondage to sin by repenting of those sins and being baptized into Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-4) where you will find “rest for your souls.” Choose this day to be delivered from sin and its consequences and receive the comfort of the Lord.