We all need comfort for what we’re facing and the Lord is the only true and lasting comforter. This week, Pastor Matt illuminates the big idea of our passage: God is able to comfort you.
But how do we receive it? Our passage provides us with three moves in receiving the Lord’s comfort:
1. Look to God’s promises (51:1-6)
2. Cry out for God’s help (51:9-11)
3. Rest in God’s power (51:7-8, 12-16)




Sermon Transcript


I want to talk to you this morning about being comforted; about being comforted. I wonder what you need comfort for today. Some of us need comfort for our past; we arrive this morning with our past nipping out our heels. Our past sins, setbacks, decisions, and hurt have us wishing we could start over and we need comfort. For others of us it’s less the past and more the future that we need comfort for. For any number of reasons, our future looks unknown at best, bleak at worst, and we need comfort. And still for others it’s the present that we need comfort for. Right now we are discontent and overwhelmed at work. Right now there is relational fallout and pain in our lives. Right now there is financial trouble and safety fears. Right now we wrestle with sins and temptations. Right now we lack assurance of God’s love. Right now the darkness of depression has descended. Right now massive decisions loom. Right now holiness seems hopeless. Right now we are angry. Right now we are afraid to live openly as a Christian at work or school. The problems aren’t coming, they are here and we need comfort. I wish I could say that I am finally at the point in my Christian life that I am not desperate for comfort, but that would be a lie. I am right now riddled by a sense of my own inadequacy to be who I am supposed to be and do what I am supposed to do as a man, husband, father, and pastor. I am like you. I need comfort. One thing that every one of us has in common is that we need comfort. I have never met someone too comforted in Christ. And it’s not just us here who need comfort, but everyone we love out there lives in an anxious world and is in need of true comfort. I want to talk to you this morning about being comforted because the theme for all of Isaiah 40-55 is God’s comfort for exiles and I want to talk to you about being comforted because at the heart of our passage this morning, the Lord says this about himself: “I, I am he who comforts you…” (Isaiah 52:12). We all need comfort for what we’re facing and the Lord is the only true and lasting comforter. And that brings us to the big idea of our passage this morning: God is able to comfort you. God is able to comfort you. How do we receive it? Our passage this morning provides us with three moves in receiving the Lord’s comfort: 1. Look to God’s promises (51:1-6) 2. Cry out for God’s help (51:9-11) 3. Rest in God’s power (51:7-8, 12-16).


Receiving God’s comfort begins with looking to God’s promises. Isaiah 51:1 – Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the LORD: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Rocks are hewn or cut out of stone quarries. That’s where they come from. God’s people are in desperate need of comfort and Isaiah tells them that the first move to receive God’s comfort is to look to where they came from. Where did they come from? They came from a promise. Isaiah 51:2 – Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, that I might bless him and multiply him. God’s people, Israel, came from one couple: Abraham and Sarah. When God appeared to Abraham and promised to make him the father of a multitude, he and his wife had no children, were very old and the Bible says that their fertility was as good as dead. And that’s where God’s people came from. God promised to make Abraham the father of a multitude of people. God promised to bring a multitude of life out of complete barrenness and God kept his promise. The ongoing existence of Israel in the Old Testament through the coming of Christ, despite all their sins and enemies, displays that God kept his promise to Abraham. And we can be comforted in the present because the God who kept his promises to bring life out of Abraham’s barrenness, is the same God who promises to to bring eternal life to all who are in Christ, despite the barrenness of our present circumstances. Isaiah 51:3-4 – For the LORD comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song. “Give attention to me, my people, and give ear to me, my nation; for the law will go out from me, and I will set my justice for a light to the peoples.” The Lord promised to send out from his exiled people his “law” and his “light.” And that promise was fulfilled when the light of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ, stepped into the darkness of this world to live, die, and rise for our sins. And we are part of spreading this light to all peoples as the good news of Jesus goes out from us everywhere. And the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ will outlive the world itself. And it’s to that future promise that the Lord directs our eyes so that we can be comforted now. Isaiah 51:6 – Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed. Look to God’s future promises. The earth is going to wear out like that t-shirt from college that you wore one too many times. The universe itself is going to vanish like smoke from a candle that you blow out on your birthday. It’s that temporary. But not your future. Your future is eternally bright. Through his sinless life, his atoning death for your sins, and his victorious resurrection on your behalf, all who trust in Christ will experience salvation forever and never be dismayed. The God who was faithful to bring life out of the barrenness of Abraham and Sarah is the same God who has promised to bring all who are in Christ safely through the barrenness of this world to a new heaven and a new earth where joyful intimacy with God and righteous fellowship with his people will never vanish or wear out. What is going on in your life for which you need comfort? Whatever it is, it’s going to wear out, but your eternal comfort never will. To be comforted in the present, look to God’s promises; his past faithfulness and future promises.

