Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Time of Comfort, Joy and Thanksgiving

For the LORD will comfort Zion,
He will comfort all her waste places;
He will make her wilderness like Eden,
And her desert like the garden of the LORD;
Joy and gladness will be found in it,
Thanksgiving and the voice of melody.
(Isaiah 51:3)
“Waste places” refers to what has been laid to ruin. What once was abundance has now become desolate, a waste land. This is what happened in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, when man rebelled against God. Adam unplugged from the life of God, and in so doing, brought the world into a state of ruin. Likewise, Israel, by her idolatry and spiritual adultery, defiled the land and brought ruin upon it.

“Wilderness” refers to that which is untamed. Barren desert land that has not been cultivated. In the beginning, the Garden of Eden was only a small portion of the earth. God’s plan was for man to extend the boundaries and make all the world a garden of “pleasure” (the Hebrew word “eden” means “pleasure”). God’s plan for Israel was that they would bring His salvation and redemption into all the earth. He said to them, “You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). The function of priests is to intercede. As a kingdom of priests, Israel was to be a mediator between God and all the nations of the world, to extend the boundaries of His blessing everywhere. But again, like Adam and Eve, Israel failed because of her rebellion against God.

However, God did not cease from His plan. He promised that there would be a comfort, a consolation for Israel and all her waste places. It was a promise not only of restoration but also of fulfillment. God would once again bring Israel into her destiny. The Garden of Eden would once again be established — and enlarged to include all the nations.
Listen to Me, My people;
And give ear to Me, O My nation:
For law will proceed from Me,
And I will make My justice rest
As a light of the peoples.
My righteousness is near,
My salvation has gone forth,
And My arms will judge the peoples;
The coastlands will wait upon Me,
And on My arm they will trust.
(Isaiah 51:4)
God would bring His light and justice to the peoples, the nations. Even the far off lands would look to Him in patient expectation, and they would trust in Him.

This is the kingdom of God, the rule and reign of God that brings light and life into the world. It is the righteousness of God revealed, the justice that sets things right. It is the will of God being done on earth as it is in heaven — heaven and earth becoming one. It finds its completion in Jesus the Messiah King, who fulfills the purpose of Israel and brings the light of God to the nations. Even in infancy, when Jesus was presented in the Temple for dedication, Simeon saw this and gave thanks to God:
Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles [the nations],
And the glory of Your people Israel.
(Luke 2:29-32)
As Isaiah observed so many years ago, it is a cause of comfort and joy, gladness and thanksgiving. What God has started out to do in the beginning, He is now in the process of bringing through to completion in the reign of King Jesus.

It is more than appropriate that the season of Thanksgiving leads us into the season of Advent and Christmas, pointing us toward the source of true comfort and joy.