‘Comfort Ye My People’
History is littered with the remnants of nations that have tried to subjugate and eradicate God’s Chosen People. Their attempts to rid the planet of the Jewish nation have ultimately ended in failure because the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has vowed to “bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee” (Gen. 12:3). This promise is only one of many the Lord God of Israel made to His Chosen People.
God’s promises to Israel are woven throughout Scripture. Although many Christians believe the old adage that every promise in the Bible belongs to the church of Jesus Christ, the vast majority actually belong to the Jewish people. The Old Testament is God’s Word delivered exclusively by the Jewish people to the Jewish people. It covers the period from creation to approximately 400 years before the birth of Messiah. The creation of Israel began with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob around 2000 B.C.
The church, on the other hand, did not come on the scene until Acts 1, after Jesus’ resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the Feast of Pentecost (Shavuot) in A.D. 32.
Consequently, when God said through the prophet Isaiah (740–680 B.C.), “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God” (40:1), He was not speaking about the church.
‘I Will Not Forsake You’
The Old Testament is replete with assurances that God loves His people and will never utterly abandon them or the promises He made to their forefathers—despite all their sin, hard-heartedness, and rejection of Him.
One of Scripture’s most beautiful promises is found in Isaiah:
Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee (49:15).
Jehovah has promised Israel that He will never forsake her. The imagery of a mother forgetting a baby is powerful indeed. A loving, nursing mother can never forget her child. Yet God says it is easier for that to happen than for Him to forget Israel.
Today in particular, the tiny State of Israel is overcome with grief from one end of the country to the other. Every day Jewish families bury loved ones whose lives have been prematurely ended by sniper bullets, terrorist bombs, and suicide bomber attacks. As the pressure on Israel intensifies, God’s Word stands like a shelter in the time of storm. He has not forsaken them; He never will forsake them. Jewish commentator Dr. Israel W. Slotki wrote, “God’s mindfulness of Zion is much more steadfast and enduring than the strongest of human ties of kinship.”1
In the following verse, the Lord uses even stronger language: “Behold, I have engraved thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me” (Isa. 49:16). God indicates that He has carved, so to speak, the nation into His being. This “carving” is irrevocable. He cannot just wash His hands of them; they are there forever.
‘I Will Strengthen You’
Another assurance of God’s ever-present help is found in Isaiah 41:10:
Fear thou not; for I am with thee. Be not dismayed; for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
In the midst of Israel’s daily struggle to survive, she is promised that her God will strengthen her for the task. He promises His continual help in her time of need and vows to undergird her. The right hand is usually associated with strength. Thus the Lord has promised to sustain Israel with the very strength of His own righteousness.
‘I Will Give You the Land’
The prophet Jeremiah (626–580 B.C.) lived after Isaiah and was an eyewitness to the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in 586 B.C. Yet despite this terrible judgment on the Jewish people, God still assured them of His steadfast love and promised they will never be obliterated from the earth (Jer. 31:35–36).
Down through history, rulers and their armies have tried to rid the world of God’s Chosen People. Such despots as the pharaohs of Egypt tried; Haman from Persia tried; Antiochus Epiphanes tried; Titus Vespasian tried; Tomás de Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition tried; and, in these last days, Adolph Hitler tried. Today Hitler’s Mein Kampfis a best-seller in the Palestinian Authority, and the Islamic world still refuses to acknowledge Israel’s existence and is determined to blot the Jewish presence from the land. Yet try as it will, it will not succeed. Today’s despots and those yet to come ultimately will fail:
And they [the Jewish people] shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob, my servant, in which your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell in it, even they, and their children, and their children’s children forever (Ezek. 37:25).
But that is not all the Lord has promised His beloved people. The boundaries of their land have been settled forever in the Scriptures: “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates” (Gen. 15:18).
During the reign of King Solomon, Israel came fairly close to possessing the totality of the land as God had delineated it to Abraham. But she still fell short. According to Scripture, one day the nation of Israel will extend from the Mediterranean Sea eastward all the way through Iraq to the Euphrates River. It will include all of Jordan, parts of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and possibly parts of Lebanon and Syria.
The current world Jewish population is estimated at 13 million, with 5.9 million living in Israel. And the Israeli population continues to grow. With the current political upheaval in Argentina, which has a large Jewish population, many Argentinean Jews are seeking to make aliyah(“go up”) to Israel. In the past ten years, Russians and Ethiopians have immigrated to Israel by droves. As He promised, God is bringing back His people:
Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, who brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, But, The LORD liveth, who brought up and who led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries to which I had driven them (Jer. 23:7–8).
When Israel finally lost her sovereignty over the land, she went into captivity a divided people. The northern kingdom of Israel had succumbed first to the might of the Assyrians in 722 B.C. The southern kingdom of Judah fell to Babylon in 586 B.C. They had been two separate kingdoms since the ten northern tribes rebelled against King Solomon’s son Rehoboam in approximately 931 B.C. When the captivity ended and the Persian king, Cyrus, allowed them to return to their land under his rule, they went back as one people. However, they had no sovereignty over their affairs. Then in A.D. 70, at the destruction of the Second Temple, the Romans dispersed them to the four corners of the earth.
It was not until 1948, after the United Nations partitioned British-Mandate Palestine, that the prophecy of Ezekiel 37 was fulfilled:
Take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel, his companions; then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel, his companions; And join them one to another into one stick, and they shall become one in thine hand.
Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD: Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.
I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, to which they are gone, and will gather them on every side, . . . And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel (vv. 16–17, 19, 21–22).
Today the nation is neither Judah nor Ephraim. It is one nation called Israel.
‘I Will Give You a Kingdom’
Furthermore, God’s promises of comfort are not only for the here and now. They extend beyond today to a wonderful, blessed future that He has promised to His ancient people. Ezekiel was told to write,
And David, my servant, shall be king over them, and they all shall have one shepherd; they shall also walk in mine ordinances, and observe my statutes, and do them. . . . and my servant, David, shall be their prince forever (37:24–25).
These verses look forward to the yet future day when David’s greater Son shall sit on His Father’s throne and rule over the entire earth. One day Messiah Jesus will return to Earth to fight for the nation of Israel during the terrible time of Jacob’s trouble (Zech. 14:3–4). He will destroy her enemies and set up the long-awaited Messianic Kingdom. In that day, He will sit on the literal, earthly throne of David and rule over Israel and the entire earth for one thousand years. As Jeremiah promised, “David shall never lack a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel” (33:17).
Israel has had no king since Zedekiah went into captivity in Babylon before the destruction of Jerusalem. Yet this promise of a king is sure. Only Jesus has the Messianic credentials necessary to rule; His lineage alone has been impeccably preserved for us in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke; and His “right” it is: “I will overturn, overturn, overturn it, and it shall be no more, until he comes whose right it is; and I will give it him” (Ezek. 21:27).
God makes yet another startling promise. When Jesus rules the earth, anti-Semitism will be a thing of the past; and Gentiles will no longer dominate the Jewish people or try to obliterate them from existence. In fact, the Jewish people will reap great blessing and, finally, have peace:
Thus saith the LORD of hosts: In those days it shall come to pass that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you (Zech. 8:23).
Gentiles will worship the risen Messiah, King Jesus, with the Jewish remnant that survives the unprecedented horrors of the time of Jacob’s trouble. What exciting promises the Lord has made to His people Israel. No wonder God says,
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins (Isa. 40:1–2).
And God always keeps His promises.
- Israel W. Slotki, Soncino Books of the Bible: Isaiah, The Soncino Press, London, 4th impression, 1961, p. 243.