I want to pause here and get very practical for a moment. If looking to God’s promises is the first move in receiving his comfort, how do we actually cultivate a habit of looking to God’s promises? There are a lot of answers to that question. When we gather for worship in the Lord’s Day and when we gather weekly in our Citygroups, we help one another look to God’s promises so that we can experience his comfort. But since we tend to forget God’s promises daily, looking to God’s promises involves daily intentionality. Many followers of Jesus throughout the centuries found it helpful to begin their days looking to God’s promises. This is a daily lifeline for me personally. I love Paul Tripp’s encouragement: “I encourage you to tune your heart every morning to the existence and stunning glory of God…Because of the distractibility and fickle nature of my heart, if I am going to live in harmony with the Lord of glory, it is important that I start every day by tuning my heart to him. I need to invest the time necessary to do this…Determine to nail the tuning of your heart into your morning schedule and then pray for the enabling grace to follow through for the long run.” While beginning the day looking to God’s promises can be very helpful, looking to God’s promises is more about intentionality than time of day. Recently, a biblical counselor that I see encouraged me to intentionally meditate on God’s word and pray before I transition from my secondary ministry here at the church to my primary ministry at home toward my family. Setting an alarm or two throughout the day to pause and even spend two minutes looking at God’s promises in His word can bring tremendous comfort in the present. This week, make an intentional plan to begin looking to God’s promises so that you can receive his comfort. God is able to comfort you. Looking to God’s promises leads us into the second move in receiving his comfort…


Looking to God’s promises helps us direct our desperation to the Lord in prayer. Comfort comes through crying out to God. Isaiah 51:9 – Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago. It’s ok to ask God to wake up to your problems. Is he awake already, of course. But prayer is learned desperation that involves crying out to God for what he has already promised to be: awake to your problems. Specifically, they ask God to wake up to their problems like he did for their forefathers in the good old days of the exodus. Isaiah 51:9-10 – Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago. Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces, who pierced the dragon? 10 Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to pass over? “Rahab” is another name for Egypt, who the Lord cut into pieces. Let me explain. Just a few generations after the Lord made his covenant with Abraham, Abraham’s offspring found themselves enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt. God’s people cried out to God to rescue them from Pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world at the time. In response to their desperate prayer, the Lord sent ten plagues that cut Egypt to pieces so that Pharaoh finally let God’s people go. As God’s people were on their way out of Egypt, Pharaoh changed his mind and his army pursued God’s people to the shores of the Red Sea. With the most powerful army in the world at their back and the sea at their front, God’s people panicked, but God parted the sea so that they walked through on dry ground and then he drowned their enemies. But notice that they call Rahab a dragon. They’re not being literal. They see the demonic behind godless, oppressive leaders and nations. They’re asking God to wake up to their exile in Babylon like he woke up to their forefathers slavery in Egypt. Crying out to God sounds like reminding God about what He has done, asking him to do it again, and promising to praise Him for it.

Question: where do you need the comfort of God? Where do you need God to come through for you in a way that only He can? Whatever it is, comfort comes as we cry out to God to come through for us. And this is just how the Lord Jesus taught us to pray. He taught us to pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In heaven, there will no longer be any sin. So, when you’re tempted to sin and you need comfort, cry out to God for his will to be done in your temptation, as it will be perfectly done one day in heaven. In heaven, there will be no more sadness. When you need to be comforted in the midst of depression, cry out to God for his kingdom to come in your sadness, as you wait for the final day when you’ll enter his kingdom of perfect joy forever. In heaven, there won’t be any pain any longer. When someone you love needs comfort in the midst of their pain, cry out to God for his will to be done in their pain as they patiently wait for the day when all who are in Christ will never hurt again. It’s through the crying that we receive God’s comfort and have our sights set on God’s heavenly promises again. Isaiah 59:11 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. This is how we receive the Lord’s comfort – look to God’s promises, cry out to God, and…

REST IN GOD’S POWER (51:12-16)

Isaiah 51:12-16 – “I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, 13 and have forgotten the LORD, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, and you fear continually all the day because of the wrath of the oppressor, when he sets himself to destroy? And where is the wrath of the oppressor? This is similar to what the Lord said to his people earlier in Isaiah 51:7 – “…fear not the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings.” Now we see what the exiles specifically wanted comfort for. They were afraid of people. They were being insulted for trusting the Lord and when people are big and God is small, the reproaches of people become very scary. But comfort comes as we rest in God’s power rather than the approval of people. Psalm 118:6-8 – The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? 7 The LORD is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. 8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. 9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.

Every faithful follower of Jesus needs to rest in God’s power for comfort against fear of people. 2 Timothy 2:12 – “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted… The most common source of fear of people is living as a faithful witness. The more that you live openly as a Christian and share the good news about Jesus with others, with the aim to persuade them to believe in Christ, the more persecution that you invite. Just imagine it. Imagine it’s Monday morning and you’re catching up with your co-workers, your friends at CrossFit, or the other parents at school drop off. Someone asks you what you did over the weekend and you take the risk of sharing that you went to church to worship Jesus. You’ll probably just get a polite nod and a quick change of subject, but what if someone starts asking questions? They might ask you a hot button. They might ask if you and your church are affirming of homosexuality or if you use preferred gender pronouns instead of true ones. If you tell the truth, then you might get labeled something unsavory or even excluded from people that matter to you. If you fear people, then that just might be the last time that you live openly as a Christian at work, CrossFit or the school line. However, if when you have a tough experience, you rest in God’s power, knowing that He is on your side, then you’ll try again. I came to faith in Jesus through the witness of a friend in high school who simply lived openly as a Christian and spoke openly about Christ. I probably, in the terms of our passage, reproached him hundreds of times for his faith in Christ. I am so thankful that he rested in God’s power because God our conversations to draw me to Christ and now look where we are. That’s Caleb’s story and it can be yours if you’ll rest in God’s power for comfort.


What do you need comfort for? God is able to comfort you! Look to his promise – Christ. Cry out for help – he hears because of Christ. Rest in his power – he is mighty to save and to destroy the wrath of the oppressor. God is able to comfort you.