Isaiah 40:1-2, 25-30; Galatians 4:1-7
INTRODUCTION All things that exist had their beginning in God, and in its beginning all creation was good. Sin originated in the departure of the creature from the Creator, and all that is evil is the result of sin and rebellion against God. Human history is the record of hopeful beginnings and hopeless failures in a perpetual succession. Our only real hope is in the promises of God; our failures to obtain and retain His blessings are simply failures to meet the conditions of those promises. Nevertheless, human failures can never defeat divine purpose. Again and again God gives to His people new beginnings, and eventually He brings His elect through all their temporal defeats to eternal victory in the power of His salvation. Our lesson includes three passages of Scripture which speak of new beginnings. Note: 1. Comfort, Isaiah 40:1-2. a. Submission of comfort, 1. b. Substance of comfort, 2. 2. Comparison, Isaiah 40:25-28. a. Quest of comparison, 25. b. Quality of comparison, 26. c. Quelling of comparison, 27-28. 3. Connection, Isaiah 40:29-31. a. Power for the weak, 29. b. Power for the weary, 30. c. Power for the waiting, 31. 4. Constraint, Galatians 4:1-3. a. Discipline of family, 1-2. b. Discipline of faith, 3. 5. Completion, Galatians 4:4-7. a. Redeemed and adopted, 4-5. b. Reborn and adopted, 6-7. NOTES ON THE TEXT: COMFORT, Isaiah 40:1-2. Following a series of messages of divine judgments, the prophet Isaiah turned to messages of comfort. Of course there is an overlapping of themes: sometimes the same truth may condemn some people and comfort others, and oftentimes rebukes for sin may be mingled with promises of deliverance; but comfort and hope are prevailing themes in the later chapters of Isaiah. Submission of Comfort, 1. Addressing the ministers of God's people in future generations, with special reference in verse 3 to the ministry of John the Baptist, Isaiah prophesied a message of comfort. God is always ready to comfort His people when they feel their need of comfort, but too much of the time they are preoccupied in trying to satisfy themselves with their own doings and with their own ways. When they are sufficiently disappointed in themselves, they may be ready to receive comfort from Him. Substance of Comfort, 2. Ultimate fulfillment of this verse is still in the future, but perhaps is close upon us. We do not know the appointed time, but it is known to God, and at that time earthly tribulations will give way to eternal peace and rest. What is true of Jerusalem is true of all God's people on earth, individually and collectively. There are divinely appointed limits to our sufferings: God does chastise His people, but His chastisements are carefully measured to the proportions needed. "Double for all her sins" does not mean that Jerusalem was to be punished twice as much as she deserved, but rather that her chastisement would be the exact "double" or equivalent of whatever is necessary for correction, perfectly proportioned to the enormity of her sins.
COMPARISON, Isaiah 40:25-28. Idolatry is an ancient sin to which fallen humanity is so prone that it has even infiltrated Christianity, so that millions of nominal Christians are really worshipers of crosses, pictures, and other images. The second of the ten commandments expressly forbids the making of any image or likeness for purposes of worship. "Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them" [Exodus 20:5]. Vain attempts to use visible objects of worship as so- called "aids" to the worship of the invisible God can only encourage the substitution of idolatry for spiritual worship. Have not the Jews suffered enough for this error? Why must "Christians" fall into the same old sin? Quest of Comparison, 25. "To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?" Isaiah had asked in verse 18. With demonic assistance a heathen world has devised a monstrous variety of images "made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things" [Romans 1:23]. Worse yet, a lot of ignorant "Christian" art has blasphemously represented Jesus as a longhaired effeminate freak, in flat contradiction of Scripture. Isaiah considered the perennial human quest of a visible likeness of God only to ridicule and reject it. Quality of Comparison, 26. Sun, moon, and stars have been among the false gods worshiped by the heathen, usually in connection with various superstitious tales personifying their supposed powers. These superstitions survive in what is called astrology. But Isaiah suggests that we lift our eyes above and beyond the stars, and by faith behold the God Who created them all and holds them to their appointed courses. Quelling of Comparison, 27-28. One creature may hide from another, but none can hide from the Creator or escape His judgments. Of course the Jews had heard, and so have we, of "the everlasting God, Jehovah, the Creator." Real knowledge of the true God quells all attempts to compare Him with any creature.
CONNECTION, Isaiah 40:29-31. Recognition of the true God, moreover, involves the realization that His creatures are forever dependent on Him. There is a connection between the power of God and the need of His creatures to be sustained by that power. Power for the Weak, 29. We need not despair because we faint: he is able to give us power. Even though we have "no might," the Almighty God can increase our strength. The strongest of His creatures have no strength but what He has given them; the weakest can draw power from that same Source. Power for the Weary, 30. Youth with all its energy may nevertheless become faint and weary; human strength is soon exhausted, so that even young men, without God's help "shall utterly fall." Yet with all our natural weariness, there is still abundant power with God. Power for the Waiting, 31. Renewed strength comes to those who "wait upon the Lord." This means faith and patience. Whether figuratively to fly high as eagles, or to run a good race in Christian service, or simply to walk with God, we shall not be weary or faint if we continue to wait upon Him.
CONSTRAINT, Galatians 4:1-3. God gives to His creatures as much freedom as they can well use, and sinners misuse it. In Christ we learn the constraint of love [II Corinthians 5:14], but God is able to use many other means of constraint when necessary. Discipline of Family, 1-2. By divine inspiration we are given here for our spiritual instruction an example of discipline in a wealthy family. The infant heir is potentially lord of all his father's estate, but during his childhood he "differeth nothing from a servant?" A child must experience proper discipline to make him fit to assume adult responsibilities -- a fact largely forgotten in our present society. In the model family here considered, the father has employed "tutors and governors" to instruct and direct the child "until the time appointed of the father." Discip1ine of Faith, 3. "Even so" God's people, in their Old Testament childhood, "were in bondage under the elements of the world." Context makes it clear that this is the point of the illustration. Ceremonial laws of the Old Testament had their place in helping to prepare the people of God for spiritually adult responsibilities in the reception of Christ.
COMPLETION, Galatians 4:4-7. "Fullness of the time" in verse 4 means the same as "the time appointed" in verse 2. God's plans must be carried out to completion; His purposes must be fulfilled in due time. Redeemed and Adopted, 4-5. "Made of a woman, made under the law," Jesus Christ was eternally the Son of God sent forth to redeem His people "that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." During their racial childhood, if we may so call it (that is, during the administration of the Old Testament) they were in the position of servants; but now that in the fullness of the time the price of their redemption has been paid, under the New Testament they (or we -- believers in Christ) are put in the position of sons. Reborn and Adopted, 6-7. These words were first written to "the churches of Galatia" [Galatians 1:2], composed perhaps entirely and certainly predominantly of Gentile believers. Let no one therefore seek to give them an exclusively Jewish application. No-- in Christ "there is neither Jew nor Greek" [Galatians 3:28] so far as the way of salvation is concerned. Reborn children of God, whether Jews or Gentiles, are taught by "the Spirit of his Son" sent forth into our hearts to call Him "Abba, Father." Demonstrably therefore the believer in Christ is "no more a servant, but a son and if a son, (without any exception or further qualification) then an heir of God through Christ." Hallelujah!
CONCLUSION [Galatians 3:29] How often must we find a truth stated in the Bible before we are willing to believe it? In the matter of eternal salvation, there is with God no distinction between Jews and Gentiles, "But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him" [Acts 10:35]. "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all" [Romans 4: 16]. =================[From AAB, November 29, 1974,pp. 2-3.-- jrd]
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